Castrati, superstars of the centuries gone by

Picture of Caffarelli

We all know this fact. Castration prevents necessary flow of hormones and the vocal cords cannot enlarge. As a result castrati would have the high voice of a boy soprano, but the lung power of a grown man. Because the Church always used to have pre-pubescent boys to sing high parts in chorals during the service (women were not allowed to participate), finest boy sopranos were hand picked by masters of the Church music for castration. When chosen boys were finally castrated, the young castrati were sent to the conservatories. At the Conservatorio di Sant'Onofrio in Napoli, during the 1780's, the schedule was as follows – in the morning an hour of singing difficult passages, an hour of literature and an hour of singing exercises in front of mirrors; in the afternoon a half hour of music theory, a half hour of counterpoint on improvisation and another hour of literature.

First castrati were reported in Spain around 1550, and references to their presence in the Rome Sistine Chapel Choir were found starting around 1565. The Spanish falsettists ruled the Sistine Chapel. The falsettists' voices were more agile and had a richer sound. It has been theorised that some of these Spanish falsettists were castrati. Change from falsettists to castrati came from the fact that the castrato's voice sounded more natural. The earliest castrati known individually were Jacomo Spagnoletti (probably a Spaniard) and Martino, both of whom were admitted to the Sistine Chapel Choir in 1588. Then in the archives, another two good castrati were mentioned, this time Italians, Pietro Folignani and Girolamo Rosini, in 1599. By 1640 castrati were used throughout Italy, despite much theological debate, the musical needs of the church always prevailed over the anti-mutilation fraction. They were formally banned from the papal chapel by Pius X in 1903.

As a result of castration, castrati tended to be fat, volatile and impossible to get along with. (G. F. Händel was known to have shouting matches with his castrato Senecino, and he certainly didn't get on with Farinelli). But sometimes they were charming, not only for their beautiful voices, but for their manners as well. Farinelli soothed the King of Spain with the same songs every night for years.

On stage, the castrato was a superstar. Some of them had a range of four octaves, up to A or even C above high C in full voice. They were de facto the first singers to promote bel canto singing, and castrati with the finest voices became operatic idols. Composers were bending backwards to please them, so they would kindly sing their works. They were always showing vocal acrobatics and were forever changing melody lines. Which means, just because the notes were written, it didn't mean they would be sung like that on the stage. No, they were sung as it suited the singers. Castrati were first castigated for being egocentric, vain, stupid, and greedy; of course some were. But several of them, like Farinelli, Senecino and Caffarelli, amassed large fortunes, and certainly they were not stupid. Nicolino, who sang Rinaldo in Händel's opera, was an extremely intelligent actor who won praise even from the prejudiced composers and became a composer himself. Theatres were always filled with their die hard supporters.

In the second half of the 18th century, finally composers, such as Mozart and Gluck, used new singers, the new heroes: tenors, instead of castrati. Those composers started to rule the stage and spelled the end of castrati. Despite this fact, W. A. Mozart had a castrato teacher, Giovanni Manzuoli, when he was studying in London in 1764.

Many more things are known about castrati. They were for example not allowed to marry in church and to sing in Lutheran churches. In France, Italian singers and castrati were not welcome, because of their excessive ornamentation and decadent life style. In 17th and 18th century Italy, castrati were considered to be the natural sopranos, whereas falsettos, which would still possess all tokens of masculinity, were considered artificial voices. They were so treasured that in 1625, all sopranos in the choir of the Sistine Chapel were castrati. In Bach's time there was already a heavy competition between the clerical courts of Venice & Rome, and the local opera theatres were ordered to engage the best castrati. They were paid at least double wages compared to top tenors and basses. Good female sopranos sometimes succeeded in performing in masses and operas, disguised as castrati. The castrati also travelled abroad and soon got famous all over Europe, including Vienna, Munich, Dresden, Berlin etc. They usually sang in Italian operas, and they grew immensely popular in Händel's London. He composed the aria 'Ombra mai fu' for the famous castrato Guadagni, who played the role of Xerxes at the first performance. Händel admired him greatly. For him he composed the famous aria from his 'Foundling Hospital anthem' and reworked an aria from 'Messiah'.

Some additional interesting facts about castrati:
When you go through almost all the literature that exists (as I did years ago before castrati were hijacked by gays, and castrati are so far from being gays as ordinary young singers studying at the conservatory), you will discover that the castrato voice did not reach 'above G5'. Ornamentations they used in their singing might go higher, but nothing can be found as a proof of extremely high notes.
At their peak there were 4000 boys between the age of 7 and 9 castrated per year.
The young castrati would be dressed as cherubs to accompany funerals.
All castrati came from poor families – except for Farinelli, whose father was governor of Maratea and Cisternino.
They would have one day a week solely allocated to improvisation.
The castrato Senesino was paid 3000 pounds guineas for a season in London.
The castrato Siface was murdered by the Marchese Marsili's family.
All the countertenors/falsettists were replaced by castrati in the Sistine Chapel Choir, as they could sing higher and louder.
The castrati loathed their parents and families for allowing the operation. Domenico Mustafa's family told him that when he was a child, his testicles were eaten by a pig, and he always swore he'd kill his father. Castrato Loreto Vittori, according to books written about him in past centuries, told his father, who asked him for money, that all he owed his family was an empty purse.
The last castrato performance in opera was in London 1825. It was castrato Giovanni Battista Velutti, performing in Il crociato in Egitto by Meyerbeer (he died of old age in 1861 – a relic of a past that could not be resurrected).
The last castrato to appear in England on stage was Pergetti in 1844. They survived a while longer on the continent, at catholic electorates, kingdoms in Germany, and at the Vatican, until in 1922 Alessandro Moreschi, the last castrato, died in Rome, witness of a world long gone.

To finish, a few anecdotes about various castrati:

Casanova said, he met a singer, a girl, who was claiming to be a castrato (otherwise she was not allowed to sing on the stage). That idea was Salimbeni's, who had suggested that she passed herself as a castrato, and gave her advice how to simulate it physically. That girl, according to castrato Salimbeni did exist (her name was Angiola Caroli, a soprano), and he was very fond of her, actually, he was her teacher.
The English painter-miniaturist Cosway, who painted castrato Marchesi, nearly lost his wife to him. She chased him for a time all over Europe and was in love with him.

Castrato dictionary

Soprano-castrato and composer. Born 30 November 1663, died 22 July 1742. First he was papal soprano-castrato and later secretary to cardinal Ottoboni. He was also director of the papal choir and was unable to make a career in opera, though he did compose secular music.

Soprano-castrato, born 1731 (or 1729) as Albano Laziale, near Rome and died 1800 in Paris. He was a singer and composer. In 1747, he went to Paris, where he was engaged in the royal chapel of Louis XV. He was also a prominent soloist at the Concerts Spirituels, appearing frequently in performances of Pergolesi's 'Stabat Mater' as a castrato, from 1752 to 1762. He became the first singer of the Concerts Spirituels till 1762. In 1764, when he was 35 years old at the most, he retired from public performances, started to teach and composed vocal music. In 1774 in Paris, he received a life pension of 2000 livres for his services to Louis XV. He also wrote music for two stage works, performed by the Petits Comédiens du Bois de Boulogne, 'Les adieux d'un soldat', which was performed on the 24th of October 1778 and 'Le soldat français', performed on the 1st of June 1779. He died in Paris in 1800.

Alto-castrato. He sang Narciso, in Händel's Agrippina, at the first performance which took place on the 26th of December 1709 or during the 1710 carnival at Venice, Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo. There were 27 successful performances.

Castrato at the Sistine Chapel, composer of a 'Miserere' still in the Vatican archives. He also predicted that ... We castrati are no longer here, bel canto can intone its Miserere.....


Soprano-castrato, born 1720 in Lucca, died 23 April 1797. He sang in Händel's Imeneo and Deidamia.
22 November 1740 (postponed date – 13 December 1740) Premiere of Händel's Imeneo, role of Tirinto, London's Lincoln's Inn Field Theatre
10 January 1741 Premiere of Händel's Deidamia, role of Ulisse London's Lincoln's Inn Field Theatre
18 March 1741 Revival of Händel's Saul (oratorio), role of David

Soprano-castrato, born around 1610 in Siena (c. Assisi), died ?

Alto-castrato. Born 1705 (the same year as Farinelli) in Macerata, died 1779 in Roma. He sang in Händel's operas for some time. In 1725, he sang in Rome in operas by N. Porpora. From 1727 to 1729, he travelled Europe, mainly Venice, Rome, Vienna and London. During September/October 1736, Annibali arrives in London, and joins George Friedrich Händel's Covent Garden Theatre:
8 December 1736, debut at London's Covent Garden
12 January 1737 Premiere of Händel's Arminio, in the role of Arminio, London King's Theatre
27 January 1737 Premiere of Händel's Berenice, Regina d'Egitto, the role of Demetrio, King's Theatre
29 January 1737 Premiere of Händel's Partenope, role of Arsace, King's Theatre
16 February 1737 Premiere of Händel's Giustino, role of Giustino London King's Theatre
16 March 1737 Premiere of Händel's Carco sempre di gloria (cantata)
6 April 1737 Premiere of Händel's Esther, King's Theatre, London
18 May 1737 Revival of Händel's Berenice, regina d' Egitto, role of Demetrio, London King's Theatre
He was for a long time a guest singer, engaged by the Dresden opera, from 1729 to 1764. He created Astarto in the opera by Hasse, Astarto di Terradellas in 1736. He received in Dresden annually a sum of 1.200 Taler. He probably (there is no real documentation) died in Rome in 1779.


