Nein, das hätte man jetzt nicht gedacht. Philippe Jaroussky, Frankreichs Antwort auf die antiken Sirenen, hat noch kein Händel-Album aufgenommen. Andere besteigen zum 40. Geburtstag Achttausender, der Pariser Countertenor hat sich zum anstehenden Jubelfest im Februar schon jetzt eine wirklich feine, mit Raritäten aufwartende CD mit Arien des „caro sassone“ gegönnt. Und ich habe mich anlässlich von Veröffentlichung und jetzt anstehender Tournee samt vier Deutschland-Auftritten mit ihm darüber unterhalten.
Kein Händel bisher? Wie kann das sein?
Jaroussky: Ich habe mich nicht getraut! Erst wolle ich noch ein wenig warten, an Sicherheit gewinnen, lieber in etwas unbekannterem Repertoire mich austoben. Dann haben es dauernd andere Kollegen und Kolleginnen gemacht, da fand ich dann ebenfalls die Beschäftigung mit Caldara oder dem Repertoire von Carestini und Farinelli, mit Musik von Johann Christian Bach oder mit Porpora-Arien interessanter. Porpora ist herrlich zu singen, er beflügelt einen, aber musikalisch ist er höchsten mit einer Arie auf Händels Qualitätsniveau, mit „Alto Giove“ aus „Polifemo“. Und deshalb wollte ich eben jetzt doch noch unbedingt auch meinen Händel-Stempel hinterlassen, bevor es dafür zu spät ist. Ich wollte also den richtigen Moment abpassen: Nicht zu jung, um auch etwas zu sagen, um Erfahrung gesammelt zu haben, schließlich ist die Konkurrenz riesig. Und nicht zu alt, um nicht nur herbstlich Herbes abzuliefern. Jetzt also hat es gepasst. Und ich habe wieder gemerkt: Händel ist der Meister! […]
” Ich möchte mit meiner Rolle überraschen und dem Publikum etwas bieten, was es so noch nicht gehört hat. Das macht schließlich die Oper so spannend.”
*This is a fan translation. If you have any problems with this being online, just drop us a line and we’ll remove it immediately. Translation by Lankin*
Interview with countertenor Philippe Jaroussky
“I belong to the Generation Concept Album”
Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky about the allure of recitatives, directors as puppeteers – and his academy
By Maximilian Theiss, 19 October 2017
Even if in his late 30’s, Philippe Jaroussky is most likely closer to the start of his career than the end of it, a glance at his discography reveals a plethora of recordings. This considered, it was wonderfully fitting to conduct this interview on the premises of his record label.
Mr. Jaroussky, the number of your CD releases is just as impressive as their musical range. Is it a countertenor’s destiny, to re-discover and showcase his voice again and again? Philippe Jaroussky: I keep saying that nothing was written for countertenor voices – not even Baroque music. Of course, that’s deliberately provocative, but what I’m trying to express is that every countertenor has the opportunity to choose the repertoire he is comfortable with for himself.
Does that mean that musical self-discovery was important for you?
Jaroussky: Sure! To sing a wide range of repertoire, for instance, helped me to discover new colours in my voice. When I was on the look-out for new repertoire, my personal taste in music often wasn’t the deciding factor, but whether I, as a performer, can find a musical approach to the piece. Next year I’m turning forty, and looking back, I think it was the right thing to do, to record such a multitude of CDs. Sometimes, I’m asking myself whether it’s too many, but right at the same time I get another idea for another project yet.
Whereas on your CDs, unknown repertoire seems to comprise the majority of the arias, not the famous ones.
Jaroussky: I belong to a generation of singers with a faible for concept albums, I’m Generation Concept Album, if you’d like. (laughs) Unavoidably, you encounter a multitude of unknown arias in the process. On the other hand, all the famous arias are famous for a reason – they are incredibly beautiful. And I don’t want to finally sing those once I reach 60, especially as the voice keeps changing as you grow older; it can always turn out to be too late for this one aria. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I’m recording so much.
Your latest project, just released, is an album comprising arias by Händel.
