2019-04-13 featured press

Online Musik Magazin – Im Olymp der Barockmusik

2019-04-13, Online Musik Magazin, by Thomas Molke

Natürlich lässt das Publikum Jaroussky mit dem offiziellen Abschluss noch nicht gehen und kommt noch in den Genuss von drei Zugaben. Als erstes präsentiert Jaroussky ein berühmtes Madrigal von Claudio Monteverdi: “Si dolce è’l tormento”. Dabei rührt Jaroussky mit seiner eindringlichen Interpretation regelrecht zu Tränen. Bei den weiteren beiden Zugaben greift Jaroussky auf eine Oper Cavallis zurück, von der bereits im offiziellen Programm eine Arie zu hören war: La virtù de’ strali d’Amore. Mit der ersten Arie beschreibt er sein eigenes Lebensgefühl dieses Abends: “Alcun più di me felice non è” (“Niemand ist glücklicher als ich”). Wer mag das bei diesem Jubel auch anzweifeln? Danach verabschiedet er sich mit einer Beschwerde des Liebesgottes, der zwar selbst andere gerne mit dem Liebespfeil verletzt, aber nicht begeistert davon ist, sich selbst zu verlieben: “Che pensi, mio core?” Wie der Liebesgott nach diesem Auftritt wieder in die Lüfte entschwebt, verabschiedet sich Jaroussky mit dem Ensemble Artaserse unter stehenden Ovationen von dem restlos begeisterten Publikum. […]

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2019-04-05_02 featured press

Hannoversche Allgemeine – Philippe Jaroussky bei Pro Musica im Sendesaal

2019-04-05, Hannoversche Allgemeine, by Rainer Wagner

Es beginnt mit einem Trommelprolog und es endet mit einem hannoversch gesitteten Sturm der Begeisterung. Dazwischen entfaltet der französische Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky mit seinem Ensemble Artaserse einen Fächer der Empfindungen. Allesamt klanggemalt von Francesco Cavalli, dem fleißigen Schüler Claudio Monteverdis.

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2019-04-05 featured press

Die Welt – An Angel on Earth – Translation to English

“[…] Jaroussky weaves notes as fragile as the finest threads of spun glass. That still they shine vibrantly is purely due to Jaroussky’s delicate vitality, his moderately tasteful use of means of expression that he seems to have at his unlimited disposal.

Translation to English
This is a fan translation; no infringement of copyright is intended. We believe it fulfills the criteria for “fair use,” discussion and study. Translation by *L

2019-04-05, Die Welt, by Sören Ingwersen

An Angel on Earth

By Sören Ingwersen

At the Elbphilharmonie, countertenor Philippe Jaroussky enchants with Baroque treasures by Francesco Cavalli

Just over two years ago, the Elbphilharmonie was inaugurated, and people believed that an angel was spreading his wings, protecting the new concert hall. At any rate, Philippe Jaroussky was celebrated as this heavenly messenger, who, high up above in the tiers and accompanied by the finely spun sounds by the harpist Margret Köll, seemed to immerse the hall in divine light. The performance remained engraved into many people’s minds and made the Frenchman who turned 41 this year become something like an unofficial figurehead of the new music temple.

Later that same year, Jaroussky returned with the French Ensemble Artaserse to set Händel’s arias in the gold of his voice. Once more, he now returns to the stage of the the great hall of the Elbphilharmonie with the 12 Baroque specialists – this time, to honor a master who was celebrated as a great opera composer during his lifetime, but who nowadays is hardly known: the Venetian Francesco Cavalli, pupil of the great Claudio Monteverdi, who invented the genre of opera in the early 17th century.

Jaroussky and the Ensemble Artaserse open a musical treasure chest brimming with beguiling riches that night. The first sparkle that catches our eye right at the start is the aria “Ombra mai fu” from the opera “Il Xerse”, carried by great tranquility. Just as dedicated, as Jaroussky sinks into the worship of a tranquil nature, afterwards, in “Corone, ed Honori” from “Il Ciro,” he puts inner freedom of man in the balance of true values, contrasting it with courtly flashiness, while Raul Orellana and Jose Manuel Navarro energetically highlight the fiery confession with their violins, percussionist Michèle Claude lets the castanets pop, and Yoko Nakamura sets inciting accents at the cembalo.

