Castrati were male singers with artificially created soprano or alto voices that were the result of castration in boyhood. Possessing powerful voices of great range and unique sound, castrati were introduced in the 16th century. They were especially popular in churches and operas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries and even sang in the Sistine Chapel choir until 1903. When was the practice of castrating prepubescent boys for musical purposes outlawed in Italy?
Back in the day
In 1864, Wirz, a Confederate officer, became superintendent of South Carolina's Andersonville prison, officially known as Camp Sumter. Providing only makeshift shelters, the prison confined tens of thousands of Union soldiers and became notorious for conditions so appalling that 13,000 of them died. Wirz was later convicted of conspiring to murder prisoners and hanged, becoming the only person executed for war crimes committed in the American Civil War. What was Wirz's occupation before the war?
Born on a day like today
Hogarth was a British painter and engraver who began his career as an apprentice to a silversmith at the age of 15. At 22, he opened his own engraving and printing shop. His first successes were satirical engravings that attacked contemporary taste and questioned the art establishment. His efforts to protect artists against art piracy were instrumental in the passage of Britain's first copyright act in 1735. What 20th century composer wrote an opera inspired by Hogarth's Rake's Progress?