Alto-castrato, born 29 January or 29 April 1712 in Milan. He was a student of Porpora, like Farinelli, Caffarelli, Salimbeni and Porporino.
1731 – He made his debut at the Teatro Giovanni Grisostomo, Venice, Scipione il Giovane, by Prevedi, and the same year sang in Hasse's Demetrio and Epaminonda by Giacomelli.
1733 – Genova: Arsace and Tito Manlio
1734 – Venice: La ninfa e Apollo by Galuppi
1738 – Toured Italy; in Milan sang Cesare in Egitto and in Venice Ezio by Lampugnani
1738 – Went on a tour to Vienna, where he was a great success, and superstar
1742 – Bologna Eumene, also in Rome's Teatro dell'Opera. He was paid the enormous sum of 3.400 lire.
He died the same year on the 2nd of June 1742 in Cesena.

Alto-castrato, born 29 October 1731 or 1732 in Bisceglie, Apulia. He was considered to be a pupil of the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini in Naples, under instructions of Domenico Cimarosa. Originally engaged to the Royal Chapel in Napoli, but he abandoned this for a spectacular career. He was called 'bambino di Napoli'.
1752 – Debut in Il barone deluso by Sciroli
1755-56 – Sang operas by N. Jommelli in Stuttgart
1761 – First carnival performance in Napoli
1762 – Carnival season in Napoli
1763 – Performed mainly in Italy and Germany, main star in carnival in Napoli
1766 – Sang Demoofonte by Jommelli
1770 – Was heard by Burley in Napoli and also sang at the Palermo Opera in Alessandro nelle Indie by Sarti. Aprile created Rinaldo in Armida abbandonata by Jommelli.
1789 – From this year onwards, he taught singing in Napoli almost until his death. His students were Gaetano Crivelli, Francesca Festa, Michael Kelly, Andrea Nozzari. He could sustaine 36 notes in a single breath. He died in Martina Franca on 11 January 1813.


Castrato. Born in 1638, died in 1740. He sang in Paris and Versailles. Favourite singer of Louis XIV. He had a house in France (Montreuil), which other Italian castratos used as a meeting place.

It is not certain that he was a castrato, but a funny story goes around about him. When he was singing at the San Carlo in 1765, he exerted himself, trying to reach a high note in an aria, so that certain parts of his body dropped in their proper place, whereupon he lost his soprano voice. This is only a funny story, nothing serious.

Soprano-castrato, born 1676 and died 1756. When he was 16 years old, Balatri was engaged as a soprano-castrato at the court of Peter the Great and later became a member of the electoral musical ensemble under Maximilian II of Bavaria in Munich. His biography, 'Frutti del mondo', written by himself, is at the National Library of Munich. It is an autobiographical book about the life of a castrato and how one gets through the world, a world that does not exist anymore.

27 April 1720 Premiere of Händel's opera Radamisto, sang role of Fraate, London King's Theatre
25 November 1721 Revival of Händel's opera Radamisto, sang role of Tigrane, London King's Theatre
9 December 1721 He sang in the premiere of Händel's Floridante, role of Timante.

Alto-castrato, sang in the first half of the 18th century. He sang in Händel's Floridante, Ottone re di Germania, Rodelinda regina de' longobardi, Scipione, Alessandro, Admeto re di Tessaglia, Riccardo re d'Inghilterra, Siroe and Tolomeo.
18 December 1725 Revival of Händel's Rodelinda, regina de' longobardi, role of Unulfo
12 March 1726 Premiere of Händel's Scipione or Publio Cornelio Scipione, role of Scipio
5 May 1726 Premiere of Händel's Alessandro, role of Tassile
11 December 1726 Revival of Händel's Ottone, re di Germania, he sang Adalberto at King's Theatre
31 January 1727 Premiere of Händel's Admeto, re di Tessaglia, role of Trasimede
29 April 1727 Revival of Händel's Floridante, role of Timante at London King's Theatre
11 November 1727 Premiere of Händel's Riccardo, re d' Inghilterra, the role of Oronte
30 December 1727 Revival of Händel's Alessandro, role of Tassile
January 1728 Second revival of Händel's Radamisto, role of Tigrane, London King's Theatre
17 February 1728 Premiere of Händel's Siroe, re di Persia, role of Medarse
30 April 1728 Premiere of Händel's Tolomeo, role of Alessandro

Castrato. Not much is known about him, apart from the fact that he was assigned the task of mounting the performance of Badia's opera in Dresden, which was performed on June 1709.

Castrato. In 1791, Mozart's final opera seria La clemenza di Tito was premiered in Prague for the coronation of Leopold II as king of Bohemia. The role of Sesto is probably also the last great operatic role written for a castrato, Domenico Bedini, who was singing at the premiere.


Alto-castrato, born in Firenze 1687. He was the son of a timpanist, and is known to have sung in 55 operatic productions between 1708 and 1734. He sang in Germany (Düsseldorf), where he served Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, then in Firenze and Livorno. He had a huge stature (in fact, because of that he never portrayed a woman). He was suited to the roles that he usually portrayed, a counsellor, a father, and most notably evil guys. He sang in Händel's Rinaldo, Floridante, Ottone re di Germania, Flavio re de' longobardi, Giulio Cesare. He travelled all over the Europe, collected printed treasures and valuable manuscripts. He was very intellectual, and he commissioned sculptures and paintings from Florentine artists for English patrons.

5 January 1717 Premiere of Händel's Rinaldo, role of Argante, Queen's Theatre, London Haymarket
4 December 1722 Sang Händel's Floriante, role of Timante, King's Theatre, London
12 January 1723 Premiere of Händel's Ottone, re di Germania, as Adalberto, King's Theatre
14 May 1723 Premiere of Händel's Flavio, re de' longobardi, role of Flavio, King's Theatre
20 February 1724 Premiere of Händel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, role of Tolomeo, King's Theatre

He returned to Firenze, but it was not up to his expectations, so he moved to Napoli in 1728, but again didn't have much luck there and returned to Firenze in 1730. He was not an ordinary musician and singer. He had a very strong alto voice and could play many instruments. He was only 47 years old, when he died in Firenze 1734.

Soprano-castrato, born in Bologna 23 June 1683 or 1685, possibly 1690, died in Bologna on the 13th of March 1756. He was a great dramatic singer, sang in Händel's Rinaldo, Amadigi, Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Lotario, Partenope. Pupil of the castrato Pistocchi and G. A. Ricieri

1703 Debut
1712 – Debut in opera Arato in Sparta by Ruggeri
1713 – Bologna, Carlo re d'Alemagna by Gasparini and Orlandi, he also sang in London that year
16 February 1716 Revival of Händel's Amadigi, role of Dardano, King's Theatre
5 January 1717 Premiere of Händel's Rinaldo, role of Goffredo, Queen's Theatre, Haymarket, London
1718 – Pesaro, sang in Vespasiano, a composition by Pallavicino
1724 – Venice
1727 – Bologna, La fedeltà creduta coronata by Orlandini
11 March 1729 – Händel travels to Italy and officially hires Bernacchi, but not Farinelli
2 December 1729 – Premiere of Händel's Lotario, role of Lotario
17 January 1730 – Revival of Händel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, role of Cesare
24 February 1730 – Premiere of Händel's Partenope, role of Arsace
29 December 1730 – Revival of Händel's Partenope, role of Arsace
1731 – Return to Italy, sang Demetrio and Artaserse by Hasse in Modena
29 January 1737 – Revival of Händel's Partenope, role of Arsace

Bernacchi was also in the service of the Elector of Bavaria. He was the greatest popularizer of the 'embroidered' style of singing. Also founded his singing school in Bologna, where his students were other well-known castratos, Mancini, Senesino, Carestini, Farinelli, Tommaso Guarducci.

Mezzosoprano-castrato. Known as Senesino, one of the famous castratos, was born in Siena, died 1750 or 1759. He possessed a voice of great beauty, and his greatest successes were in London with Händel. He sang at the first performance of Tamerlano by Händel, role of Andronico. He also sang Händel's Rinaldo, Radamisto, Muzio, Floridante, Ottone, Flavio, Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, Rodelinda, Scipione, Alessandro, Admeto, Riccardo Primo, Siroe, Tolomeo, Partenope, Poro, Ezio, Sosarme, and Orlando. However, he left Händel in 1729 after they quarrelled, and went over to Bononcini, conductor and composer at the New King's Theatre and Händel's rival.

