The New Castrati: Men II Boys

  • Jan Jagodzinski


The story of the castrati is well known. For the purposes of singing in the church choir young boys between the ages of 7 and 12 were castrated (their testes removed), some 4,000 to 5,000 annually in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italy (if we are to believe such sources). Once the procedure was done, through proper training their lung capacity and diaphragmatic support could be augmented. The entire procedure and training was strictly controlled and enforced to ensure results. The mature castrato was a “boy” who could sing soprano or alto with all the physical resources of a grown man. The most famous and legendary castrato of all, Carlo Broschi (1705–1782), (a.k.a. Farinelli) was said to have a voice that spanned three octaves and capable of holding a note for a minute without needing a breath. The thesis entertained here is that a new set of castrati has emerged on the postmodern scene. They undergo a ritual mutilation and sacrifice that is quite distinctive in its ordeal when compared with the physical mutilation of castration that was eventually outlawed. However, the effects, as argued, are quite the same. I am referring to the phenomenon of Boy Bands that have captured the fantasy dreams of teenage girls, along with a host of reality TV shows that feature the search for the next star: American Idol and its various clones around the Western world (Pop Stars, Star Search, Pop Idol, Star Mania, Popstars: The One).1


Teenage Girl Symbolic Order Music Industry Symbolic Racism American Idol 
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Copyright information

© Jan Jagodzinski 2005

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  • Jan Jagodzinski

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