The Original Sin: Castrati Singers in the European Sacred Music Tradition
Friday, July 23rd, 7:15 PM – 8:15 PM EDT
The exquisitely trained high-pitched voices of castrated male singers have been a mainstay of Christian church music. First cultivated in the imperial chapels of Constantinople, they have enjoyed a continued presence in the West since their 13th-century debut in the papal estates, where they persisted well into the 20th-century. Steeped in theological symbolism, the tradition is upheld nowadays by male falsettists everywhere—Catholic and Protestant, in sacred spaces and the concert hall—unwittingly perpetuating the traditional prohibition against female participation in sacred repertoire. In our era of ever-improving equity and respect for women, our quest for “authenticity” in historically informed performance practices will only be enriched by a deeper and more nuanced understanding of this musical landscape.
StoryThe Academy of Sacred Drama seeks to revive one of humanity’s great art forms present in rituals, in liturgy, and on stage: the sacred drama. The Academy Players—the Academy's core instrumental ensemble—works with accomplished singers to produce performances of Baroque oratorios (mostly from around 1660–1720) along with chamber music, lectures, and other events. Performance and educational opportunities are available in Westchester County, New York City, and online.