28 December 1720 Second version of Radamisto, role of Radamisto
15 April 1721 Premiere of Händel's Muzio Scevola, role of Muzio Scevola at London King's Theatre
25 November 1721 Revival of Radamisto, role of Radamisto
9 December 1721 Premiere of Händel's Floridante, role of Floridante, King's Theatre
27 October 1722 Revival of Händel's Muzio Scevola, role of Muzio Scevola at King's Theatre
4 December 1722 Second Revival of Händel's Floridante, role of Floridante, King's Theatre
12 March 1723 Premiere of Händel's Ottone, re di Germania, role of Ottone, King's Theatre
14 May 1723 Revival of Händel's Flavio, re de' longobardi, role of Guido, King's Theatre
20 February 1724 Premiere of Händel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, role of Giulio Cesare, King's Theatre
31 October 1724 Premiere of Händel's Tamerlano, role of Andronico, King's Theatre
2 January 1725 Revival of Händel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, role of Giulio Cesare, King's Theatre
13 February 1725 Premiere of Händel's Rodelinda, regina de' lkongobardi, role of Bertarido
1 May 1725 Revival of Händel's Tamerlano, role of Andronico at King's Theatre
18 December 1725 Revival of Händel's Rodelinda, regina de' longobardi, role of Bertarido
12 March 1726 Premiere of Händel's Scipione, role of Lucejo
5 May 1726 Premiere of Händel's Alessandro, role of Alessandro
10 November 1726 Premiere of Händel's Admeto, re di Tessaglia, role of Admeto
11 December 1726 Revival of Händel's Ottone, re di Germania, role of Ottone, King's Theatre
31 January 1727 Revival of Händel's Admeto, re di Tessaglia, role of Admeto
29 April 1727 Second Revival of Händel's Floridante, role of Floridante, King's Theatre
11 November 1727 Premiere of Händel's Riccardo Primo, re d'Inghilterra, role of Riccardo I
30 December 1727 Revival of Händel's Alessandro, role of Alessandro
Jan 1728 Revival of Radamisto, role of Radamisto
17 February 1728 Premiere of Händel's Siroe, re di Persia, role of Siroe
30 April 1728 Premiere of Händel's Tolomeo, re d' Egitto, role of Tolomeo

Then Senesino left London and returned there during October 1730.

3 November 1730 Revival of Händel's Scipione, role of Lucejo
2 February 1731 Premiere of Händel's Poro, re dell'Indie, role of Poro
6 April 1731 Revival of Händel's Rinaldo, role of Rinaldo
4 May 1731 Revival of Händel's Rodelinda, role of Bertarido, King's Theatre
23 November 1731 Revival of Händel's Poro, re dell'Indie, role of Poro
15 January 1732 Premiere of Händel's Ezio, role of Ezio
1 February 1732 Revival of Händel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, role of Giulio Cesare, King's Theatre
15 February 1732 Premiere of Händel's Sosarme, re di Media, role of Sosarme
18 April 1732 Revival of Händel's Flavio, re de' longobardi, role of Guido, King's Theatre
2 May 1732 Premiere of Händel's Esther (oratorio), role of Acis, King's Theatre
10 June 1732 Premiere of Händel's Acis and Galatea (serenata), King's Theatre
25 November 1732 Revival of Händel's Alessandro, role of Alessandro
27 January 1733 Premiere of Händel's Orlando, role of Orlando, King's Theatre
3 March 1733 Revival of Händel's Floridante, role of Floridante, King's Theatre
17 March 1733 Premiere of Händel's Deborah (oratorio), King's Theatre
9 June 1733 – Senesino announces he will leave London; instead he joins the rival, 'Opera of the Nobility' with Farinelli.
29 Dec 1733 – 'Opera of the Nobility' opens with Porpora's Arianna in Nasso, sung by Senesino.

When he left London, a song called 'The lady's lamentation for the loss of Senesino' haunted the theatre bill for several years. He was probably more popular in London than Farinelli or any other castrato.

Soprano-castrato, sang in Händel's second version of Radamisto, role of Tigrane, on the 28th of December 1720 at King's Theatre, London.
On 15 April 1721, he sang the role of Orazio in the premiere of Händel's Muzio Scevola at King's Theatre. He was also Händel's Floridante.

Castrato, singer at the French Royal Chapel.

9 April 1708 Premiere of Händel's La resurrezione, at Palazzo Bonelli, Rome, role of S. Maria Cleofa
28 October 1708 Premiere of Händel's Daliso ed Amarilli (cantata) at Palazzo Bonelli, Rome, role of Daliso

Castrato, born 1710, died 1783. He sang Händel's Faramondo, Serse.
20 February 1724, Premiere of Händel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, role of Nireno, King's Theatre

Soprano-castrato, born 1624 Torgiano, Perugia, died 1 June 1705 Perugia. He sang at San Marco in Venezia and was student of Mazzochi and friend of Carissini and Frescobaldi. Later he was employed by the court orchestra in Dresden. Bontempi sang in Italian and German works.


Picture of Farinelli

Soprano-castrato. He was born at Andria, Apulia, on 24 January 1705, belonging to a lesser noble family. His father Salvatore was governor of Maratea from 1706 and of Cisternino in 1709 (usually castratos all came from very poor families). He was castrated between the ages of seven and nine. Maestro Porpora was his first teacher. He became a protegé of the Farina brothers who helped him during his studies at Napoli, hence his adopted name – Farinelli. At the age of fifteen, he made his debut in Rome, at the palace of Prince Torella. His voice spanned over three octaves, from C3 to D6.

In a very short time, he became famous. In 1720, he made his official debut in Naples in a performance of the serenata Angelica e Medoro, composed by Porpora. In 1724, he appeared in Vienna and the following year in Venezia, returning to Naples shortly afterwards. He sang in Milan in 1726 and Bologna in 1727, where he met his mentor and future friend, the singer Antonio Bernacchi (born 1700), to whose teaching he was much indebted. In 1728, he sang again at the San Giovanni Crisostomo theatre in Venice. Later, he performed all over Europe. He was offered a lot of money to sing at Porpora's theatre in 1734 (where the castrato Senesino was the principal singer) and received very generous gifts from his rich admirers. He arrives in London in 1734 and joins the 'Opera of the Nobility'. On the 29th of October 1734, Farinelli made his debut in London. On the 10th of December 1734, he sang in Ottone, re di Germania, a revival at the King's Theatre. Farinelli sang the part of Adelberto. However, he didn't sing any of the arias originally composed by George Friedrich Händel for the role. His first appearance at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre was in Artaserse, with music by his brother Riccardo Broschi. He also sang at Covent Garden. His success was immediate. The Prince of Wales and the court loaded him with favours and presents. He spent three years in England. On the 8th of May 1736, a burlesque satire attacking Farinelli was produced. On the 11th of June 1736, he sang his final performance at the 'Opera of the Nobility' and departed London. Charles Burnley wrote in his 'General history of music' (1776–1789) that ... No vocal performer of the present century has been more unanimously acclaimed by the professional critics as well as by the celebrities to have been gifted with a voice of such uncommon power, sweetness, extent and agility as Carlo Broschi, called 'Farinelli'... In 1737, when he was on the way to Spain to audition for the Spanish king, he stopped for a few months in France, where he sang before Louis XV. In Spain, he first became director of the Teatro Real del Buen Retiro. After an audition, he decided to devote the rest of his life to the king. From then on, he sang every night five or seven songs for him, to ease king's depression. He was only 32, when he ended his career to become a prominent and influential courtier. In 1750 he was knighted in the order of Calatrava. Again according to Charles Burnley: 'Upon the arrival of Farinelli, (...) Queen Isabella contrived that there should be a concert in a room adjoining the King's apartments, in which this singer performed one of his most captivating songs. Philip appeared at first surprised, then moved, and at the end of the second aria, made the virtuoso enter the royal apartment, loading him with compliments and caresses. He asked him how he could sufficiently reward such talents and assured him that he would refuse him nothing. Farinelli, previously instructed, begged that His Majesty would permit his attendants to dress him and asked that he would endeavor to appear in the council as usual. From then on the king's disease was treated medically and the singer was considered responsible for curing him.' Farinelli's voice was large, even and clear, according to Burnley.... He possessed at least eight notes more than an ordinary singer and had great knowledge of music, and was able to sustain a note for a minute.... When the king died, Farinelli was granted a generous pension, but was also asked to leave Spain. He returned to Italy, settled in Bologna, where he received guests like Mozart and Gluck as well as Emperor Joseph II. Shortly before his death, he bestowed all his belongings upon his nephews and the servants who had looked after him. Farinelli died on the 15th of July 1782 and was buried on the hillside of Bologna. But his tomb does not exist any more, because it was destroyed by Napoleon's armies.

Original text by Farinelli:
"Cantando a Corte sempre vi fu la presenza del Re e Regina ed il maestro di cappella era la Principessa d'Oranges: all'improvviso mi furono tirate arie d'Endel; con gran franchezza mi posi ad eseguir quelle e grazie al Cielo ne sortii con tutta la gloria ...." Londra 30 novembre 1734 umilissimo obbligatissimo servitore vero Carlo Broschi Farinello"

While I was singing at the Royal Court, the King and Queen were always present and the Princess of Orange (Anne, the Princess Royal) acted as 'maestro di cappella' (conductor and accompanist). All of a sudden, some arias by Händel were produced before me; in all sincerity I started performing them and – thanks to God – I came out of it with full praise.

Castrato, born 1758, died 1821.


Castrato. Born in 1757, sang in Paris; from 1814, he was Maestro di Cappella alla Basilica del Santo in Padova till his death in 1828.



