The countertenor voice has existed, in some form or another, since at least the Middle Ages. The terminology of what a "countertenor" is, however, has become clouded. This author's definition holds a countertenor to mean either:
I offer further distinctions in Countertenors of the World, which follows. Other reliable sources for discussion of the countertenor voice include the three books on the topic written by Peter Giles, Alfred Deller's biography A Singularity of Voice, the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and Todd McComb's excellent discussion at his homepage (listed below).
In addition, many countertenors can be found in concert and on record, even in the United States. Communicating with the performers or checking liner notes can be very interesting and informative. You could also look at some of the following sites:
The bulk of this site is devoted to COUNTERTENORS OF THE WORLD, a sizable directory of mini-biographies about many of the world's leading countertenors. If you're a countertenor devotée who'd like to learn more about these artists, click here.
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COUNTERTENORS OF THE WORLD
This is my little contribution to the world of countertenors. I made the switch to singing countertenor just a few years ago, and I love it. Since there is so much talk of countertenors on the Web, and since I love the topic so much, I figured that I ought to compile a list of modern countertenors.
This list is not exhaustive, and it is ever-changing, but I'd like to think that it is fairly comprehensive. And I'm always open to suggestions for additions (though it may take me a while to update).
So, here goes...
I've classified singers as:
This is the term that is sometimes used, especially in English churches, for what many people call a true "countertenor" or "alt" or "contre-ténor." Essentially, these are many who sing almost exclusively in their upper register ("falsettist" is such an ugly term.)
This is a breed that is becoming increasingly common. Assumably, there are hundreds of men in every country who have unusually high voices, many whose voices "never broke". Of course, this begins to blur the line between who are simply high male voices and who are "natural castrati" (see below). There IS a fine line, and, as is often true, terminology is not necessarily important. In any case, these types of singers are less inhibited now to show their true colors, and they are often called upon to sing soprano arias and/or soprano castrati roles.
I really like the latter term, because these aren't ordinary tenors. They are high tenors, typically with light voices, who have virtually no registers or "breaks" in their voices. This allows them to sing with an often androgynous tone, quite suitable for parts written for "haute-contre", another name for this voice type. In many cases, though, these singers took such parts in the past, whereas, in more recent years, they may have been singing ordinary tenor or baritone parts,
Alessandro Moreschi was reputedly the last "created" castrato, though undoubtedly many exist yet today. Surely eunuchs are still created in many parts of the world, but generally not to become singers (the full story of eunuchs is beyond the scope of this site). There are, however, men whose hormones never fully allowed some secondary sex characteristics to develop, including their larynxes. For this reason, they can be called "natural" or "endocrinological" castrati.
I am indebted to Andreas Kopp, for his oustanding Male Soprano Page, which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the subject (plug-plug). I also thank everyone who asked questions and made comments or suggestions; you have helped to shape this list. These people include (but are not limited to):
I am always looking for ways to upgrade this page, so if you have information about any of the following singers, please e-mail me. Thank you.
Kyle Cheeseborough (U.S.)
Robert Crowe (U.S.)
Benoit Thîvel (Fr.)
Michael Kilian (?)
Armand Gavrilidès (Fr.)
Christian Immler (?)
Martin Wölfel (Ger.)
Johnny Maldonado (U.S.)
Bernard Py (?)
Jean-Yves Guerry (?)
Bejun Mehta (U.S.)
Mark Crayton (U.S.)
Erik Kurmangeliev (?)
Paul Texel (Fr.)
Alain Aubin (Fr.)
S. Goubioud (?)
Nadir Elie (?)
Yaskov Zamir (U.S.)
Rodney Gilchrist (Australia)
Yaroslav Zdorov (?)
Alexander Plust (Ger.)
William Parsons (U.S.?)
Andre Sanpaio (?)
Joseph Sage (?)
David Shepphard (England)
Stephen Carter (England)
Back to Countertenors of the World
Angel, Ryland (England?)
Mr. Angel is becoming increasingly popular in England and on the Continent. In 1996 he appeared in the title role of Amadigi at the Karlsruhe Festival, and in 1998, with English National Opera in Purcell's The Fairy Queen and in the new opera Dr. Ox's Experiment. He also sang with the Netherlands' Theater de Flint in Händel's Rodelinda.
Asawa, Brian (United States)
Became all the rage after winning at the National Met Auditions in 1991. Mr. Asawa now has engagements all over the globe through 1997. His large range and vocal power (he sounds rather like a good mezzo) allow him to exploit a variety of repertoire. He has given successful recitals in New York and other cities, and he was featured as Baba the Turk in a made-for-TV version of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (bizarre to watch).
Asawa is also becoming a sought-after singer for Händelian opera: Recent engagements have included Arsamenes in Xerxes (with Seattle Opera and Drew Minter) and Tolomeo in Giulio Cesare (under Ivor Bolton). During the 1998-99 season, Asawa will become one of a handful of countertenors (alongside David Daniels) to have sung at the Met; not surprisingly, it is in Cesare.
He can also be heard on McGegan's 1993 recording of Judas Maccabbeus,as Oberon (opposite Sylvia McNair) in Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream(Philips). In addition, Asawa's solo debut, The Dark Is My Delight, (featuring English lute songs), was released in 1997. His second disc is a recital of art music, concentrating on famous vocalises; it is due for release soon.
Balconi, Roberto (Italy)
Signore Balconi has distinguished himself as impressive interpreter of Baroque opera. Numerous performances in Europe have received high praise. His recording credits include both operas and sacred music of the Baroque: The Colonna Nisi Dominus with Ensemble Arte Musica (Tactus), Stradella's Cantate per il S.S. Natale (Stradivarius), Traetta's Buovo d'Antona with the Veneto Teatro la Fenice Orchestra (also featuring Howard Crook and Giuseppe Zambon--on Opus 111), and Monteverdi's Poppea with John Eliot Gardiner (Archiv).
Bertin, Pascal (France)
Rather popular in France, M. Bertin has a pleasant, ordinary "alto" voice, with a bit of extra "edge" on it. He has recorded Handel's Amadigi with Marc Minkowski (Erato) and sings often with Minkowski's Les Musiciens du Louvre. Bertin also did some award-winning performances with A Sei Voci and has performed a wide variety of early music, specializing in French repertoire. (Also one of the "Three Countertenors" on that spoof recording.
Benabdeslam, Rachid (Morocco)
Born in 1961, Benabdeslam became the first African admitted to the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris. He trained there as a countertenor, achieving first prize. Since graduation, Benabdeslam has sung with Opéra Lyon and with the Magdeburg Telemann Festival. In the fall of '98, Benabdeslam solos with William Christie in Israel in Egypt, and in 1999 he will sing twice in Bordeaux, as Nireno in Cesare and as Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream. His future seems bright.
Blaze, Robin (England)
Blaze is a rising star on the English music scene. He performs, or has performed, with the Oxford Camerata, Red Byrd, I Fagiolini, Fretwork, King's Consort, Collegium Vocale Ghent, Lisbon Opera, the Northern Sinfonia, and the Dufay Consort. 1998/99 engagements include Händel's Il trionfo... at the London Händel Festival and Rinaldo in January of 1999.
On CD, Mr. Blaze can be heard with the Dufay Consort in music of Obrecht (Dervorguilla DRV CD 102), with the Parley of Instruments singing Blow anthems (Hyperion CDA 67031), with Paul McCreesh in Music for San Rocco (Archiv), and in the Boyce opera Peleus and Thetis (Hyperion CDA 66935). (As a matter of interest, Blaze also recorded an album as a treble in 1981, probably now out of print.)
Bowman, James (England)
One of the most important modern countertenors, Bowman has been on the international scene for over thirty years. I addition to having had a key role in the Early Music Consort of London, Bowman has performed and recorded hundreds of pieces from the 16th through 20th centuries. He specializes in Händel and Purcell and has done a good deal to revive their music. Bowman also created the (short) role of Apollo in Britten's A Death in Venice and sang Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream. A unique voice--sweet, though rather "covered."
