Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sopranos and Countertenors in Disguise – Emöke Barath and Valer Barna-Sabadus

So Menelao is this guy who falls in love with Elena (Helen) of Troy (who doesn't?) and takes the novel approach of dressing like a girl in order to get closer to her. (A lot of that sort of thing seems to happen in Cavalli operas.) I think by the time they get to this scene, Elena knows he's a guy, even though he's still wearing a dress. So they fall in love and sing this gorgeous duet. 

Even more gorgeous are Hungarian soprano Emöke Barath—an expressive singer and actress (not usually blonde); and Valer Barna-Sabadus, the Romanian counter-tenor—also of lovely voice and countenancewe've heard so much about lately (not usually clean-shaven or wearing a dress).

They are a wonderfully convincing pair of lovers. Cavalli's music may be an acquired taste, but in the spirit of Pandora: if you like Monteverdi, you might also like Cavalli. 


  1. Wouldn't Menelao fall in love with Elena before she is of Troy? Or does Cavalli mess with the timeline in this version?

    1. Good catch. She's actually Elena of Carthage here (I think. I never was too good with history -- and the performance is in Italian with French subtitles, so it's all Greek to me!) Although apparently, everyone fell in love with Elena wherever she was. And everyone falls in love with Menelao in drag (A lot of that sort of thing seems to happen in Cavalli operas.)

  2. Opera – Baroque in particular – is so stuffed with trouser roles; I suppose why not the other way once in a while? VBS has, of course, dragged up before (along with fellow countertenor starlet Max Emanuel Cencic) in Vinci’s quite wonderful Artaserse. While MEC had rather too much of the Widow Twankey about him, VBS was, at times, disturbingly attractive. And his Dusseldorf Xerxes, while not actually crossdressing, is so camp that you can hardly tell the difference.

  3. Further to my first comment, this is, of course, not strictly a skirt role – for that to apply the male singer would have to be playing a female part, as in Artaserse.


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