Mezzosoprano-castrato, born (like Farinelli) 1705 Monte Filottrano and died 1758 or 1760.
He sang in the operas Il pastor fido, Ottone re di Germania, Sosarme re di Media, Arianna in Creta, Ariodante and Alcina.
26 December 1719 – Debut at the Teatro Ducale, Milano in Porsenna by Vignati
8 January 1720 – Sang in La pace fra Seleuco e Tolomeo by Gasparini, Griselda by Scarlatti
1723 – Coronation of Charles VI, King of Bohemia, in Vienna, for this occasion he sang in Costanza e Fortezza by J. J. Fux.
1726 – On tour through Venice, Genoa and Bologna (sang works by Scarlatti, Vinci, Porta, Pescetti, Galuppi and Hasse)
1728-29 Sings in Napoli, mostly duets with another castrato, Barnacchi, to great success
1729 In Bologna, meets Händel
12 July 1733 Händel recruits his new singer, Carestini
13 November 1733 Revival of Händel's Ottone, re di Germania, role of Ottone, King's Theatre London
18 May 1734 Revival of Händel's Il pastor fido, role of Mirtillo, King's Theatre London
17 March 1734 Revival of Händel's Deborah (oratorio), role of Barak
27 April 1734 Revival of Händel's Sosarme, re di Media, role of Sosarme
26 January 1734 Premiere of Händel's Arianna in Creta, role of Teseo
9 November 1734 Revival of Händel's Il pastor fido with ballet at Covent Garden, he sang Apollo this time
8 January 1735 Premiere of Händel's Ariodante, role of Ariodante
1 April 1735 Revival of Händel's Athalia (oratorio), Covent Garden, role of Joad
16 April 1735 Premiere of Händel's Alcina, role of Ruggiero, King's Theatre
1735 Sings Händel's Alcina at the Teatro Sant' Angelo, Napoli
1 December 1739 "Middlesex" opera company opens their concert season; singers include Giovanni Carestini
1739-40 Teatro d'Opera Torino, sings Arsace by Händel
1746–1750 Demoofonte by Hasse
1750–1754 Berlin Orfeo
1755–758 St Petersburg, singing and teaching


24 February 1711 Premiere of Händel's Rinaldo, role of the Mago at Queen's Theatre

Castrato and composer. Born 1602, died 1678.

Castrato, born 1752, died 21 July 1814. Not much is known about him, except for the fact that Charlotte Haser was his pupil.

Castrato. He sang mainly works of Benedetto Odescalchi and a lot for pope Innocenzo XI. He performed also at the Castello Orsini in Bracciano and had many recitals at the San Bartolomeo and San Carlo in Naples. He was the star of the carnival 1689 in Torino.


Castrato. Sang in Torino and Paris in operas by Francesco Cavalli, Serse and Ercole amante.



Castrato. Born 1744, died 1812.

Soprano-castrato. Born in 1753 or 1756. When he was about 20 years old, he was engaged by the court of Munich from 1773 to 1777. In 1775 he came to sing Ramiro in the first performance of Mozart's La finta giardiniera. In 1775, he was in Salzburg and in Munich, where he sang the role of Aminta, shepherd in love with Elisa, in Mozart's Il re pastore. In 1780, he performs Manlio in Tito Manlio and also Arsace in Medonte. In 1782, he sang Sammete in Nitteti at the Nuovo Teatro Regio, Torino. On 1 February 1783, he sang the title rol in Vologeso by Martin y Soler at the same theatre. Later, he fell ill and was replaced by the castrato Francesco Casatielli. He sang mostly in Germany, but from time to time appeared in Italy in various opera houses. For example, he was admitted to the cappella pontificia in Rome, where he was engaged for few years.



Picture of Gizziello

Soprano-castrato. He was born on the 28th February 1714 in Arpino, a very sick boy, but with a beautiful voice. Later, he studied with the castrato Domenico Gizzi, that is why he was affectionally called Gizziello. He made his debut in Artaserse (Vinci) in 1730 at the Teatro delle Dame in Rome. It was a sensational success. People were talking about his fantastic voice, very similar to Caffarelli's. Gaetano Majorano (Caffarelli) invited Gizziello to sing with him at the San Carlo Theatre in Napoli.
By 1736, he was a household name in London, he visited first in 1735. He started with Händel's Ariodante. Later his major roles followed – Partenope, Alcina, Atalanta, Arminio, Giustino, Berenice. Burley says in his report: ... delicate voice with a perfect technique, soprano leggero with pathos .... Händel preferred his voice to Farinelli's, but there is no mention why. For a few years, he was engaged in Lisbon, but left and came back to Rome, then in 1742 he went to Firenze, where he sang in the premiere of Didone abbandonata by Perez. He died in Roma on the 25th October 1761.
24 February 1730 Premiere of Händel's Partenope, role of Ormindo
12 December 1730 Revival of Händel's Partenope, role of Ormindo
8 April 1735 Revival of Händel's Alcina, role of Ruggiero, Covent Garden
5 May 1736 Revival of Händel's Ariodante in Covent Garden
12 May 1736 Premiere of Händel's Atalanta, role of Meleagro
10 June 1736 Revival of Händel's Alcina, role of Ruggiero
6 November 1736 Revival of Händel's Alcina, role of Ruggiero
12 January 1737 Premiere of Händel's Arminio, role of Sigismondo
16 February 1737 Premiere of Händel's Giustino, role of Anastasio
29 January 1737 Revival of Händel's Partenope, role of Ormindo
16 February 1737 Revival of Händel's Giustino, role of Anastasio
18 May 1737 Premiere of Händel's Berenice, regina d'Egitto, role of Alessandro
21 June 1737 Revival of Händel's Alcina, role of Ruggiero
1742 Firenze.
1743 Engaged in Lisboa, Firenze and Rome.
1747 Napoli. Two singers, bringing the opera venue down with Jommelli's Achille in Sciro.
1753 Back in Lisboa, then Rome again.


Castrato from near Frosinone, Latium, Italy.


Picture of Crescentini

Mezzosoprano-castrato, born in Urbania, Napoli, on the 2nd of February 1762 or 1766. He was one of the greatest Italian castrato-mezzosoprani, and the last representative of the old tradition. He was trained and performed from a very early age. When he was only about 14 years old, he was already singing comic opera in the small town of Fano. He was known as an educated man. Apart from his singing skills, he was trained as a musician, was composing operas and had an extensive knowledge of literature. He also played the guitar, according to contemporaries, really well. After his debut in Rome in 1783, he sang in Legnano, Padua, Venice, Turin, Napoli, London, Lisbon (1798–1801) and Paris. Cimarosa composed his Gli Orazii for his voice, but his greatest role was Romeo in Zingarelli's Romeo e Giulietta.
He was the favourite of Napoleon, despite the fact that the French never liked castrati much and didn't allowed them to sing much in France. They were not allowed to sing in French churches. But Napoleon himself caused a great stir, when the voice of Girolamo Crescentini touched him so much that he awarded him the crown of Lombardy. Such prestige was usually reserved only for the most accomplished military officers. According to the historian Patrick Barbier, the award caused so much commotion, that after the evening was over, a friend of the castrato heard complains about his honour to which she replied: 'Alas, you forget his wound'. Following a long and successful career, he turned to teaching at the Royal College of S. Pietro a Majella in 1816. He died in Napoli on the 24th of April 1846.


Castrato. Born 1630 (?) in Rome, died 10 Dec 1694. His teacher was A. M. Abbatini.

Castrato. Born 5 May 1756 in Imola, died 1828 in Munich. His teacher was Lorenzo Gibelli. He sang role of Idamante in Mozart's Idomeneo on 9 January 1781 with little ear for music and no experience on stage. He was only 24 years old.


Castrato. He sang in Mozart's operas.
9 April 1708 Premiere of Händel's La resurrezione at Palazzo Bonelli in Rome, sang role of S. Maria Maddalena



Castrato. Sang the role of Arbace.

Castrato, born in 1632, died in 1672.

Castrato. In 1765, he sang at the Teatro San Carlo, Napoli with little success. He died of a heart attack on stage.


Castrato, he sang in Paris and Versailles. The French king Louis XIV was very fond of him because of his beautiful voice.

Castrato, sang for the Swedish queen Kristina in her palazzo in Italy.

Castrato and founder of a singing school for castratos.


Soprano-castrato. Born 9 December 1610 in Perugia. His teacher was Vincenzo Ugolini. He was the first castrato to gain international fame, thanks to the extraordinary endurance of his voice. When he was 11 years of age, he was in the service of cardinal Crescenzi (an amateur musician) in Orvieto. Ferri was very a successful singer. Still at a very young age, he sang with the cappella di San Pietro in Rome and according to the archives, had a very sweet voice after his four years as apprentice, perfecting his technique. His benefactor took him to Poland, where he sang for three kings – Sigismund III, Władisław IV and Jan II Kazimierz.

In 1645, when in the service of the Polish court, he was heard by the Swedish queen Kristina, who was very impressed. Later, she heard him again at the basilica San Pietro in Rome and took him with her to Sweden. He was also heard at the Duomo in Firenze, where he sang pieces by Monteverdi, and sang also in London. In 1665, he sang in Vienna. Died 18 September or 18 December 1680.

Castrato, born 1699 (?), died 1758. All that is known about him is that he was at one time engaged in Spain and was Scarlatti's colleague there for 22 years.