Bowman has recorded with virtually every major early-music ensemble in Europe. Especially noteworthy are his early recordings with David Munrow (in the 70's), as they were landmarks of their time. In addition, Bowman has taken part in the massive project of recording Purcell's vocal and choral music with Robert King (Hyperion). Also with King, he can be heard in several Händel oratorios, and a very good solo disc is his collection of Händel arias ("Heroic Arias") on Hyperion.
Boyce, Gary (United States)
Boyce is one for whom contemporary composers love to write. He took part in the world premiere of Peter Ötvös's Three Sisters, playing the part of Natasha, and he sang Hsuan-Tsang in Peter Schat's Aap verslatt de Knekelgeest in Enschene, Netherlands.
Brett, Charles (England)
A popular soloist in the 1970's and 80's, Mr. Brett's voice sounds typical of the English altos of that time--capable of great delicacy, and a rather "hooty" tone. Brett recorded Rinaldo with Raymond Leppard (Sony Classical) and Messiah with John Eliot Gardiner (Philips). I find him better in opera recitative than anywhere else. Brett has now become a prominent teacher and director in England.
Burgess, Grayston (England)
Burgess directed, and sang with, the Purcell Consort of Voices, an important English early-music ensemble active in the 60's and 70's. A contemporary of Alfred Deller, Burgess was a pioneer in the resurgence of countertenors during his time. His performance in Semele in 1958 was groundbreaking. Burgess sang with the Deller and succeeded Russell Oberlin in the role of Oberon.
Cencic, Max Emanuel (France)
Cencic is a young Austrian countertenor. He has sung and recorded a variety of repertoire, most of it pre-Classical, of course. Cencic can be heard on recordings of The Creation, Messiah, and the Mozart Requiem, all on Capriccio.
Chambers, Mark (England)
The young Mr. Chambers is a member of the Binchois Consort, an up-and-coming ensemble that records for Hyperion Records. He also sang solo in the Somerset Chamber Choir's Voyage From Venice.
Chance, Michael (England)
One of my personal favorites: a voice of sweetness, smoothness, and great security--rather androgynous. He does not possess tremendous resonance, but has ample agility and a rich, warm voice. Chance has recorded a good deal of Händel and Bach, including the St. John Passion with John Eliot Gardiner and the Grammy-winning Semele with John Nelson; he has recorded with Fretwork, the Taverner Consort, and the Tallis Scholars; and oratorio-viewers have seen him in L'Allegro (with Jane Glover) and Jephtha (with Martin Neary).
Colman, Frank (England)
Now deceased, Colman was an English alto/sopranist who made some recordings in the first half of the century. Those, along with recordings by his contemporaries, are available on a relatively new CD.
Collver, Michael (United States)
Founder and director of Pittsburgh's acclaimed Ensemble Project Ars Nova (P.A.N.), Collver sings countertenor with the group, in addition to playing a number of early instruments. He is also on the faculty at Longy School of Music in Massachusetts.
Cordier, David (Germany/England)
Cordier records a fair amount of Baroque and late Renaissance music; credits include the Monteverdi Vespers with Frieder Bernius (hm), the St. Matthew Passion with Leonhardt (DHM), Musical Dreame (lute songs, with other singers, on Hyperion), and World of the Castrati (Capriccio).
Crowe, Robert (Uinted States)
Crowe was only the second countertenor to be a finalist in the Met Opera Council National Audtions. Following that, he had several engagements in the U.S., including the role of Sesto in Virginia Opera's Cesare (Koch International Classics).
Cunningham, Richard (Canada)
A grad of the University of Toronto, Cunningham has sung with several world-renowned groups, including the English Concert, Tafelmusik, and the Taverner Choir. For several years, he has also been the director of Ontario's Renaissance Singers, with whom he has recorded two CD's--Sing Joyfully and Christmas in a Northern Land. Presently, Cunningham directs choirs at St. Andrew's Church in Bentford and sings with the early-music group Tactus.
Dalton, Andrew (Australia)
Dalton is one of a crop of Aussie countertenors garnering attention. One of his only recording credits appears to be a disc of highlights from Giulio Cesare with Australian Opera, conducted by Richard Hickox (Australian Broadcasting Company Records). Elsewhere, he was alto soloist in the Melbourne Symphony's St. John Passion and he will reprise his Tolomeo for Brisbane Lyric Theatre's Cesare in October 1998.
Dalton, Timothy (England)
An occasional soloist with English "early music" directors, especially John Eliot Gardiner, Dalton can be heard as a soloist on a disc of Purcell songs (with Michael Chance, Etcetera Records). An English alto who's just a cut above. (Did not star in a James Bond film.)
Daniels, David (United States)
Not only the hottest countertenor in the U.S., perhaps the hottest countertenor in the world, and one of the hottest singers of any fach on this continent. Daniels's breakthrough came as Nero in Glimmerglass Opera's Poppea. Since then, he has reprised the role (including a stint in Miami, with fellow CT Artur Stefanowicz), and has sung Hamor in Händel's Jephthe. His recent recitals warranted critical acclaim, and, like young Brian Asawa, Daniels's engagements are rapidly mounting, including Sesto in the Met's 1999 Giulio Cesare. His first CD is forthcoming on Virgin.
Daniels was the first countertenor to receive the prestigious Richard Tucker Prize (1997), another feather in the cap of this young countertenor who originally trained as a tenor at the University of Michigan. For the Gala, which was broadcast on PBS, Daniels serves as TV host, and he sang two arias, one of which was Rossini, a repertoire that Daniels loves to sing.
As a performer, Daniels truly has it all--a powerful voice, smooth registration, strong stage presence, good looks, and great expresiveness. He is the one who, even more than Kowalski or Asawa, is the harbinger of operatic countertenors. The standard that he has set is rather exciting.
Davidson, Angus (England)
A frequent soloist with the Tavrner Consort and the Gabrieli Consort, Davidson has developed a high, strong upper range. One of my favorites for late-Renaissance Venetian church music, which he records often. Davidson has also been an integral member of The Scholars Baroque Ensemble, which has released numerous recordings on Naxos, including Messiah and the Monteverdi Vespers.
Deller, Alfred (England)
The original. Alfred Deller put countertenors on the map during the 50's and 60's. He began as a popular church soloist, then moved to the concert stage and was a huge success. He spearheaded a revival of madrigals and of Purcell's music with his Deller Consort. He has a huge discography, which can be found in his biography, A Singularity of Voice. Deller also created the role of Oberon in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream perhaps the most important modern role for countertenor.
Deller's was not consistently the most pleasing voice, which seems to me rather covered and throaty, but his pianissimos were grand. Moreover, his feel for style was very acute, and his musicological talents were commendable. All countertenors (and, indeed, early-music singers) owe him a debt of gratitude.
Deller, Mark (England)
The son of Alfred Deller, Mark continued in his father's footsteps. He trained as a countertenor (I sometimes find his voice more pleasing than his father's) and often sang duets with his father. He took over the Deller Consort, though it did not thrive as readily under his leadership.
Dooley, Jeffrey (United States)
Dooley studied in Europe for a time, but has done most of his performing and recording in the U.S. He can be heard with such decidedly American groups as Joshua Rifkin's Bach Ensemble (Bach B Minor on Nonesuch), the Anthony Newman and the Brandenburg Collegium (Bach St. John Passion on Newport Classics), and the Amor Artis Orchestra (Händel's Acis and Galatea , also on Newport).
Dugardin, Steve (Netherlands)
Dugardin has been made known through performances with William Christie's Les Arts Florissants. With that group, he has recorded Monteverdi's Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and Charpentier's Descente d'Orphee aux Enfers, and, with Gérard Lesne, he recorded the Couper Lecons de tenebre pour Mercredi Saint. Other performance credits include both Bach Passions (with the Ricercar Consort) and the role of Alessandro in Tolomeo at the Royal Flemish Theatre.
Esswood, Paul (England)
Another important trailblazer, Esswood first trained as a tenor, then studied CT at the Royal College of Music. Currently he is on the faculty of the Wales National Conservatoire, and he serves as clinician and lecturer at several schools and festivals. As a singer, Esswood has been active in performing and recording for over 25 years. He has concentrated largely on Bach, including a series of complete cantata recordings and an exquisite St. Matthew Passion, both with Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Teldec).
