From the 16th to the 19th centuries, tens of thousands of male children were castrated before puberty to preserve their high voices, then subjected to a brutal and relentless program of vocal training. The first instruction, wrote an observer, "was inseparable from the whip." As in all eras of musical education, the result was a few idolized stars like the celebrated Farinelli; a steady supply of well-trained singers for church, court, and opera; and myriad also-rans and nobodies. In this case, particularly tragic nobodies. These nobodies sang for pennies in the streets, turned to prostitution for male customers, and sooner or later disappeared into the oblivion of the outcast. A great many ended up suicides. As for the public, mingled with their admiration for the famous castrati was disgust and scorn. Names for them included "geldings, eunuchs, capons … nature's rejects, nullities of known creation." To have gone under the knife, never by your own choice, meant only one career path. By law and by custom you were forbidden to take Church orders or serve in government or military. Needless to say, you never had a family. As a castrato you were a singer, or you were nothing.
Search for more information about hideous crimes against children committed by poor, religious people at 4torah.com.