Meaning of Baroque

Baroque is a term that comes from the French baroque and that allows to name a cultural movement and artistic style developed between the 17th century and the middle of the 18th century. The baroque reached various disciplines (architecture, painting, music, literature, etc.) and was characterized by excessive ornamentation.

According to DigoPaul, baroque as the predominant style succeeded the Renaissance and preceded Neoclassicism. It began to become popular in Italy and then spread to the rest of Europe. The concept of baroque was coined by its critics and was used in a pejorative sense at first, to name the excess and irrationality of certain artists.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini in sculpture and architecture, Caravaggio in painting, Francisco de Quevedo and Luis de Góngora in literature and Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach in music are some of the greatest exponents of the Baroque.

The buildings Baroque often built with poor materials but highlighting the majesty and monumentality of the work. There are several palaces and churches that, today, still exhibit the main characteristics of this movement, such as the Cathedral of the Assumption of Valladolid.

In the field of painting, the baroque style is associated with absolutism and the Catholic revival since, at a general level, the baroque was a reaction of the Church to the advancement of science. “Las Meninas” by Diego Velázquez is one of the most famous baroque paintings.

Today, the term is used as an adjective to name anything that is laden with ornaments. For example: “I like baroque coats, with many pockets, pins and fringes.

The castrati

In the field of music, the baroque was born in the 17th century, together with the first opera, and it is considered that it ended with the death of Johann Sebastian Bach, in the year 1750. At a time when society showed a marked difference among the wealthy and the poor, the former used music to display their superior status.

During the Baroque, music became an essential element in various aspects of daily life: for example, the nobles began to hire instrumentalists and composers as part of their servitude. At this stage, also, the castrati emerged, men who were castrated before changing their voices and trained academically in specific conservatories, with the hope that they would become great singers.

The castrati represent a very cruel page in human history, but one in which atrocity and extreme beauty coexist. The few who achieved fame, among whom Farinelli and Senesino are often cited, saw their outburst of masculinity contrasted with out-of-this-world voices. However, it is probable that nothing has ever compensated them for the physical and psychological disorders that they suffered as a result of the castration.

At first glance, it could appear that they were men with female voices; but his talents hid a series of resources unthinkable for any normal person. In the first place, given their lung capacity, greater than that of a woman, they could face long and ornate passages without having to take many pauses. Furthermore, the greater ease of breathing not only translated into more air available, but also reduced energy consumption, which opened the doors to the interpretation of works whose level of complexity was unprecedented.

On the other hand, the castrati had a vocal extension superior to that of the women, and were capable of making great jumps between the high and low extremes. Her superhuman abilities inspired many composers to create pieces that, three hundred years later, not many can dare to sing, except for Cecilia Bartoli, an Italian mezzo-soprano of incomparable talent.