Listening for a queer utopia
unexpected pleasures in Baroque castrato roles
This article seeks out queer resonances in the peculiar lives and sensational music of the castrati: castrated male singers who, on operatic stages of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, proved their virility not through the strength or reproductive capacity of their unusual bodies, but through the breathtaking virtuosity of their voices. Problematizing not only binaries of gender and sexuality, but also those of mind vs. body and verbal vs. non-verbal, this paper uses music as a medium through which to explore the liminal space between linguistic signification and embodied experience. Relying on Sylvia Wynter’s ‘deciphering turn’, this study investigates what the stories and music of the castrati can do rather than concentrating on what they mean: the use of auto-ethnography extends this investigation into the present, exploring how modern performances of the castrati’s music can potentially offer solace and inspiration to queer subjects of today.
Whatever is an open access journal, which means that all articles are available on the Internet to all users immediately upon publication. Our articles are published under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence 4.0 by-nc, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial.
Authors hold copyright without restrictions. Also, authors retain publishing rights on their articles; however, it is recommended to keep track of the CC-BY-NC license and to quote original publication.