As to be expected, Esswood has also sung Händel (e.g., Arsamene in Malgoire's Xerxes) and Purcell (a disc of Purcell songs on Hyperion). Beyond that, Mr. Esswood has never feared venturing into new territory, as with a CD of Schumann song cycles (Hungaraton) and creating the title role in Philip Glass's Akhnaten (Sony Classical). A pleasing voice, with a slight edge and a constant vibrato.
Expert, Robert (France)
Expert is a sought-after soloist in France, but seems little-known outside of Western Europe. His performance credits include a solo concert in Luçon in 1996, an organ/voice recxital in Aisne, and the role of Unulfo in Theater de Flint's Rodelinda.
Fast, Allan (Canada)
A graduate of Montreal's McGill University, the late Mr. Fast performed and recorded in Canada and the United States. While at McGill, Fast worked with Mary Cyr, and he recorded a CD of Buxtehude cantatas. Following that, he has continued to perform a good deal of Bach, recording a disc of Bach cantatas with Joshua Rifkin (L'oiseau-Lyre).
Fitch, Kenneth (United States)
An important singer in the Bay Cities area of California, Mr. Fitch was a long-time member of Chanticleer--a voice of unusual clarity and power. He sang for a brief time with the Schola Discantus Singers (Echoes of Jeanne d'Arc, Lyrichord), but he can be heard perhaps at his best on Chanticleer's Mexican Baroque (Teldec).
Gall, Jeffrey (United States)
A frequent soloist in the United States, Gall has performed in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and at several early-music festivals. Most recently he has been a teacher and performer in the Chicago area; he has now taken over responsibilities as a Professor of Music at Montclair State in New Jersey. Though trained in the U.S., Gall has also done significant work in Europe. There he recorded two spectacular Händel operas: Flavio with René Jacobs (harmonia mundi) and Teseo with Marc Minkowski (WEA/Elektra Classics). Gall's panache have also landed him roles in Jommeli's La schiave liberata and Vivaldi's Orlando furioso (with Marilyn Horne).
Due to his intelligence, his unflagging technique, his formidable stage presence, and his musical sensitivity (shall I go on?), Gall has always been in demand for stage and concert performances. He has also been one of the few countertenors to make a serious bid for major operatic stages. Many consider him the overall most talented (active) countertenor in the United States.
Giles, Peter (England)
Mr. Giles retired a few years ago as Senior Lay Clerk at Canterbury Cathedral, where he had been an important soloist and leader for many years. In addition, Mr. Giles has been an influential voice teacher and music historian. Most significant, however, are his three outstanding books on the countertenor voice:
Hariades, Nicholas (?)
Hariades is becoming more prevalent in Baroque opera in Central Europe. His stage credits include the role of Ernesto in Haydn's Il mondo dela luna (with the Haydn Orchestra, of course) and a part in Händel's Trionfo in Heidelberg.
Harre-Jones, Robert (England)
An on-and-off member of the Tallis Scholars, Jones has also recorded with the Gabrieli Consort (Archiv), the Orlando Consort (Metronome and Archiv) and other early-music groups, wherein he sometimes sings soprano falsettist parts. In addition to recordings by the aforementioned groups, Mr. Jones is a soloist on Robert King's recording of Händel's Acis and Galatea (Hyperion). Mr. Jones is also the director of choirs at St. Bride's Church in London, with whom he has recorded for Naxos Records.
Hodgson, Frederick (England)
Hodgson is a venerable English alto. Now aged beyond 90, he still performs occasionally. He made several recordings with the BBC in the 1950's and 60's and was later made a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal.
Hurley, David (England)
Hurley has sung with the Gabrieli Consort and other early-music choirs. He is currently the "lead countertenor" with the King's Singers. In addition to his wonderful singing with that group, Hurley can be heard in top form on the "falsettist" duet (McCreesh's term, not mine) "O Maria, quae raptis corda hominum" on the double CD A Venetian Coronation (Archiv).
Jacobs, René (Belgium)
A major player on the early-music scene for a number of years, Jacobs (that's "yah-KAWBS") was also one of the originators in the resurgence of countertenors. His timbre is an acquired taste, though his technique is undeniably good. Jacobs has performed and recorded a good deal of Händel and French Baroque music. As director of Ensemble 415 and Collegium Vocale he has done some splendid work, recording numerous Baroque operas and sacred works. As a soloist, Jacobs has recorded some of the Couperin Leçons de Tenebre (hm), Händel's Partenope with La Petite Bande (Sony), Bach alto cantatas (harmonia mundi), and a vast array of French Baroque opera. Most of his recordings, as singer or director, can be found on harmonia mundi. Jacobs also deserves respect as teacher at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, where Andreas Scholl studied with him.
David James (England)
Mr. James has been the core of the Hilliard Ensemble for a number of years, and his distinctive tone has been one fo the reasons that the Hilliards have succeeded in a wide variety of repertoire. As a solo performer, he has recorded with the London Early Music Goup, the Sixteen (Messiah on Hyperion) and the Academy of Ancient Music (L'oiseau-Lyre), amongst others.
Jennings, Joseph (United States)
On-and-off Musical Director for Chanticleer, Mr. Jennings writes and arranges a fair amount of their music--mostly spirituals. He has also sung tenor and countertenor with the group.
Josey, Christopher (Australia)
Josey is one of several young countertenors from Australia. He has sung several roles with Australian Opera, including Oberon in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Tolomeo in last year's Giulio Cesare. Josey reprised his Oberon in Europe, and, while there sang with Les Arts Florissants, performing and recording Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie. Josey has also trained and concertized as a tenor, but his success will likely remain in the countertenor range. Upcoming engagements include Ottone in Poppea and Goffredo in their Rinaldo.
Kagan-Palei, Vyacheslav (Russia?)
Kagan-Palei has concertized and recorded for some years, but is only beginning to find international notoriety. In 1989 he recorded a CD for Melodiya--Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, of all things. Following that, he joined with Oleg Riabets to record Vivaldi for Olympia Records. In 1998 he has been seen on the operatic stage as in Broomhill Festival Opera's tolomeo and as Masha in Peter Ötvos's Three Sisters.
Kenny, Jonathan Peter (England)
A frequent soloist with John Eliot Gardiner, Kenny possesses a voice of sweetness and considerable power. As such, his engagements have been many, including stints with the English National Opera, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Opera Factory (Zurich), and Glimmerglass Opera (New York). Kenny is a specialist in Händelian opera, having sung in Serse, Flavio, Tamerlano, Orlando, and Rodelinda.
Mr. Kenny can be heard on Gardiner's Agrippina (Händel) and his latest recording of Israel in Egypt (both on Philips), and in Robert King's Deborah (Hyperion Records). Non-Händel recordings include a CD of Bach cantatas with Harnoncourt (Teldec), Odes and Welcome Songs by Piurcell (Hyperion CDA 66412), and Buxtehude cantatas (Channel Classics 7895). In addition, Kenny has had a busy schedule recently, with performances of Händel's Amadigi (Opera Theatre Company Dublin production) and Saul (David) under Peter Neumann.
Köhler, Axel (Germany)
Köhler has the distinction of being one of those crossover artists. He originally sang baritone, and, that failing, switched to countertenor, where he has achieved substantial success--notably in his debut (Tamerlano) and on Monteverdi's Poppea with Jacobs. More recently, Köhler has had little shortage of time on stage, performing in numerous Händel works, such as Messiah (with Max Pommer) and Tolomeo (with Howard Arman).
Kowalski, Jochen (Germany)
Possessing a voice of great power and drama, Kowalski has recorded a wide variety of repertoire for Capriccio Records--from Bach and Händel to Mendelssohn and Orff. Kowalski, perhaps more than any other modern countertenor, has put the voice type on the map. Since his technique and stage presence are so good, since he has performed a good deal of "non-early" repertoire, and since he has graced the stages of several major opera houses, Kowalski has made the case for the countertenor's being a "normal" and acceptable voice.
