This entertaining and authoritative study of the castrati during the baroque period explores the lives and triumphs of more than 60 singers over three centuries—their social origins, training, and relationship to society and church. Blending history and anecdote, it traces the course of a phenomenon that held Europe in its thrall. People were fascinated by these hybrids—part man, part woman, and part child—who became virile heroes on the operatic stage. The reader will learn of the horrors of castration, the nature of the strange castrato voice, and the conflicts these singers experienced.
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Patrick Barbier is a professor at the West Catholic University in Angers. He lives in Nantes, France.
A remarkable topic that, unfortunately, doesn't get the nuanced handling it deserves. In a society in which the outrageous garners maximum media attention, the Baroque-era castrati should be guaranteed to lure readers other than scholars and opera fanatics. What other history can discuss sex, forced genital mutilation, religious hypocrisy, and adultery, all in the name of historical research? Incredibly, Barbier manages to make this intriguing 16th19th century European phenomenon (which involved the castration of male children before puberty to preserve the purity of their singing voices) boring, even annoying. His style is, on the whole, plodding. Particularly bothersome is his overuse of exclamation marks and his habit of asking questions and then not answering them, this despite the fact that the inquiries often go to the essence of a particular section. The chapter on the almost hysterical appeal some women felt for castrati, for instance, asks: ``Was this merely the attraction of a circus phenomenon? Was it the search by the ladies for a love-life without danger? Or the exceptional power of a voice that numbed reason and led to `the delights of paradise'? The idealisation of a `supernatural' being who belonged to both sexes without knowing the limits of either?'' Intriguing ideas. Barbier's conclusion? ``We shall never really understand the intimate motivations of each spectator, man or woman, in their relationships with the castrati.'' Which is not to say that the book is totally without redeeming features. Barbier (Opera in Paris, 18001850: A Lively History, 1995) knows his opera and is fairly thorough in touching all the important bases. As such, the book is a decent overview for people needing the basics. A lesson in how to take a great story and dull it to death. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Descripción Souvenir Pr Ltd. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. 0285633090 New Condition. Nº de ref. de la librería NEW7.0066538
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Descripción Souvenir Pr Ltd, 1997. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. book. Nº de ref. de la librería M0285633090