Castrati Singers—All for Fame


Martin Hatzinger, MD, Department of Urology, Markus Hospital, Willhelm-Epstein-Strasse 4, Frankfurt 60431, Germany. Tel: 00496995332641; Fax: 00496995332683; E-mail:


Introduction.  The phenomenon of castration is very closely associated with the baroque era. In a period that placed emphasis on pure sensual pleasure, castrati singers, with their angelic voices, were a perverted outcome of this ambition. It was the intention that these castrato voices with their supernatural sound would mesmerize audiences. At that time, it could be said that within certain society circles, an addiction to these voices existed. Equally, they were oblivious to the spiritual side of the lives of the castrati. Farinelli, Caffarelli, and Senesino, three of the most famous castrati, were the first musical superstars of the 18th century. Their voices moved decadent audiences to tears and standing ovations. The price for this fame was, however, high.

Aim.  The aim of this review is to provide an overview of castrati singers, especially in the baroque era, their sexuality and the effects of castration on their physical development.

Methods.  A literature search of relevant databases, books, and articles in journals was performed and compared with current data concerning androgen suppression and endocrine aspects of male sexual dysfunction.

Results.  The effects of castration on physical development were notoriously erratic. Much depended on the timing of the operation: boys pruned before the age of 10 or so very often grew up with feminine features; smooth, hairless bodies, incipient breasts, infantile penis, and often a complete lack of sex drive.

Conclusion.  The peak success of the castrati ended with the end of the 18th century. The last castrato was Alessandro Moreschi, a solo singer in the choir of the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican. Following the ban on castration, Pope Pius X sent him into retirement in 1912, thus putting an end to a very impressive part of the history of music. Hatzinger M, Vöge D, Stastny M, Moll F, and Sohn M. Castrati singers—All for fame. J Sex Med 2012;9:2233–2237.