The high operatic notes reached by Waylon on his record Crème de la Crème have been documented here several times as has been the output of Sylvester. Now let’s hear it for Klaus Nomi, born as Klaus Sperber in Immerstadt, Bavaria. Nomi was a one-time usher at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, as well as a performer at a gay discothèque Kleist Casino, before moving to New York in 1972 where he became legendary in the city’s art and club scenes.
The voice you hear is a falsetto, not a castrato. A castrato singer’s voice is the result of a castration done before puberty.
The creation of castrati singers became popular first in Rome during the mid-16th century, when the pope banned women singing in churches or on the stage. Italian boys with promising voices would be taken to a back-street barber-surgeon, drugged with opium, and placed in a hot bath. The expert would snip the ducts leading to the testicles, which would wither over time. By the early 1700s, it is estimated that around 4,000 boys a year were getting the operation. Some lived thru the mutilation and many died from complications. Few became celebrated singers.
The high notes of a pre-pubescent boy wafting from the lungs of an adult were said to sound magical and ethereal. The prowess came from an increased breath capacity. The lack of testosterone allowed the skeleton to continue to grow beyond what was normal. Limbs would elongate. As would ribs. This was why castrati had such exceptional lung power. Nobody now actually knows what a castrato singer sounded like, as the practice became illegal in 1861, before recordings could be produced.