Domenico Mustafà was an Italian castrato singer, composer and choir director. He was born in the commune of Sellano, province of Perugia and became a famous soprano castrato with the Cappella Sistina in the Vatican. He was particularly admired for his performances of Handelian music. At his prime Mustafà possessed a voice of superior strength and beauty, and he mastered the thrills and coloraturas to the utmost perfection. As a composer, his most famous works were “Miserere” and “Tus es Petrus secundum magnum”. Admitted to the Cappella Sistina in Rome as a chorister in 1848 at 19 years old, he soon became famous for his singing, intelligence and gifts as a composer. In 1855 he made his debut as a composer in a “Miserere” for six voices, with high acclaim. Five years later, in 1860, he was appointed as choir director by the pope Leo XIII.
Domenico was nominated as a possible candidate, and finally elected, for the post of “Direttore Perpetuo” of the Sistine Chapel in 1878. However, even before then, he was already involved in directing the Chapel after the death of its former director Giuseppe Baini. Also, he was an honored lifetime member and president of the musical organization “Società Musicale Romana” in Rome. A teacher as well, he gave music lessons to the famous French soprano Emma Calvé in 1892. Calvé, after hearing Mustafà perform the thrill, described it as: “strange, sexless, superhuman, uncanny.”
In person Mustafà was mild, receptive and talkative — 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 post of director. He then retired to a luxurious villa in Montefalco where he spent the rest of his life and was occasionally visited by his friends and relatives. Mustafà’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.