Opera, as one of the most important art forms of the eighteenth century, bequeathed to its singers a strong position of prestige. And yet, a stigma of social disreputability hung over these same performers. This article examines that paradox first by looking at the importance of opera in the cultural centers of Naples, Paris, and London. From this foundation follows a closer study of the origins of stage performers, and from there, an examination of the on and off-stage behavior of opera singers in the eighteenth century that contributed to the negative image they projected onto society. Finally, the article takes a special look at castrati and how they came to be seen as a social anomaly in the period, which ultimately added to opera singers’ overall lack of respectability.

First Page


Last Page


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Scandalous by Profession.pdf (67 kB)
Supplemental Reference List with DOIs

Included in

History Commons