The castrati of 16th-century Rome – singers known for their angelic, falsetto voices equivalent to those of sopranos – were often the most celebrated in the chorus. While their voices were beautiful, the male singers designated as castrati earned their title through a disturbing ritual; these chosen young men were castrated before puberty so they would never reach sexual maturity.
When the Pope banned women from public singing in the mid-16th century, opera itself was seemingly threatened. Young boys filled in for a time, but boys' voices naturally dropped when they reached puberty. To remedy this alleged issue, the Romans resorted to body modification. These Italian singers left a dark legacy in their wake: adults trapped in prepubescent bodies. While castrati singers no longer exist, the disturbing tale of their origin – as well as the late date at which the practice was still enforced – remains.