Philippe Jaroussky is the cover star on the latest issue of Gramophone magazine
"A countertenor nowadays is firstly an artist," declares Philippe Jaroussky on the cover of Gramophone's April 2017 edition. The French singer capable of seraphic highs is the most famous countertenor of his generation. He talks to Gramophone about his new album La Storia di Orfeo, drawn from three Baroque retellings of the Orpheus myth (Monteverdi, Rossi and Sartorio), in which he transforms Monteverdi's eponymous hero from tenor to countertenor for the first time, with compelling results.
Philippe Jaroussky in the underworld: new album La Storia di Orfeo
In La storia di Orfeo, star countertenor Philippe Jaroussky realises a long-held dream as he retells the Orpheus myth through the music of three Italian composers of the early Baroque: Claudio Monteverdi, born exactly 350 years ago, and his younger contemporaries Luigi Rossi and Antonio Sartorio.
Monteverdi’s setting of the myth, L’Orfeo of 1607, is generally considered the first real opera. Over the subsequent centuries the story of Orpheus – the divinely gifted poet who descends to Hades to rescue his dead wife, Euridice – has maintained its hold on composers: among the notable operatic treatments of the myth are those by Gluck, Offenbach (a comic take) and, in our own time, Harrison Birtwistle, Philip Glass and Erato artist Christina Pluhar.
Jaroussky himself has starred in Gluck’s opera on stage and has taken the role of La speranza (Hope) in Monteverdi’s version, which was conceived with a tenor in the title role, though Rossi and Sartorio opted for castrati. In La storia di Orfeo, working with conductor Diego Fasolis, the musicologically-inclined singer has assembled a pasticcio of numbers by Monteverdi, Rossi and Sartorio that tells the entire story: the happiness on earth of Orfeo and Euridice, sung here by the Hungarian soprano Emőke Baráth; the death of Euridice, poisoned by a snake; Orfeo’s descent to Hades, which brings the deeply moving aria by Monteverdi, ‘Possente spirto’ in which the poet begs the boatman Charon to ferry him over the river Styx; his reunion with Euridice, and as they return to the land of the living, the sad moment when he loses her again forever.
As Jaroussky explains: “La storia di Orfeo is conceived as a kind of opera in miniature or as a cantata for two solo voices and chorus, and features just two characters: Orpheus and Eurydice. The three operas [Monteverdi, Rossi, Sartorio] focus on different aspects of the story …. The highpoint of Monteverdi’s work is an aria that has remained without parallel in the history of opera, the magical ‘Possente spirto’, which I have the temerity to perform here as a countertenor, for the first time on record.”
Jaroussky had long sensed that ”I could hear my own voice in that aria and that I could bring another colour to Monteverdi’s Orfeo”. He feels that the character, in his various operatic incarnations, represents “something special for a singer … He is almost superhuman, his singing has a magical power and he inspired so many composers to write roles with a mystical, spiritual element and which express a particular sensibility. It is a matter of finding the balance in Orfeo: the demi-god, who has such power through music, and who is yet deeply human”
Jaroussky has sought to create “a real logic in the dramatic flow of the album … This is not just a series of extracts from operas with no connections between them.” Both Rossi’s opera, first performed in Paris in 1647, and Sartorio’s, first seen in Venice in 1672, are more elaborate works than Monteverdi’s, and very differently structured. For instance, Jaroussky has chosen Sartorio’s overture, which he describes as “the most sophisticated and developed” and has given Emőke Baráth an aria by Rossi – in Monteverdi’s version, Euridice does not have an extended solo. Jaroussky and Baráth both starred in the Erato recording of Handel’s Partenope, released in 2015, and Gramophone described the soprano’s performance as “exquisite, persuasive …. The Hungarian singer grows from tentative delicacy to ringing joy”. Jaroussky chose her for the recording after hearing her in an opera by yet another contemporary of Monteverdi, Francesco Cavalli. “She has a feeling for this repertoire. Her voice is powerful and full of colour, yet fragile. She can give substance to Euridice.”
