The Story of a Castrato
Listen to this for: Porpora, Handel, Hasse and co.
Shortly after buying Venezia, I spotted this album with its cover image of a brooding masked figure. It was my introduction to the French singer Philippe Jaroussky: his delicate, clear soprano was an eye-opener, different from Cencic’s voice but equally stunning. It was sheer chance that I started out with an album by each of them, but it was fitting: they’re the two current superstars of this field and their voices represent the two ‘types’ of countertenor that you tend to hear: the high sopranos and the lower, richer mezzos. This album appealed because it was structured around music connected with one particular castrato, which gave me a context to follow its ‘story’. I’d assumed that the Handel tracks would be the highlights for me, but from the very beginning they had serious rivals. Certainly, I liked the virtuoso Sta nell’ircana from Handel’s Alcina (where I kept thinking, ‘When is he actually breathing?’) and the exquisitely yearning Mi Lusinga from the same opera, but I also loved Se Mai Senti from Hasse’s La Clemenza di Tito, which is very beautiful.