Friday, December 07, 2007

Counter-tenors suck, but what is the alternative?

While I might make an exception for certain types of ecclesiastical music -- where a musical voice that emphasizes the willful neglect of a range of human experience may be uniquely suited to the musical intention -- the newer tendency of Baroque productions to cast counter-tenors rather than female sopranos in the castrati roles (most recently, for example, at the Lyric's staging of Handel's Giulio Caesare), raises the issue that, for all of our vaunted decadence and sybaritic degeneration, among all the caudillos and druglords in South America, Moscow mafiosi, regional commissars and overly ambitious parents in China, and unchecked Headmen in Africa, there has not yet arisen a single opera fan so committed to period stagings that he is willing to risk the social ignominy that would come from creating the necessarily prerequisite for a period staging of a baroque opera. This is hardly a suggestion for my Mongol readership, but if a genuine Castrato with a strong voice and serious musical training appeared on the musical scene, after the necessarily hand-wringing and editorializing, that person would probably become a multi-billion dollar entertainment sensation. So we can take solace from the fact that, though there is an excessive market demand, and a ready potential supply, not a single person in the last hundred years has bridged the supply with the demand, and though it will be a happy day for opera-goers, it will be a dark day for humanity if and when someone comes forth to meet the demand.

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