Collection: The Three Countertenors

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COMPOSERS: Bernstein,Bizet,Capua,Massenet
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: O sole mio; White as Lilies; My Way; Habanera from Carmen
PERFORMER: Pascal Bertin, Andreas Scholl, Dominique Visse (countertenor)François Couturier (piano)Karl Ernst Schröder (lute)Camargue PO/Reinhardt Wagner


Just when you thought that the Three Tenors roadshow had vanished up its own goal mouth, here come the camp-followers. But don’t be fooled: not all good things come in threes. While Carreras, Domingo & Co can at least lay some claim to the cachet of that exclusive definite article, Messrs Bertin, Scholl and Visse are by no stretch of the vocal cords ‘the’ three countertenors, just three of the best in Harmonia Mundi’s well-stocked stable.

Stylistically, too, they are much of a muchness, only really distinguishable en trio, I suspect, by those with ears attuned to the higher frequencies emitted by bats, banshees and dog whistles.

Falsetto-fanciers will surely lament the opportunity lost by not inviting other voice types in on the act – oh, for a real English hooter like James Bowman, or a true trans-vocal like Jochen Kowalski. As it is, the threesome have their sights set on assaulting not just your eardrums – what would Ol’ Blue Eyes have made of Bertin’s ‘My Way’ (the line ‘For what is a man – what has he got?’ takes on a whole new meaning) – but three pinnacles of the French mezzo-soprano repertoire.


Scholl’s Carmen is about as sexy as Shirley Temple’s, but Visse’s Chimène (from Le Cid) is oddly affecting in its own peculiar way and Bertin’s Dalila is seductive enough to raise the hairs on the back of any Samson’s head. Who knows, it might just catch on. Opera-lovers are well used to girls in trousers, so why not blokes in skirts? It would certainly ease Covent Garden’s casting crisis. Mark Pappenheim