The French countertenor has already collaborated with the Swiss conductor Diego Fasolis and I Barocchisti, his Lugano-based ensemble, on Erato recordings of Handel’s Faramondo and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. “Diego puts an emphasis on the opera’s italianità [Italian essence],” says Jaroussky, “… the flavour of text, the rhythm, the harmony, he supports the soloists and the chorus [the Swiss-Italian Radio Chorus], transmitting a positive energy. We have been working together for a long time … I can have a dialogue with him. He’s a conductor I trust.”
Philippe Jaroussky's new album La Storia di Orfeo is out 3 March, 2017.
Philippe Jaroussky sings at the inaugural concert of the Elbphilharmonie
It was all eyes and ears on Hamburg last night for the first of two highly-anticipated concerts inaugurating Germany's lavish new concert hall, the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie. French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, the architecturally stunning venue's first Artist in Residence, had the honour of performing for a packed hall of VIPs, including Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel. Jaroussky sang two Italian Baroque arias, by Cavalieri and Caccini, in a performance that is now available online, giving music lovers around the world a first look at the Elbphilharmonie's elegantly modern interior.
To celebrate the opening of the hall and his residency at the Elbphilharmonie, Jaroussky has chosen his favourite tracks by composers who hail from or left an indelible mark on the city of Hamburg, from Telemann (as heard on his new album of Bach and Telemann cantatas) to Mahler. Philippe's playlist can be heard now on Apple Music.
Philippe Jaroussky: Singer of the Year in the 2016 ECHO Klassik Awards
French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, crowned Singer of the Year in the 2016 ECHO Klassik Awards, accepted his prize tonight at the awards ceremony in Berlin. To honour the occasion, he also performed Händel's Lascia ch’io pianga in front of a live and televised audience.
It was one of twelve prizes for artists signed to Warner Classics and Erato labels in this year's ECHO Klassik Awards.
The coveted Male Singer of the Year award comes just as Philippe Jaroussky releases his first-ever album sung in German: Bach and Telemann Sacred Cantatas (including the much-loved ‘Ich habe genug’). Jaroussky is accompanied by the Freiburger Barockorchester, which also joined him for live performances at Berlin in 2015 as part of the singer’s season as artist-in-residence at the city’s historic Konzerthaus.
"When I devised this Bach and Telemann based programme there were several Bach cantatas I could have chosen," explains Jaroussky. "For me, 'Vergnügte Ruh' with organ solo was the obvious first one to record and at the same time I was actually quite keen to avoid 'Ich habe genug ' which was originally a cantata for bass but which has already been sung a lot by countertenors, mezzo sopranos and sopranos. There are several versions of it. I tried to avoid it but in the end I said to myself "if I am to record it, maybe it's now or never so let's just get on with it!'
"What I would like to do in this recording is make the most of the fame of these two Bach cantatas "Ich habe genug" and " Vergnügte Ruh" to lead the listener to discover the other two cantatas by Telemann."
Philippe Jaroussky's new album - Bach & Telemann Sacred Cantatas - is out in October.
Photo (c) BVMI / Markus Nass
VIDEO: Philippe Jaroussky sings Bach's 'Ich habe genug'
Ich habe genug - from Philippe Jaroussky's forthcoming album of Bach and Telemann, out in October 2016.
This programme of four religious cantatas by J.S. Bach and his contemporary Georg Philipp Telemann represents something of a new departure for Philippe Jaroussky: this is the first album that the French countertenor has devoted entirely to works sung in German.
Jaroussky already enjoys a considerable reputation in Germany – in July 2016 he was named Singer of the Year (for the second time) in the country’s top classical music awards, the ECHO Klassik.
In the past, Jaroussky has claimed to be intimidated by the perfection of Bach’s music, but he has now set down his interpretation of two of the master’s solo cantatas: the much-loved and deeply moving Ich habe genug, which in its opening movement recalls the sublime aria Erbarme dich from the St Matthew Passion and goes on to provide consolation in its third section ('Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen'), and Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, which opens with a wonderfully serene pastoral movement.
The two works by Telemann – 'Der am Ölberg zagende Jesus (Die stille Nacht umschloss) and Jesus liegt in letzten Zügen – take the portent and tragedy of Passiontide as their theme.