Immediately afterwards, Jaroussky presents the same character with the heart-gripping lament “Negatemi i respiri.” “Take away the air I breathe,” demands the desperate king, while Jaroussky’s voice, effortlessly spiraling upwards, never even has a hint of forcefulness, subordinating every tinge of rigor to a smoothly flowing line. A pleading chant that is reaching the very last rows, while never becoming obtrusive. Also in “Amor, ti giuro Amor” from “Erismena”, introduced by a highly dramatic recitative, one cannot help but marveling at the ease with which the singer tackles the ornaments and the well-controlled use of the vibrato which often only unfolds at the end of a sustained note, triggering oscillations that leave the antennas of the soul resonating in a sympathetic shiver at every second.

In “Lucidissima face,” Jaroussky embarks on a completely different adventure. There, his flawlessly intonated soprano glides without resistance like on a shiny smooth surface. Before the inner eye, it reflects the moon that the words proceed to worship. In contrast, the funny, exuberant “Che città,” depicting the hustle and bustle of city life, with its bass lines of the viol at the start, and the rhythm of the drums, gives the impression of an early Baroque pop song. While Jaroussky is circling the musicians, establishing 360-degree contact with the audience, illustrating almost every syllable with a meaningful gesture, once more, the Ensemble Artaserse proves to be a first class accompaniment. Also in the interspersed instrumental pieces, the nine Sinfonias, it manages to connect sensitively balanced precision with brilliantly refined variety of sound, and a high level of articulation. Especially Adrien Mabire and Benôit Tainturier impress with their clearly intonated play on the cornet, a kind of wooden recorder-trumpet from the Renaissance period.

Shortly before the break however, during the pain-stricken love aria “Uscitemi dal cor, lagrime amare,” almost all the instruments need to fall silent, while Jaroussky weaves notes as fragile as the finest threads of spun glass. That still they shine vibrantly is purely due to Jaroussky’s delicate vitality, his moderately tasteful use of means of expression that he seems to have at his unlimited disposal. In moments like this, the listener gets the impression that the hall was contracting, while at its centre of sound, the essence of human suffering crystallizes.

Filled with inner drama, the aria “Misero, così va?” shines in incandescence, while the cornets highlight the sound of the ensemble like with flares, while in “All’armi mio core,” the music begins to gain dance-like momentum once more. The audience’s applause is rewarded with three encores, including an assertion of happiness by Cavalli, introduced by Jaroussky as “one of the shortest arias in the history of music”: a one-minute jubilation set to music. The musical bliss that night fortunately lasted longer: a generous 90 minutes.

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2019-04-04 featured press

Hamburger Abendblatt – Jarousskys spartanischer Auftritt in der Elbphilharmonie

2019-04-04 , Hamburger Abendblatt, bei Joachim Mischke

Jaroussky erwies sich auch an diesem Abend als kluger, einfühlsamer Anwalt verschütteter Meisterwerke, die man mit Samthandschuhen anfassen muss, weil sie trotz ihrer Stärke so zerbrechlich sind wie Murano-Gläser beim Jonglieren. […]

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2019-04-04_05 featured press

Cellesche Zeitung – Kompositionen von Francesco Cavalli erklingen

2019-04-04, Cellesche Zeitung, by Jörg Worat

“Schon seit Monaten war der Große Sendesaal des NDR ausverkauft: Unter den Countertenören ist Philippe Jaroussky zurzeit wohl der König. Nicht zu Unrecht, wie er mit tatkräftiger Unterstützung des Ensembles Artaserse an diesem Abend bewies.” […]

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2019-03-28 featured press

tip Berlin – Philippe Jaroussky – An Interview with the Most Famous Countertenor in the World – Translation to English

2019-03-28, Tip Berlin, by Kai Luehrs-Kaiser

Man muss sich auch nicht normaler machen, als man ist.

Translation to English
This is a fan translation; no infringement of copyright is intended. We believe it fulfills the criteria for “fair use,” discussion and study. Translation by *L

Philippe Jaroussky – An interview with the most famous countertenor in the world

Philippe Jaroussky, the most famous countertenor in the world, about male high voices and his new program with arias by Cavalli

tip: Mr. Jaroussky, your new project is devoted to the most important student of Monteverdi, Francesco Cavalli, who also composed the opera “La Calisto.” Why did you choose him?

