Larks' tongues? Hummingbirds' knees? Merely trifles alongside the hothouse cultivation of the male soprano--a practice, designed for the pleasure of exquisite tastes, which flourished in Naples in the late 18th century. Here is a fictional memoir by a castrato which relates, without rancor and in the placidity of old age, his experiences as a member of that select little band. We learn of Porporino's induction and training as a prepubescent youth; his attachments to his fellow students and mentors; and his movement through a society which featured young Mozart, aging Casanova, and international figures such as Lady Hamilton. But primarily we are given both the condemnations and the justifications for the institution of the castrati and insights into the kind of paradoxical Neapolitan culture which favored such a decadent/sublime convention. Esoterica.