Another advantage of a male alto
is that words are probably sung with greater clarity than is sometimes the case with an operatic female alto.
The resurgence of interest in early opera has brought new recognition to countertenors, essentially male altos
singing in falsetto.
Thus Orpheus was not the tenor of Gluck's 1774 Paris version, nor the female mezzo of the Berlioz (hitherto standard) 1859 revision, but a countertenor--the illustrious David Daniels, who sangthe male alto
version of the first production beautifully.
The use of a male alto
may be authentic but there is more expressive depth in than Matthew Venner'small voice could convey.
I was a male alto
and enjoyed early music - Renaissance and medieval music - and thought I wanted to do more of it.
Nicknamed Senesino (from his Siena birthplace), the male alto
had a reputation for arrogance and insolence, unattractive spoilt brat characteristics which probably added to his fascination.
Soloists from within the choir were, as ever, beautifully focussed; in particular two soprano seraphs and indisputable musicality from a fine male alto
and Christopher Purves were uniformly excellent, while the stunning male alto
Daniel Taylor's Hamor made one so grateful this part wasn't taken by a tenor or, perish the idea, fruity contralto.
Unfortunately, Damian Thantrey and male alto
William Missin suffered slightly against the orchestra which, although sparse at times, required just a little more sensitive treatment in terms of balance.
Quality among the four vocal soloists was somewhat uneven, what with a late substitution and one singer obviously ailing, but tenor James Gilchrist was a hardworking and communicative Evangelist, and mezzo Sally Bruce-Payne radiated security and serenity, her voice having some of the mellowness of a male alto