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10/22/08
David Daniels for President
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It’s October, the presidential campaigns have been going on what seems like forever, the stock market’s still in some sort of atrial fibrillation, and the banks are possibly in worse shape than we had thought even two weeks ago.

I’ve had enough. So as a public service, I would like to nominate David Daniels for president. Okay, not for president of the UNITED STATES. But I’d certainly call him the presumptive nominee in the countertenor category of vocal excellence. I’ve been listening to his latest CD of Bach cantatas and arias, with the English Concert led by Harry Bicket, and I’m happy to say it ranks right up there with Bach recordings of the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, high praise indeed. There are the big juicy bits from the St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, plus “Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust” (from cantata BWV 170), “Schafe Können sicher weiden” (from cantata BWV 208), and two stunners, “Ich habe genug” and “Schlummert ein” (from cantata BWV 82). You can get a little taste of it here:

And you can learn more about Daniels as at Carnegie Hall’s Web site which has provided some nice background and sound clips in advance of Daniels’ New York recital in April 2009. I’d be surprised if that concert doesn’t sell out.

If you are new to countertenors, all you need to know as a basic education is that these are male singers who sing in the same range as mezzo-sopranos, and that there are lot of parts for them in baroque operas, especially ones by Handel. (If pop music is your frame of reference, think Frankie Valli, and you’re in the right ballpark.) Daniels originally trained to be a tenor; after struggling for years in that range he switched to countertenor, back when there were not a lot of them on the scene. And that’s when everything zipped into focus for him.

The Metropolitan Opera isn’t performing any Handel operas with countertenors in them this season, but if you’re hankering for some good countertenor singing in New York and don’t want to wait until Daniels’ April recital, you can hear the superb German singer Andreas Scholl in multiple performances of Handel’s Messiah in December with the New York Philharmonic and Westminster Symphonic Choir. Scholl has a new DVD out Andreas Scholl, Countertenor: A Portrait by Uli Aumüller and Hanne Kaisik, which chronicles his upbringing and training and interpolates performances of pieces by John Dowland and Buxtehude. You can see a bit of it below:

Meanwhile, back on the campaign treadmill, I’m trying to decide which presidential candidate or also-ran would be best cast as a countertenor. Maybe John Edwards—a hair aria sung in front of the mirror (like Semele’s “Myself I shall adore”)? Or Rudy Giuliani—duet with Judith Nathan, à la “Indian Love Call”?

  • John Yohalem

    Excellent suggestion, Jenny! At last a candidate who can carry both South Carolina (his home state) and Massachusetts! But who for a running mate? Stephanie Blythe goes very well with him, and she’s brainy as anybody and very solidly grounded. But perhaps he’d need someone brainy and dim to finesse the debates – Nathan Gunn, say.

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