• Tim Braithwaite

Joseph de Lalande on Italian Singing

‘The repugnance which the Italians have for strong and loud voices, such as our own baritones [basse-tailles] and even haute-contres, necessarily makes them look to the castrati for their pleasures. It is better for human nature to be accustomed like us to find their pleasure in voices that are natural, male, radiant, in possession of their full power: it is custom alone that decides our pleasures; our custom is better and our pleasures more natural.’


La répugnance qu’ont les Italiens pour les voix fortes & dures, telles que nos basse-tailles & même nos hautes-contres, leur fait regarder comme nécessaire à leurs plaisirs l’usage des Castrati: il vaut mieux cependant pour la nature humaine que l’on soit accoutumé, comme nous, à trouver du plaisir dans les voix naturelles, mâles, éclatantes, & qui ont toute leur force; c’est l’habitude seule qui décide des plaisirs; la nôtre est plus heureuse, & nos plaisirs plus naturels.’


Joseph de Lalande, Voyage En Italie, vol. 7 (Geneva, 1790). 196-7. Translation from Andrew Parrott, “Falsetto and the French,” in Composers’ Intentions? Lost Traditions of Musical Performance (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2015), 139.




The image is by Gabriel de Saint-Aubin, depicting Lully's Opera "Armide,” Performed at the Palais-Royal in 1761


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