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The CastratoReflections on Natures and Kinds$
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Martha Feldman

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780520279490

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520279490.001.0001

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Shadow Voices, Castrato and Non

Shadow Voices, Castrato and Non

(p.211) 6 Shadow Voices, Castrato and Non
The Castrato

Martha Feldman

University of California Press

Chapter 6 follows the demise of the castrati to a brief and surprising efflorescence in the Paris of 1806, when Napoleon brought Crescentini to court. Crescentini’s influence lived on in a vocality, expressed at the pen of Stendhal, of mezzos and other singers, especially through transmission of his aria “Ombra adorata, aspetta.” The chapter traces the aria through numerous incarnations and variants that circulated over decades in literature and music, often with embellishments upon Crescentini’s embellishments. Its meanings were re-formed in Balzac’s Sarrasine, which the chapter finally reads not so much for Lacanian meanings (as popular in the gender-bending interpretations of the 1990s) as for a critique of the moneyed new world reimagined through the nostalgia of an uncanny past.

Keywords:   Crescentini, Napoleon, Stendhal, Ombra adorata, Balzac, Sarrasine, S/Z, uncanny

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