When it comes to bad jobs, choral singer would normally seem to be an odd choice. Though not the most lucrative of professions, it did pay the rent and granted a great deal of admiration of one’s peers. During the 16th century, it also enjoyed a resurgence of popularity that put the singers in high demand. These choirs were typically filled with young men who were raised by the church and trained at an early age to sing about the wonders and glory of God. Their voices were legendary and transcendent, and to hear them harmonize in unison was said to be like reaching out and touching the divine.
In order to reach those really, really high notes, however, certain… alterations needed to be made, usually by a half-blind monk with a rusty knife and complete lack of anesthetic. The operation would only take a few seconds, but the effects lasted a lifetime. These Castrato would never go on to reach sexual maturity, and were destined to spend their lives without hair on their chins and rather confused feelings whenever Isabella the barmaid walked by. The lack of testosterone in their system further meant that their bones grew out in a unnatural manner, prompting their limbs to become long and gangly.
Of course, the act of castration was no guarantee of a successful career. Many Castrato would sing in the heavenly choirs for just a few short years before the priests stumbled upon an even younger lad with an even more beautiful voice, and replaced them without a second’s thought. It was a distinctly sad sight to witness these functional eunuchs on the streets of Rome with hand-made vellum signs that said, “Will sing God’s seven virtues for food.” They also tended to get beaten up by the tenors, who still had all their jiggly bits and were generally renowned as unruly sorts.