The male falsetto enjoyed a brief period of acceptance, even adulation, as it was wielded by tenors such as John Braham and Giovanni Rubini in the first four decades of the nineteenth century. At the same time, the last castrati to tread the stage were winding down their careers, while in Germany and Austria female impersonators such as Karl Blumenfeld, who possessed highly cultivated falsetto voices, were achieving a kind of fame of their own. These three kinds of falsetto—the castrato voice was heard at this time as having the same two registers standard for all voices, falsetto and chest voice—were, to a degree probably startling to modern readers, considered analogous to one another.

The decline of the ”legitimate” falsetto as an extension of the tenorial chest voice was concurrent with the phenomena of the disappearing castrati and the wildly over-the-top female impersonators—all of whom were both implicitly and explicitly compared to one another. Both the tenors and the falsettists bore an uncomfortable, even ridiculous, perceptual proximity to the epicene, effeminate, always/already maimed state of the castrato, under the regulation of an anxious version of the male gaze. This proximity played a large role in the rapid disappearance of the tenorial falsetto after 1840.

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