French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky - 'a golden voice' in the words of Le Figaro - has recorded music written for the castrato Farinelli. Composer Nicola Porpora, who became celebrated around Europe, was Farinelli's mentor and teacher. This new album Arias for Farinelli by Nicola Porpora, Jaroussky's first release for the recently relaunched Erato label, includes two duets featuring Cecilia Bartoli and presents highlights from seven of Porpora's operas.
'Over all the time I have been singing I have been somewhat hesitant about tackling the repertoire of the legendary Farinelli', explains Jaroussky, described by the German newspaper Die Zeit as 'the Apollo of countertenors'. 'Instead, I have preferred to turn the spotlight on the careers of other castrati who are less well known to the general public, as I did for Carestini a few years ago'. (The album Carestini: The Story of a Castrato, was released by Virgin Classics in 2007, welcomed by Classic FM Magazine as 'a superb disc that excites and moves in equal measure' and led to Jaroussky's 2008 Echo Klassik Award as Singer of the Year.) 'Since then', continues Jaroussky, 'having had the opportunity to perform some arias written for Farinelli, I found that they suited me far better than I could have imagined - particularly those written by Nicola Porpora, known in his time not only as a composer, but also as one of the great singing teachers.'
The most famous pupil of the Neapolitan Porpora (1686-1768) was none other than Farinelli himself, who was born in 1705 in Puglia. The first of Porpora's fifty operas were performed in Naples in 1708 and his career took him to such cities as Rome, Venice, Vienna, Dresden and London, where he became a rival to Handel.
Jaroussky, a keen musicologist who likes to research his own material, explains that 'Despite the lack of historical sources, we can presume that Farinelli was still a child when he first got to know Porpora, and that the composer's views had a strong influence on the decision to castrate the young prodigy. Subsequently, over long years of apprenticeship, it was Porpora who was responsible for shaping the young castrato's technique and musical tastes'.
The majority of the numbers on this album - all in editions by musicologist Susanne Kessler, who collaborated with Philippe Jaroussky and fellow countertenor Max Emmanuel Cencic on their 2011 release Duetti - have never before appeared on record. Making a special guest appearance in duets from Polifemo and Mitridate is mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, who told The New York Times that 'When I heard Philippe Jaroussky for the first time, I was struck by his musicality and sensibility ... There is a beauty in his phrasing, and a delicacy in his soul, that touches the listener profoundly'. The singing is accompanied by the Venice Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon, noted by Gramophone for directing 'vivid, strongly etched performances that often reach fiery intensity'.
While virtuosity was crucial to Farinelli's vocal style and to Porpora's musical vocabulary, Jaroussky points out that 'When I studied Porpora's manuscripts I found that some of the arias were gentle and often very lyrical. I think that it is in these arias in particular that we can sense the composer's affection for the castrato - and the finest example is Alto Giove [from Polifemo] ... The legend of Farinelli lives on today. It is high time for the world to find out more about the man who created it'.
The countertenor Philippe Jaroussky has established himself as one of the major singers in the international musical world. His technique allows him the most audacious nuances and impressive pyrotechnics. Jaroussky has an extremely large repertoire in the baroque area, from the refinements of the Italian seicento with Monteverdi, Sances and Rossi to the staggering brilliance of Handel or Vivaldi's music. Philippe Jaroussky has lately decided to explore a very different repertoire, both contemporary and modern, with the pianist Jerôme Ducros.
Jaroussky has worked with the most renowned baroque orchestras such as Ensemble Matheus, Les Arts Florissants, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Le Concert d'Astrée, L'Arpeggiata, Le Cercle de l'Harmonie and Europa Galante, with conductors such as William Christie, Jean-Christophe Spinosi, Marc Minkowski, René Jacobs, Christina Pluhar, Jérémie Rhorer, Emmanuelle Haïm, Jean-Claude Malgoire and Fabio Biondi.
Posted: 24 August 2013
by Victor Orive-Martin
Whilst Music & Vision strives for accuracy in everything published,
we can accept no responsibility for textual inaccuracy.