What kind of voice is it?

In Lotus Eaters, after thinking of how Catholic church choirs once employed eunuchs, Bloom wonders, "What kind of voice is it?" Anyone in 1904 (to say nothing of today) might well ask that, since Italian civic authorities had outlawed the practice in 1870, and in 1878 Pope Leo XIII had prohibited the church from hiring any more such singers. The choir of the Sistine Chapel continued to employ some of them, but that exception ended in 1903 with Pope Pius X's proclamation that henceforth only boys should take the high parts. One of the last of the Sistine castrati, Alessandro Moreschi, did record some solo performances on gramophone discs in 1902 and 1904, providing the sole surviving records of what was once a popular and varied species of vocal performance.

John Hunt 2022

Alessandro Moreschi singing Schubert's Ave Maria. Source: www.youtube.com.

A much-exaggerated caricature of operatic castrati, whose long-limbed bodies tower over the female singer between them. Source: www.abovetopsecret.com.

Michael Maniaci singing Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate. Source: www.youtube.com.

Photograph of Italo Campanini (1845-96), date unknown.
Source: www.historicaltenors.net.

1806 oil on canvas portrait of Angelica Catalani by Élizabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, held in the Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Mezzotint print of Giusto Fernando Tenducci, date unknown, held in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Source: Wikimedia Commons.