Essay The Conservatory: The Story of a Castrati

Essay The Conservatory: The Story of a Castrati

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You find three sexes in Naples: men, women, and us, the castrati. Music lovers think we are angels with seducing voices, Gods, musici, while for the rest of the world castrati are just fat, repulsive capons to tease. At school normal students call us “the not wholes”, but the truth is that I'm only a regular boy who enjoys singing and doesn't have balls. I'm not an emasculate bird that hangs from the butcher's hook, nor a carnival freak. Who cares if my face and chest are hairless, or my limbs too long? But sometimes, all those smirks and furtive glances at me make my hands twitch, and I'd wish to have all my body's pieces back. I don't even remember any longer how testicles feel like, when I pee or wash myself and touch that bumping scars tissues, they feel as a natural part of my body; the memory of the operation, on the other hand, is still haunting me today. I was ten when four men stripped off my tattered clothes and put me in a steaming milk bath to soften my genitals; the warmth slowed down my galloping heartbeat, and I almost fell asleep when they suddenly picked me up and tied me on an atilt table with my head down. I squirmed and implored them to release me, but they just ignored me and pulled firmly the straps around my ankles and wrists. Then, the curved knife arrived. I ejected a primal scream and fainted. When I woke up, I was at my music school's infirmary with two others kids and a pungent smell of herbs and blood; it took me fifteen days to look under those brownish, stained bandages. I wondered if, to keep my treble voice, I had destroyed my whole existence.
My school, the conservatory Pietà dei Turchini, is also my home. In the past, this kind of institution gathered foundlings who earned some money for their lo...

... middle of paper ...

...iates through my body. I don't respond.
“Answer my question, Leonardo Ponti.”
I shake my head. Maestro Spina leaves stiffly the room, and when he returns he's holding a whip.
“Blasted kids, bent!” he orders, whipping our butts. “One week of prison for both of you.”
“I will tell my dad about this unfairness,” Cesare babbles.
“Fighting is against our rules,” the teacher snaps.
“Tomorrow I have to go to the rector's office for the King's opera,” I object.
“Oh, you're talking now?” Maestro Spina grumbles. “Next time think twice before doing something stupid.”
“Maestro, Cesare provoked me,” I say.
“Do you want to stay for two weeks in the dungeon?”
“No, but…” I say meekly.
“Out of my way.”
I want to say something else to defend myself, but this time words are useless. I give a fleeting glance at Cesare before shuffling toward the prison. A poke in the gut is less painful.

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