Wednesday, April 27, 2011

TODAY ON COUNTERTENOR WEDNESDAY - " Va tacito e nascosto" from Handel's Giulio Cesare

Tolomeo (Ptolemy) and Caesar meet in a banquet. When Tolomeo subtly threatens him, Caesar responds with this incredible aria, saying that he will be on guard against any violence Tolomeo has planned. Caesar was played by a castrato in Handel's era. This has become a trouser role for many a mezzo-soprano. Occasionally, a male counter-tenor or an even rarer male soprano plays the role. Nowadays it is common to see the aria sung by a baritone.
 This is my favorite so far: countertenor Andreas Scholl. The quality of the orchestra is also excellent!

Here is Andreas Scholl again in a super Copenhagen 2005 I love the contemporary costumes, as it shows the timelessness of Handel's opera.

The following version is sung by male countertenor, Philippe Jarousski. If you read music, you can also follow the notes:

Here are the lyrics:
"Va tacito e nascosto" 
Giulio Cesare's countertenor aria 
in the title role of Handel's greatest opera, Giulio Cesare

Va tacito e nascosto,
(It should be silent, sly and hidden.)

 quand'avido è di preda, 
(For our quandary are mere prey)
l'astuto cacciator.
(To a crafty and calculating hunter.) 

E chi è mal far disposto,
(And never forget, dear friends, he who is ill-prepared,) 

non brama che si veda
(Will not successfully spot)
l'inganno del suo cor. 

(The deception of a treacherous heart.)

Here is other version sung by notable countertenors. Here is David DQ Lee in a BBC presentation:

Here is a version by French countertenor Christophe Dumaux

An excellent interpretation from Greek countertenor, Nicholas Spanos. If one can step out of one's box, there is nothing effeminate about a counter-tenor's high voice. Nicholas gives a very 'macho' performance as a young wide-eyed Caesar. He is followed by French countertenor Christophe Dumaux:

Listen to countertenor Paul Esswood while looking at images of Caesar. Nice video to watch:

Countertenor David Daniel has an excellent version. Full voice and excellent HD sound. Enjoy!
Before we conclude Countertenor Wednesday. Let us look at female "trouser versions" of the role:

Here is the great contralto Ewa Podles:
Here is British mezzo-soprano Sarah Connelly in what is perhaps the best interpretation of Caesar I have ever seen, regardless of voice. Her acting is excellent!
For fun, let's hear a baritone version of the aria. Sung by the famous German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau:

To conclude our Contralto Wednesday, here is one of those combination videos that plays the whole aria quite smoothly by jumping from one singer to another. A tremendous technological feat...hats off to he person who created the video!

Tomorrow is Tenor Thursday!



  1. Great job indeed!!! Thanks for sharing with us!!!

  2. I just discovered this blog and love it. Thank you for sharing this treasure of music.

  3. THIS IS WONDERFUL. I FIRST SAW COUNTERTENORS Philippe Jarousskey and then Andreas Scholl in roles associated with Julius Caesar in the Salzburg video. So my curiosity was raised after researching as much as I could about how these people carefully developed their remarkable voices by retaining the childhood voice trained from participating in boy choirs before adolescence. The theory is that the chest voice that develops with puberty in a normal male, is a new thing at that point in life. If carefully preserving the previous voice (of a child) a male can have an extensive range of remarkable difference, which allows a male to therefore speak in a normal male voice. Very interesting. The Sarah Connelly rendition is just incredible. Another person who had to forge her way and believe in herself until the world had a chance to hear and see her.....I would never have known that she was a woman because of her acting. The wardrobe was very cleverly done also, by putting a breastplate on her as Julius Caesar, just like some other singers in trouser roles who must disguise their femininity by some means of hiding curvy hips. in Sarah Connelly's case, she has height and solid features that more easily enabled the appearance, but I have never seen a feminine person do a better way of concealing the feminine in a difficult role like this one.
    Too bad so many copyright people prevented some of the videos but the writing is excellent and I very much appreciate your putting this together. I had wondered about her climb to the top that took 25 years, and her views on things. Carefully worded and effective. To learn that a person here and there in our world is able to succeed by sheer excellence, rather than what so many "pop stars" do with no evident talent...all hype and fakery plus loud noise that they think is music.
    Thanks for letting me write this for others to peruse.

  4. can you add this? I just scanned this site and did not see that the text I had read is on your site.
    Apparently you did not have the comments I mentioned in your contribution....don't know where I got all of that but it will perhaps enlighten someone else!