American counter-tenor Randall Scotting his disc of arias written for the castrato Senesino and the analysis that went into creating it






Randall Scotting (Photo Joel Benjamin)
Randall Scotting (Photograph Joel Benjamin)

Regardless of residing in London for eight years, the American counter-tenor Randall Scotting will not be a well known title on these shores. Nevertheless, having made his Royal Opera Home debut in 2019 as Apollo in Britten’s Dying in Venice and simply launched his debut recital disc, The Crown: Heroic Arias for Senesino, with Laurence Cummings and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) on Signum Classics, that needs to be about to vary. And we caught Randall singing the position of the Refugee in Jonathan Dove‘s Flight in a filmed efficiency from Seattle Opera [see my review].

The repertoire on the brand new disc, arias by Bononcini, Ariosti, Giaj, Orlandini, Ristori, Giacomelli, and Lotti, could be very a lot the fruit of Randall’s years in London when he was engaged on a Ph D on the Royal Faculty of Music, researching into lesser-known Baroque composers. The disc assembles arias written for the nice castrato Senesino, greatest identified for making a sequence of main roles for Handel. Randall explains that in addition to creating over a dozen roles for Handel, Senesino had an enormous European status through the 1720s and 1730s and was very a lot a famous person.

Folks these days know Senesino’s title, however not the numerous quantity of music that was written for him. Randall’s analysis for his Ph D concerned finding music in archives and creating editions, thus feeding instantly into this disc. Randall enjoys this sense of being concerned within the rediscovery of the music, however by wanting on the arias written for Senesino, Randall additionally discovered an excellent deal extra in regards to the castrato’s voice.

Randall had sung a number of of Senesino’s Handel roles and the arias appeared to suit him. He describes his voice as a mezzo-soprano-ish alto, with a excessive extension and each the tessitura and technical elements of Senesino’s arias suited Randall. Senesino was famend for his dramatic skills, in addition to his technical talent together with his notable messa di voce, and he favored arias that enabled him to indicate off these totally different elements of his voice.

Francesco Bernardi ('Senesino') by Alexander van Aken, after Thomas Hudson - mezzotint, published 1735 - Nationl Portrait Gallery (NPG D1059)
Francesco Bernardi (‘Senesino’) by Alexander van Aken, after Thomas Hudson
mezzotint, revealed 1735 – Nationwide Portrait Gallery (NPG D1059)

The music that different composers wrote for Senesino tells us extra in regards to the singer and helps put Handel’s music into context. Two of the composers on the disc, Bononcini and Ariosti, had been Handel’s colleagues within the Royal Academy of Music in London, he would have heard their work. Apparently, Randall factors out that Bononcini’s music for Senesino is commonly written a 3rd greater than Handel’s, however Bononcini additionally makes use of Senesino’s decrease register greater than Handel. Senesino was very involved with how his was obtained, that the music ought to present him as his greatest. Randall feels that numbers the place the viewers is in a position to attract the singer in resembling ‘Dolce Sogno’ from Bononcini’s La Griselda (on the disc) present this. We’ve got accounts of how transferring and touching Senesino was within the music. 

Senesino had over 100 roles written for him in his 33-year profession, he actually knew methods to construct fame for himself. Randall factors to the instance of an aria by Giuseppe Maria Orlandini, written for Senesino in Venice in 1729 that included an decoration, martellato, that doesn’t happen in some other aria written for the singer. Some research confirmed that additionally showing within the opera was star soprano Faustina Cuzzoni, whose trademark the decoration was. This was Senesino primarily saying ‘Something you are able to do …’

These insights into his character make Randall describe Senesino as ‘a little bit of a shit’. It’s clear that Handel stored a stronger management over the music he wrote for the singer than another composers, but Handel was in a position to present the singer off nicely. Handel and Senesino’s relationship was by no means a straightforward one. When Senesino arrived in London in 1720, Handel known as him a damned idiot. For many of the first Royal Academy of Music, their relationship was sufficient, every realising the mutual profit they drew from it. However issues fell aside through the second Royal Academy. For a begin, a task just like the title position in Handel’s Orlando was to not Senesino’s style as there have been few conventional Da Capo arias to allow him to indicate off, and Handel retains the voice till management. Pissed off that Handel wouldn’t do what Senesino wished him to do, the singer went behind Handel’s again to create the rival Opera of the The Aristocracy.

However we even have to keep in mind that Senesino’s voice was ageing. After leaving London for the final time, he was not often nicely obtained in Italy. Randall feels that his was not helped by Senesino persisting in singing primo uomo roles in massive theatres (such because the San Carlo in Naples which seated 3,000), whereas at that stage of his profession he would have been extra appropriate to secondary roles in smaller theatres – one other perception into the person’s character. And all this helps inform the method to the music that Handel and others wrote for the singer.

There are seven composers on the disc, Bononcini and Ariosti who labored alongside Handel in London, Lotti who wrote operas for Senesino in Dresden in a mode that was much less progressive, (an aria from his 1718 opera, Ascanio is on the disc), plus Giaj, Orlandini, Ristori, and Giacomelli. Handel was adept at marrying music and drama in his operas, however Randall feels that these different composers solely actually get the bones of the drama, in order that performing the music takes extra perception from the performer to carry the music out. And Randall feedback that that is very true of Lotti’s music had been the musical outlines and patterns imply it’s a must to know the place to decoration. And his Ph D is useful right here too, due to his stylistic analysis into forms of forms of trills, cadenzas and the like. Sadly, there may be little or no documentation for the forms of decoration that Senesino used. His youthful rival, Farinelli (who sang in London however by no means sang for Handel), wrote out his ornamentations in a presentation manuscript that was a present for a patron. However Senesino didn’t appear to care about creating monuments for his legacy, so we’ve got not such comparable data.

