The French countertenor is 35 years old today.
Slightly off topic, but I was disappointed when I attempted to buy a DVD of Artaserse to give as a Valentine’s Day gift. The CD is available, but I was told that the DVD is not available in the US. True? Does anyone know if the DVD of the performance will be made available here in the States? It seems that the complete YouTube version has been taken down too. Just when I need/want a castrato-fest.
The problem is that a dvd is not available in Europe either. The production was broadcasted on the French channel Mezzo and what you saw on YT comes from this source. Let’s hope that the powers to be (Virgin/EMI/..) would finally release this on DVD officially. Since the Cd was well received who knows ?
It;s on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/54074011
With all respect, I don’t like colorless, tedious and faked voices; and falsseto is not my cup of tea. A good mezzo, with good chest voice, will do it for me. It’s unfair to think that countertenors are the castrati of today. Castrati anatomically and physiologically had the vocal cords of a soprano but able to produce bigger sound because the chest grew in size, whereas the vocal cords remained prepubescent. The thinner and shorter vocal cord, the higher the pitch. The vocal cords of a countertenor look like the vocal cords of any adult male.
Horne was the closest to a castarato voice. This is the opinion of an opera plebian, and not an aristocrat.
I don’t think that one has to be an opera aristocrat in order to like countertenor voices. Most of my tastes in opera could be located on the plebeian side but for me, sensitivity, expressivity and musicality are not the prerogative of a particular voice type. If a countertenor is more honest and true to the music than a mezzo, then I don’t see why I should automatically prefer the mezzo. And vice versa. There is also the voice color to consider. IMo, a mezzo would be far more imposing and convincing in Cesare but in roles like Nerone, a countertenor can bring an ambiguity that the mezzo can’t. In this context, the question is not about who corresponds the most to the castrati but rather, which vocal color can most correspond to a particular role. And this issue is of course, subjective.
The real issue is whether the sound appeals to your ear, your senses and emotions -- the rest either doesn’t matter or is bollocks
I have saved you statement and, with your permission, will be quoting it every time someone engages in character assassination of a singer , or every time someone rationalizes his/her gut-felt hatred of a singer with pseudo-objective arguments about technique.
Dear oedipe I’m flattered- and you may use it royalty free I actually believe it.
Not that there’s anything wrong with rationalising or expressing why we like something -- by doing so it may help another person to “open a new window”- but to try to convince someone that something is bad, particularly if the other person likes it, is usually a waste of time and pretty pointless. Most of the comments on youtube are pretty awful and odious. Why people have to make entries underneath a singer’s clip and say so and so’s version of this is much better is beyond me. Its great to have one’s own favourites- but to damn every other version of a particular aria is so musically narrow minded I just don’t understand it. Comparisons can be odious…just sayin.
I have no problems with comparisons. As human beings, we couldn’t exist without comparing things. Comparisons help us organize and understand the world. Comparisons of singing styles/voices/techniques provide us with a lot of insight.
What I do mind is irrational passions (unconditional love for some singers, irrepressible hatred for their competitors) masquerading as objective truths.
Countertenors came out of necessity to replace the lack of castrati for whose voices baroque operas were composed. Countertenor voice is “constructed” or made up and lacks the timbre that a mezzo voice can produce. Again, this is a matter of personal taste. On the other hand, musicians performing baroque instrumental music, for the sake of authenticity and fairness, prefer period instruments.
Every voice is constructed to some extent. It takes for instance many years in order to build the higher register of a tenor above the passagio. The same could be said about sopranos (whose kind of voice production is in some way similar to countertenors). I agree with you that the countertenor voice is more limited in terms of range than the mezzo voices. However, it should be noted that not all mezzos are as flexible (except maybe Vivica Genaux). In practical terms, if I hear Angelika Kirschlager and Jaroussky performing Cara Speme I would largely prefer Jaroussky. The beauty of line, timbre and phrasing is just much more superior IMO.
Neither mezzos nor countertenors could be related to the castrati in any way. Instead, each voice type is an imperfect approximation of what the castrati could do. Which approximation one prefers is (as you said) a matter of personal taste. Authenticity as far as the castrati repertory is concerned, is out of reach.
On the other hand, I can perfectly understand that a voice color or timbre can be so ingratiating that one is not able to listen to it. I can well recognize for instance, that Tucker and Vickers are great artists. But unfortunately, I can’t get past their timbre which means that I can’t listen to them for long.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Countertenors came out of necessity to replace the lack of castrati for whose voices baroque operas were composed.
This is quite simply utterly untrue. There are counter-tenor parts in music from the 1400s. The Catholic Church banned women from singing in church for much of the Renaissance period, so soprano and alto lines would be taken by boys or falsettists. Purcell wrote extensively for counter-tenor, and was probably one himself.
In fact, the use of the counter-tenor voice significantly predates the use of the castrato, but why let facts get in the way?
Quite. And counter-tenors have continued in gainful employment all the way through to the present day -- they haven’t just surfaced as a result of a revival of interest in baroque opera.
Cocky, will you make it to Amsterdam tomorrow?
No Buster, afraid not. Is it the Frau? I’m afraid it had quite gone out of my mind, I am mired in exam studies unfortunately.
No problem -- yes, Frau indeed. It will be streamed live -- from 16:00 local time on:
A singer in any other voice category with a placement and prevalence of nasal resonance like Jaroussky has would never be given a pass. I don’t really understand why it’s OK in the case of a counter-tenor.
I don’t see any ”placement and prevalence of nasal resonance” in Jaroussky’s case but to each his own. I don’t think that he would be able to do such smooth piani if he had a nasal placement in the first place (there is nothing constricted about his mezza voce either, which again would be unlikely if he had a nasal resonance).
And ”nasal prevalence” is certainly given a pass these days if we consider the Kaufmann’s case. Here IMO, the nasality becomes very apparent each time he attempts to do produce a piano. But once again, to each his own.
Definitely we’re understanding ‘nasal resonance’ very differently.
I think the fact that Jaroussky uses quite a boxed in resonance, involving his nose, is precisely what gives him the ability to produce that piano singing in the first place.
If he ever did actually get it all opened up, he’d be shocked by how much more of his body he needed to use and he’d not be capable of such control-freakery in his singing. I think the sound would be a lot more pleasing though.
This is a really interesting and instructive take of this issue. I’m certainly no vocal expert but I do not think that there is such a direct link between nasal placement and the ability of doing a piano. For one thing, his piani do not sound particularly nasal and he is really able to bring some color to it. The predominance of a nasal placement usually results in the loss of harmonics. While Jaroussky’s voice is certainly a limited instrument in terms of range, I still think that his voice is not devoid of overtones, which would be impossible with a ”nasal”’ production. Interestingly, his vocal projection is better than some of his more ”chesty” colleagues. I don’t think that a good vocal projection can be attained through a boxed in resonance.
The issue of vocal control is not really related to nasal production IMO. I think the main issue here the one of breath control and the balance between different types of resonators (nose, but also head and mouth cavities). And Jaroussky breath control is excellent most of the time, which IMO explains the ”control freakery”
I quite agree with this Cocky. It’s what I meant when I was speaking of the tightness in his jaw/throat. I find my own jaw throat somewhat tensing when I watch him sing. I find myself wanting to yawn in order to relax the throat and, thus the tone. And you’re absolutely right that what would then be required is a much greater effort of the body in order to do the singing on the breath. It would not be impossible to achieve pianissimi singing in this way, but they would be produced somewhat differently, and not merely by holding the sound in the face. But the sound would be both larger, rounder and, to my ears more pleasant.
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