Philippe Jaroussky: He deserves it. I would rather compare him to Händel or Vivaldi than to his teacher Monteverdi. He was the first one whose tunes were short and simple enough to be catchy like pop songs. A genius! In his 27 surviving operas, his work exceeds everything that has been preserved by Monteverdi. I have known him since I started. But only now, when many of his operas are being rediscovered and set in scene, I plucked up the courage for this project.

tip: The CD is called “Ombra mai fu”. It brings to mind Händel, or doesn’t it?

Philippe Jaroussky: Perhaps I chose the name for the program to provoke. As musicology tells us, Händel’s famous “Ombra mai fu” wasn’t composed by Händel in the first place, but by Bononcini. Both made use of a libretto that Cavalli already had set to music. In plain terms: this program is my most original one so far.

tip: Your career started 20 years ago. Today you are, we may say, the most famous countertenor in the world. What has changed?

Philippe Jaroussky: I turned 41 in February. Everything that happens now is a bonus. If I quit singing tomorrow, I would be just as happy. But only now, with this album, I stopped to pretend to be younger on the cover art than I really am. Enough with the make-up; enough with Photoshop!

tip: When you started, occasionally, there was a bright laugh in the audience because your voice type was considered a joke. Are these times over?

Philippe Jaroussky: Until four of five years ago, this could very well happen. In TV shows, I still get prompted the question whether I am a castrato. And you know what? I don’t really mind. We still irritate people. So what? There is no point in trying to be more normal than you actually are.

tip: Similar to Cecilia Bartoli, who avoids very large houses, your voice is not the largest. A disadvantage?

Philippe Jaroussky: My voice has grown and is big enough to be heard at La Scala in Milan soon – by the way, together with Cecilia Bartoli. It’s never about the size of a voice but about the projection. When bad actors shout, no one can hear them. When good actors whisper, you understand every word.tip: Do you perceive your voice as male – or not?Philippe Jaroussky: Voices of countertenors are high male voices. I hate it when they say we sound female. I never try to imitate a woman. And because I sing male roles, it would not make any sense.

tip: Do you have a personal theory why so many countertenors are gay?

Philippe Jaroussky: I am. But that doesn’t mean that all, or even the majority of countertenors are. I only realized one thing: on stage, love scenes with a woman are a lot easier to do when your stage partner knows you’re gay. The only challenge is not getting a laughing fit. Otherwise it’s pure fun.

Konzerthaus Berlin Gendarmenmarkt, Mitte, Sa 30.3., 20 Uhr, 30–84 €

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2019-03-01_03 featured press

Concerti – “Old singer, young conductor” – Translation to English

2019-03, Concerti, by Christoph Schmidt

“Yet another life goal of mine for many years has been to become a conductor. In three or four years, I am going to conduct my very first Baroque opera – something I am really happy about. That means, I am going to be a singer and a conductor at the same time. At first, both activities will mix, and by and by, I want to sing less and less in favor of expanding my time at the baton. I want to take more responsibility for my musical message.”

Translation to English
This is a fan translation; no infringement of copyright is intended. We believe it fulfills the criteria for “fair use,” discussion and study. Translation by *L

Interview Philippe Jaroussky

“Old singer, young conductor”

Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky has just released a project very close to his heart, is at the zenith of his career – and already has the next goal in mind.

By Christoph Schmidt, March 21, 2019

It doesn’t occur very often, that an asteroid is named after an opera singer. After numerous international awards, Frenchman Philippe Jaroussky also accomplished this one.

At the height of his career, the 41-year-old is also thinking about radically changing his musical career. All while the 41-year-old, on the peak of his career, is thinking about radically changing the course of his career.

At the beginning of the new year, you wanted to take a sabbatical. What do you do, if you do not sing?

Philippe Jaroussky: I stopped singing just before Christmas, with my next concerts being in March. However, I still had plenty to do and prepare: I needed to think about future projects and make decisions; I had to look after my academy, and last but not least, I had to put some thought into the upcoming programs in the near future. It’s nice to do these things in such a relaxed way because it allows you to focus. While on tour, I don’t find any peace for that kind of thing. Sometimes it’s just good not to sing, even though that’s my passion, because a break allows you to take a look at yourself from the outside and imagine what it would be like not to sing.

How often do you take such a break?

Jaroussky: It’s only my second time. It helps me to relax the voice and refresh the technique. Afterwards, I enjoy making music again all the more and, hopefully, I can pass on this joy even better to the audience. As soon as I start practising again during my morning shower, I realize: I’m ready to start again!

Do you also practice your baritone or exclusively the head voice?