Castrato, he was a pupil of the composer Stefano Landi, and sang in his music drama Il Sant'Alessio, on the 8th of March 1631 (?) at Palazzo Barberini ai Giubbonari in Rome, role of Allisio.

Soprano-castrato. Born 1710 in Bergamo, died 21 April 1776 near Hamburg. He created Temistocle in his own opera Temistocle, on the 16th of February 1746.

Castrato. One of the first castratos admitted to the papal choir in Rome in 1599.

Contralto-castrato. In December 1776, Mozart wrote the aria Ombra felice ... Io ti lascio for him.

Soprano-castrato. He created Rodrigo in Händel's last opera Rodrigo, in the first performance in autumn 1707 at the Teatro Civico Accademico in Via del Cocomero, Firenze.

Castrato and priest of the royal chapel in Napoli. He was appointed canon of the Cathedral, the first castrato to hold such a post.

Castrato. Born 13 July 1661, died 15 December 1729. His teacher was Agostino Filippucci.

Soprano-castrato, born 1680 or 1684, died 14 Oct 1758. His teachers were Francesco Antonio Pistocchi and Angelio. He sang at the premiere of Didone abbandonata by Porpora and created Cesare in Catone in Utica (Leo).


Soprano-castrato, born 1673 in Napoli (not to be confused with the composer Giuseppe Nicolini). He first performed at the age of 12 and from that time, he was the darling of audiences. He studied with Porpora. When 17, he sang with the Capella del Tesoro di San Gennaro in soprano and alto parts. His voice range was, according to the archives, between three-and-a-half and four octaves.

1697 – Sang Scarlatti's opera La caduta de' decemviri
1698 – Sang Muzio Scevola, also Prigioniero fortunato, Tito Manlio by Pollarolo, and Partenope by Manzo
1699 – Was in Napoli and Bologna
1700 – Sang in Venice
1705 – Received the title of a 'Cavaliere di San Marco' for the interpretation of Antioco by Gasparini. People were calling him 'Castrato famoso', famous castrato.
1708 – In London as one of the first castratos performing there in public. He sang at Queen's Theatre, Haymarket: Pirro e Demetrio by Scarlatti.
24 February 1711 – Sang first version of Händel's Rinaldo with enormous success, role of Rinaldo 14th January 1712 – Antioco by F. Gasparini at Queen's Theatre.
23rd January 1712 Revival of Händel's Rinaldo
1712 – Returned to Venice to sing in the opera Le gare generose
1713 – Napoli
1714 – London, Händel's Amadigi di Gaula
1716 – Sang in Venice Eumene by Albioni, Astianatte by Bononcini, Arsace by Gasparini
5th January 1717 – Revival of Händel's Rinaldo, Queen's Theatre
1718 – Napoli, Fede ne' tradimenti, Arsace by Sarro, serenata L'Andromeda with Marianna Benti-Bulgarelli and the castrato Matteuccio
1721 – Venice and Napoli with Vittoria Tesi in Arminio by Pollarolo, Arianna e Teseo by Leonardo Leo
1725 – Artaserse, role of Artabano by Hasse (he was then 52 years old)
1730 – His voice started to decline, but he was still very good. He sang Siroe, re di Persia by Vinci, Massimiliano by Orlandini, all in Venice
1731 – Napoli, Sallustia by Pergolesi
1732 – He finished his singing career in Napoli, where he died on the 1st of January 1732.

French castrato, admitted to the Sistine Chapel.

Soprano-castrato, born 12 February 1653 Chiesina Uzzanese, Tuscany, died 29 May 1697 Ferrara. His teacher was Tommaso Redi. He started his career as a member of the choir of the Cappella Pontificia, later made his debut at the Teatro Tordinona in Rome, then he sang at the courts of Savoie, Torino, Modena and Ferrara, he was also a member of the Cappella Reale in Rome and sang to great acclaim in Firenze, Napoli, Milano and London. He sang in the premieres of Favore degli dei (Sabadini), Nerone (Pallavicino) and Il re infante (Pallavicino).

From 1661, when he was 8 years old, he was singing at Firenze, also during the following years. In 1671 in Rome, he achieved his early fame, when he performed the role of Syphax (Siface, re di Numibia) in Scipione africano by Cavalli, which gave him his nickname 'Siface'. He sang that role also in Bologna and Firenze. He was hired to sing on the 25th of April 1673 in San Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Rome, and a year later he was listed as a contralto at the Oratorio San Marcello, but according to the archives, on the 10th of April 1674, he sang at the Cappella Pontificia as a soprano. In 1675, he was employed by Francesco II d'Este, Duke of Modena, who allowed him to tour extensively throughout Italy and the rest of Europe. In 1677, he was listed at the Oratorio San Marcello. Then he travelled to Venice in 1678, was hired by the Teatro di San Giovanni Crisostomo where he sang Vespasian at the opening of the theatre. In 1679, he came back to the service of the Duke of Modena, where he remained for the rest of his life. He began to be increasingly popular and sang for example at the Venetian carnival in 1669. In 1683, he sang at the premiere of Il re infante by Pallavicino in Venice. In 1684, he was in Napoli, where he sang Mitridate in Alessandro Scarlatti's Pompeo. In 1686, his followers heard him in Firenze, and in France he stopped in Paris, where he was much acclaimed, though he was not invited to sing at Versailles. John Evelyn reports in his diary that on the 19th of April 1687, he heard Siface at the London home of Samuel Pepys. He was in England to entertain the sister of the Duke of Mantua, Maria Beatrice d'Este, now James II's queen. The same year, he created a sensation (and was referred to as an international travelling virtuoso) when he sang at the Catholic Chapel at London's Whitehall and again in a private concert at Pepys' house. He was admired by Purcell, who wrote a lament for his English farewell, L'addio a Siface. From 1688 to 1697 (the year he was murdered), he sang in Parma, Bologna, Milan, Napoli, Reggio Emilia and Modena, where he appeared in Il Mauritio on the 29th of October 1689. On the occasion of a royal marriage in Parma, he sang in a glorious production of Sabadini's Il favore degli dei. On the 29th of May 1697, he died in Ferrara, assassinated after an indiscreet affair with a member of the Marsili family, on the road between Ferrara and Bologna by angry kinsmen of the Marchesa Marsili (niece of Conte Agostino and sister of Giorgio and Alessandro Marsili, aristocrats of Bologna), with whom Siface had an affair. Pope Innocence XII later ordered Giorgio and Alessandro Marsili to go to exile from Bologna, because of a murder. On the 27th of August the same year, Elena Marsili went to the convent of San Leonardo. Despite the fact that he played contralto roles on stage most of the time, he was admitted at the Sistine Chapel on the 10th of April 1675 as a soprano. Giovanni Francesco Grossi has a tombstone in the church of San Paolo in Ferrara. It reads: Ioannis Francisci De Grosis – alias Siface – 1697.

Alto-castrato, then soprano-castrato. Born on Dec 1725 or 1729 in Lodi, died in Padova on the 11th of October 1792. His teacher was the castrato Gioacchino Conti (Gizziello). He made his debut in Parma in 1747. After success in Italia, he gained the attention of Händel, who was entranced by his voice and his acting skills. He wrote the role of Didymus in Theodora for him. Guadagni interpreted for him Messiah, Samson and many others. In 1751-52, he had great success in Dublin and then in 1754 in Paris, where he sang in Versailles (concert spirituel), then went to Lisboa. He returned to Italy as a very popular and successful singer in 1757. Guadagni created Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice (in Vienna, this was only 12 years after his debut, and with this Orfeo, he achieved immortality, as the Italians say). Then he went to Verona, Venezia (1772 St. Mark's basilica), Potsdam (1776 Orfeo). He was also Gluck's Telemaco in Telemaco, and Lysander in Fairies (Smith), Sammate in Nitteti (Traetta), Arbace in Bach's Artaserse, Tigrane in Piccinni's Tigrane, Oreste in Ifigenia in Tauride (Traetta), Horatius in Trionfo di Clelia (Hasse), Romulus in Romulus ed Ersilia (Traetta) and Ezio in Ezio (Bertoni).
12 April 1750 Revival of Händel's Messiah (oratorio) at Covent Garden, composed for him by Händel, also on the 1st and 5th of May 1750 at the Foundling Hospital Chapel, London, and again on the 1st of May 1753
16 March 1750 Premiere of Händel's Theodora (oratorio), Covent Garden, role of Didymus
4 April 1750 Revival of Händel's Samson (oratorio), Covent Garden, role of Micah 22 February 1751 Revival of Händel's Belshazzar (oratorio), Covent Garden, role of Cyrus 1751-52 He sang also in Dublin 4 March 1754 Revival of Händel's Samson (oratorio), Covent Garden, role of Micah
1754 – He performed in 'Concert Spirituel' at Versailles
1755 Sang in Lisbon
1757 Went on tour with castrato Gizziello
1762 – Sang Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice in Vienna
1765 – Back in Vienna, Gluck's Telemaco
1769 – London, later Padova
1772 – Venezia, S. Marco, also Verona
1776 – Potsdam, Orfeo by Bertoni

In 1777, he left the theatre and started to teach singing at the basilica di S. Antonio in Padova. He died there on the 11th of October 1792.


