What was the vocal register of the classical singer Alfred Deller?
Alfred Deller (1912-1979) played a significant role in the revival of the countertenor register in the 20th century.
The countertenor is the highest male vocal range, equivalent to a female contralto. It can be either natural or falsetto, and some singers with very deep voices (the Russian bass Ivan Rebroff, who controversially sung Count Orlovsky in a recording of "Die Fledermaus" being an example) can also sing falsetto.
With the dawn of the Romantic Age in music, and composers like Wagner and Verdi favouring the deep "Heroic Tenor" range in their works, countertenors fell out of favour, but renewed interest in Baroque music in the 20th century (and the absence of the castrati many of the roles in it were originally composed for!) led to a revival.
Deller was born in Margate, in the English county of Kent, and after his voice broke, it remained high. In the 1940s he was a clerk at Canterbury Cathedral before joining the St Paul's choir. He had the good fortune to catch the ear of the famous composer Michael Tippett, and performed many of his works, alongside those of Benjamin Britten and much earlier Baroque music by the likes of Purcell and Handel. He also founded his own musical ensemble, the "Deller Consort".
At the time, by no means everyone liked the sound of the counter-tenor voice which had fallen out of fashion. Anecdotally, he was once asked if he were a eunuch, and replied that he was unique!
There are now many well-regarded countertenors.