A Conversation for Castrati in Opera

uncorrect info about counter-tenors

Post 1

Researcher 193451

I am a vocal pedagogy student. I must comment on the information given that a "counter-tenor is a man with a normal voice who sings soprano or alto in the falsetto". This is misleading if not entirely incorrect. A true counter-tenor has the range that is comparable to that of a mezzo-soprano or a contralto. Usually he has little or no usable falsetto range. If a man is singing soprano "in his falsetto" he is NOT a counter-tenor; he is probably a baritone (as tenors, too, have little usable falsetto). When one looks at the vocal folds, one will see that when a man is singing falsetto, only the inner half of the cords vibrate, whereas when he is singing in normal voice, the entire cords vibrate. This is sometimes the only way to tell the difference between a good "falsettist"(as they are called) and a counter-tenor. I think that the other information I have read so far has been sound for the most part, interesting, and informative.

uncorrect info about counter-tenors

Post 2


Hi, Researcher 193451!

I know that there are a number of definitions of what a counter-tenor is, but unfortunately they have changed through time. In Britain, the countertenor tradition in the 19th and early 20th century (in church and cathedral choirs) was very much one of falsetto. Countertenor singing for early music seems to have been almost singlehandedly revived in England by Arthur Deller in the 40s and 50s, and he sang falsetto. I know that specialists may argue about all the various types of high male voices, of which falsetto is only one, but I stick by my point that the normal usage of the word 'countertenor' is for falsetto voices. (It's a bit unfair to say that a 'true' countertenor is not a falsettist if by that you are eliminating most of the singers who describe themsleves as falsettists!) If you are talking about the French 'hautre-contre', it is a different matter, but that is not a direct translation of the English 'countertenor'.

A quick search shows this example of a countertenor talking about falsetto technique:

An example of a common misunderstanding:
A review of Brian Asawa at http://www.metrotimes.com/music/rr/18/11/rr18_11asawa.html claims that "A real countertenor does not sing falsetto, as many mistakenly believe"
Brian Asawa himself in an interview at http://www.culturekiosque.com/opera/intervie/rheasawa.html
"I sang in choruses as a tenor, and then discovered this falsetto voice by imitating sopranos or the soprano line in the choral music I was singing at the time, and realized it was a strong sound. I took this idea of singing falsetto to my teacher"

Of course if you think that Asawa, Deller etc. are not *real* countertenors, you are entitled to your opinion, but it seems a waste of a useful term to restrict it in this way, and a bit unfair if that is how they described themselves.

Best Wishes
smiley - rose

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uncorrect info about counter-tenors

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