Long ago, prosperity and fame were the coveted prizes for those extraordinary voices that could sneak into church choirs. But for some young singers the price to pay was high.
The promising, angelic childhood voice of some male singers almost always disappears mid-puberty. At some point someone discovered that this change in voice could be minimized with a practice that today would sound unthinkable and aberrant: the removal of the testicles during childhood with the sole purpose of not "thickening" the voice. Although sometimes they were not removed but only damaged enough, the procedure was still painful and traumatic. The practice is said to have arisen in the Byzantine Empire and remained semi-hidden until the Renaissance, where it had its peak in Italy. Thousands of children were castrated in the hope of a promising future, far from poverty.
There has been no living castrat for about a century. The last known castrato was named Alessandro Moreschi and he died in 1922. Currently this procedure is no longer performed and it would surely be considered an abominable fact if a father decided to cut the testicles of one of his children just to bet on his future fame. But there is something behind all this that strikes me and that is that, if many decided to go through that horrible experience (even from a parent's point of view) it must have been because the results were worth it and the difference was extraordinary.
Luckily, the last castrato was recorded
The interesting thing is that Alessandro Moreschi lived long enough for his life to coincide with the appearance of the first voice recording techniques. Let us remember that at the end of the 19th century the first acoustic (or mechanical) recording devices appeared. An example of this is Thomas Edison's phonograph, which was created in 1877. This particular coincidence allows us to have the privilege of listening. the ONLY recording of the voice of a Castrato singing. Although Moreschi was not one of the "greats", his voice is still truly admirable and gives us an idea why this technique existed.
Finally, just as the reader is imagining, yes, there is a recording of Moreschi's voice singing, extraordinary and available on the Web. With her I close this article. At the end of the day, just listening to this recording will make your skin crawl. Enjoy.