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Thread: Baroque Opera CD/DVD Without Countertenors

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    Default Baroque Opera CD/DVD Without Countertenors

    This is a thread to advise on good Baroque opera recordings, both CD and DVD, that do not have countertenors, male altos, or male sopranos. The purpose of this thread is to help those who prefer to avoid these unusual voice ranges for men. I have struggled at times to determine if a recording is actually free of countertenors and such because the back of the box does not always list all singers, or even their vocal category.

    I also wish that the recording companies would have a warning sticker on the CD wrapper:

    WARNING: "Contains males with higher than tenor voices."

    Note that I am not TOTALLY against Countertenors as I do like James Bowman in the Chandos sung-in-English Julius Caesar, but that is the ONLY one I care for.
    Last edited by Fritz Kobus; Jun-30-2019 at 19:19.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    Ok this one looks good, at least from the singers listed on the back, but sometimes there are more singers and a countertenor is slipped in--however, one would HOPE that a singer not listed on the back would have a MINOR part so as not to spoil the recording.

    The two men listed (Zanasi and Abete) are baritone and bass (according to results of Google searching).
    Last edited by Fritz Kobus; Jun-30-2019 at 19:16.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz Kobus View Post
    This is a thread to advise on good Baroque opera recordings, both CD and DVD, that do not have countertenors, male altos, or male sopranos. The purpose of this thread is to help those who prefer to avoid these unusual voice ranges for men.
    Those voices are common for Baroque opera, and I don't know why anyone has a problem with them. Please elaborate.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
    Those voices are common for Baroque opera, and I don't know why anyone has a problem with them. Please elaborate.
    I don’t have a problem with countertenors per se - the problem, for me, is that too many of those in complete Handel recordings sound like third-rate mezzos.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
    Those voices are common for Baroque opera, and I don't know why anyone has a problem with them. Please elaborate.
    The problem is that most of the roles were written for castrati and a counter tenor is not such a creature. The castrati had, apparently, amazing agility and breath control due to their freakish chest development. For the Farinelli film they digitally 'crossed' a mezzo with a counter tenor to try and reproduce what he might have sounded like.



    We have no idea whether this was anything like Farinelli. As the whole movie is a series of untruths I doubt it
    Of course, Handel himself sometimes used female singers in his trouser roles. I have no problem with a good counter tenor like Daniels in Rinaldo but I must confess a good mezzo will do every time instead.
    Try this one. Guaranteed Counter tenor free and some glorious singing:

    alcina.jpg
    Last edited by DavidA; Jun-30-2019 at 20:43.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Personally, I can't really imagine baroque opera without countertenors. Though they often sing roles that were once assigned to the castrati, many roles in baroque operas were written for countertenors.

    It'd be like wanting to see Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream with a female singer in the role of Oberon.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    Personally, I can't really imagine baroque opera without countertenors. Though they often sing roles that were once assigned to the castrati, many roles in baroque operas were written for countertenors.
    I don’t believe that’s correct. Countertenors sang as choristers, and as oratorio soloists, not in opera, which was dominated by castrati.

    It'd be like wanting to see Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream with a female singer in the role of Oberon.
    No, it isn’t. Britten wrote the role specifically for the countertenor voice, with a specific singer in mind, because he wanted exactly that sound.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    I don’t believe that’s correct. Countertenors sang as choristers, and as oratorio soloists, not in opera, which was dominated by castrati.
    You're probably right. I'm sure I read somewhere that some roles were written for countertenors. Maybe I was thinking of the orotorios, which are often staged these days, of course.

    That said, there are some amazing countertenors around these days, and I'm quite happy to hear them in Baroque opera.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    I don’t have a problem with countertenors per se - the problem, for me, is that too many of those in complete Handel recordings sound like third-rate mezzos.
    I have literally never heard a countertenor on a recording without thinking to myself, "who is this godawful mezzo?" and realizing the issue after the fact.

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    I agree with everyone who has posted so far! Castrati roles present a problem as the voice type they were written for no longer exists. There are some good countertenor around today (Iestyn Davies being my favourite) and I am happy to hear them in staged Handel operas. However I prefer mezzos in general in Handel as they tend to have fuller, richer voices.

    N.

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