In late 2015 Jaroussky performed these works before a capacity audience at Berlin’s historic Konzerthaus, where he was artist-in-residence in the 2015-16 season; this concert marked the first time he had sung in German to a German audience. “The voice of an angel” were the words of the Berliner Tagesspiegel, which also drew attention to Jaroussky’s ability to express the drama of Telemann’s ‘Mount of Olives’ cantata. The Berliner Morgenpost, meanwhile, described him as “perhaps the most adventurous of today’s countertenors”. The writer also praised Jaroussky’s “exquisitely fine legato” and evoked the way his “plaintive descant glowed over the inky-black accompaniment” in the music of Telemann.
The instrumental ensemble in Berlin, as on this recording, was the Freiburger Barockorchester, which gave its first concert nearly 30 years ago and is established as one of the finest ensembles in the field of historically informed performance.
The 2016 Gramophone Awards shortlist has been revealed
The prestigious Gramophone Awards shortlist has been announced, showcasing the finest classical recordings over the past year, as chosen by the leading classical music magazine's critics and specialists.
Seventy-two recordings have been shortlisted across twelve categories. The top three recordings in each category will be revealed in next issue of the magazine, which goes on sale on August 12.
There are particularly strong contenders in the Vocal categories, with French soprano Sabine Devieilhe - noted by Gramophone for her "pure, sweet timbre and dazzling virtuosity" - up against the likes of Jonas Kaufmann and Max Emanuel Cencic for her multi-award-winning Mozart album The Weber Sisters (Recital category).
Fresh from singing David Bowie at the BBC Proms in London, French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky is in the running for another prize, this time as one of the cast-members in Il Pomo d'Oro's magnificent triple-album recording of the Handel opera Partenope, welcomed by Gramophone as “a landmark event”.
Joyce DiDonato is a strong candidate for the Solo Vocal category for her live double album from Wigmore Hall Joyce & Tony, with her esteemed recital partner Sir Antonio Pappano at the piano in everything from Italian arias to the Great American Songbook.
In Opera, Pappano's Verdi Aïda, the all-star triple album studio recording from Rome, is a clear frontrunner, with tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Rademes - he is nominated again in the same category for his Pagliacci. Gramophone declared soprano Anja Harteros "the most interesting Aïda on record since Callas"; both she and maestro Pappano have been nominated for the public-voted Artist of the Year.
Among the Instrumental selections, Bertrand Chamayou does his countryman Ravel proud in the complete works for solo piano on a double album.
The Concerto category sees young Norwegian violin virtuoso Vilde Frang holding her own alongside the likes of Janine Jansen, with the recent Gramophone Recording of the Month, her "urgently communicative" Britten and Korngold Violin Concertos.
The Chamber category sees two Erato string quartets nominated for two sublime releases: the French Quatuor Ebène for their Schubertalbum featuring baritone Matthias Goerne and cellist Gautier Capuçon, and the German Artemis Quartet's searing Brahms, their last recording with the late, lamented violist Friedemann Weigle, which cellist Eckart Runge sees as "imbued with a sense of warmth, immediacy, friendship and love that is interwoven with a more spiritual, timeless beauty”.
See the full shortlist of the 2016 Gramophone Award nominees here.
Twelve major prizes for Warner Classics artists in the ECHO Klassik Awards
It’s the second year in a row that Warner Classics and Erato have taken the lion’s share in the ECHO Klassik Awards, the prestigious German classical music prizes revealed today. Artists from the two labels claimed a total of twelve accolades for excellence in classical recording and performance, including one for the Warner Classics-distributed Euroarts DVD label.
Philippe Jaroussky has been crowned Singer of the Year for the second time (his 5th ECHO Klassik) – the only countertenor ever named in this category to date. He receives the prize for his album Green, a journey through French chanson settings of poetry by Paul Verlaine.
From the Francophile flair of his last recital album, Jaroussky chose to sing in German for the first time for his highly-anticipated recording of Bach and Telemann cantatas with Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, to be released in October. And as this year’s artist in residence at the Norddeutscher Rundfunk in Hamburg, set to sing at the opening night of Hamburg’s new concert hall Elbphilharmonie, he has developed stronger connections to German musical life than ever before.
