The so-called voce faringea offers an answer to these questions. Essentially, it is a forgotten historical singing practice used to extend the upper range of the voice; here, the falsetto, typically heard as a weak or feminine sound, is modified by the singer into a vocal quality that is more tenoral and powerful. During the period of its employment, the resulting sound was considered homogenous with that of the lower registers and no longer perceived as a falsetto vocal color. In an exemplary fashion, this register mechanism mirrors a preromantic vocal ideal of sound that seems clearly divergent from ones prevalent today.
Eighteenth and 19th century vocal pedagogical literature employed various, confusing, and even contradictory terminology for the different voice registers; however, most pedagogues were in agreement regarding the particular aesthetic merits of each register—mainly, chest and falsetto. In addition to these two registers, some vocal treatises of the era make mention of a third register mechanism tenors could employ to particular artistic advantage. It was often described as an intermediate register or a special mechanism connecting the falsetto and the chest register, and was perceived as a mixture of the two, often called voix mixte (mixed voice). Vocal maestri and physiologists used different terms to denote this vocal mechanism, including head voice, falsetto or fausset/faucet, voce mezzo-falso or middle-falsetto, Schlundkopfregister, feigned voice, voix sur-laryngienne, and voix pharyngienne (pharyngeal voice or voce faringea).
The term pharyngeal voice was coined by Herbert-Caesari and was first used to describe this particular vocal mechanism in his 1950 article “The Pharyngeal Voice,” in The Musical Times, and further in a chapter from his book The Voice of the Mind (1951). Herbert-Caesari explains that the term pharyngeal voice is translated from the Italian voce faringea, and was used by exponents of the “old school” solely to describe a peculiar tonal quality produced by a distinctive mechanism. He adds that the tenors of the Rossini/Bellini/Donizetti period were taught to sing with voce faringea—very carefully mixed with both the falsetto and the chest registers—and furthermore, that this method enabled (particularly) tenors to sing their highest notes with ease and brilliance.
In accordance with formerly prevalent vocal ideals, at least according to historical written sources, these tenori di grazia did not produce their voices with dramatic force but rather with elegance and suppleness up through their highest range. And yet the special vocal technique they employed to produce high notes considerably beyond C5 with absolute security and facility—as well as gradations between pianissimo and fortissimo throughout their entire range—gradually fell into obscurity.