Angels in Australia
With a showcase of castrati arias and an army of boy trebles, the Brandenburg Orchestra wants to usher in its 2008 season by stretching its vocal range to the higher registers.
German countertenor Andreas Scholl will be returning to Australia to perform arias originally written for famous Italian castrato Senesino when castrati were superstars of the 17th and 18th century cultural world.
Artistic director Paul Dyer said the popularity of countertenors in the last few decades had seen the revival of the male falsetto voice that can sing the female mezzo-soprano range as well as the baritone.
“Andreas has a range a bit higher than that of most countertenors and, because he delivers it with such panache and suavity and knowledge of the period, he’s become a god of the voice around the world,” Dyer said.
The scarcity of male singers with these ranges sometimes meant women dressing up as men for the role but they lacked the strength, making countertenors very much the successors to castrati celebrity.
Dyer has also committed to building a 50-boy treble choir, aged seven to 11, to accompany the Brandenburg Choir’s 10 male countertenors for the second concert series.
“Imagine an army of angels, the sweetness of the boy trebles, and mixing them with the men and Handel. I love to use voices that are sympathetic to the 18th century, and that period used boy trebles a lot,” he said.
The Brandenburg was uniquely able to bring these period classics to a wider audience, Dyer said, because it did away with the seriousness and protocol that stood between people and their enjoyment of the music.
“I created this orchestra so people would feel joy, regardless of their background,” he said.
“For 10 years we had two drag queens who came along dressed in furs and diamante. All the men stared at how beautiful they were and, after everybody realised they were men, exclaimed how great it was that there were drag queens here. It was so wonderful to say, let’s break down those barriers.”
Subscriptions for five concerts including Andreas Scholl and the Brandenburg Choir from $105, available on 9328 7581 or www.brandenburg.com.au. See the website for concert dates.