1 May 1725 Revival of Händel's Tamerlano, role of Tamerlano, King's Theatre, London
7 December 1931 Revival of Händel's Admeto, re di Tessaglia, role of Trasimede
23 November 1731 Revival of Händel's Poro, re dell'Indie, role of Gandarte
15 February 1732 Premiere of Händel's Sosarme, re di Media, role of Argone
18. 4 1732 he sang in Revival of Händel's opera Flavio, re de' Longobardi, role of Flavio, King's Theatre

Castrato. He was employed by the Duke of Mantua during the first half of the 17th century.

Alto-castrato, born 1720 in Montefiascone, died ?. He was a pupil of the castrato Bernacchi. In 1750, Guarducci was engaged by Farinelli at the Spanish court, where he sang on and off for the rest of his career.
1758-59 – Debut and great success at the San Carlo, Napoli
1755 – Premiere of Gluck's opera L'innocenza giustificata
22 February 1762 – Premiere of Traetta's opera Alessandro nell'Indieat the Teatro San Carlo, Napoli. He received 100 ducats for the performance
1762 – Arrived in England and stayed there certainly until 1767, when he became the highest paid oratorio singer.

His voice was sweet, clear, soft and smooth. In London, according to the archives, he sang Carattaco by J. C. Bach and La conquista del messo by Mattia Vento. In Roma, he sang Didone abbandonata by Piccinni.

Castrato. Canon of St. Peter's in Rome. He sang in the opera Fedra at the palazzo of cardinal Ruffo.




Soprano-castrato. He was from Florence and in 1609 sang the prologue (and probably one more role) in Monteverdi's Orfeo in Mantua.

Soprano-castrato, born 12 (or 16) April 1710 in Bitonto, Apulia, died 31 January (or 31 November) 1783 in Santo Dorato (Napoli). One of the most celebrated and sought after singers of his day. He demonstrated interest in music even as a little child and had an angelic voice. He was discovered by a musician named Caffaro (not the composer Cafaro!), whose name he adopted [Caffarello – little Caffaro]. He made his debut in Rome in 1726 (age 16) in a female role, after studying with Porpora for five years.

Major performances:
1726 – Carnival in Napoli, also in Rome at the Teatro delle Dame
1728 – Teatro San Samuele, Venice
     Teatro Regio di Torino, I veri amici by A. S. Fiore
     Teatro Ducale, Milan, Didone abbandonata by Sarro
Carnival 1730 – Teatro Nuovo Capranica, Rome, part of Tigrane in Porpora's Mitridate and the title role in Siface (by Porpora, as well)
Carnival 1732 – Teatro Nuovo Capranica, Rome, part of Piro in Hasse's opera Cajo Fabricio
     Venice, part of Arminio in Porpora's Germanico
     Venice, Teatro San Samuele, role of Ormante in Hasse's Euristeo
December 1732 – Teatro Ducale in Milan, together with other singers (A. Amorevoli, Vittoria Tesi, Anna Peruzzi) in Candace by Lampugnani
     Teatro Malvezzi, Bologna, Siroe, re di Persia by Hasse
1734 – Teatro San Bartolomeo, Venice, role of Ruggiero in Castello d'Atlante by L. Leo
    Teatro S. Giovanni Crisostomo, Venice, during the carnevale, Merope by Giacomelli with Farinelli, M. T. Pieri and Francesco Tolve
25 October 1734 Teatro San Bartolomeo, Venice, part of Farnaspe in Adriano in Siria by Pergolesi
5 December 1734 Demofonte by Sarro
3 January 1738 Premiere of Händel's Faramondo, role of Faramondo, King's Theatre (Caffarelli's debut in London, for his first season in London Caffarelli received 1000 guineas plus another 150 for travelling expenses)
6 January 1738 Revival of Faramondo by Händel
25 February 1738 Alessandro Severo
4 November 1738 Teatro San Carlo, Napoli, La clemenza di Tito, Hasse
19 December 1738 Temistocle by A. Ristori
20 January 1739 Semiramide by Porpora
15 April 1739 Premiere of Händel's Serse, role of Serse, London, King's Theatre
1739 – Also sang in Madrid at the Teatro del Buon Retiro, during the celebration of the marriage of Infant Filippo to Princess Luisa Elisabetta of France
July 1740 – return to Napoli, Palazzo Reale, Travestimenti amorosi by D. Perez
     San Carlo, Siroe de Persia and Zenobia by Porpora
1741-42 Demoofonte by Sarro
     Ciro riconosciuto by Leo
1742-43 Andromaca by Leonardo Leo, Issipile by Hasse, Alessandro nelle Indie by Sarro
1743-44 Artaserse by Vinci, L'olimpiade by Leo, Didone abbandonata by Hasse
1744-45 Semiramide by Vinci, Antigono by Hasse, Achille in Sciro by G. Manna
1745-46 Tigrane by Hasse, Lucio Vero by Manna, Ipermestra by Hasse
1746-47 Lucio Papirio and Cajo Fabricio by Hasse, Arianna e Teseo by G. Di Majo
     Teatro degli Immobili, Cajo Mario by A. Caldara
November 1747 Sogno D'Olimpia by G. Di Majo, Arianna e Teseo by the Maltese composer Girolamo Abos, Lucio Papirio by Gennaro Manna
1748 – He sang Antigono by Andrea Bernasconi and Siroe by different composers – Vinci, G. Scarlatti, Fiore, Hasse, Porpora, Vivaldi and Manna
1749 – Mario in Numida by Rinaldo Da Capua, Semiramide riconosciuta by D. Perez
May 1749 – Caffarelli went to Vienna, where he sang mostly with the celebrated soprano Vittoria Tesi.
1752 – Napoli, Tito Manlio by Abos, Farnace by T. Traetta, Ipermesta by P. Cafaro, Nell'attalo by G. Conti, Sesostri re D 'Egitto by Conti
December 1752 – La clemenza di Tito by Gluck, Lucio Vero by Abos
1753 – Didone abbandonata by G. B. Lampognani
16 April 1753 – Sang at the 'Concerts Spirituels'
17 April 1753 – Sang in Versailles and various palais (Marly, Tuileries, Saint-Germain, Fontainebleau, Bellevue, Louvre)
28 August 1753 – Stabat mater by G. B. Pergolesi
8 October 1753 – Didone abbandonata by Hasse
17 and 19 October 1753 – Versailles, concerts for Madame Dauphine
12 and 20 January 1764 – Two arias at the Royal Theatre, Naples; for that he received 300 ducats.
1756 concerts in Madrid, Lisboa and Portugal

He was a member of the Royal Chapel in Napoli (1734–1754) and sang throughout Europe and England. A skilful musician, gifted with flair and pathos. He is believed to have been the first singer to introduce chromatic scales as vocal ornamentation in fast sections. In England, he made his debut in Valemaro (Sarro) 1726 and created Faramondo in Faramondo (Händel), Alessandro Severo in Alessandro Severo (Händel) and Oreste in Andromacca (Leo). He also sang Serse. He was Gluck's Sextus in his opera La clemenza di Tito. He tended to be quarrelsome and sometimes very bombastic. He is portrayed as having the worst primadonna temperament, which landed him many times in trouble and even one time in jail. He also bought the title of a Duke of Santo Dorato (with the relative domain in Napoli), fought a duel with the poet Ballot de Sauvot over the merits of Italian and French opera. He commanded the highest fees to be paid to date to a singer, amassing a vast fortune.


Soprano-castrato, born 1714 and died 1800. He was the student of another castrato, Bernacchi (1690–1756). He also wrote books about singing. In one of them, he advocated using a two registers model, 'chest' and 'head' (or 'falsetto'), and taught that they should be equalized using 'the natural instinct, but never force'. Mancini also advocated a 'smiling' position for the mouth, used now mainly by high sopranos.

Greek castrato, who founded a singing school in Smolensk, Russia.


Soprano-castrato, born 1720 or 1725 and died 1780 or 1782. He was singing in London for a long time and was at one time teaching W. A. Mozart. In 1765, when the Mozart family was in London, Manzuoli, a renowned castrato from Florence, arrived to open the opera season and, according to Leopold Mozart, was being paid 1500 pounds for coming to England as well as receiving the very large sum of 1000 guineas for a single benefit performance. He was the man who had the merit to push little Mozart towards Italian bel canto and opera. Mozart, during his journey to London, was acquainted with him and with Senesino. Manzuoli was perhaps the leading castrato of his generation, and after singing at various Italian theatres, was taken to Madrid by Farinelli in 1749, after which he become famous all over Europe.
1748 – Official debut in Milan
1753 – Engaged by Farinelli to Madrid, Spain, where he sang in ten productions and displayed the usual castrato propensity for primadonna behaviour and arrogance
1759 – Milan, opera Arianna e Teseo, by Ponzo
1763 – Bologna, Il trionfo di Clelia by Gluck at the Teatro Comunale
1762 – London, Covent Garden, role of Arbaces in Artaxerxes by Arne
24 November 1764 – London, pasticcio Ezio
25 January 1765 – London, King's Theatre, Premiere of Adriano in Siria by J. Ch. Bach, role of Farnaspe
1771 – Milan, Ruggero by Hasse, Ascanio in Alba by Mozart, title role, which was one of his last appearances

Soprano-castrato, born on the 8th of August 1754 or 1755 in Milan, died on the 15th (or 24) of December 1829 in Inzago. He studied with Albuzzi and Caironi and also composed successfully. He was castrated at his own request and made his debut in Rome as Giannetta in L'incognita perseguitata by Anfossi in 1773. His fame was established in Napoli at the Teatro San Carlo and later in Milan and Turin, where he joined the court. He also created Ariodante in Ginerva di Scozia by Mayr. From 1788 to 1790, he sang regularly in London, but later almost exclusively in Italy. He retired in 1806.
In 1792, the opera Ezio by Angelo Tarchi with text by Metastasio (first performed at the Teatro Eretenio in Venice in 1759) was revived. The names of the cast include Luigi Marchesi in the title role.
1793 – Teatro Riccardi in Bergamo
Marchesi was considered the greatest castrato at the end of 18th century. He was credited with improvising not only the aria, but his recitative as well, a practice that was continued into the 19th century. He was also notoriously vain, and very handsome, a superstar. For example, he stipulated that his entrance must be on horseback, wearing a helmet with multi-coloured plumes at least 95 cm high, announced by a trumpet fanfare and singing one of his favourite arias, regardless of the character he was playing.


