Male Soprano -- Alessandro Moreschi -- Tosti's "Ideale"





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Published on Mar 22, 2008

Male soprano ALESSANDRO MORESCHI sings Tosti's popular "Ideale," 7-inch British Gramophone & Typewriter disc (#54758), recorded in the Sistine Chapel by recording pioneers Fred and Will Gainsberg--April 7, 1902. At that time, Moreschi was conductor of the Chorus of the Sistine Chapel, the Pope's personal chorus.

Notice at the end of his solo, choir members give him "two thumbs up!"

Professor Moreschi is remembered in musical history as the only Castrato of the bel canto tradition to make solo recordings. Actually, by 1902, few others survived and no other was "in a condition" to make solo records.

In 1944, Fred Gainsberg, stated in an interview that Moreschi was obviously very nervous when making this 1902 recording. Literally, he was shaking in his shoes.

Alessandro Moreschi (Nov. 11, 1858— Apr. 21, 1922) probably was "altered" around 1865, in keeping with the old practice of castrating vocally-talented boys well before puberty. Castration of young males was banned by law in 1870.

Moreschi's singing abilities became known to a former member of the Sistine Chapel choir who took him to Rome in about 1870. In 1873, when 15, he was appointed First Soprano in the choir of the Papal basilica
of San Giovanni Laterano. Thereafter, he was auditioned by all members of the Sistine Chapel choir and appointed First Soprano there, a post he held for the next 30 years.

When Moreschi joined the Sistine choir, there were still six other castrato members, but none was capable of sustaining this work's taxing soprano tessitura.

Moreschi's star status sometimes seems
to have turned his head: "His behavoir was often capricious enough to make him forget proper professional bearing, as sometimes after a concert he paraded himself among the crowd like a peacock, with a long white scarf, waiting to be congratulated."

In 1898, he celebrated 25 years as a member of the Sistine choir. What happened thereafter is too long a tale to relate here, but the next Pope took a dim view of Castrato singers and forbade Moreschi from making any more solo recordings when the recording machine was again brought to the Vatican in 1904. In all, there were 17
discs cut in the 2-aession Sistine Choir series.

Officially, Alessandro was a member of the Sistine Choir until Easter 1913; he remained in the choir of the Cappella Giulia of St Peter's, Rome, until a year after that. He then retired and died shortly before his 64th birthday.

When 55, he was described as of small or medium stature, beardless, with a
speaking voice having a metallic quality, like a very high-speaking tenor. His voice and demeanour make a youthful impression.

The video photos show Moreschi at around 15 and around 44.


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