Jaroussky: Obviously, a Händel album isn’t very original. However, I’d guess that the listeners won’t be familiar with about 80 percent of the arias. There is no Giulio Cesare, no Ariodante, no Rinaldo – instead there are arias from “Flavio,””Radamisto,””Tolomeo,””Imeneo”, … famous operas, but not super-famous. I chose the arias with great care, so I didn’t choose overly large numbers for my voice, like it was the case in some former projects of mine, for example on the “Farinelli” album. With the Händel CD, I’m focusing more on the music than on virtuosity.
Is that the reason for the many recitatives on the CD?
Jaroussky: The most important criterion for me to choose the numbers by was whether they are interesting. A recitativo is a nice way to guide the listener to the aria. If you’re only filing aria after aria, a lot might get lost on the way. Händel was a master when it came to composing recitatives. Sometimes they are so expressive and full of energy that they are packing more emotion than the aria itself. Just take the gorgeous “Stille amare” from “Tolomeo,” with its absolutely crazy harmonies! I’m not saying this often, but it is the album I am the most proud of. I think that I stayed exactly within my capabilities. I used to want to venture the 20 percent beyond, and eventually, it would have affected my voice. This year, you’ve been inaugurating your “Académie Musicale Philippe Jaroussky” in Paris – is this one thing you are telling your students there?
Jaroussky: Yes and no. It’s not my intention to teach the pupils and students there how to sing – that’s what their teachers are for. Rather I want to aid them in developing their own vision of what they really want to do, and show them a way.
How was it for you? Did someone help you find your musical path?
Jaroussky: If it hadn’t been for this one teacher in school who told my parents that I absolutely should make music, I wouldn’t have become a singer. So this person changed my life, completely. Maybe, with the “académie,” I want to return just a portion of the opportunities I have been given by this one person. There was a huge portion of luck as well. With 18 years, I started to sing, and by 20, I was singing Nerone in Monteverdi’s “Lincoronazione di Poppea, which was a little crazy.
But apparently it was worth the risk!
Jaroussky: (laughs) Still, I was too young! My mind may have been ready, however, my physical means weren’t. On the other hand, this fearlessness has played to my great advantage: I never felt held-back when I sang, completely different from when I played the violin or the piano. I have met a lot of your artists who are highly talented and musically gifted, but who struggle to jump in at the deep end. As an artist, you have to take the risk.
We haven’t talked about yet another important part of the singing profession yet: acting. Does it come naturally to you?
Jaroussky: I’m not a natural actor, and I’m quite frank about that. However, you can learn the art of acting. I’m watching intensely what my colleagues do, how they move on stage. And I understood one thing: At your rehearsal, when you work with the stage director, you’re becoming their puppet. It’s not your job to question what she or he in the director’s chair is telling you – you just do it and focus on singing.
Let’s take Cecilia Bartoli, who is incredibly versatile and flexible. A director can ask her for the exact opposite of what she has been doing just before. And she just does it! That’s definitely a thing that takes work to learn: being no more than a doll. An opera house is a giant machine, with a multitude of passionate people in all professions. It’s expensive on top of it. A bad production, concerning craft or artistry, simply isn’t an option.
And vice versa: how should a stage director treat the singers?
Jaroussky: They have to understand the singer. It’s possible that during their conception, they had a completely different type of singer in mind. So next is, to adapt their own concept to the singer who’s actually on stage. That means stage directors have to be flexible as well, not just stubbornly pursue their initial idea. For me, what makes a good stage director is to have a clear concept of what they want, but being able to compromise in adapting it, taking into account the possibilities and personalities of the singers. Singers are absolutely different.
Do you feel that as a countertenor, you have more limitations on stage than, let’s say, a soprano, because you have a different technique?
Jaroussky: Not because I’m a countertenor. But we countertenors differ a lot from each other, have different qualities and consequently, different challenges. For my part, I would never sing Giulio Cesare by Händel.
Never or not yet?
Jaroussky: Never! Neither Ariodante. I am very careful in choosing my parts. I need to feel that I can to contribute something new and uncommon to a character. I want to surprise with my role, and offer the audience something they haven’t heard like that before. After all, that’s what makes opera so exciting.