Soprano-castrato, born 14 April 1729 in Siena (which is why also he, and not only Bernacchi, was called Senesino), died 1819.


Castrato with a beautiful voice, but a very bad actor.

Soprano-castrato, born on the 3rd of March 1626 and died in 1680. His career took him to Austria, Bavaria and France. Melani, one of a large family of singers and composers, sang the title role in a production of Luigi Rossi's Orfeo in Paris (1647) and was greatly favoured by Louis XIV.



Castrato, born 3 Nov 1628 Pistoia, died 1663.


Alto-castrato, born at L'Aquila, Abruzzo.

Soprano-castrato, born on the 20th or 22nd of January 1739 in Terlizzi, died on the 2nd of October 1802 in Napoli. He was one of the greatest belcanto singers of the 18th century, and he was also a successful composer; his operas La pietà d'amore and La Zelinda were praised. He created Paris in Gluck's Paride ed Elena and Orpheus in Gluck's Feste d'Apollo. He was Gluck's great friend. He was active in all main European cities and in London.
1769 – Parma, sang Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice
1770 – Sang in carnival season in Napoli
He was also a singing teacher, who gave lessons to Lady Hamilton as 'maestro da cappella' at the Royal Chapel in Napoli.

Castrato, pupil of castrato Manzuoli.

MONTICELLI ANGELO MARIA Castrato, born 1715 in Milano. In 1730, he made his debut in Rome, then sang all over Italy in places such as Venice, Milan and Florence. In 1734, he sang with Vittoria Tesi in Ambizione superata da virtu
1737 – At the Court of the Medici
1740 – Arrival in London, he soon become the 'primo uomo' at the King's Theatre. Many critics compared him with Farinelli.
1743 – Revival of Händel's Deidamia
1 December 1744 – Revival of Händel's Semele (drama), London, King's Theatre, role of Athamas
1752 Napoli
1755 Dresden
1758 Died

Alto-castrato, born 1726 Bisaccia, died 1809 Spangenberg (Germany).

Soprano-castrato. Professore Moreschi was born in Monte Compatrio, Rome, on the 11th of November 1858. In 1871, he attended the Di Salvatore school in San Lauro, and after that he was admitted to the Choir of the Cappella Sistina from 1883. He was engaged there almost all his singing career till 1913. Furthermore, he was a conductor of the choir from 1898.
When he began his studies, it was already very difficult to find a teacher for him. He sang only liturgical music and was known around as the 'Angel of Rome', but never sang in opera. Moreschi is the only castrato who was ever recorded. He retired in 1913. His speaking voice was that of a high tenor and his range was about c' to e'''. After retirement, he spent the rest of his life in solitude, completely forgotten. He died in 1922.

Soprano-castrato, born on the 14th of April 1829 and died on the 18th of May 1912 or 1915.
1892, he sang Gregorio Allegri's 'Miserere' in the Sistine Chapel for the first time, and the same version was discovered at castrato Moreschi's estate, given to him by Mustafà. Emma Calvé visited him to get technical advice on the production of high notes.


Castrato. Singer at the San Carlo, who received 1838 ducats for his services in 1739.

Castrato, born in Bologna, celebrated singer, in the emperor's employ in Vienna for half a century from 1699 to 1750, and a composer himself. He was particularly applauded for his interpretation of Saint Peter.

Soprano-castrato. Born 21 May 1740 in Fabriano, Ancona, died 28 October 1821 Padua. A pupil of Bertoni in Venice, Pacchiarotti rapidly acquired an international reputation, which lasted until he retired. Famous castrato of the late 18th century, he sang in every important theatre in Europe, including the opening of La Scala in 1778 and La Fenice in Venice 1792. He created the title role in Giulio Sabino by Sarti, Romolo in Romolo ed Ersilla by Mysliveček, Oreste in Ifigenia in Tauride by Jommelli, the title role in Quinto Fabio by Bertoni. Also sang in the premieres of Europa riconosciuto by Salieri, Armida abbandonata and Artaserse, both by Bertoni. There is a famous incident during the performance of Bertoni's Artaserse, where the orchestra was unable to continue playing for the tears in their eyes at the beauty of Pacchiarotti's singing. In England he was widely admired, and was described by the Public Advertiser as 'superior to any singer in this country since Farinelli' and by NG as 'the greatest of the late eighteenth century castratos'. He sang at the King's Theatre between 1781 and 1784. He retired to Padua in 1793. Rossini paid a visit of homage in his old age. He was also a very good teacher, his pupils were B. R. Pisaroni and F. Festa, just to name few.

Alto-castrato. He created Händel's Tamerlano.
31 October 1724 – Premiere of Händel's Tamerlano 2 January 1725 – Revival of Händel's Giulio in Egitto, role of Tolomeo
13 February 1725 – Premiere of Händel's Rodelinda, regina de' Longobardi, role of Unulfo

Castrato and conductor. Opened school a of singing in Genoa.

Soprano-castrato and composer. Born on the 25th of April 1614 in Rome, died on the 3rd of July 1691. His pupil was Atto Melani. He sang at the premieres of Sincerità trionfante by Cecchini and Orfeo by L. Rossi.


Soprano-castrato. Born 1663 (?) in Verona, died on the 18th of January 1746. He sang Nerone in the premiere of Händel's Agrippina, which took place for the first time on the 26th of December 1709 or during the carnival of 1710 in Venice, Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo. There were performances on 27 successive evenings. He sang at the premiere of Haydn's opera Il pastor fido, role of Mirtillus, on the 22nd of November 1712 at London's Queen's Theatre, with original cast members, and also on the 27th of November 1712 and on the 21st of February 1713. He sang at the premiere of Haydn's Teseo, role of Teseo, first performed on the 10th of January 1713 at the London's Queen Theatre. He also created Nerone in Händel's Agrippina, Gheroldo in Tassilone (Steffani), Lepido in Lucio Silla (Händel) and sang at the premiere of Fede pubblica (Bononcini).


Alto-castrato, he created Fernando in Händel's opera Rodrigo, which had its first performance during autumn 1707 at the Teatro Civico Accademico in Via del Cocomero, Firenze.

French castrato. He was employed by Duke Carlo III of Mantua, who probably had him castrated as a child. Later he became a famous castrato in Italian theatres, but being very ungrateful and capricious, he ruined his former master and later fled.

Alto-castrato, born in Palermo 1659 and died in Bologna on the 13th of May 1726. He was also a composer and teacher. Started as a child prodigy because of his beautiful soprano voice. His teachers were A. Pasi, Padre Vastamigli, M. Monari and Perti. He had an absolutely brilliant career as alto-castrato. He made his debut in 1675. From 1679 to 1700, Pistocchi was considered the finest singer in Europe. He served at the Parma court in 1686–1695, and in 1696 he became court Kapellmeister at Ansbach. He sang at the premiere of Favore degli Dei by Sabadini. In 1701, he founded his school in Bologna, which spread the popularity of belcanto singing. In 1702, he was named 'virtuoso di camera e di cappella' to Prince Ferdinando of Tuscany. He was also a teacher of castrato singers, some of them very prominent, like Bernacchi – that was after he probably lost his voice, or was in decline, because in that time, according to the archives of the monastery of Forlì, he had been ordained as a priest in the order founded by S. Filippo Neri. His pupils were influenced by his teaching, because it is mentioned that many of them sang very much in the style of Pistocchi. As a composer, he was also very successful with his oratorios, cantatas, operas, noticed for their melodies and harmony.


Castrato, born near Frosinone, Latium, Italy. Pupil of Porpora.

Alto-castrato. Employed from 1660 by Charles Emmanuel II of Savoy, who brought him from Genoa, first for his sister's wedding and later for an annual salary of 1,800 livres.

