Allesandro Moreschi’s voice is preserved in the only recordings to be made of their kind. In 1902, he was recorded singing “Ave Maria” and “Hostias et Preces.” Moreschi was castrated, likely when he was only eight years old, although it could have been earlier in his life. He was a Castrato; a prepubescent boy castrated so that he would retain his high, childlike voice for his whole life instead of “dropping” from puberty. Castrati were so popular, primarily because, in church, women were usually banned from singing based on the Pauline dictum, “let women keep silent in church”(I Corinthians, ch 14, v 34). When church choirs required voices with a range similar to (female)sopranos and mezzo-sopranos, Castrati were used. Castrati were popular in Europe from the 16th century to the 1860s.
The genital mutilation of children is generally accepted these days(although not in all parts of the world) as cruel and unacceptable. Unfortunately, people made the decision to place a boy’s (potential) singing career ahead of human rights. In the end, this is another disturbing example of the ways in which sexism(the banning of women from singing in church) has had negative repercussions on men and boys.
You can listen to the recordings of the Castrato Alessandro Moreschi here, and judge his voice for yourself!