Domenico Mustafa (born Sterpara, 16 April 1829 - died Montefalco, 17 March 1912) was a singer and composer.
Domenico Mustafa was a famous soprano -- he was a castrato -- at the Capella Sistina of the Vatican. He was particularly admired for his performances of Handelian music. At his prime Mustafa possessed a voice of superior strength and beauty, and he mastered the thrills and coloraturas to the utmost perfection. According to Franz Habock, he had a voice "as sweet and pleasant as that of a woman" with a usable range of at least 2 octaves from C` to C```.
Mustafa was also a composer - among his works were the famous "Miserere" and "Tus es Petrus secundum magnum". Admitted to the Capella Sistina in Rome as a chorister in 1848, he soon became famous for his singing, intelligence and gifts as a composer. In 1855 he made his debut as a composer in "Miserere" for six voices, with high acclaim. Five years later, in 1860, he was appointed as choir director by the pope Leone XIII.
Being a man of great honour and responsibility, he was eventually nominated as a possible candidate, and finally elected, for the post of "Direttore Perpetuo" of the Sistine Chapel in 1878. However, even before 1878, he was already involved in directing the Chapel after the death of its former director Giuseppe Baini. Also, he was a honoured lifetime member and president of the musical organisation "Societa musicale Romana" in Rome.
He was near of attending the operatic stage when Richard Wagner considered of casting him as Klingsor in "Parsifal" in 1882. However, the whole idea was abandoned shortly afterwards due to a role confusion - the emasculated Klingsor was not a castrato, but a eunuch castrated past puberty and thus singing baritone, not soprano.
Domenico Mustafa was also a teacher and he gave music lessons to the famous French soprano Emma Calve in 1892. Here he taught Calve to employ her famous "fourth voice", which was a very high and refined falsetto extending to an unearthly disembodied D```. Calve, after hearing Mustafa perform the thrill, described it as: "strange, sexless, superhuman, uncanny."
In person Mustafa was tall and broad, a bit plumpy, very stylish and charismatic in cointenance - in older age, he always wore glasses due to his failing sight. In private he was always mild, receptive and conversative - he often used to add a joke or two or an anecdote during a conversation. He was highly praised for his intelligence and deep insights into the musical aspects. Being a perpetual director of the Sistine Chapel, he nevertheless decided to withdraw in 1902 on the grounds of high age - appointing Lorenzo Perosi as his successor for the director post. He then retired to a luxurious villa in Montefalco where he spent the rest of his life, where he was occasionally visited by his friends and relatives.
He died in his home 17th March 1912, and was buried on the Montefalco cemetery, where the large tomb, raised in his glory, stands to this day. Mustafa`s role as a director in the Sistine Chapel is considered to be of great importance, and a book about his life was written by Alberto de Angelis and released in 1926. His home villa, "Villa Mustafa", was turned into a hotel, and is now open to visitors and tourists, serving also as a museum in his memory.
Also see: Alessandro Moreschi, Giovanni Cesari, Domenico Salvatori.
de Angelis, Alberto - "La Capella Sistina e la Societa Musicale Romana", Bologna, pp. 188, 1926.