Castrato and composer, born on the 19th of December 1746 in Rome, died on the 8th of April 1810 in Bath, England. He began his singing career in 1765 in Rome, worked in Munich for some years and eventually settled in England, where he sang, taught, managed concert series and composed. He was also a harpsichordist. Haydn visited him in 1794 and composed a canonical obituary for his recently deceased dog.
His teacher was Nicolo Porpora, and he made his debut in Finto astrologo in the world premiere of Piccinni's opera at the Teatro Valle in Rome, on the 7th of February 1765. He sang at the premiere of Mozart's opera Lucio Silla on December 25th, 1772 and according to Mozart's father ...he sang the primo uomo role like an angel... The opera had twenty performances. Mozart then wrote 'Exsultate, jubilate' for him and he performed it at the premiere, which was at the Church of the Theatines, Milan, on January 17th, 1773. Mozart tailored the composition precisely to Rauzzini's strengths – his taste, his bravura technique and a delivery on the whole gentle rather than forceful. The virtuosity and florid coloratura style give us some idea of the quality of Rauzzini's voice.
He also created Alceste and Demetrius in Demetrio by Bernasconi. He sang at the premiere of Sesostri (Guglielmi), Sismano nel Mogol (Paisiello) and Montezuma (Sacchini, 1775). He lived a long time in England (Bath), where his pupils included E. Billington, J. Braham, M. Kelly, C. Incledon, J. Lacy, N. Storace, and G. Mara. He also performed in his own opera Armida.


30 March 1759 – Revival of Händel's Messiah, Covent Garden

Castrato, first in service of the Queen of Sweden, in 1667 he went to the court of Charles Emmanuel II of Savoy.


Castrato from Perugia. One of the first admitted into the papal choir in Rome, in 1599.

Alto-castrato, born 1753, died 1829. He was a celebrated alto who first came to prominence in Stuttgart in Sacchini's Calliroe and became a great favourite in the city in both male and female roles.
1778 – Italy, sang in all the principal theatres, and also on the occasion of the inauguration of La Scala that year in Salieri's Europa riconosciuta. Also sang with castrato Pacchierotti in Mortellari's Troia distrutta
1786 – London, performed in pasticcio 'Virginia' and in Händel's Armida and Giulio Cesare.
28 March 1791 – sang a cantata at the 'Nobile Casino de' Filarmonici' and received 4,400 lire.

Soprano-castrato, born on the 17th of February 1712 in Milan, died 1755 in Ljubljana. Salimbeni studied with Nicola Porpora in Napoli.
1731 – Debut at the Teatro dell'Opera Roma in Hasse's opera Cajo Fabrizio
1733–1739 In service of Emperor Charles VI in Vienna
1743 – Berlin, sang in Metastasio's Catone in Utica. Later in Bologna, where he met Casanova.
1743–1750 Dresden

Castrato, born 1667 in S. Severo, died 1737 in Napoli. Sassano studied at the Conservatorio dei poveri di Gesù Cristo in Napoli. He made his debut in Napoli with the Cappella di Palazzo Reale.
1693–1695 He was 'primo' soprano-castrato in Napoli.
1698–1700 Employed by the Spanish queen Maria Anna von Neuburg, in Madrid
9 April 1708 Premiere of Händel's La resurrezione at Palazzo Bonelli, Rome, role of Angelo.
When his career was close to the end, he sang in Rome in Vincitor generoso by A. Lotti and then in Napoli Fraticida innocente by the same composer.

Castrato, born 1755, died 1828.

Soprano-castrato, born 1695, date of death unknown. He sang in the revival of Haydn's Il pastor fido, role of Silvio, on the 18th of May 1734 at King's Theatre, London.
13 November 1733 – He sang the role of Adalberto in Händel's opera Ottone, re di Germania at King's Theatre.
27 April 1734 – Revival of Händel's Sosarme, re di Media, role of Argone
26 January 1734 – Premiere of Händel's Arianna in Creta, role of Alceste

Castrato, from the province of Frosinone, Latium. Probably brother of Giuseppe Sedotti. Pupil of Porpora.

Castrato, also from the province of Frosinone. Also a pupil of Porpora.


12 March 1754 – Revival of Händel's Admeto, role of Admeto

Soprano-castrato, born in Perugia, died on the 25th of December 1630 in Rome.


Castrato and composer. In 1662, he became the teacher of the composer Arcangelo Corelli.

Soprano-castrato. Spaniard, admitted for the first time to the Cappella Pontificia (Sistine Chapel) in 1562. In 1566, he sang in Filippo Neri's 'Oratorio', where he (according to Pietro Della Valle in his book 'Discorso della musica dell'età nostra') was noted for singing very loud, and in 1571 joined the Congregazione dell'Oratorio, being ordained a priest in 1575. He still sang in the papal chapel, too, where he became maestro di cappella in 1587. Soto was also, in 1591, the founder of the convent of the Discalced Carmelites. He died at the age of 85 or 86 on the 25th of September 1619 in Rome. He was, like a number of singers of the 16th and 17th centuries, officially buried in Santa Maria in Vallicella – the Chiesa Nuova, the church of the monastery of the Padri Filippini, who ran the adjoining Oratorio.

Soprano-castrato. Sang at the Cappella Sistina from 1588.


Soprano-castrato, born 1715 Ronciglione, died 1780 (?) Viterbo. He studied in Bologna and was noticed while singing in the service of the court of Napoli. Also sang in Berlin and Rome, where he opened a singing school.

Soprano-castrato, born 1736 in Siena, died on the 25th of January 1790 or 1800 in Genoa. In 1758, he arrived in London, performed in England, Scotland and Ireland, and sang in England for two seasons.
1762 he created the title role in Thomas Arne's Artaxerxes, Covent Garden
25 January 1765 – Premiere of J. Ch. Bach's Adriano in Syria, role of Adriano
In August 1778, Tenducci sang arias from Mozart's operas at a private concert in the residence of Louis, Duke of Noailles, in Saint Germain.
He was good friends with J. C. Bach and Mozart. Burney wrote that his performance in Arne's Artaxerxes ...had a rapid effect upon the public taste, and stimulated to imitation all that were possessed of good ears and flexible voices...
Lydia Melford comments ...I heard the famous Tenducci, a thing from Italy; it looks for all the world like a man, though they say it is not. The voice, to be sure, is neither man's nor woman's, but it is more melodious than either, and it warbled divinely, that while I listened I really thought myself in paradise...
At one point in his life, he even got married in a Catholic ceremony with an Irish girl, who was infatuated with the stage. They travelled all over Ireland, where Tenducci was performing, and were chased by her family members; in the end, the marriage was dissolved.

Soprano-castrato, date of birth unknown, died 1 October 1844 Turin.

Soprano-castrato, born on the 13th of August 1653 or 1654 Cesena, died April 1732 Faenza. His father, a musician, recognized a musical talent in the boy and had him castrated hoping he would have a successful career as a singer; he was also his first teacher. Fortunately for Tosi, his father's hopes were not in vain and Tosi was eventually in great demand throughout Europe. He also wrote a book about singing and had his own singing school.
1687 – Operatic debut in Odoacre by Varischino

Soprano-castrato, born 1697 Verona, died 20 January 1783 Berlin. He studied with Nicolo Porpora at the conservatory of Santa Maria di Loreto. He was a singer shrouded in mystery. A castrato with the name Porporino sang in Naples and Berlin, where he is mentioned in the archives of the theatres. Then French writer Dominique Fernandez wrote a book about him, named "Porporino ou les mystères de Naples" in 1974, but this is only fiction.

Alto-castrato, born 1660, date of death unknown. He sang Eustazio in Händel's Rinaldo, at the Queen's Theatre, London-Haymarket on the 24th of February 1711 and on the 6th of May 1713. He sang at the premiere of Haydn's Il pastor fido, as Silvio, on the 22nd of November 1712 at the Queen's Theatre. He sang at the premiere of Haydn's Teseo, role of Egeo, on the 10th of January 1713 at Queen Theatre. He also sang in Lucio Silla.




Soprano-castrato, born on the 28th of January 1780 or 1781 in Monterone, Ancona, died on the 22nd of January 1861 in San Bruson. He was trained by the Abbé Calpi. He made his debuted in Forlì in 1800 or 1801. He created Decebalo in Traiano in Dacia by Nicolini, Quinto Fabio in Quinto Fabio Rutiliano, another role in Coriolano by Nicolini, Armando d'Orville in Crociato in Egitto by Meyerbeer, Arsace in Aureliano in Palmira by Rossini, Ruggiero in Sacerdotessa d'Irminsul by Pacini, Andronico in Andronico by Mercadante, Tebaldo in Tebaldo e Isolina by Morlacchi.
He sang at the premieres of Asteria e Teseo by Guglielmi, Piramo e Tisbe by Andreozzi, Arminio by Pavesi, Angelica e Medoro by Nicolini, Ifigenia in Aulide by Federici, Raul di Crequi by Mayr and Eroe di Lancastro by Nicolini. His greatest triumphs occurred between his visits to Vienna in 1812 and his visit to London in 1825. The last major role written for castrato was Armando d'Orville in Crociato in Eggito by Meyerbeer, which he sang just on that visit in London 1825.

Soprano-castrato, and also composer, who worked mainly in Rome during the 17th century. He was born in 1588 and died in 1670. He was in fact the first famous opera star. He joined the papal choir in 1622 and later sang for Monteverdi. Once while singing at the College of Jesuits, a mob stormed the place to hear him and sent the cardinals and nobles fleeing.

Lynn Samohel

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