castrato


cas·tra·to

noun \ka-ˈsträ-(ˌ)tō, kə-\
plural cas·tra·ti\-tē\

Definition of CASTRATO

:  a singer castrated before puberty to preserve the soprano or contralto range of his voice

Origin of CASTRATO

Italian, from past participle of castrare to castrate, from Latin
First Known Use: 1763

Rhymes with CASTRATO

castrato

noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Male soprano or alto voice produced as a result of castration before puberty. The castrato voice was introduced in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel in the 16th century, when women were still banned from church choirs as well as the stage. It reached its greatest prominence in 17th- and 18th-century opera. The illegal and inhumane practice of castration, largely practiced in Italy, could produce a treble voice of extraordinary power, attributable to the lung capacity and physical bulk of the adult male. The unique tone quality and the ability of intensively trained singers to execute virtuosic passagework made castrati the rage among opera audiences and contributed to the spread of Italian opera. Most male singers in 18th-century opera were castrati; the most famous bore the stage names Senesino (Francesco Bernardi; died c. 1750), Caffarelli (Gaetano Majorano; 1710–1783), and Farinelli. Castrati sang in the Sistine Chapel choir until 1903.

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