Arts Building, Riverside, CA 92507 #florencebayzseries
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UC Riverside Department of Music presents:

Dr. Daniel Martín Sáez (Universidad de Salamanca)

“Mutilated Children at the Service of the Church: The Theological Controversy over the Castration of Singers.”

In Christian Europe, boys were castrated before puberty for four centuries and for purely musical reasons. This phenomenon began in Spanish cathedrals and then spread throughout Italy, where castrati became famous in opera, especially in the 18th century. This has made us pay more attention to theaters than to churches. However, Spain and Italy produced castrati for churches uninterruptedly between the 16th and 20th centuries. In fact, the castrati of the opera world also started singing in churches. This forces us to ask what place castration occupied in the theology of the modern age. Although this phenomenon has hardly been studied, in this paper I will show that there was a controversy about this problem that lasted for more than three centuries within the Catholic Church. This controversy fell into oblivion a century ago, but it forces us to deal with all kinds of medical, sexual, legal, and philosophical problems that help us to understand our own worldview. 



DANIEL MARTÍN SÁEZ is professor of the Degree in History and Sciences of Music and the Master in Hispanic Music at the University of Salamanca. His lines of research are characterized by a multidisciplinary approach, which aims to open new lines of research in musicology by integrating it with disciplines such as philosophy, history of poetics, aesthetics, the history of theology, history of law, history of the press, gender studies, and the history of science, while paying special attention to the history of ideas and geopolitical problems. He is currently collaborating with several projects and research groups and is developing a line of research on the theological, legal, and medical debates surrounding the castration of singers, the first result of which was the article "El jurista Giulio Capone, el cantante Ottavio Gaudioso y la defensa filosófica de la castración con fines musicales" (2022). That same year he published his article "Si las mujeres mandasen. Zarzuela, prensa y feminismo en España en la primera mitad del siglo XX" (2022). 

            A part of his studies is focused on the history of opera and the philosophy of contemporary music, which he has combined with teaching appointments in musicology, philosophy, and history at various universities, including the Autonomous University of Madrid, the University of Granada, and the University of Oviedo, as well as the University of Salamanca. He has also carried out research stays at Princeton University and the University of Ferrara, and he has been a visiting professor at the University of Padua and the Complutense University of Madrid, among others. 

            This diversity of interests has its origin in his early university education. After graduating in philosophy and musicology, he defended his doctoral thesis at the Autonomous University of Madrid on the birth of opera, in which he addressed the connection of opera with the political, religious, and academic history of the early-modern era. His publications in this field include the chapter "Galileo and Opera: Music, Science, Politics and Religion in the 17th Century" in the book Music and Science from Leonardo to Galileo (Brepols, Turnhout, 2022), edited by Rudolf Rasch, which analyzes a dozen operas connected with the Galileo affair, coinciding in time with his great cosmological discoveries, his disputes with the Jesuits about comets, and the inquisitorial process that ended up condemning him to house arrest. His articles on the metaphor of the theatrum mundi, on the history of Italian opera in Poland, on the genealogy of the concept of Baroque, and on the librettist Gabriello Chiabrera also stand out in this field. Research such as this earned him a fellowship from the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music in 2018. 

            He has also devoted special attention to the figure of the castrated singer Carlo Broschi Farinelli, to whom he has dedicated several articles and lectures at numerous international congresses. His publications include "La leyenda de Farinelli en España: Historiografía, mitología y política" (2018), which received the I Premio de la Sociedad Española de Estudios del Siglo XVIII, and "La apoteosis de Farinelli en España. El mito de la superestrella a través de la prensa británica del siglo XVIII" (2019), which received the Otto Mayer Serra Award from the Center for Iberian and Latin American Music at UCR. He has subsequently published other articles, such as "La amistad entre Carlo Broschi Farinelli y el marqués de la Ensenada a través de la diplomacia europea, la iconografía, la propaganda, la historia y la literatura" (2020) and "Calendario festivo, fuentes y artistas de las óperas y serenatas organizadas por Farinelli para la corte de Fernando VI y Bárbara de Braganza" (2021). On melodramatic poetics, his articles "La poética melodramática del Seicento: más allá del mito de la camerata del conde Bardi" (2021) and "El lugar de la ópera en la poética de Ignacio de Luzán: entre la tragedia y las artes liberales" (2022) stand out. 

            In addition, he has published an article on the history of the term opera, entitled "Origins and Consolidation of the Term 'Opera.' From Italy to Germany, England, France and Spain" (2022), and another on the historiographical treatment of the birth of opera, entitled "Estética, musicología y secularización: el mito del nacimiento de la ópera en la historiografía del último siglo" (2020). On contemporary music philosophy, his latest article is "The Expression 'Philosophy of Music'. A Brief History and Some Philosophical Considerations" (2021), in which e he analyzes the historical origin of the philosophy of music and criticizes some of its philosophical-musical presuppositions. 


            In other articles he has criticized the musical ideas of authors such as Theodor Adorno and Peter Kivy, as in his article "La idea de ópera de Peter Kivy. El caballo de Troya del formalismo" (2019) and in "La crisis de la ópera en la obra de Theodor Adorno. Historia y crítica de un tópico infundado" (2021). He has also stood out for his work as editor and translator, including his edition, translation, and foreword to James O. Young's book Filosofía de la música. Respuestas a Peter Kivy (2017), and the co-translation of Eva Brann's The Music of the Republic (2015). In addition, since 2006 he has edited more than forty-five issues of Sinfonía Virtual. Revista de Música, and has been a reviewer for numerous impact journals in music, philosophy, and history.


part of the

2023-2024 Florence Bayz Music Series

The Florence Bayz Music Series offers online concerts, lectures, and presentations of academic research by Department of Music faculty, postdoctoral researchers, students, and international guest artists and scholars.

Deborah Wong, coordinator.

Events during the 2023-2024 academic year will be held in person at ARTS 157 on Wednesdays at 12 noon. Location may be subject to change.


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