Vol. 119 No. 2 (2014)
Original Article

Castrati singers: surgery for religion and art

Published 2014-11-07


  • castrati singers,
  • eunuchism,
  • history of surgery

How to Cite

Koutsiaris, E. A., Alamanis, C., Eftychiadis, A., & Zervas, A. (2014). Castrati singers: surgery for religion and art. Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, 119(2), 106–110. Retrieved from https://oajournals.fupress.net/index.php/ijae/article/view/1221


The act of castration was practiced from ancient times. In countries of Middle and Far East, castration was often done to provide eunuchs as guardians of the harems. In Europe and especially in Italy, it was carried out to preserve the male voice unbroken into adult life. From 16th century till the end of 18th century, castrati singers dominated opera with their supernatural voices. Boys were castrated mainly before the age of 9 years and when they grew up they had feminine characteristics, such as smooth, hairless bodies, breasts, infantile penis. The training procedure to become a castrato singer was very intense and lasted up to ten years. The most common surgical technique was either to sever the spermatic cords or crush the testis with the fingers. The voice of a castrato was the outcome of a larynx the size of a child’s combined with the lung volume of an adult male. The castrati singers became superstars who dominated opera, singing both male and female roles for more than 200 years. Castrated for art, the beauty, range and flexibility of their voices raised them to mythical status.