2019-11 featured press

mailchi.mp, OrfeoBlog Chapter 2: Meet Our Leading Man – with Pacific MusicWorks co-Artistic Director Stephen Stubbs

mailchi.mp, OrfeoBlog, by N. N.

OrfeoBlog Chapter 2:
Meet Our Leading Man

with Pacific MusicWorks co-Artistic Director
Stephen Stubbs

There are a few elements of historical performance that, for obvious reasons, ought to remain in the past. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, the majority of male operatic leading roles were written for castrati, who most often sang in the soprano or mezzo-soprano range, and were particularly valued for their virtuosity and almost super-human breath control. Obviously, most modern countertenors don’t fulfill that first basic necessity of the soprano range (most would qualify as altos), but then in the early 2000s a major new talent burst onto the scene in the form of the young French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. Beyond the sheer beauty of his voice and his highly-developed yet instinctive musicality, he possessed two even rarer qualities – the high tessitura of a mezzo-soprano, and the extreme virtuosity that could make sense of the wildest melismas that any baroque composer had devised. Suddenly, the vast repertoire of the castrati had a living advocate that could bring it back to life in our time!

We began our collaboration with Philippe in 2011 when he embodied the virtuoso role of Anfione in Agostino Steffani’s 1688 opera Niobe. How we came to work with Philippe on that project is part of the next chapter, but the result was this: a wildly successful stage production of Niobe by Gilbert Blin for the 2011 Boston Early Music Festival starring Philippe and Amanda Forsythe, followed by a recording on the Erato label which has received much glowing press and prizes, and finally a concert tour of Europe in 2014, (and unquestionably due to Philippe’s status as a European superstar) playing to full houses at some of the best halls in Europe from Madrid to Paris to Amsterdam.

In the next installment of OrfeoBlog, I will share how Amanda Forsythe, one of our favorite leading ladies, was chosen to be part of this exciting partnership. Stay tuned!

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