Could We Create a Male Soprano Without Castrating Him?

Alas, the days of the Castrato are over, thanks to the music world collectively realizing that castrating young boys is, you know, kinda cruel.

But say a young male soprano shows promise; what with modern medicine and all, could he be chemically castrated so that he can grow into a grown man who powerfully sings castrato parts, yet still retains his … uh … parts? Perhaps surgery on his vocal chords?

Furthermore, ISTR reading about some well-known castrato who was known as well for his performance in the budoir as he was for his performance on stage. Regretfully, his name escapes me, but my question is: how is that possible? My understanding is that castration removes not only sexual desire, but the ability to get it up. Clearly I’m wrong…

If you really want to duplicate the sounds of a castrato, a much less drastic solution would be signal processing of the voice recording – or even in real time. You ought to be able to play with the frequency response to duplicate the peculiat timbre of the castrati. We have existing recordings of the last castrato to use as a benchmark and model:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv-S3uoeTXg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castrato

That last referencxe also gives us this, in response to your question:

Did people really consider that good?

how about locally damaging the cells’ ability to uptake and process testosterone? After all, we only want to retard development of the vocal chords and not of other testosterone affected body parts.

Which is what they did for the movie *Farinelli (about the famous, fully fracking castrato the OP was probably thinking about in his last paragraph), *although if I’m not mistaken they altered the voice of a female soprano rather than that of a male singer.

One of the sites on Castrati notes that the recording was made 30 years after the last stage performance of a “great” castrati, and suggests that the recording probably isn’t typical of what the Castrati were noted for. They supposedly had impressive lung capacity and breath control, and great volume, in addition to being in the soprano range, which is what made them a desired quantity. I have no idea if the guy in the recording was considered “good” as a singer by those who had heard earlier ones and could judge. The chief value of the recording is that it exists at all, not that it’s typical.

Remember that in general women performers were seen as reprobates and whores, not serious performers. If you wanted a female on stage, you got a young boy. If you needed soprano, you got a castrato. It really wasn’t until the 1700s until you really started to see female performers that were not always considered whores.

Also keep in mind, as CalMeacham said, the recording was done when he was fairly old, and there is also a difference in singing styles to consider. As a wold example, we had this absolutely ancient guy in the church chorus who sang with an extreme vibrato that was popular in the 20s and 30s that fell out of fashion by the 60s.

I think you need to listen to Michael Maniaci. Figure out whatever it was that kept his voice from lowering very much while still retaining other aspects of being male.
Wikipedia says he sounds the most like the classical castrato, and I believe performs a lot of parts originally written for them.

There is a male vocal register, the countertenor, which can approach sopranos without the crutching knife. It’s a matter of a combination of natural gifts and tehnique, I gather.

What **Noel Prosequi ** said. Check out any of the recordings by Chanticleer.

What part does Glee’s Chris Colfer sing? Is he a tenor?