Farinelli: The first pop star

Farinelli and his fellow castrati were fÍted all over Europe. Michael Church explores a new exhibition that explains why
[Indepdendent 6 April 2006]
“Mention the word castrato to any male music lover,” says Nicholas Clapton, “and he’ll go green about the gills, because the idea is a terrible threat to his sexual identity.” As a counter-tenor who has twice impersonated Farinelli, the most famous castrato of them all, Clapton is in a position to know. And as curator of an exhibition entitled Handel and the Castrati, which has just opened at the Handel House Museum in London, he’s determined to bring these monstres sacrÈs into focus for the first time as people, rather as a historical freak-show.