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Il Castrato


Bologna, 1782


Come closer, nephew, nearly son of mine;

Draw up a chair and read my will to me.

"I, Carlo Broschi of Bologna, known

As Farinelli, do bequeath this day

My worldly goods . . . ."  What goodly goods they were.

That portrait of King Louis framed with diamonds,

Five hundred livres for an evening's work

When I was merely twenty-three.  And then

The Stradivarius, "Four golden strings

For a golden voice," from an admirer.


It was at home in Naples I debuted,

A fifteen-year-old songbird warbling trills.

Soon I was cheered in Venice, Rom, Milan;

The crowns of England, France, and Spain concurred.

In Italy they called me il ragazzo,

But also il castratolest I forget

My wound, my manhood taken for my song.

Yet God provided maestro Porpora,

Who taught my throat above three octaves range,

My lungs to hold a note one minute long.


My Spanish visit grew to twenty years,

Ten years alone to cure the melancholy

Of the dour king, who had me sing, each night,

The same four songs to lullaby his soul.

The next king gave me greater wealth and knighthood;

With my beloved Metastasio,

I gave Italian opera to Spain.

The home, at last, to Italy, where Gluck

And Mozart dined with me.  And now, to die,

But not before I left my mark in air,

My purest notes ascending to God's throne

As smiling angels tilted their heads to listen.

Two hundred fifty notes in a single breath . . . .

Continue nephew; let me hear your voice.


Carolyn Raphael



From The Most Beautiful Room in the World : Poems by Carolyn Raphael,

David Robert Books, 2010 by WordTech Imprint, Cincinnati, Ohio.


by Grapholina

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