Jaroussky: When I started, my singing teacher trained both registers because the baritone is closer to my speaking voice. It can be very useful to understand the mechanisms of the voice in this natural range in order to apply what you discovered to the countertenor voice. Since I’m not a tenor, the lower range of the countertenor voice are not exactly my specialty; it’s something I am working on continuously. Because on stage, for an opera, you also need the chest voice – and there, you only have one shot at an aria. When you’re recording a CD, it’s altogether different, and I end up doing nothing but singing for seven or eight hours a day; in a sense, it’s an entirely different job.

Almost every year, you release a new album. However, the death of the medium of the Studio CD has been foretold. How do you manage to help keeping it alive?

Jaroussky: My record label and I sometimes say we really should slow down. My last solo album was released in November 2017; in between, I have also been present on other recording. Fortunately, there is still a multitude of projects. Needless to say, as a singer, you want to record the most in the phase of your life when you feel in top shape. After all, I don’t know how long I am still able to record CDs.

Your new album, “Ombra mai fu,” quotes an aria from Francesco Cavalli’s opera Xerxes, which became famous by Handel. Who do you think is the better composer?

Jaroussky: Of course Handel’s “Serse” is the best version. Also, for the majority of audiences, Monteverdi is certainly more famous than Cavalli is. However, I chose the title to provoke a little – because, after all, the first version of this aria is the one by Cavalli! That makes you curious. It’s interesting that, for example, the first violins are not playing colla parte with the soloist, but higher. That’s ingenious and has its own charm.

Which other qualities do you perceive in Cavalli?

Jaroussky: I discovered him right at the beginning of my career, when I was in my early twenties. Even then, I was beguiled by the charm of this music;  he has a distinctive personal style. It’s no wonder that currently, almost all of his operas are being performed. On the CD, I wanted to create a digest of the best arias and duets from all his operas, also to show the variety of his composing – from lamenti to extremely comical scenes. Even during his lifetime, his music was very popular. It is much simpler than Händel’s, and more fragile. Cavalli was writing very fast, and sometimes, he only notated the voice, and the bass line. Who, when, with whom, and with which instruments is actually playing together often remains for the musician to decide. Solely the instrumentation turns it into kind of a new creation. When it comes to Händel, most is fixed. That’s why I love early Baroque music so much – because it educates you in imagining the right sound, and prompts you to interpret the libretto.

You are considered a specialist in the field of Early Music. Are you also interested in contemporary repertoire?

Jaroussky: Of course; I have often had the opportunity to sing new pieces, because the countertenor has actually evolved into a modern voice type once more. My next CD project is going to include contemporary music, only with piano accompaniment, but it’s too early to talk about it.

You are now 41, have won numerous classical prizes and are performing all over the world. What ambitions, goals and challenges could someone like you still have?

Jaroussky: When you’re young, you have a lot of dreams. At the time, I never dared to hope I would sing at La Scala one day. You’re right; I’ve achieved much more than I thought. But more important is that you can choose what and with whom you sing. The audience is very grateful, and I would like to experience these moments more intensely, just because I do not know how much longer I can enjoy them.

Sounds a little hedonistic.

Jaroussky: That may be true, but if you want to sing, actually enjoying it is paramount. Yet another life goal of mine for many years has been to become a conductor. In three or four years, I am going to conduct my very first Baroque opera – something I am really happy about. That means, I am going to be a singer and a conductor at the same time. At first, both activities will mix, and by and by, I want to sing less and less in favor of expanding my time at the baton. I want to take more responsibility for my musical message.

Does that also give rise to your motivation for your music academy that you founded for children and young adults?

Jaroussky: I come from a family that was completely unmusical. My teachers told my parents to make music – so I started the violin. That changed my life. Twenty years later, I now have the chance to influence the lives of other children, positively, if I can. I was often asked if I thought that more should be done for musical education. I always agreed, but never actually did anything towards that ideal. I try to make up for this lack now at least with fifty students per year. And they don’t have to pay a cent for it.

Is that your kind of work-life balance?

Philippe Jaroussky: You can learn something from this for yourself! When you teach, you are forced to organize your thoughts, to express opinions, to sing something to the students. Some impulses also come from the pupils and students themselves. This shapes and enriches their own music-making immensely. And last but not least, it is a tremendous pleasure to be a teacher!