Kowalski's tone can be rather "throaty" and unusually heavy for a countertenor, but it is a hefty, well-rounded voice, and his technique is beyond reproach. In addition to his frequent performing, Kowalski recently served as narrator of the PBS production Reluctant Angels, a special about the castrati.
Lazzara, Marco (Italy)
One of a growing number of Italian countertenors, Signore Lazzara has graced the stages of several European opera houses. Not surprisingly, his specialty is Baroque opera, and he has been heard in Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria and Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice.
Lesne, Gérard (France)
One of the most popular countertenors in France, Lesne has performed with Ensemble Organum and has made numerous solo recordings of 17th- and 18th-century cantatas, including discs of Bononcini (Virgin Veritas), Bach (with Herreweghe, on Harmonia Mundi), Caldara (Virgin Veritas), and Vivaldi (ADDA). Lesne has also recorded Carmina Burana with Michel Plasson, and Vivaldi's L'Olympiade (Nuovo Era). Also noteworthy are Lesne numerous performance ans recordings with Il Seminario Musicale, a group that he found in the 19080's.
Possibly Lesne's biggest contribution has been to the ever-growing revival of works from the French Baroque. His association with William Christie has brought great benefits to all involved, including us as listeners. His role in Charpentier's David et Jonathas and his solo work in Lully's Petits motets show why he is one of the most respected and beloved countertenors in France, if not on the whole continent.
Link, Brian (United States)
Like Köhler, Brian Link has sung (and still sings) as a baritone, tenor, and countertenor. Brian now lives in Minneapolis, where he sings with several local churches and ensembles. He also has been a soloist with Ex Machina baroque opera company and has had frequent solo engagements with major American early music groups. With Twin Cities plucked-string player Phillip Rukavina, he is part of Duo Barbi, which has likewise performed all over the country. As a director, Mr. Link has led the Waltham Abbey Singers, Ensemble Polaris, and his most recent venture, Collegium V, a five-member, all-male group. (You're welcome, Brian.)
Lipnik, Larry (United States)
A native of New York, Mr. Lipnik regularly performs in New England and has recorded for years with the Waverly Consort. His group "Lionheart" has recorded a CD of early English music for Nimbus Records.
Marschall, Werner (Germany)
Marschall has sung as tenor and countertenor, mostly in and around Berlin. He is heavily associated with Capella Fidicinia, with whom he recorded Scutz's Scwanengesang and Monteverdi's Vespers (Berlin Classics). Additionally, he cna be heard in Boismortier's Ixion (Koch).
Mehta, Bejun (United States)
A graduate of Yale University, Mehta has taken a rather slow road to fame. Actually, his fame began as a boy when his prodigious singing earned a recording with Delos. Since then, Mehta has studied and worked, and his work is beginning to pay off. 1998 has seen him land a leading role in a pastiche of Händel and Racine in Esther, the role of Armindo in the New York City Opera/Glimmerglass production of Partenope, and a career grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation.
Mera, Yoshikazu (Japan)
The most successful countertenor to come out of Japan, Mera has caused quite a stir with his exceptional voice and singular musicianship. With the Bach Collegium Japan, he has recorded three CD's of Bach cantatas, two discs of Schutz, as well as Messiah (BIS). His first solo disc, containing traditional Japanese songs, has been hailed as a triumph.
Besides these more mainstream recordings, Mera was featured in a blockbuster animated Japanese film, a film that Disney plans to market in the West (though it is not clear whether or not Mera will be heard on the soundtrack).
Minter, Drew (United States)
For several years the darling of America, Minter is an important soloist and clinician in the U.S. and abroad. As a soloist, director, and ensemble singer, he has worked with countless great early-music conductors and ensembles, including the Theatre of Voices, the Newberry Consort, Joshua Rifkin and the Bach Ensemble. He frequently performs with Nicholas McGegan, with whom he recorded Arias for Senesino. As a teacher, Minter has worked with the Manhattan School of Music and is currently on the faculty of Mannes College of Music.
Minter's timbre is even more androgynous than that of many countertenors, his tone sweet and secure, his agility impressive and his intonation flawless. Moreover, his sensitivity and musicianship make him regarded as one of the finest countertenors in the country.
Missin, William (England)
Missin is rather well-known in England and has extended his performances to the continent. He can often be heard in live performances of Händel and his contemporaries. With the Finzi Singers, Missin is featured on a disc containing the Howells Requiem and Vaughan Williams's Refuge (Hyperion). Missin also recorded the Bach Christmas Oratorio (as a chorister) with Ton Koopman (Erato).
Nirouët, Jean (France)
Nirouet frequently solos with conductors in Belgium and France. With Capella Coloniensis, he recorded Bach's Phoebus and Pan (Capriccio); with Musica Polyphonica, the Charpentier Te Deum (Erato); and, with the Paul Kuentz Orchestra, Vivaldi's Stabat Mater and Nisi Dominus (Pierre Verany).
Penrose, Timothy (England)
Penrose was employed by numerous Britich conductors in the 70's and 80's. Among his recordings are Purcell's The Fairy Queen with John Eliot Gardiner (Archiv), Music for All Seasons with the London Early Music Group (RCA Red Seal), and several recordings with the Medieval Ensemble of London (Florilegium/L'Oiseau-Lyre).
Picotti, Livio (Italy)
Signore Picotti has sung and recorded with Jordi Savall (Monteverdi's Vespers and a disc of sacred music by Cererols, both on Astree), as well as the Madrigalists of the Center for Ancient Music, Padua (the Cavalieri Lamentations, on Tactus). Additionally, Picotti is the director of the Capella ducale Venetia.
Popken, Ralf (Hungary)--link in German
A frequent soloist with Capella Savaria, Popken has also sung with many of the early-music ensembles of central and eastern Europe. His vast catalog of recordings includes Händel's Agrippina (harmonia mundi), Graun's Cleopatra and Caesar (harmonia mundi), and a CD of Händel cantatas (Hungaroton).
Puissant, Michel (Belgium?)
Puissant shared the role of Alessandro in Flemish Royal Theatre's Tolomeo with Steve Dugardin. Additionally, Puissant is featured on the Globe CD Cantiones Natalitiae and he has his own CD, Songs About Love, War, Joy, and Death.
Pushee, Graham (Australia)
A former student of David Parker, Renée Jacobs, and Paul Esswood, Pushee originally hails from Australia. He has performed a great deal of Händelian opera, having starred in Giulio Cesare, Serse, and Alcina. (A collection of them is available on ABC.) He has been described thus: "powerful, slightly harsh tone; very, very agile; very confident and commanding in performance; opera seria actor. Also capable of very moving tone in quiet ballads that shut up the coughers in the audience...Truly magical singing and theatre..." Pushee's repertoire is huge, encompassing not only Händelian opera, but many other works in Baroque and comtemporary opera, the majority of them with the Australian Opera (now Opera Australia).
In Europe, Pushee has sung with Cantus Colln, and has also recorded CD's as a soloist. This year he will be singing La Calisto in Barcelona and Salzburg, will do Cesare all over the continent, Serse in Geneva, La Stagione in Germany, and Messiah in Munich.
Ragin, Derek Lee (United States)
Ragin is on of the most successful countertenors today. Trained as a choirboy in New Jersey, Ragin has risen to fame through a great variety of recordings. He premiered Bernstein's "Missa Brevis" with Robert Shaw. (On the same disc is the famous Psalm 23, from the Chichester Psalms.) Ragin has also recorded a CD of spirituals with the Moses Hogan Chorale. In the more traditional countertenor repertoire, Ragin has become Gardiner's favorite for recording Händel operas. Ragin's voice is smooth and full, though a bit throaty at times. His agility is fabulous, as evidenced by his recordings of Saul and Amadigi (Philips), and his part in the combined voice of Farinelli in the recent Belgian film of the same name (Audivis Traveling). Ragin's expressiveness in that recording (and in others) is wonderful to listen to.
