Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Some Unethical Entertainments of Centuries Past

As you may well have noticed, many of the articles within this blog look at the ethical aspects of entertainment. Ethics and entertainment have had an up and down relationship since the dawn of time. In ancient Rome gladiators fought to the death for the amusement of the crowd, slaves were thrown to lions and hundreds of thousands if not millions of animals were slaughtered in the very name of entertainment.

In comparatively more recent times, in fact from the 16th Century right up until 1870 Castrato opera singers were favoured throughout Europe. Castrato were men, who from the age of eight onwards were castrated which prevented many of the effects of puberty including the voice being deepened. The consequence of this was a singing voice that was able to reach the highest notes (soprano, mezzo-soprano and contralto), powered by large male lungs. In Italy alone up to 4,000 boys a year were castrated, many of whom were from poor families. Castration of boys for this purpose was banned in Europe in 1870. The most famous Castrato singer of his day was Farinelli, who has been described as the worlds first musical superstar. Born Carlo Broschi in 1705, Farinelli's singing ability of mastecomposerer's work (including Handel) drew audiences that included France's King Louis XV, and Spain's Kings Philip V and Ferdinand VI. In later life Farinelli gained a reputation for being a bitter and wicked man, most likely due to his castration, he died in 1782.

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