See Philippe Jaroussky’s “Ombra mai fu” from his eponymous album:

Album Tip

Ombra mai fu – Arien von Cavalli

Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor), Emoke Barath (Sopran), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alt), Ensemble Artaserse

Erato

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2019-03-01_2 featured press

Crescendo – Musical Mask Player – Translation To English

2019-02, Concerti, by Dorothea Walchshäusl

“Listening to Cavalli, it’s astounding how candid and courageous the material is. Despite all the tragedy, the pieces are full of humour and, by the way, they are are very sexually explicit – one part in the love duet, unequivocally, is about sex (laughs). Which means: the music is almost 400 years old; however, sometimes there’s more freedom there to be found than in our present time. That’s incredibly exciting. “

Translation to English
This is a fan translation; no infringement of copyright is intended. We believe it fulfills the criteria for “fair use,” discussion and study. Translation by *L

Musical Mask Player

Philippe Jaroussky

By Dorothea Walchshäusl – February 21, 2019

Philippe Jaroussky’s play with parody and irony in Venetian opera

With his warm countertenor voice, Philippe Jaroussky has sung his way to the top. On his new album, the 41-year-old artist now devotes himself to the Italian composer of early Baroque Francesco Cavalli, and fascinates with an exciting musical masquerade. A conversation about the creative sound-creator, new forms of masculinity and carnival in Venice.

CRESCENDO: You once called the countertenor Fach a new form of masculinity. What do you mean by that?

Philippe Jaroussky: I do believe that the countertenor is a symbol for a new form – or rather, a new old form (laughs). The division of the voices into female and male Fachs arises from the romantic categorization. The castrato voice always stood out as a special kind of voice. However, the castrati quite absolutely interpreted very strong characters. They had high voices, but that didn’t mean they didn’t take on male parts as well. It is certainly no coincidence that after the end of the Second World War, the countertenors suddenly played a role again. The war had been so terrible that people no longer wanted the rigid role models – the man who goes to war, and the woman stays at home with the children. The rediscovery of the countertenor and of high voices in music was a way to say: Women can be strong and men can show their sensitive side. A man can cry and a woman can fight.

You have discovered your voice relatively late as your instrument. How did that feel?

When I started to sing, I suddenly felt a great freedom. I had to fight much less than with the violin, but at the beginning I also felt veritably naked. After all, you cannot hide behind your instrument. But I worked hard, and found great fulfillment in singing. I never wanted to be a, or sing like a woman. The countertenor range is just the voice I feel at home with.

“When I started to sing, I felt veritably naked.”

As an opera singer, you dive into new characters again and again. How are you feeling about that?

We opera singers are sometimes almost too busy merging with a certain role. For me, the most important thing is to achieve a connection to the music. The music should influence how I sing, and not the other way around. When I’m learning a new role, I start with the score and let the feelings the music triggers in me pass into my voice. It’s a very intuitive process and sometimes exciting new things come of it: a really fast-paced aria gains a certain sweetness, or a slow aria gains something very dominant.

On your new album, you will be able to devote yourself to various arias and duets by Francesco Cavalli. Additionally, there are richly orchestrated orchestral works. How did you come across this composer?

My first contact with Baroque music in the opera was Monteverdi. Shortly afterwards, I discovered Cavalli’s music, and from the beginning, was fascinated by the variety of timbres, contrasts and moods. The collaboration with Gabriel Garrido and René Jacobs was pivotal for me as well. I learned so much from them and discovered how rich Cavalli’s music is. With only a few notes, he creates wonderful melodies full of charm. The operas of Cavalli have great dramatic potential, and with good reason, they are being playing extensively at many opera houses for several years now.

“Cavalli operas have great dramatic potential”

The operas of Cavalli were mainly on scheduled for Carnival time in Venice. Have you ever experienced the Venetian Carnival yourself?

I’ve been to Venice many times, but never during carnival. And I’m not sure that nowadays’ version truly represents what it used to be like. However, on myalbum, I wanted to highlight the contrast of the time. On the one hand, carnival was a moment of abundance and luxury, but at the same time there were also a grim side to it. After all, there were plenty of illnesses at the time, as well as severe epidemics like the plague. All the more, people wanted to enjoy life right now, because they did not know whether they would live to enjoy another year. Cavalli’s music reflects exactly that. Both sides – the light and the dark mask, the wealth, the poverty and death – are present in his operas. I wanted that yin and yang represented on the album. Carnival was the time of the year when people behind their masks were all on one level. That’s the reason for its great social significance. The rich could go incognito; the poor were a little less poor and everyone celebrated together.