Rickards, Steven (United States)
A former member of Chanticleer, Rickards studied at the Indiana University Early Music Institute, where he was the first countertenor to earn a Master of Music degree. Additional study includes post-graduate work at Florida State University, the Guildhall School of Music and Acting (London), and at Aldeburough, where he studied with Robert Spencer and Sir Peter Pears. Rickards has a voice of great clarity and power, and he can be cosidered in the forefront of countertenors in America. As such, he has been in demand by many groups, not only Chanticleer but also King's Noyse, the Boston Händel and Haydn Society, the Waverly Consort, His Majestie's Clerkes, the Santa Fe Opera, the Theatre of Voices, and several others.
Rickards's talents also extend to teaching--both at the university level (Butler University and the University of Indianapolis) and in work with children (assistant to Henry Leck's Indianapolis Children's Choir program and director of the Vocal Arts Institute for Young Singers and Accompanists at the U of I).
Rickards continues work toward a doctorate at Florida State, and he is working on an annotated listing of 20th-century works for countertenor. Of interest, too, is a disc of Dowland lute songs for Naxos.
Roberts, Richard Wyn (England)
Wyn Roberts has performed and recorded with the likes of John Eliot Gardiner, Andrew Parrott, the Theatre of Voices, and the ensemble Red Byrd.
Robson, Christopher (England)
A veteran countertenor, Robson has performed a good deal of Baroque opera and sacred music. Robson sang the lead role on Hyperion's critically-acclaimed Artaxerxes (Arne). At home with Händelian opera, Mr. Robson has sung in Athalia with St. James Baroque and the Clare College Choir and in a 1996 version of Xerxes, which NPR broadcast from Lyric Opera of Chicago (a role that he reprised with Ivor Bolton). Robson's repertoire also extends to works by contemporary composers who prize his experience and versatility.
Royall, Christopher (England)
Sort of Angus Davidson's counterpart in the Taverner Consort, Royall has developed his upper falsetto and frequently sings early 17th-century Italian church music. A former member of the Deller Consort, Royall has also recently sung solo in concert tour of music by John Tavener. A very full, pleasant voice that can be heard either with the Tverner Consort or on a Hyperion recording, the English Orpheus, vol. 15.
Sabella, David (United States)
Sabella is one who began as a tenor and made the late switch to countertenor; it seems to have been a good decision. In 1995 he was a winner of the Pavarotti International Voice Competition. Since then he has sung Cesare in Virginia Opera's Giulio Cesare, (which he recorded for Koch International Classics), and, on the Broadway stage, the part of Mary Sunshine in the Tony-Award-winning Chicago. Other engagements for Sabella include a Pavarotti Plus! concert and the role of Ottone in Monteverdi's Poppea.
Scholl, Andreas (Germany)
A student of Renee Jacobs, Scholl is one of the brightest stars amongst countertenors. His debut recording features rarely-heard music of the German Baroque. It is presented by a voice capable of great tenderness, flexibility, and smoothness. Scholl's technique is marvelous and his voice very listenable. (He was one of the three comedians to record The Three Countertenors.) His alto part in William Christie's Messiah won him great praise, and his recent Vivaldi recording won a Gramophone Award, as well as a good deal of respect in the music community. As Scholl's fame spreads, so does his list of performed pieces. Not surprisingly, Händel's operas (witness Rodelinda with Marc Minkowski) and oratorios (e.g., Solomon under Paul McCreesh) have proved a significant part of his repertoire. (P.S., This author was the most gleeful audience member at a concert with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in November 1997).
Short, Nigel (England)
A countertenor in the King's Singers, Short can also be heard as a soloist on a disc of Danyel songs and on several of Purcell's Complete Odes and Welcome Songs (Hyperion).
Smith, Kevin (England)
Mr. Smith has been performing and recording for a number of years. He has concentrated most on the music of Purcell (e.g., Songs and Harpsichord Suites, SAGA Records) and Händel, but his repertoire also extends to the Renaissance (with Andrew Parrott and Anthony Rooley) and the Medieval era (a great disc on Cristophorus Records). His voice is one of exceptional resonance, and he has sung what could be considered both "countertenor" and "altino" parts.
Sommerlad, Foster (United States)
A soloist with the Dallas Bach Society, the Texas Baroque Ensemble, and LaFollia Austin Baroque, Sommerlad is also an alumnus of Chanticleer.
Stafford, Ashley (England)
Stafford has sung with the Monteverdi Choir, the Tallis Scholars, the Hilliard Ensemble, and other early-music groups. He is a frequent soloist with Gardiner in the music of Händel (Isreal in Egypt--Philips) and Purcell (The Fairy Queen, Ode for Saint Cecilia, 1692--Archiv and Philips, respectively). An easy, listenable voice--rich, but not throaty.
Strygg, Carl (Canada)
Mr. Strygg has been immensely popular in Canada for several years. He has amassed quite a following and quite a resume. Appearances have included solo spots with the Cantata Singers of Ottawa, the Niagara Symphony, the Hull Chamber Orchestra, the Amadeus Choir, the St. Lambert Choral Society, and Tafelmusik. In the field of opera, Strygg has been involved in the Modern Baroque Opera Company's Scipione and the Handel and HAydn Society of Boston's Giulio Cesare. Other American performances have included recitals at New york universities and in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
Strygg has been at least as successful in nonclassical music. He has been a frequent performer in several of Canada's top clubs and theaters. At the urging of producer Jaymz Bee, Strygg recorded these tunes on a disc called Carl Strygg Sings the Classics.
Taylor, Daniel (Canada)
Taylor graduated from Montreal's McGill University in 1992. Since then he has been in increasing demand by early-music groups, notably the American Bach Soloists (see "Favorite Bach Cantatas" on Koch), especially for Bach and Händel. He has also recorded Biber's Vespers (REM) and Händel's Messiah (APR). On stage, Taylor is very much in demand, both in Canada and abroad. His engagements are primarily in, but not limited to, Bach and Händel.
Thomas, John Patrick (Canada)
A relative newcomer to the international scene, Thomas has sung Oberon with the Singapore Lyric Theatre and recorded Giacinto Scelsi's Three Latin Prayers (FY), as well as Pergolesi's Stabat Mater and Salve Regina (Columns Classics).
Usov, Oleg (Russia)
Born in 1967, Usov graduated from the Music College in Belgorod and the Moscow Academic College of Music. His teachers have included Madame V. Sharonova, Madame N. Dorliac, and Madame G. Pisarenko. Since college, Usov has performed with Octahedron Theater and Helicon Opera. His concert credits include the International Exhibition EXPO-93 in Seoul, the Schnittke Music Festival in 1994, the ARD International Competition in Munich (1996), and the Festival of the Netherlands Culture (1997).
Usov's repertoire encompasses virtually all Baroque music, as well as a good deal of 19th-century opera and song. His range is estimated at f-a".
Van der Linde, Clint (South Africa)
This young singer may be one to watch. In 1996 he graduated from Witwersrand University in Johannesburg. Van der Linde is, I believe, now studying in Eton; many English choral directors are interested in his voice.
Vartolo, Sergio (Italy)
Vartolo's bio is more impressive than most. As a singer he has recently been seen on stages in Italy and England, and he has recorded several operas and oratorios with Rene Clemencic, including Asinaria festa, Orfeo di Sartorio, and Ciconia. As a conductor, Vartolo has directed dozens of operas all over Europe, usually playing continuo. Many CD's of his groups can be found in Europe and elsewhere.
Vartolo began his studies in organ and harpsichord at the Conservatorio di Bologna. Also a singer and conductor, Vartolo quickly reached the heights of early music circles, where his performances and recordings earned him the Choc du monde de la musique, the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, and the coveted Diapason d'or. Currently Vartolo's primary duties are as teacher of harpsichord at the Conservatorio di Mantua and as maestro di cappella at San Pertonio di Bologna, with whom he records for Naxos International.
Visse, Dominique (France)
A most peculiar voice. Visse has developed his falsetto in a way that enables him to sound very androgynous. As "L'humanita fragilita" in Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, I was guessing for a long time as to what sex the singer was. The third of "The Three Countertenors," Visse specializes in Baroque opera and Renaissance polyphony. He is director of Ensemble Janequin and, with them and A Sei Voci, has performed a good deal of Renaissance music, both sacred and secular.