Conductor of the Year goes to Antonio Pappano for his monumental studio recording of Aïda. The Italian-British maestro recorded Verdi’s masterpiece with an all-star cast (including Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann) in Rome and received international critical acclaim, including the BBC Music Award for Album of the Year and a Diapason d’Or.
Diana Damrau is the second Erato singer who picks up a prize this year, for her tour-de-force Violetta in the Paris Opera production of Traviata released on DVD (Music DVD Production of the Year: Opera).
Young French cellist Edgar Moreau receives the ECHO Klassik 2016 as Newcomer of the Year for his Baroque album Giovincello, on which he brings his youthful energy and virtuosic thrills to 18th-century cello concertos by Haydn, Vivaldi, Boccherini, Platti, and the world-premiere recording of a concerto by Carlo Graziani. He was just 21 at the time he made this vibrant recording with Baroque ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro.
Classical without Borders is a category of the ECHO Klassik for music productions that build a bridge either to or from the classical genre. Two awards in this category go to Warner Classics artists: the John Wilson Orchestra (for Cole Porter in Hollywood), which will make its German concert debut in September, and the German quartet Salut Salon for their delightfully whimsical album Carnival Fantasy.
Two Erato pianists receive prizes: Bertrand Chamayou (Solo Recording of the Year) for his multi-faceted recording of Ravel’s complete works for solo piano, and Alexandre Tharaud (Music DVD production of the Year: Concert) for the majestic and detailed film of him playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which was released as a bonus DVD accompanying the album.
The ECHO for Concert Recording of the Year (19th-century music) goes to Il Pomo d’Oro for their Haydn Concertos album, in which joint music directors Riccardo Minasi on violin and harpsichordist Maxim Emelyanychev take turns leading this refined yet lively Baroque band.
Violinist Vilde Frang receives the prize for Concerto Recording of the Year (20th/21st century music) for her latest album of violin concertos by Korngold and Britten, an unusual but riveting pairing that Frang has said it was her dream to record.
The Artemis Quartet receives the prize for the Chamber Music Recording of the Year. Their intense Brahms’ String Quartets 1 & 3 is the final album the Quartet recorded with their late violist Friedemann Weigle, who tragically passed away last year.
The DVD label EuroArts music, distributed via Warner Classics Label Services, takes home the ECHO for Music DVD Production of the Year: Documentary for Ralf Pleger’s The Tschaikovsky Files.
Congratulations to all the winners. The full list of Erato and Warner Classics ECHO prizewinners below makes for a wonderfully comprehensive Best of 2015. The awards ceremony will take place in October. More information about the ECHO Klassik Awards here.
Singer of the Year (male):
Philippe Jaroussky (Green) – Erato
Conductor of the Year:
Antonio Pappano (AIDA) – Warner Classics
Newcomer of the Year (Cello):
Edgar Moreau (Giovincello) – Erato
Classics without Borders:
John Wilson Orchestra (Cole Porter in Hollywood) – Warner Classics
Salut Salon (Carnival Fantasy) – Warner Classics
Concerto Recording of the Year (19th-century music):
Il Pomo d’Oro (Haydn: Concertos) – Erato
Concerto Recording of the Year (20th/21st-century music):
Vilde Frang (Britten/Korngold) – Warner Classics
Solo Recording of the Year (20th/21st-century music / piano):
Bertrand Chamayou (Ravel) - Erato
Chamber Music Recording of the Year (19th century music / strings):
Artemis Quartett (Brahms) - Erato
Music DVD Production of the Year (Opera):
Diana Damrau (La Traviata) – Erato
Music DVD Production of the Year (concert):
Alexandre Tharaud (Bach: Goldberg Variations) – Erato
Music-DVD-Production of the Year (documentary):
Ralf Pleger (The Tschaikovsky Files) - EuroArts
Philippe Jaroussky to sing David Bowie in BBC Proms tribute concert
Philippe Jaroussky has been invited to sing a new composition based on music by David Bowie for the BBC Proms' tribute to the late, lamented glam rock legend, who passed away 10 January this year.
The star countertenor is the only French singer to be chosen for this unique event, in an impressive line-up that shines the spotlight on the most iconic singers of our time, among them John Cale and Amanda Palmer.