“One possible lesson from Cavalli is: We should all be much freer and braver, and complain and lament less.”

Cavalli was a pupil of Monteverdi. How independent is his music?

First of all, it is clear that Monteverdi has created a style. Cavalli does not change it, but he remains faithful to the school of Monteverdi. However, during Cavalli’s time, there had been a substantial change: The first public theaters were opened! Until then, opera had been an entertainment exclusively for the rich. rich people. Cavalli now made opera accessible to everyone, and that’s probably why humor and comedy play such a big part in his music. Cavalli didn’t only want to portray kings and princes – he wanted to show people’s everyday lives and truly represent society including the common people.

His operas feature a multitude of different characters, and you can veritably feel the Venetian society. In this respect, only Cavalli finally made the style of Monteverdi really popular, and his catchy melodies resemble today’s pop music. Listening to Cavalli, it’s astounding how candid and courageous the material is. Despite all the tragedy, the pieces are full of humour and, by the way, they are are very sexually explicit – one part in the love duet, unequivocally, is about sex (laughs). Which means: the music is almost 400 years old; however, sometimes there’s more freedom there to be found than in our present time. That’s incredibly exciting.

Sometimes I feel like we’re getting less and less free. One possible lesson from Cavalli is: We should all be much freer and braver, and complain and lament less.

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2019-03-01 featured press

Das Opernglas – Great Fun – Translation to English

2019-03, Das Opernglas, by Yeri Han

“When I will have done my first tentative steps towards conducting, maybe then, when it’s time, it won’t be quite as sad for me, to little by little, sing fewer performances – who knows!”

Translation to English
This is a fan translation; no infringement of copyright is intended. We believe it fulfills the criteria for “fair use,” discussion and study. Translation by *L

2019-03, Das Opernglas, by Yeri Han

Philippe Jaroussky

The Interview

Great fun

Just in time for the carnival season, Philippe Jaroussky surprises in some cheeky costumes. His new album offers the matching program. Yeri Han wanted to know more.

The last time we talked to each other was almost four years ago. In the meantime, a lot of good things have been happening for you. Where do you currently see yourself, and what are you looking forward to the most?

2019 will be a big trade Hänel year for me. For once, because I have the opportunity to sing “Alcina” in Salzburg, next to Cecilia Bartoli, with whom I am going to give my house debut at La Scala in Milan this autumn – as Sesto in “Giulio Cesare”. These will be my only two stage productions this year, but they are really big, fantastic projects! Then there is also the start of my Cavalli tour for my new Album, as well as the release of yet another album that is planned to go on sale in January 2020, and for which I am going to do a big German tour. With this new project, I am going to explore new avenues that may be unexpected for some. They’re in for a surprise.

Another project that continues to gain importance in my life is my “Académie Jaroussky” that I founded in 2017. Each year, we are giving lessons to 25 young talents with free master classes in the categories violin, cello, piano and singing. It is incredibly moving and uplifting to witness, how the children learn to play their first pieces. It makes me incredibly happy!

You already mentioned your upcoming debut at La Scala. What special significance does this debut hold for you?

As a young singer, you keep dreaming about singing “somewhere”. I’ve done enough of that in the meantime; I sang in so many places all over the world, most of which I never had imagined. The Scala never was a defined goal, but obviously, it means a lot, especially as it always irked me that, in spite of basically singing exclusively in Italian and frequently with Italian ensembles, I almost never sing on Italian soil. So it is almost fair to say that “Giulio Cesare”, after 20 years, is my Italian debut.

That’s one of the paradoxes of my job, and a little frustrating for me. I often gained the impression, that the Italians don’t like programs with works written for castrato voices. And after all, the matter has some ambivalence. On one side, it is about pure beauty and music, on the other, historically, it’s about mutilation of children. I often had the notion that it makes Italian audiences uncomfortable. Because of that, I hope that this “Giulio Cesare” is going to be one of the big events of the season, and a good opportunity to introduce baroque repertoire to the Italian audiences as well as inviting the listeners to engage themselves with the topic of the castrati.

How is it in other countries; do you have the feeling that a part of the audience is still a little wary of countertenor singing there as well? Can you relate to the scepticism?  