Walker, David A. (United States)
Only the third countertenor to be a Met Auditions finalist, Mr. Walker, who hails from Miami, seems to have a bright future. He appeared at the Göttingen Händel Festival and will sing with the NYC Opera in the fall of 1998. Already he has sung Satirino with Glimmerglass Opera in Cavalli's Calisto (highlights recording for BBC magazine), and he ihas sung with them again in Partenope.
Wessel, Kai (Netherlands)
A frequent soloist with Ton Koopman, Wessel has recorded a good deal of music with him, particularly Bach. Included in Wessel's discography are the B Minor Mass, both Passions, and volume 1 and 2 of the complete cantatas. Also with Koopman, Wessel shows his impressive agility and expressiveness in Biber's Requiem and Vespers. Wessel's tone is trypical of the Jacobs-influenced school--flexible, a bit hooty, sweet but unoffensive, a cultivated falsetto. Other recording credits: Stradella's Christmas Cantata with La Stagione (Deutsche harmonia mundi), a disc of Byrd and Pärt (MDG), and a spot on Age of the Castrati (Capriccio).
White, Jay (United States)
Jay studied at the University of Maryland before earning his Master's in Early Music-Voice at the Indiana University Early Music Institute. While in Maryland he sang solo with the Woodley Ensemble and the Washington National Cathedral Choir, the latter of which recorded a CD. In Indiana he sang with the Pro Arte Singers, who have two CD's featuring Mr. White (Focus Recordings). Currently he is a member of Chanticleer.
Whitworth, John (England)
Originally an organ student at Ely, whitworth went on to become a choral scholar at King's (Cambridge), then a lay vicar at Westminster Abbey. Whitworth studied with Robert Poole and Frank Titterton, and sang with Alfred Deller. Over the years, he has sung alto, tenor and baritone, leaning toward the latter in recent years. His repertoire includes primarily music of the 13th through 17th centuries.
Williams, John (England)
A popular Baroque soloist in the 1970's and 80's, Williams recorded Purcell odes with Gardiner (Erato), as well as other English Baroque music.
Wilson, Timothy (England)
Another popluar soloist with English early-music groups, Wilson can be heard on McCreesh's Venetian Coronation and on recordings of Händel and Purcell (e.g.,Come, Ye Sons of Art, with Parrott, on Virgin Veritas). Wilson also participated in the premiere recording of John Tavener's Akathist of Thanksgiving. A fairly typical English alto, but with a strong high range.
York-Skinner, John (England)
Yet another important English countertenor of the 70's, York-Skinner recorded frequently with David Munrow, including the discs of Dowland's complete lute songs (L'oiseau-Lyre).
Zaepffel, Alain (France)
After studying literature and singing in Paris, Zaepffel performed with a number of ensembles, including Charles Ravier and A Sei Voci. Since then, he founded Ensemble Gradiva, which performs "rediscovered" music of the 17th and 18th centuries. Zaepffel's recording credits include the Scarlatti and Pergolesi "Stabat Mater (ADDA), Bach's St. John Passion, Charpentier's Judicium Solomon (Arion), and Handel's Choice of Hercules (with Max Pommer, Capriccio). His Tribute to Guadagni (ADDA Records) is a good introduction to the music of the castrati.
Zambon, Giuseppe (Italy)
Zambon's repertoire has consisted primarily of Baroque and late Renaissance. He is featured on a (rare) recording of what is reputedly the first opera ever written--Peri's Euridice, with Ensemble Arpeggio, on ARZ. In addition, he has recorded numerous lute songs (EDL), Tommaso Traetta's Buovo Antona (Opus 111), and the Salve Regina settings of Feo and Pergolesi (with Academica Bizantina on Denon).
Zazzo, Lawrence (United States)
Zazzo has found himself in such diverse spots as the Santa Fe Opera (Athamas in their Semele), Karlsruhe, Germany (Unulfo in their Festival's Rodelinda), and with WLRN -TV (singing the Chichester Psalms for their recording Classical Visions).
Zrinsky, Raymond (United States)
Who would have expected so many Z's?! Zrinsky received his BM from Wheaton College in Illinois and his Master's in Early Music from Indiana's Early Music Institute. While at IU he studied with Paul Elliot, and has more recently studied with Jeffrey Gall. Zrinsky's repertoire has been broad, including Britten, Händel (Giulio Cesare), Bach (B Minor Mass), and the Chichester Psalms).
Aspinall, Michael (England)
Mr. Aspinall seems a rather elusive figure, though, apparently, his talents are many. He did receive quite favorable reviews as La vera Venere in Tetro San Carlo's Il divertimento de' Numi (Paisiello).
Barber, Terrance Lee (England/United States)
A graduate of Trinity College, London, the young Mr. Barber seems to have a bright future. His voice is reputedly one of great range and unusual resonance. He moved to Boston, where he too part in the New England music scene. Currently, Barber sings with Chanticleer.
Cheeseborough, Kyle Church (United States)
Cheeseborough is a student at the Manhattan School of Music, possessing great potential. He is a sopranist, and, in addition to more "typical" countertenor repertoire (especially Händel), Cheeseborough has performed a goodly amount of contemporary music, some of which was written specifically for him.
Cristofellis, Aris (Greece)
A singular voice, to say the least. His range is quite incredible, as is his flexibility. Cristofellis normally sings works for soprano castrato, and with reckless abandon. His recordings (on EMI France) show his flair for ornamentation, an integral part of this repertoire. His voice, though, does have quite an edge, and some listeners might find it rather shrill at times. Still, a very interesting listen.
Husson, Patrick (France)
A fairly new countertenor on the world scene. Husson was born in Colmar, France, where he completed his initial musical training. He later moved to Basil to study at the celbrated Scola Cantorum.
Husson's first album, "Le jardinier" (Sony-France) features a mixture of classical arias and pop songs. Husson also maintains a close tie with composer Thomas Bloch, whose music he has recorded at least twice. Two other solo discs by Husson are tough to find but obtainable: Patrick Husson Sopraniste (K617) and Chants de Noel et chants sacree (AMS). Husson also played the part of a street singer in the French film Hommes, femmes, mode d'emploi.
Manzotti, Angelo (Italy)
Manzotti regularly sings soprano arias, especially castrati arias of the Baroque era. Perhaps look first to Naxos, where he is featured on Lamenti barocchi, v. 2. Manzotti has recorded numerous discs for the Italian early-music label Bongiovanni; among them is a recent collection of Händelian castrato arias.
Nomi, Klaus (Germany)
"Sounds like an alien and looks even weirder". That may be an unfair description, but it may be an accurate one of this late singer. Nomi sang could sing as high as most sopranos and frequently did so. He performed soprano arias, cabaret songs, and rock tunes. His recordings reflect this diversity, with an emphasis on rock music, including a stint with rocker David Bowie
Paradowski, Dariusz (Poland)
A potentially exciting new countertenor from Poland, Paradowski is a soprano who sings coloratura arias, and alto and soprano opera roles. Paradowski is not a castrato, but doctors (he's been examined by many) have determined that the part of his brain that activates the hormones to control vocal functioning are different from those in most men. Still, he speaks in a baritone range. Apparently his voice is one of great range and flexibility. Of course, this could be said of Cristofellis as well; I have not yet heard Paradowski, nor have I heard anything about his tone, other than that it is quite androgynous. He regularly sings with the Warsaw Chamber Opera, performing Mozart, Verdi, Händel, and Monteverdi. His one recording is of Mozart arias and duets (Pro Musica Camera).
Raunig, Arno (Germany)
Raunig is an alumnus of the Vienna Boychoir. After leaving the Choir he studied with Kurt Equiluz in Linz. He obviously retained that high range, as he sings in a soprano range fairly often. Raunig's discs feature his talents in Mozart (Apollo et Hyacinthus/Bastien und Bastienne on Berlin Classics; motets and arias by Mozart and Salieri on Divertimento), as well as music of the modern composer Alfred Schnittke (Historia von D. Johann Fausten on RCA Red Seal). In more standard CT repertoire, Raunig also played Ruggiero in Darmstadt's Alcina.