A number of the arias on the disc can sound difficult, however they’re so nicely written for the voice that they arrive out nicely. The Lotti aria is totally different, extra instrumental in the best way he conceives the vocal writing. Right here, Randall and I’ve a one thing of an enchanting diversion in our dialogue speaking about different analysis that Randall has executed, in actual fact our dialog was stuffed with fascinating highways and byways of analysis. One in all Farinelli’s most well-known arias (often carried out at the moment) was ‘Son qual nave’ written by Farinelli’s brother Riccardo Broschi, however while wanting in archives Randall got here throughout an earlier model of the aria by the composer Giovanni Antonio Giaj (whose music can be on the disc). Giaj’s model of ‘Son qual nave’ has the identical melody line for the A bit, with totally different accompaniment and a special B part; so, it it appears that evidently Riccardo Broschi reworked an present aria as a showpiece for his brother. Giaj’s music will not be well-known, he wrote operas for Turin, which was a significant opera centre, however the composer appears to have been a little bit of a recluse and his music didn’t unfold. He was one in all three composers whose work Randall took as operatic case research in his Ph D. 

Musical archaeology fascinates Randall, and as one other instance his cites Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, his Reform opera which premiered in Vienna in 1762, however most of the options on this opera may be present in a model of Orfeo written by Josef Fuchs some 50 years earlier. Randall factors out that usually overlook that composers weren’t working in isolation. 

Recording The Crown (Photo Nic Mramer)
Recording The Crown – Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Laurence Cummings, Randall Scotting
(Photograph Nic Mramer)

He now finds it onerous to carry out music the 18th century the place he has not created the version, as he prefers being concerned and doesn’t belief older editions. He enjoys discovering the manuscript, and creating his personal version, interrogating the manuscript and making his personal decisions, quite counting on another person’s model. And this influences the best way he performs and interprets the music.

They’re hoping to place collectively a live performance primarily based on the disc, however within the UK, by way of performing, Randall is new, he’s primarily often known as an educational, so promoting the programme with him is more durable. He’s conscious of the necessity to concentrate to the enterprise facet of issues however admits that it’s not his ardour. His status is rising, not solely has he made his Royal Opera debut, however he has carried out on the Met in New York and will probably be returning to Seattle. 

His subsequent challenge is a brand new disc, to be launched in February 2023, which he smilingly refers to as an anti-valentine. Referred to as Love Sick, it’s a disc of lute songs with lutenist Stephen Stubbs. That is very a lot a pandemic challenge. He began speaking with the OAE about The Crown in 2019, however plans needed to be placed on maintain. He discovered everybody was doing lockdown initiatives, however one of these private challenge didn’t work for him. Feeling considerably determined, he turned to lute songs.

Chatting to Randall, it’s clear that he’s very conscious of his voice and magnificence. He’s an enormous man, tall and imposing, and he works out, discovering that it grounds him and varieties an antidote to the emotional side of his singing job. His voice is all of a bit with this, considerably totally different to the prevailing model of counter tenors. This leads us to an enchanting dialogue about how voices have change into extra homogenous. Randall feedback that these days there are typically two forms of tenor, Peter Pears or Luciano Pavarotti, whereas within the early nineteenth century there have been some 20 various kinds of tenor. Recordings have a powerful affect; a single recording is just one approach to file a piece however turns into the best way to file the piece with different singers becoming themselves to it. 

Randall Scotting (Photo Stephanie Girard)
Randall Scotting (Photograph Stephanie Girard)

He comes from a small city in Colorado and sang baritone in highschool
earlier than finding out the cello. When he went to varsity, he knew he wished to
examine music however wasn’t positive what, although he knew that he wasn’t able to
hand over on the cello. So, he studied cello and voice, and studied
composition and piano privately. Rising up in a small city in Colorado
there was little in the best way of tradition, and he feedback that it was a
problem. In school, he sang baritone within the choir however throughout
sectionals would sing together with the sopranos, not realising that this
skill was uncommon. He talked about it to his voice instructor and was fortunate
that the instructor had studied in Germany the place the counter tenor voice was extra widespread, notably in Bach. 

For a yr, Randall sang baritone, tenor and counter-tenor. Counter-tenor Andreas Scholl‘s instructor was a pal of Randall’s American instructor, and so for his first go to to Europe, Randall sang for Scholl’s instructor, they usually gave Randall encouragement. He was simply 19, and he switched to counter-tenor. At one other faculty within the USA, he had a instructor who knew extra in regards to the counter-tenor voice and inspired Randall to focus on the bread-and-butter repertoire, together with Handel and Britten’s Oberon. However Randall, at first, was not drawn to Baroque music and felt that it wasn’t for him. Within the visible arts he cherished Kandinsky and Jackson Pollok and wished to translate this contemporary model into music. 

Now he balances the bread and butter with different tougher initiatives, resembling Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for Mad King. He has nice curiosity about totally different modes of expression and mentions the music of Olga Neuwirth, he enjoys the complete vary of what a voice can signify. In Spring 2022, he made his debut on the Bavarian State Opera as Michael in Georg Friedrich Haas‘ opera Thomas, a piece which requires the singers to work in microtones right down to a sixth of a tone. One of many challenges of studying the music was discovering the precise instruments to make use of. He feedback that many modern counter-tenor roles play up the voice’s otherness, and he’s curious about repositioning trendy counter-tenor writing in the direction of the dramatic. He’s speaking to composer associates in regards to the potentialities.

The Crown: Heroic Arias for Senesino – Randall Scotting, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Laurence Cummings – Signum Classics [further details]

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