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It seems likely that the Spanish tradition of soprano falsettists may have hidden castrati.Much of Spain was under Muslim rulers during the Middle Ages, and castration had a history going back to the ancient Near East.
As a result, the vocal range of prepubescence (shared by both sexes) is largely retained, and the voice develops into adulthood in a unique way.There were certainly castrati in the Sistine Chapel choir in 1558, although not described as such: on 27 April of that year, Hernando Bustamante, a Spaniard from Palencia, was admitted (the first castrati so termed who joined the Sistine choir were Pietro Paolo Folignato and Girolamo Rossini, admitted in 1599).Surprisingly, considering the later French distaste for castrati they certainly existed in France at this time also, being known of in Paris, Orléans, Picardy and Normandy, though they were not abundant: the King of France himself had difficulty in obtaining them.Thus the castrati came to supplant both boys (whose voices broke after only a few years) and falsettists (whose voices were weaker and less reliable) from the top line in such choirs. Although the castrato (or musico) predates opera, there is some evidence that castrati had parts in the earliest operas. The means by which future singers were prepared could lead to premature death.Women were banned by the Pauline dictum mulieres in ecclesiis taceant ("let women keep silent in church"; see I Corinthians, ch. In the first performance of Monteverdi's Orfeo (1607), for example, they played subsidiary roles, including Speranza and (possibly) that of Euridice. To prevent the child from experiencing the intense pain of castration, many were inadvertently administered lethal doses of opium or some other narcotic, or were killed by overlong compression of the carotid artery in the neck (intended to render them unconscious during the castration procedure).This is a rare term but probably does equate to castrato.
The Cardinal's brother, Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, was another early enthusiast, enquiring about castrati in 1556.
By the 9th century, eunuch singers were well-known (not least in the choir of Hagia Sophia) and remained so until the sack of Constantinople by the Western forces of the Fourth Crusade in 1204.
Their fate from then until their reappearance in Italy more than three hundred years later is not clear.
Thus the limbs of the castrati often grew unusually long, as did the bones of their ribs.
This, combined with intensive training, gave them unrivalled lung-power and breath capacity.
The phrase soprano maschio (male soprano), which could also mean falsettist, occurs in the Due Dialoghi della Musica of Luigi Dentice, an Oratorian priest, published in Rome in 1553.