Stefanowicz, Artur (Poland)
One of a growing crop of Polish countertenors, Stefanowicz has been Ottone in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea, English National Opera's Xerxes, and Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice (with ENO and NYCO). He has recorded Strauss's Die Fledermaus (Arte Nova), as well as a CD entitled Arias From Forgotten Mozart Works, and a disc containing the Stabat Mater of Pergolesi and Vivaldi (Elysium).
Waschinski, Jorg (Germany)
Waschinski is a rising star amongst sopranists. He sang in St. Gallen, Switzerland for their production of Xerxes and he is in the process of making several recordings. At Least on recording is already available, Händel's Clori, Tirsi, e Fileno (NCA MA 9795 828). In process is a new-CD set of Jommeli's Il vologeso with the Stuttgart Chamber Choir (Orfeo).
Wong, Randall (United States)
A former member of Chanticleer, Wong possesses a very high range and a very clear voice. He often sings soprano parts on pieces and has recorded a couple of albums of works for soprano. He is also featured on Christie's recording of Hasse's Cleofide (Capriccio). A frequent soloist in the U.S., Wong has sung at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Boston EM Festival, and the New York City Opera. Recently he premiered Stewart Wallace's Harvey Milk with the Houston Grand Opera and the San Francisco Opera. Now a music professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz.
Agnew, Paul (England)
Agnew started singing with Paul Hiller's Theatre of Voices and other early-music groups, including The Sixteen. He has since become a sought-after soloist for French baroque opera, Restoration church music, and similar works. A very sweet voice and easy high range. His oustanding work is captured on several CD's, not the least of which is Christie's excellent Descente d'Orfee aux Enfers (Charpentier) on Erato Records.
Ainsley, John Mark (England)
Ainsley made his start with Gothic Voices and has been discovered as a phenomenal talent. Possessing a huge range, great agility, and almost inhuman breath control, Ainsley regularly sings Händel oratorios, and Mozart and Händel operas. Though he essentially a tenor, his high range and light production mark him similar to an "haute-contre".
Ainsley's repertoire knows virtually no bounds. He has sung and recorded dozens of works by Händel, as well as the Britten "Serenade" (EMI Records), dozens of 20th-century art songs, and several Britten operas. Notable CD's for Hyperion Records include Händel'sJoshua, Acis and Galatea, and Joseph and His Brethren; the Purcell Odes and Welcome Songs series; Beethoven's Mass in C, Howells's Hymnus paradisi, Zelenka's Lamentations, and discs of songs by Schubert, Warlock, and Quilter. Other prominent recordings (there are so many) are Fidelio (Telarc), Berlioz's Les troyens (London), Pirates of Penzance (Telarc), Blow's Venus and Adonnis (Musique d'Abord), Messiah (Argo), Elijah (hm), and the Bach Magnificat Vivaldi Gloria (Chandos).
The sheer immensity of this still-young singer's catalogue, along with the number of labels that have sought him, are a testament to the singular gifts that Mr. Ainsley possesses.
Aler, John (United States)
Aler is still somewhat of a well-kept secret. Like Ainsley, his repertoire has been extremely varied--Händel [Semele with John Nelson (DG) and Messiah with Andrew Davis (Philips)], Saint-Säens [méelodies and duets (Newport)], Dvorak's Stabat Mater (Delos), Bartok's The Wooden Prince (DG), and Berlioz's Te Deum (Delos), though his mainstay could be said to be Carmina Burana. He has recorded it at least four times and he is the only singer whom I have ever heard sing "Olim laucus colueram" entirely in full voice. His tone is full and rich, and, in his prime, he could ring a high d' (!) in full voice, without sounds of strain. I highly, highly recommend his CD of Liszt songs on Newport Classics. It serves as a good introduction to the talent, artistry and versatility of this first-rate singer.
Berridge, Simon (England)
A solo tenor with The Sixteen, Berridge often takes on arias that Purcell designated "countertenor." A sweet English tenor voice with a very high range. Featured on Love's Goddess Sure Was Blind (Purcell/Christophers--Collins Classics).
Mr. Cornwell has performed a huge variety of music with a huge variety of groups. All standard early-music works are in his repertore: Messiah with Andrew Parrott and Trevor Pinnock, the Bach Passions with Ton Koopman, The Fairy Queen with Roger Norrington, Iphigenie in Tauride in Oslo, Solomon at Göttingen. And if that weren't enough, Cornwell, who studied at York
Covey-Crump, Rogers (England)
One of my favorites in this group. Covey-Crump has sung with the Hilliard Ensemble, Taverner Consort, Gothic Voices, the Tallis Scholars, the King's Consort, and others. His voice is light, very flexible, and his break is virtually imperceptible. I particularly like his "'Tis Nature's Voice" on Parrott's Ode to Saint Cecilia (Purcell). His recordings with Gothic Voices are fantastic, and he has sung the Evangelist for Bach's "St. John Passion."
Crook, Howard (United States/England)
Crook is a celebrated light tenor who has performed a good deal of the haute-contre repertoire. His credits include the St. Matthew Passion under Gardiner (Archiv), and Herreweghe (harmonia mundi), Messiah under Trevor Pinnock (Archiv), Lully motets with William Christie (harmonia mundi), and Lully's Phaeton and Armide under Marc Minkowski. He also recorded a solo disc of Purcell songs on Deutsche harmonia mundi.
Cuenod, Hugues (France)
Perhaps the consummate "haute-contre"--at least in vocal timbre and technique. Cuenod has recorded lute songs, French Baroque works (e.g., Couperin's Leçle;ons de Tenebre on DAN LYS), and other types of early music. In addition, Cuenod has often been in demand as an opera soloist (such as Bonynge's Hoffman on London Records) and as a recitalist (as in two discs of French songs on Nimbus). Cuenod's production is light, his range very high, and his timbre enough dans le nez to sound fully French.
Daniels, Charles (England)
A frequent soloist with Paul McCreesh and Andrew Parrott, Daniels has also sung with the Tallis Scholars, Gothic Voices, and the Orlando Consort. He's truly a high tenor, but his range and timbre suitable for "haute-contre" parts, and he is sometimes billed as "countertenor". daniels has recorded everything from medieval English polyphony to Venetian church music to French Baroque opera.
deMey, Guy (Belgium)
Guy deMey has recorded tenor and haute-contre parts with René Jacobs, Marc Minkowski, and others. He is typically in the heroic roles written for haute-contre, as in Rameau's Platée (Erato). Beyond that, deMey also performs Monteverdi (Combattimento..., on Hungaraton), Buxtehude cantatas (Ricercar), and Händel'a (La Resurrezione--Erato).
Elliot, Paul (England/United States)
Elliot has sung with the Taverner Consort, the Theatre of Voices, the Academy of Ancient Music, the Hilliard Ensemble, and numerous other early-music groups and festivals. His voice is very light--almost boyish. He is presently a professor of Early Music--Voice at the Indiana University Early Music Institute.
Among his numerous recordings, one might sample Mr. Elliot's artistry on Christopher Hogwood's Messiah (L'oiseau-Lyre) or Parrott's Hail, Bright Cecilia (EMI).
Elwes, John (England/Netherlands)
Elwes has recorded Monteverdi and his contemporaries to great effect. He has wonderful agility, a sweet yet powerful voice, and he soars up to A's and B-flat's. Elwes has, not surprisingly, recorded several haute-contre roles in French opera, as well as Vivaldi's Dorilla in Tempe (with Jan Nirouet, on Pieere Verany--PV 794 092). I love his performance of the 1610 Vespers with Frieder Bernius on harmonia mundi, especially the alto-esque "Gloria patri".