The musical tributes and arrangements of Bowie songs have been commissioned by the Proms from some of the most exciting contemporary composers internationally, including David Lang and Michel van der Aa.
Although Jaroussky's vocal pyrotechnics brought him to international stardom in the Baroque arias of Vivaldi and Handel, he has also explored French song from Debussy to Charles Trenet on the albums Opium and Green. He also ventured into contemporary opera this year, premiering the work written for him by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, Only the Sound Remains, in a dual role of angel and ghost.
The David Bowie Prom will take place at London's Royal Albert Hall on 29 July, 2016, and features Philippe Jaroussky, John Cale and other singers with Berlin ensemble s t a r g a z e conducted by André de Ridder.
Photo by Simon Fowler.
Philippe Jaroussky in 'Alcina': out now on DVD and Blu-Ray
Alcina, one of Handel’s most popular operas, is named after a dangerously seductive sorceress – soprano Patricia Petibon in this production from the 2015 Aix-en-Provence Festival; but perhaps the central figure is the bewitched warrior Ruggiero, performed here by Philippe Jaroussky. The role, which includes the haunting, lilting aria Verdi prati, was composed for the celebrated countertenor Giovanni Carestini, who provided the focus for Jaroussky’s superb 2007 album of arias by Handel, Hasse, Porpora, Leo and Gluck.
Ruggiero, captive on Alcina’s magic island, will be transformed into an animal or inanimate object once the enchantress tires of him, but fortunately his betrothed Bradamante (a mezzo-soprano) comes to save him, disguised as her brother, Ricciardo. Further complications ensue when Alcina’s sister, Morgana, falls in love with ‘Ricciardo’.
The production of Alcina, by the British director Katie Mitchell, was welcomed by The Financial Times as “meticulously executed …, rich in detail, consummately polished”. Like Mitchell’s Aix-en-Provence staging of George Benjamin’s hugely successful Written on Skin (first seen in 2012), it offers simultaneous action in multiple zones of the stage, with Alcina’s elegant boudoir taking pride of place. As The New York Times wrote: “It involves a huge sorcery machine for turning people into animals (or whatever). And Ms. Mitchell works magic of her own onstage, constantly showing the enchantresses Alcina and Morgana alternating between glamorous public personas and their ‘real life’, older, private selves …There are also bits of simulated sex, mingling genders and suggesting, among other things, inventive new ways to hit high notes.”
Describing the whole show as “a night of a thousand delights”, Bachtrack wrote that “Philippe Jaroussky cuts a mighty fine dash as the debonair knight Ruggiero … The French countertenor's yearning mezza voce delivery of Verdi prati is sublime, possibly the evening's vocal highlight, although there is strong competition from Anna Prohaska's Tornami a vagheggiar [Morgana’s spectacular Act 1 closing number] and from Anthony Gregory's [Oronte] physically and vocally energetic È un folle, un vile affetto. Add some bell-clear, sweetly defined contributions from Katarina Bradić [Bradamante] and Krzysztof Baczyk [Melisso] as the gallant rescuers and this Alcina is a feast for the ear.” Le Monde reported that “Patricia Petibon throws herself into the title role; body, voice, soul and more, toying with the limits of style,” while The New York Times found her “little short of sensational vocally … and excellent at eliciting sympathy through her acting.”
The Financial Times praised the Freiburger Barockorchester for playing with “flair, energy and an easy, open sound ... [Conductor] Andrea Marcon lets the phrases breathe, gives a lush continuo section room to unfold, and knows how to drive the pace forward without sounding forced.” Describing Marcon as “exceptional”, Opera News felt that: “Musically, this was a performance of the highest festival level … the continuo and instrumental solos attained a rarely heard level of ensemble with an orchestra honed to perfection.”
Bewitched in bed! VIDEO: Philippe Jaroussky in Alcina on DVD & Blu-Ray
"A night of a thousand delights." -Bachtrack
An all-star cast, provocative stage direction, Philippe Jaroussky's tips on how to survive sexual slavery... Plus the breathtaking aria Verdi prati... Handel's opera Alcina in the daring 2015 production from the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence also stars Patricia Petibon and Anna Prohaska.