Who likes the great Philippe Jaroussky, have these days in the Royal Theatre of two for the price of one. It is not that the most celebrated countertenor in the world is on offer. Continue in a line of impeccable exquisiteness. What happens is that the Finnish Kaija Saariaho and the stage director Peter Sellars they have made him unfold into an angel and victim of darkness for his role in an opera like Only the Sound Remains [hasta el 9 de noviembre], written largely for him.
Saariaho herself tells it: "I like to compose with the voices in my mind and all this started with Philippe involved in the project". So during the period in which he conceived this piece, where he seeks the embrace between the palpable and hidden worlds, he maintained in his sonorous imagination the timbre of the Frenchman. "I'm very lucky," says Jaroussky (Maisons-Laffitte, 1978). "Four years ago, Peter Sellars saw my show about Farinelli and he wanted to collaborate with me. He proposed this adventure with Kajia and I went to sing for her to New York. I had always been interested in the contemporary repertoire. Collaborating with a living composer was an experience he did not want to miss. "
The style options for countertenors are not those of all the other singers. From the Baroque they move on to the 20th century and leave almost all of the XIX century. It is a vocal string that fits the papers written in his day for castrati. The more contemporary ones recovered that tone of attractive ambiguity that gives the feminine voice intoned by a man to create new works. This impulse and the recovery of the oldest repertoire, led to a school with this specialty that has crystallized and conquered new audiences in recent decades.
After his participation in the Teatro Real and his time of rest, Philippe Jaroussky is awaiting two important appointments with Cecilia Bartoli this season. One at Easter in Salzburg, where he will participate in Farinelli and Friends, the tribute that both, accompanied by other singers, want to pay to the largest castrato in history, and another at La Scala in Milan, where they will perform together Giulio Cesare, by Handel. Italy is not a country where Jaroussky has triumphed. For reasons of rejection of the repertoire he explores, not the singer. Nothing personal, only poorly resolved collective traumas: "I've only done three concerts there in 20 years. They do not like to explore the world of castrati, they live it as something they are ashamed of. That's why it costs to enter, "he says. For centuries, children were castrated to be dedicated to singing. Some triumphed, others, as consolation, ended up earning their bread in a choir, most died as a result of a useless sacrifice to escape hunger. Everything in the name of art, still weighs in the country that raised them and then wanted to erase them.
In Only the Sound Remains, Saariaho has wanted to be protected by texts of another great ambiguous, the poet Ezra Pound. Sellars, meanwhile, has made use of the Japanese noh theater for the scenic proposal. Both have also sought to challenge Jaroussky out of common ground for him with a reduced orchestra, more than a camera that symphonic, under the baton of Ivor Bolton.
In that disturbing atmosphere, where eroticism and death converge, the concrete with an ambition of frustrated transcendence, Jaroussky develops. "They are two characters with different intonations. The angel with light and its opposite, more tenebrous, who wanders without peace in the world of the dead ".
The result is a continuous challenge to the frontiers where the sound demands. His voice is amplified and remains floating in the environment once he leaves his body with electronic means. "Every night I fear the reaction of the public. You can control the sound when you carry it inside and turn it off with the body. But not when it leaves you and stays around, outside your domain. However, I live it as a rich paradox that opens more possibilities than limits. In my case, it provides a lot of security when it comes to not forcing and singing with a more natural, closer tone. It is a work that owes more to the colors that Debussy painted in Pelléas and Mélisande than to Verdi or Wagner. "
The experience, thus seen, serves above all to attract those audiences who are reluctant because they believe that opera is the art of exaggeration. "I identify a lot with Maria Callas' obsession when looking for closeness. It is something that also takes us to the origins of this art and to vindicate the Monteverdi who often sought speech. The sung voice, then, especially in the most intense baroque, with the pirouettes of the castrati, can transvestite the true emotions ", warns Jaroussky.
He knows what he's talking about. He has explored the territory of those lonely fairy monsters that were castrati. From Farinelli to Carestini, Jaroussky has enjoyed and suffered through his voice his wonders and sorrows. That's why he also fears decadence. "I do not want to get old by singing," he says at his 40th birthday. "I know that I will have to get off stage one day. But I do not live it as a trauma. I consider myself a musician in general and this I face only as a stage of a career in which I want to try other areas, such as direction, "he says.
It will try to last in the best conditions. But you need long rest periods. "When I finish here I'll stop for three months. I need to reflect and study thoroughly. It's up to me to find the right rhythm. It is my responsibility to give my best. "