You’re on the Sound Beat.
That singer you hear…what’s your mental image? An elderly woman? A young boy? How about… a 44 year old man? This recording represents the end of a very weird period in music’s long, weird history. Alessandro Moreschi was the last of the castrati, opera singers who had been (ahem) castrated before puberty. That’s one way around that awkward voice changing stage.
Here’s Moreschi with the Christian hymn “Laudamus Te”.
So…a castrati’s voice wouldn’t break, but had the force of fully developed lungs behind it. Castration was outlawed in Italy in 1870, and Moreschi was the only castrati to make solo sound recordings.
Time out for trivia: How many boys were castrated yearly at the height of castrati craze 40, 400, or 4,000?
You probably guessed it…4,000. Eww. Here’s a good site with more than you’d ever want to know on the topic.