. Farinelli A thousand thanks, Martini, for your visit. Bologna is a town of balladeers. You’ll love it! Now I wonder, how long is it Since we both quit Madrid? Ah! Twenty years Since I last sang before the King of Spain! And forty since vast crowds hailed me on stage: “May Farinelli’s music always reign!” It seems so long ago. A different age. Such memories inflict more aching than My unfused joints. My brother is to blame. Riccardo was an honorable man Yet traded my virility for fame And sterile wealth. My canny, long-dead brother Who chose for me this well-paid, grotesque life! Am I too candid? How can I be other? Resentment sometimes stabs me like a knife. Come sit beside the fire---the heat, the flash; The crackling sounds are music. Watch the flame Transform once-living branches into ash! Riccardo thought with flesh it was the same: My body could be artfully adjusted So my soprano voice would stay unchanged. He met a doctor whom musicians trusted. To thwart my puberty was then arranged. The doctor said he needed one small lie To justify this drastic operation: Pretend a fall had knocked my groin awry So he might plausibly suggest castration. He found a clamp. He donned his spectacles. He gave me opium. He placed a pan Between my legs then crushed my testicles. I screamed, deformed to something less than man. But crowds adored my singing! “Heaven sent” They cheered in Venice, Barcelona, Munich. “The Great Castrato”---Europe’s main event; The opera world’s most celebrated eunuch! No wonder Music soon became my life, For there was nothing else that I could do. Quite celibate, I dared not take a wife--- The parts that make men virile never grew. I will say this: I like my fame and wealth Despite the flaws within my brother’s schemes. Although I’ve neither progeny nor health, My great success surpassed his wildest dreams. In secret, though, I ponder: might my voice Not still be splendid as a baritone? I’ll never know. He took away my choice. And like my life, my death shall be alone. . Poet’s notes: Farinelli (1705-1782) was an enormously popular Italian castrato singer of the 18th Century. He was born Carlo Broschi, younger brother of the mostly-forgotten composer, Riccardo Broschi. Carlo was about 12 years old when Riccardo made the decision to have him castrated. This was done to preserve Carlo’s unusually strong soprano voice and thereby enhance the Broschi family’s finances. Martini is the famous Italian composer, Giovanni Battista Martini---one of Farinelli’s few friends in his latter years. When Farinelli died in Bologna at the age of 78, it was 45 years since he had stopped performing in public. Exceedingly wealthy, his estate included gifts from royalty, a large collection of paintings, a collection of keyboard instruments and violins by Stradivarius and Amati. He died alone. . . Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.