Avec lui, le doute n’est pas permis. Non que la virtuosité vocale et la pyrotechnie soient totalement bannies de l’album. Certains airs – à l’instar de l’impressionnant Agitato da fiere tempeste, de Riccardo Primo, ou de l’ébouriffant Vile, se mi dai vita, de Radamisto – rappellent que le contre-ténor est actuellement en pleine possession de ses moyens vocaux, tant dans l’aigu que dans le médium – même s’il s’est permis, comme c’était monnaie courante à l’époque, quelques transpositions. Une maîtrise qui transparaît d’ailleurs tout autant dans ses reprises da capo, souvent épurées et éthérées. […]
In Arien aus zehn Opern zeigt Jaroussky die unterschiedlichsten menschlich-dramatischen Facetten von Händels Musik – von verführerischem Liebeswerben bis zu rasender Eifersucht, von wütender Verzweiflung bis zu ekstatischem Triumphgesang. Es ist gerade dieser immense Reichtum an psychologischer Figurenzeichnung, der Handel zum auch heute noch erfolgreichsten Meister der Barock-Oper macht – and außerdem Philippe Jarousskys Kunst eine perfekte Bühne bietet. […]
In arias selected from ten operas, Jaroussky highlights the most contrasting human and dramatic facets of Händel’s music – from beguiling courtship to raging jealousy, from desperate tantrums to triumphant ecstasy. The immense richness in psychological character-painting is exactly what makes Händel so popular even today as a master of baroque opera – and at the same time, it lays out a perfect stage for Philippe Jaroussky’s art. […]
20. Oktober 2017
VICTORIA HALL Gent
22. Oktober 2017
7. November 2017
9. November 2011
11. November 2017
HÄNDEL-KONZERTE MIT PHILIPPE JAROUSSKY
“The Händel Album”
ab 6. Oktober im Handel (Erato)
Source/Read more: [x]
(The article is only available in the print edition)
Philippe Jaroussky is at the height of his career. No countertenor is more popular; even the critics love him. He himself steers the interview towards the most important question: Where is he headed for – and what remains?
You’re moving many people very intensely with your singing. Can you actually see that during the concert? Philippe Jaroussky: Yes, I perceive the people in the audience. By the way, that’s an acquired skill for a musician, especially for a singer. You have to really face the people, yet stay within your own center at the same time, and fill the distance to your counterpart. And you mustn’t be afraid of funny faces! Some people really make strange faces, seem critical or distanced, but it’s not as if that means “They don’t like me.” People just look strange at times when they are concentrated or, as you said, touched.
If someone coughs, you cast them a stern look. Is the audience helping or do you wish at times it would just vanish into thin air? Generally speaking, the audience improves an interpretation. That’s why music is always better in concert than it is on CD. With every new program, I try to do two or three concerts at the least before I take it to the recording studio. Only then you know if something you do has the desired effect and you can interpret accordingly in the recording.
The Festspielhaus Baden-Baden is a huge hall. Isn’t it actually too large for your music? Well I have been to Baden-Baden multiple times. The first time really was a bit eerie. The hall has great acoustics, but its dimensions are a challenge. You need to be in peak form. If I woke up with maybe 60 percent of my voice in the morning, I wouldn’t sing there that night. A large hall has certain advantages, but you have to be conscious of it while you perform.
How do you handle? It helps to take two steps back, away from the edge of the apron. It makes the hall appear not quite as large, and that way, the sound reaches people seated at the front sides better. Half a meter makes a huge difference there. It also changes your perspective, and the atmosphere. In 2012, at the concert with baroque arias and duets – together with Marie-Nicole Lemieux – it was fantastic. We were singing everything by heart and were acting a lot, creating an intimacy on stage.
Your next program is going to entirely comprise Händel arias. It doesn’t sound very original to begin with, because Händel is most countertenors’ favorite pick concerning their repertoire. However, I didn’t choose the famous arias, not from “Giulio Cesare,” “Rinaldo,” “Agrippina,” or “Alcina.” Instead, I picked some arias that are lesser known but that I like a lot. There is “Flavio,” “Siroe,” “Tolomeo,” and “Radamisto” – the latter is more famous, but I picked lesser known arias there as well. If a composer is a genius, their genius is showing everywhere. In the most famous Händel operas there are ten to fifteen arias that are all fantastic – “Giulio Cesare” alone has at least twelve popular arias. Other operas may have three or four instead of ten astonishing arias. To discover these is very worthwhile.