Equiluz, Kurt (Austria)
THE favorite tenor of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Probably best-known for his Bach evangelists, Equiluz has also recorded the B Minor Mass and the complete cantatas with Harnoncourt (Teldec). He has also recorded St. Matthew with Michel Corboz (Erato) and the C.P.E. Bach Magnificat with Rilling (Hänssler Classics). Born near Vienna, Equiluz possesses a voice that surely seems steeped in the technique of Germanic boychoirs. His tone is sweet, his range very wide, and his breath control phenomenal. this outstanding technique allows him to exploit a vast diversity of repertoire, embracing not only Bach but also Monteverdi (Poppea, Orfeo, and Ulisse, all with Harnoncourt), Mozart, Verdi, and operetta (two discs on Koch). A fine altino tenor with a justifiably large discography.
Fouchécourt, Jean-Paul (France)
Fouchecourt is one of a number of French tenors and countertenors who have been instrumental in reviving French Baroque opera through period performance. He can be heard with Les musiciens du Louvre and with William Christie (e.g., Lully's Atys on harmonia mundi).
Hill, Martyn (England)
Sounding rather baritone-ish these days, Hill sounded more alto-ish in his prime. His great range, flexibility and sweet timbre have enabled him to perform a huge variety of repertoire. Anthony Rooley chose him as his tenor for his recordings of Dowland's songs (L'oiseau-Lyre), and Richard Hickox employed him for the Britten War Requiem. In addition to the Requiem, Hill has recorded a good deal of other works by Britten, including the Serenade (RPO). He shines in early music, such as Monteverdi opera (with Jacobs on hm) and his Vespers (with David Willcocks on Angel). In addition, his smoothness of tone, ease of upper range, emotional power, and exceptional interpretive abilities allowed him to bring a unique beauty to the rarely-heard songs of Reynaldo Hahn (Hyperion), perhaps the peak of this fine singer's artistry.
Jenkins, Neil (England)
A soloist for Andrew Parrott, Jenkins has one of those high, sweet English tenor voices. In the past, Jenkins was also a regular performer with the Deller Consort, whose recordings can be found on the L'oiseau-Lyre label (look especially to Acis and Galatea). More recently, Jenkins has solo-d with the BBC Philharmonic in Händel's La Resurrezzione (Collins Classics) and in Vaughan Williams's Hugh the Drover (Hyperion). Moreover, he does a fabulous job with "The Fife..." (a countertenor aria) on Parrott's recording of the Purcell 1692 Ode to Saint Cecilia (see also Covey-Crump, Elliot, King, Smith).
Kendall, William (England)
Great with Bach (St. John Passion--Chandos) and Monteverdi (Vespers--on Deutsche harmonia mundi), Kendall also recently recorded a disc of John Tavener's music (Virgin) with the Winchester Cathedral Choir, with whom he has sung for years. Like John Elwes, Kendall soars effortlessly into the heights of his range, and he is capable of both great tenderness and great power.
King, Andrew (England)
King has one of those very sweet, listenable English tenor voices. He can create supple lines with vocal ease (no pun intended), such as in Purcell's "The Airy Violin" from the Ode on St. Cecilia's Day (Parrott/EMI). In addition to the Taverner Consort, he has performed with Gothic Voices (Hyperion), the Monteverdi Circle (Musica Oscura), and the Medieval Ensemble of London.
Ledroit, Henri (France)
Ledroit has sung haute-contre and, occasionally, countertenor parts. François Velde describes his voice as "very sweet but emotional", and I would agree, though I find him a better as a "tenor" than a "contre-ténor". His recordings include several with his Ricercar Consort, on the Ricercar label (e.g., cantatas of the Bach family). He also recorded discs of Rameau Grand motets (harmonia mundi), of Scarlatti cantatas, (FY), and a ten-disc set of German Baroque cantatas (Ricercar). In addition, he can be heard in Monteverdi's Poppea (International).
Mackie, Neil (England)
Mackie has performed a good variety of repertoire, including the bit part of Apollo in John Nelson's Grammy-Award-winning Semele (DG), the part of the High Priest in Händel's Saul (with Gardiner on Philips), many 20th-century English art songs, and a fair amount of Baroque opera.
Müller, Rufus (England)
Müller is no stranger to early-music afficianados. His name has graced rosters for the Monteverdi Choir, the Tallis Scholars, and Gothic Voices. In addition, Müller has become a substantial soloist for the Hyperion label, showcased in the English Orpheus series, the Purcell Odes and Welcome Songs, Benda's Cephalus and Aurora, and O Tuneful Voice, a disc of solos and duets from the late 18th century.
Oberlin, Russell (United States)
It seems to me that this is where Mr. Oberlin's bio belongs, as he could be considered the only true tenor altino of this century. Still, he vehemently defends his title as "countetenor", and he separates himself from falsettists. Oberlin's speaking voice is quite high, and he could perhaps be called a tenor, but his voice has such a singular quality that it almost defies definition. He cultivated his upper range wonderfully and the result is a homogeneous, androgynous tone throughout his range.
Oberlin has taught in the New York State University system and was an integral member of the New York Pro Musica Antiqua. Oberlin was the first widely successful countertenor in the United States since the "Deller revival" began. He even sang the role of Oberon for a time, though it didn't suit him well. Oberlin's artistry did, however, capture the attention of another important contemporary composer: Leonard Bernstein wrote his 23rd Psalm for Mr. Oberlin. His opus is recorded on Lyrichord Discs.
Padmore, Mark (England)
First a member of the Les Arts Florissants, the Cambridge Singers, The Sixteen and Gothic Voices, Padmore has became a very successful soloist in early-music circles. His voice is similar to that of many English tenors, but has a little more "bite" to it. His work can be heard in Charpentier's Medée, Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, both with William Christie, and Padmore is in high demand for much French Baroque opera.
Partridge, Ian (England)
Partridge has sung with many, many early music groups and was, for a time, director of Pro Musica Antiqua. In his youth, he could pop out high A's in a very sweet mixed voice. (He reputedly trained as a baritone and considered himself such for a time.) Though most of his work has been as an "ordinary" lyric tenor, Partridge has sometimes sung pieces that fly into that upper range, as with the Purcell Consort of Voices in Music for Henry VIII (Argo).
Ragon, Gilles (France)
Ragon is a favorite tenor of French early-music directors. He has performed and recorded with Christie (Cleofide--Capriccio), Minkowski (Charpentier's La malade imaginaire, on Erato), Colleaux (Charperntier's Judicum Salomonis on Arion), and several other important directors. His repertoire consists largely of 17th-century French works.
Salmon, Phillip (England)
Salmon is a favorite of John Eliot Gardiner, evidenced by his excellent solo work in Israel in Egypt and Saul (Philips). In addition, Salmon has recorded Massnenet's La Vierge for Koch and a CD of Howells and Vaughan Williams with the Corydon Singers (Hyperion). A sweet, light tenor voice worth hearing.
Vandersteene, Zager (Belgium)
Vandersteene made a series of landmark recordings with Rene Clemencic in the 1970's (harmonia mundi), since which he has sung tenor almost exclusively. Vandersteene's tenor roles have extended from the very early (Five Centuries of Early Christmnas Carols on René Gailly), through the Baroque (St. John Passion with La Fenice--Image Records) to the Classical era (Mozart choral works--Philips) and even the Romantic period (the Berlioz Messe Solenelle).
Vandersteene is well-known in Belgium and the Netherlands; he even sang in the recent feature film Aria. His performances have slowed only slightly over the years, as he remains a revered singer and teacher on the Continent.
Moreschi, Alessandro (Italy)
The last-known "created" castrato in the Western world and the only one on record. He sang in the Papal chapel and was apparently a favorite of the pope. His recordings are interesting, though not very pleasing to listen to. They include solo and choral music recorded at the turn of the century.
do Nascimento, Paolo Abel (Brazil)
Definitely a "natural" castrato (hormonal complications preserved his upper range). Featured in the film Dangerous Liasons (playing a castrato) and on that soundtrack. Also recorded a disc of Scarlatti on Opal. A very interesting timbre--rather sexless--and a high range.
Riabets, Oleg (Ukraine)
Possibly a "natural" castrato, he has one recording avaiIable--Vivaldi (Olympia OCD 583). More recently, Riabets was one of the four (!) countertenors featured in Opéra Lyons's production of Three Sisters by Peter Ötvös.
by: Eric Betthauser
Last updated: August 7, 1998