17-year-old Andréas Perez Ursulet – a singer who is both baritone and countertenor – emerged as victor of the 2018 edition of Les Prodiges. Broadcast on national TV channel France 2, the competition for young classical talent was launched in 2014, when the winner was violinist/cellist Camille Ber
17-year-old Andréas Perez Ursulet – a singer who is both baritone and countertenor – emerged as victor of the 2018 edition of Les Prodiges. Broadcast on national TV channel France 2, the competition for young classical talent was launched in 2014, when the winner was violinist/cellist Camille Berthollet. Her Warner Classics recordings with her sister Julie have since become bestsellers.
In the 2018 final of Les Prodiges, Andréas – who has ambitions to become an opera singer – had a surprise in store for the audience and jury, which included Erato cellist Gautier Capuçon. Having sung in the baritone register in the semi-final, he performed a vocal arrangement of Albinoni’s famous Adagio in the silky, fluting tones of a countertenor. That number features on this album alongside music by Purcell (the quivering ‘Frost’ aria from King Arthur, also performed during Les Prodiges), Durante, Schubert, Franck, Hahn, and the gospel number ‘Give me Jesus’.
As it happens, Andréas’s godfather is the countertenor Fabrice di Falco, who also proved an inspiration to Erato star Philippe Jaroussky. “Fabrice taught me not to have preconceptions about anything,” says Andréas, who is hoping to study at the Paris or Lyon Conservatoire, having received a 10,000 euro study grant as his prize for winning Les Prodiges.
“My mother tells me that, when I was little, I would stop playing when a piece of classical music came on the radio,” he says. “I would be mesmerised, frozen to the spot. I was fascinated by it.” When he was four, the voice of a female opera singer (he doesn’t know who) made a particular impression on him. His mother enrolled him in a children’s singing group and he went on to join the children’s choir of Radio France and study singing at a specialist training school in Paris, the Centre d'Art Lyrique.
Andréas, who also dances, plays basketball (he is 190cm tall) and practises the martial art taekwondo, says, “People still see classical music as something closed off, as something you have to be chosen to do. I want to show that it can be accessible to anyone.” He took the words of one of the Prodiges judges, the ballerina and choreographer Marie-Claude Pietragalla, to heart: “You can be a chameleon and try lots of different things,” she said. “The choice is yours ... Make the most of your curiosity.” As Andréas says, “That was the best piece of advice she could have given me.”