Opinions are divided about them even today when the catch-on of Early Music in the New Age has altered the views on classical music.
For it is against nature.
Counter-tenor used to be the privilege of the castrated. Got it??? They did it to them so that their voice remain thin and high and soprano-like.
Horrendous, isn’t it?
Narrow range of voice and sharp and everything - why should a man sing like this? And, ouch, he must be that, Oh, my God, why are men like this allowed on stage?
Men should be men, 100 kg and hairy and alpha male; no problem if he is a bad-smelling lout and a drunkard and keeps belching and has no idea which poet or painter Handel was but he is good at pushing the horn and all the girls around him.
Luckily, it is the year of 2018 already; the 300 years left out of the kingdom of the counter-tenors is oblivion. For things are in the right place on today’s broad horizon. They are even almost the biggest stars in Early Music.
Philippe Jaroussky - you can learn everything about him with a few clicks. He is among the best in the world, no doubt, whatever the concert tonight is going to be like.
It is just fine to see that all the 1700 tickets were sold in the Palace of Arts months before the concert. Snobbery has started to change to the need of genuine quality in Hungary where we have a semi-desert in Early Music.
The other performer is Emőke Baráth. She’s been known by the public for a few years only; her career is beautifully upright. She shines.
It is a huge thing, it is amazing. [She is Hungarian.] It is like a Hungarian racer in Formula I or if the Hungarian football team was in the final of the World Championship. Yeah. Early Music, yes, fine indeed but a concert in the Palace of Arts is stone-hard show business; we shouldn’t live in a fool’s Paradise, it’s a very tough world, in a word, it’s far from a jam session.
In the same ring with Jaroussky for good reason, it’s gonna turn out soon.
Youngsters, a new generation, a new approach. The orchestra, Ensemble Artaserse, is their own band, well-known from their records.
This Palace of Arts, it’s not to my liking. For it’s a factory. A culture hypermarket. A rootless, gigantean underground garage top. Sort of abnormal.
It’s sophisticatedly elaborated. If we have never been to Venice we might as well say that it’s good looking. And the atmosphere is fine. The technical background is really high quality; you don’t experience this kind of silence too often. The sonority is good too even if the manor hall is simply too big for this kind of music.
Handel arias handily interconnected almost like a chain.
How? Well, by concerto grosso movements which are my all-time favourites. A movement, a section or a few beats.
The sonority is fine.
The ensemble is very good.
The violin section is astonishing, we have no such thing; it turns out in a minute.
The singers? Well, one is better than the other, take my word for it.
Philippe is a genuine big volume voice. It’s the first time I have listened to him live. I have heard him a lot in records; he is excellent there too, but the richness of the tones is striking here, yes, it is something we wouldn’t associate with counter-tenors. He treats the ornaments as a piece of cake, no any acrobatics rather a real spoken language.
This man is full of music, no question.
Emőke, all ours, enters in a perfect black fretty outfit like a Queen. She casts a look of greeting at us, the audience, just a flash, then she slowly elevates us with her voice, her soul and the whole of herself. She’s amazing. The house filling the place to-hear-Jaroussky is left breathless.
Then Philippe’s aria again, marvellous, it is the right word, then a female solo again, then a few duets, there’s some special beauty in them; the harmony of the two of them is just perfect. It’s so touching when after a sorrowful complaint in a complicated love story they hold each other’s hands a bit - it’s so moving …
Their voices soar up to the skies, finely filling this nice airplane silo hall.
The music is just fine. The flooding of the Italian Mediterranean colours into the misty Albion: it is Handel. The melodiousness reminds of Vivaldi, the harmonies accompany the lyrics almost syllable for syllable according to the tractates of Nuove Musiche.
Words are nicely translated and projected; e.g., ‘If I had a thousand hearts I would give you all of them’, they seem a bit simplistic. It makes me wonder that people, as many as here, in the past and today take pains to gather together to listen to he seems to have turned away from her a bit but he does love her indeed rather than the other lady …
They are singing in front of the orchestra; it is not semi-scenic but only a quarter-, but when they are pretentiously playful, Emőke rushes out hysterically, Philippe is left there at a loss, he is asking Heavens where his loved one’s heart is going to turn, that is, what does this Woman want again - then it becomes clear that it is Opera indeed, and it’s a great thing, and the audience has been incapable of getting bored of these rush-outs for as long as 400 years.
The two voices are hand in hand; I come to the realisation that after Emőke's aria Philippe’s master-ornamentations seems to be a bit mannered, I know, yes, that it is an intentional manoeuvre, then vice versa, the other one is to my liking, so the equality is nicely and sensitively balancing the entire performance.
A huge applause at the end, they have a few words to say before the encore, Philippe first: he is thankful, how nice the hall is and he appraises the orchestra, Emőke and the audience, he has a truly male speaker-voice and he is extremely attractive, really, the whole man as he is, he is much to my liking.
Emőke has less to say, a bunch of flowers is thrown to her by a brave man (the only brave man) from the balcony, a bit clumsy as the bunch almost fell on the bassoonist’s head but he was not laughed at all,… well, in the end, with the flowers in her hand she said that she was grateful to all of us and that they had been on tour with this performance but here in Budapest, we cannot even imagine what it means for her,...
...and she stopped speaking and I could see tears in her eyes although I had a seat far from her and a big applause again and I was left up in the air even on my way home on M7 road in the pitch dark at midnight, I speeded like a helicopter….
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Translated by Kenesei Andrea
Händel: Ariodante, HWV 33
- Qui d'amor nel suo linguaggio
- ... Prendi da questa mano
Händel: Lotario, HWV 26 - Scherza nel mar la navicella
Händel: a-moll concerto grosso, op. 6, No. 4 - Larghetto affettuoso
Händel: Parnasso in festa - Dopo d'aver perduto... Ho perso il caro ben
Händel: a-moll concerto grosso, op. 6, No. 4 - Allegro
Händel: Almira, HWV 1 - Geloso tormento
Händel: Julius Caesar, HWV 17 - L'aura che spira
Händel: D-dúr concerto grosso, op. 6, No. 5 - Largo
Händel: Rodelinda, HWV 19 - Io t'abbraccio
Händel: D-dúr concerto grosso, op. 6, No. 5 - Nyitány
Händel: Xerxész, HWV 40
- Troppo oltraggi la mia fede
- Se bramate d'amar chi vi sdegna
Händel: g-moll concerto grosso, op. 6, No. 6 - Larghetto
Händel: Julius Caesar, HWV 17 - Che sento? Se pietà
Händel: c-moll concerto grosso, op. 6, No. 8 - Andante - Allegro, Adagio
Händel: Ariodante, HWV 33 - È vivo ancora... Scherza infida
Händel: Scipione, HWV 20 - Scoglio d'immota fronte
Händel: A-dúr concerto grosso, op. 6, No. 11 - Allegro
Händel: Ariodante, HWV 33 - Bramo aver mille vite
Petr Ruzicka, Giorgia Simbula, Patrick Oliva, José Manuel Navarro, Koji Yoda, Paula Waisman, Katia Krasutskaya
Marco Massera, Ignacio Aranzasti Pardo
Elisa Joglar, Ruth Verona
Miguel Rincon Rodriguez
Guillaume Cuiller, Vincent Blanchard
Palace of Arts, Budapest
2018. September 13.
Thank you for the images.