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Legendary Eunuch Opera Star Farinelli Had Post-Menopausal Disease 

Legendary Eunuch Opera Star Farinelli Had Post-Menopausal Disease 

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Farinelli, one of the greatest singers in opera history who died in 1782 apparently suffered from a disease generally only found in post-menopausal women, according toDiscovery News. In the first osteological analysis of a eunuch, the remains of the18th-century singer were exhumed in Italy in 2006 by researchers hoping to find out how Farinelli's prepubescent castration changed his biological makeup.


The practice of castrating promising young male singers prior to puberty began in the 1600s and wasn't officially outlawed in Italy until 1870. Farinelli, who was born Carlo Maria Broschi, was castrated before puberty to preserve his youthful treble, making him one of the most famed "castrati," with a voice that could span three octaves and the ability to hold a note for 60 seconds without a single breath.


At the peak of his career, Farinelli was courted by Spanish queen Elisabetta Farnese, who believed the castrati's voice could cure her husband's depression (a therapy that he provided King Philip for over two decades, never once performing in public again). That voice, apparently came at a steep cost. According to Discovery, depriving Farinelli of his testes and their testosterone secretions not only resulted in the absence of male-type growth of the larynx but also caused hormone-related pathologies. The musician's skull featured clear signs of hyperostosis frontalis interna, a thickening of the inner table of the frontal bone that is found almost exclusively in post-menopausal women.


"The fact that this disease was found in Farinelli's bones shows some important effects of castration," said Maria Giovanna Belcastro of the Laboratory of Bioarchaeology and Forensic Osteology of Bologna University. Belcastro and Gino Fornaciari, professor of forensic anthropology at the University of Pisa, got funding for their research from a group of music enthusiasts at the Centro Studi Farinelli.


Belcastro's research appears in the upcoming issue of Journal of Anatomy. Other experts say the research is significant. Kristina Killgrove, a biological anthropologist at the University of North Carolina, told Discovery that "these findings may therefore be important for bioarchaeologists who want to investigate the life histories of eunuchs, such as those who lived in Pharaonic Egypt or during the later Roman Empire.

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Diane Anderson-Minshall

Diane Anderson-Minshall is the CEO of Pride Media, and editorial director of The Advocate, Out, and Plus magazine. She's the winner of numerous awards from GLAAD, the NLGJA, WPA, and was named to Folio's Top Women in Media list. She and her co-pilot of 30 years, transgender journalist Jacob Anderson-Minshall penned several books including Queerly Beloved: A Love Across Genders.
Diane Anderson-Minshall is the CEO of Pride Media, and editorial director of The Advocate, Out, and Plus magazine. She's the winner of numerous awards from GLAAD, the NLGJA, WPA, and was named to Folio's Top Women in Media list. She and her co-pilot of 30 years, transgender journalist Jacob Anderson-Minshall penned several books including Queerly Beloved: A Love Across Genders.