I can very well understand that some people quite plainly don’t like the specific timbre of countertenors very much, and even in Baroque music prefer mezzo-sopranos or sopranos. At the same time, there needs to be some credit given to fact that a lot has changed during the last 20 years; not only, that now there are far more countertenors around, who vary wildly concerning their vocal techniques, vocal ranges, and personalities, but across the board, a lot has changed. At the start, it has been said that our voices were quite small – which is untrue. It’s also been said we all sound alike – which is of course false as well. I still remember doing “Sant’Alessio” under the baton of William Christie; we were seven countertenors in total, and some members of the audience told me they had been afraid of hearing the same voice all the time – a fear that fortunately proved to be unfounded. Nowadays, there are countertenors whose voices have more facets than that of a many female singers.

Do you have any idea yet how the new “Giulio Cesare” at the Scala will look like?

No not yet. But I am pleased that Robert Carsen will be in charge of for the new production as a director. I like the feeling of knowing in advance that you are going to work with someone you already know. It means much less stress – because opera productions are stressful as a default. You travel there, and you are still unfamiliar with the costumes, the general aesthetic of the production, or what you have to do on stage. Then you are surrounded by a multitude of people who you never met before; there are a lot of rehearsals; you are nervous before the premiere, … A stage production really means a lot more stress than a concert tour!

Right at the beginning, you were mentioning your album shortly to be released: there you focus entirely on opera arias of Francesco Cavalli. What tempted you about this repertoire in particular?

For me, singing Cavalli is a little like returning to my musical roots. At the very beginning of my career, I was given the chance to sing three Monteverdi operas with Jean-Claude Malgoire. So Monteverdi and early Baroque became my first contact with operatic music in general. Shortly after, I met Gabriel Garrido and his ensemble Elyma, who have been playing a lot of Cavalli even back then – in fact, thy belong to the very first who were interested in this wonderful music. Since then, I always had this thought on my mind that once in my life, I wanted to realize a Cavalli project – and during the last years, it started to become more and more palpable: “Cavalli is in the air!” (Laughs) And not only because of the wonderful music. But also because the dramaturgical potential his operas have to offer – and there are 27 in total! They aren’t quite unlike Monteverdi’s – very lively, a bit like theatre plays, without any long arias, full of contrasts, with an abundance of comical passages, erotic and salacious bits, and veritably grotesque plot turns. I thought it was delightful to finally being able to show with my album how modern, funny, and free the genre of opera could be in its infancy. In Cavalli’s music, there are incredibly tragical passages with sublime lamenti – and right in the next scene, there’s capering about and fun. It is never limited to just one sentiment; everything is very rich in contrasts and lively.

“How modern, witty and free the genre of opera could be in its infancy!”

The cover as well as the promo pictures for your new album suggest you are a fan of carnival?

Well, I am not a fan of Venetian carnival in particular, but I definitely like to slip into a costume and become someone else. Even in, in private, I prefer it more subtle: the opera stage allows us to be eccentric. I’m not a born actor, but quite early on, I realized that Make-Up and costumes assist me a lot when it comes to become one with a role. With the cover, we wanted to give a cue to a modern take of carnival in Venice. I suppose you have seen that I am wearing a white shirt; but what seems to be the frills of a cravat, in reality, is a plastic bag. The cover, with white being the predominant colour, is supposed to be a contrast to the back, which is kept in black. A little like Yin and Yang. Venice was well known as a rich town, famous for its carnival season, when the rich and the poor mingled in the anonymity of the masks. That’s also mirrored in Cavalli’s operas: his operas feature gods, kings, wealthy merchants – but then there are poor people as well, which results in a wide range of society being depicted. We consciously decided on “Ombra mai fu”, because we wanted to tickle people’s attention and curiosity a little who might not be as familiar with Cavalli as they are with Händel and other composers of the 18th century. However, it’s Cavalli who wrote the very first “Ombra mai fu,” with exactly the same libretto we’re familiar with from Händel! So this track is surely going to cause some confusion and curiosity.

Which changes do do perceive yourself in your voice?

There definitely have been some, that’s why it isn’t entirely by chance that I am doing the Cavalli project at this point. It’s a lot less viruosic than, for example, my Händel album from two years ago; it contains fewer coloraturas – which doesn’t mean that it is easier to sing. Also it’s a lot more text based. In the future, I don’t want to focus this much anymore on the big castrato roles, but work to establish a repertoire that is a bit more “human”. Cavalli, for example, does not focus on any spectacular high notes or virtuosic coloraturas; it’s more about the vocal expression. And something else that is particularly nice about the music of the time: Not everything is notated, so as a performing artist, you have some freedom when it comes to embellishments or the choice of instruments. Which means, you get to pick the musical colours all by yourself. That was a lot of fun!

