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Last updated: 16 september, 2010 - 14:35 GMT

The male opera singer who sings like a castrato

Jacek Laszczkowski rehearsing the role of Anfione in Niobe at the Royal Opera House

Jacek is rehearsing the role of Anfione in Niobe at the Royal Opera House

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Jacek Laszczkowski is one of a tiny handful of men who can sing the parts originally performed by castrati, male singers castrated before puberty.

In 17th and 18th century Italy, about 4,000 boys were castrated each year, from the age of eight upwards, to fill the demand for opera singers and soloists with choirs in churches and royal palaces.

The practice was made illegal in Italy in 1870.

However, Jacek Laszczkowski's natural soprano voice happens to have the same quality as the castrati.

The BBC's Claire Bolderson asked him to define the way he sings.

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First broadcast 16 September 2010

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