US countertenor who is a wow in Europe
By Francis Carlin
Published: October 28 2004 03:00 | Last updated: October 28 2004 03:00
It is always a good sign when you find a singer attending a performance of something else on his night off. I met the countertenor Lawrence Zazzo and his wife Giselle Allen, a soprano with Opera North in Leeds, at Gualtiero Dazzi's opera Le Luthier de Venise at the Châtelet in Paris.
It is a surprising, poetical work that happens to have a big role for a countertenor. Aha, I thought, that's why he's here. Wrong: they were providing moral support for the soprano Christine Buffle, a friend of Giselle's.
This solidarity is typical of Zazzo. Last Sunday he finished a run of Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in a new production by David McVicar that travels to Strasbourg next year, then to Berlin and Brussels. I did not care for McVicar's camp extravaganza but was impressed by how easily Zazzo's Ottone carried in a theatre known for its difficult acoustics.
It is a rich, beefy sound, which his wife once called "ballsy". Zazzo himself says he tries to find a middle sound between "churchy and brassy". "I have the low notes for the alto castrato roles Handel wrote for Senesino. I've got enough of the beef now to carry in modern houses. My voice is getting louder, perhaps because I've been able to rest it and keep it in shape."
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