About the author: Jutta von Campenhausen is a biologist and scientific journalist. As a child, she sang in the Hannover Girls’ Choir and was playing the violin as well as the piano. Nowadays, she plays the viola in a Hamburg amateur orchestra and is particularly happy when she gets the opportunity to write about music.
Handel composed 42 operas with hundreds of arias. How did you choose? I focused on musical quality, not artistry. The arias I chose in the end all happen within the tessitura where I can do the most with my voice. I wanted to feel secure throughout the range so I can focus on musical quality entirely. That’s something new for me after the past years.
Don’t your repertoire picks always suit your voice? Some programs have been demanding. I don’t like to feel overtaxed concerning my vocal means; I prefer to sing what feels comfortable for myself. I like to have the feeling that I’m well prepared and have given the best of myself – that’s what the audience deserves.
How do you prepare? I need time to achieve the best I’m capable of. If you have to sing Fiordiligi in “Così fan tutte” for the first time, you won’t start practicing a week before the concert either. I like to take my time to diligently prepare the repertoire. What I appreciate about the Händel program: I’ve been working on it for long, then polished it in fourteen concerts; now I give it some rest. By the time I’ll pick it up again for Baden-Baden, I’m going to have a certain distance, and it is going to be pure joy in making music.
When you practise, what do you work on? During the last ten years, I’ve been working hard to get the sound as harmonious and free as possible. Nowadays, I’m much more comfortable when I sing than five years ago. There are countertenors who have bigger voices. However, my voice suffices to fill a hall. I’ve become more relaxed in that respect – and the voice sounds better when you’re relaxed. If you want to shine in some phrases, you have to do them one-hundred, two-hundred times at the rehearsal room to be calm on stage. That’s hard. And that’s why singing is so interesting for me as well – you learn a lot about yourself. You get to know yourself. What you can do and what you cannot.
[Caption:] In the most intimate dialogue with the music, there is always a silent player. Philippe Jaroussky is convinced: He is never better than with an audience.
You learned the violin as well. Do you still play? A little. I have a love-hate relationship to the violin. I am always going to remain a violinist; I’ve learned a lot on the violin. At the same time, however, the instrument gives me the feeling to have failed. I didn’t reach my goal; it has always been frustrating. They kept telling me: you are a good musician, but a bad technician.
Now you are planning to set up an academy for young musicians. Yes! The Académie Jaroussky opens with the start of this season on the outskirts of Paris. I have been doing my job for 20 years now, and there are plenty of people who support me. The chances that I had, the possibilities people offered me, that’s what I want to return. I am convinced that now, at the height of my career, it is when I can do that best, pass it on to young talents. However, the Académie isn’t only a project that is going to run for a year. Maybe it even outlives me – it is the greatest project of my life.
How is the Académie going to work? The Académie has two main focuses: We work with children from seven to twelve from backgrounds that don’t have any real contact with classical music. We’re covering everything: instrument, lessons and we offer our experience. The other branch is more traditional: There are master classes for young talents from 18 to 25. I am going to spend days listening to others, to feel their energy, their personalities.
What makes you excited about giving lessons? Teaching is very interesting for me. It’s also very rewarding for me. In others, you perceive more clearly what is beneficial and what isn’t. On top of it, it’s exciting to accompany young singers. I have been giving master classes in the past. With one working phase, they are a nice experience for the student, but they are going to forget. About 80 percent of what you try to convey doesn’t stick. That’s why at the academy, we’ll have three appointments a year, and we’ll be spending a week with each other – and that’s great. It’s not only going to be about vocal technique, but also to find out what the students really want to do. Finding out what repertoire suits them best. It’s about supporting musicians at the beginning of their careers, just as I have been supported. It’s a great responsibility and a privilege.
What is your message for young talents? Don’t try to do more than you are capable of! Don’t try to express more than you can. Don’t try to lend more significance to a phrase that maybe isn’t as dramatic at all. It’s not easy – it takes a lot of patience.