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Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage, and Music in the Life of Atto Melani Hardcover – May 29 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 452 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (May 29 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521885213
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521885218
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 2.5 x 24.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,097,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'The book includes a survey of Atto's cantatas, polished, efficient exemplars of a fashionable new Italian genre, but in the end far less important to their creator than the wordly advancement their performances brought with it. Richly documented, this whole extraordinary chronicle of the eunuch as self-made man is one of the most absorbing studies in its field to have appeared in recent years.' The Times Literary Supplement

Book Description

Exploring the fascinating life of the most documented musician of the seventeenth century, Freitas tells how the castrato Atto Melani rose to musical and social prominence. Whether Atto was singing, spying, having sex, composing, or rejecting his art, this book illustrates how music-making was always also a negotiation for power.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Work Worth Reading July 12 2009
By Go for Baroque - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Portrait of a Castrato" appears to be meant for scholars and those persons seriously interested in the Baroque world of the castrati. (The two images of "The Musicians" on the dust jacket, i.e., two Italian castrati, one Spanish, and possibly Caravaggio's adaptation of his own features, are the most immediately accessible features of the book.)

Roger Freitas describes a world far more intricate and fascinating than the superficial idea of "human nightingales" often associated with the era, an idea somewhat more applicable to the golden age of Handel and Hasse, Farinelli and Caffarelli. This study, instead, offers far more of interest than biographical information about one person or the music for which he was known. Through the author's painstaking research and analysis, one develops a much clearer understanding of the cultural, sociological, political, and even sexual practices of the time. The author also views with a fresh eye the Baroque genre of cantate and motets, demonstrating the greater subtlety in their composition and the greater importance in the life of the aristocracy than previously understood. One concludes reading the work with a sense of having gained a much more realistic understanding of the era.

Readers and authors too often fall into the trap of viewing earlier eras and practices from their own, modern perspectives, thereby slanting the manner in which the information is presented. This author avoids such a trap and leaves the readers to form their own conclusions and comparisons. "Portrait of a Castrato" is not only an engaging story; it also is worth keeping as a reference.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! "Portrait of Castrato" has an amazing way of ... Feb. 7 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brilliant! "Portrait of Castrato" has an amazing way of grasping attention as if reading a favorite novel. Without seemingly any effort readers are navigated through factual characterizations recounting Atto Melini's versatile career and the pensive political lifestyles of those in power, the few climbing to the top and the several caught in-between.

Freitas provides an important and powerful retrospective and reference to the evolution and prospectives regarding castration, celibacy and controversies surrounding spirituality, rights and admission into full acceptance. The book effectively offers provocative approaches to intellectual discourse within human sexual history. Most impressive is the realization toward normalization the text presents. It is truly an immediate read for everyone from the student to scholar or musician to history buff. Like talking about sex, politics, and religion, or going to Italy? This is the best ticket in town!