What plans and thoughts do you have for the future?

For quite some time now, I have had that dream to conduct and most probably, within the next four years, I am going to be able to do my first project in that direction. It makes me very happy, but I am nervous as well, because it is somewhat the start of a second career. And without wanting to start sounding sad or melancholy: it’s not easy to get older as a singer. Inevitably, there will be a moment, where you will be on stage, but suddenly, you don’t sound as exciting or brilliant anymore than you did in years past – and no one dares to say it out loud. And even if I love to sing: this business comes with with a huge amount of pressure. Only a few, I think, really can imagine, what it means to be uncertain, when you go on stage and sometimes, you are not sure whether you’re in top shape. I withstood this pressure now for twenty years – and they have been twenty fantastic years with wonderful projects and collaborations with a plethora of amazing artists! However: whether I am able to do the same in ten years from now, …? When I will have done my first tentative steps towards conducting, maybe then, when it’s time, it won’t be quite as sad for me, to little by little, sing fewer performances – who knows!

The new album: OMBRA MAI FU

Opera arias by Francesco Cavalli

Excerpts from Il Xerse, Statira, Erismenea, Calisto, Eliogabalo, Ercole Amante, Ormindo, Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne, Orione, Eritrea, Giasone, Doricla, Calisto, La Virtù dei Strali d’amore, Pompeo Magno

Release: 8. März


2018-02-23 featured press

blu – Whether King Or Girl – Translation to English

2018-02-23, Blue Fm, by Christian K. L. Fischer

” … What a life I had! I was able to travel the world, never had money problems, had the chance to meet all these musicians. Plus, I had a lot of time for my friends. What a privilege! And I am allowed to sleep in!”

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Translation to English
This is a fan translation; no infringement of copyright is intended. We believe it fulfills the criteria for “fair use,” discussion and study. Translation by *L

Even if he doesn’t look like it, star opera singer Philippe Jaroussky is already past forty. And with age, some small problems occasionally appear – or just a lumbago.

“It was just a wrong move, … and it is really very painful. But at least, for the next few days, I don’t have to sing!” he says, laughing on the phone after having to cancel his trip to Berlin for our interview.
“My father already had back problems … something like that happens to me every two years. I really need to start doing sports – but I’m so lazy.” There, however, he is greatly exaggerating. After all, Philippe is one of the most sought-after countertenors, and on top of engagements at the major opera houses world-wide, and regular releases, two years ago, he founded his own academy.

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“Ombra mai fu” by Philippe Jaroussky is available HERE.

So, turning forty wasn’t a big deal at all? “That birthday is a big mark for everyone. But it was also a good moment for me to see what I have done so far, and what I still want to do. However, I confess, if I was going to die tomorrow, … What a life I had! I was able to travel the world, never had money problems, had the chance to meet all these musicians. Plus, I had a lot of time for my friends. What a privilege! And I am allowed to sleep in!” he concludes, laughing again. He isn’t even worried about his voice.

“When I was twenty, my voice was very flexible. When I listen to old recordings of mine, I know that I cannot do this anymore. In exchange, I now have awareness of melody and words. My voice might have lost quickness, but it became stronger and more expressive. And if I lost it tomorrow, I still could become a teacher.”

Which is one thing he seems to prepare for with his Académie Musicale Philippe Jaroussky. “I love the idea of accompanying people for a year, giving them opportunities and enabling them to start making friends. If I’m allowed to dream, then I want the Académie to survive me.” Even with his latest recordings, it seems he wants to teach the world, because while well-known composers and pieces are being recorded again and again, Philippe now dedicates his last project, “Ombra mai fu” to the Baroque master Cavalli.

“During the last five to ten years, there has been a revival of his music, because the dramatic potential of his music was finally being recognized. Most of his arias are barely five minutes long; it’s a style full of surprises. And his music if full of freedom.“

And then, there is something else that Philippe loves about his profession: the wonderful, opulent garments that are part of his performances. “I like dressing up! Above all, I’m a musician and have never been a born actor. Whether I’m a king or a girl on stage, the costume helps me a lot. We rehearse for weeks without the proper costumes. You sing in what you happen to be wearing, so it’s hard to get into character. But when the make-up and the costumes are there, … Now I can be different; now I can be crazy!”

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