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Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Velluti was the last great castrato, with Rossini and Meyerbeer both writing roles for him; but in his heyday he was already an anomaly – his time in London in the 1820s caused a stir as no castrato had appeared there for twenty- five years. His success was not total, he was mocked and derided, and seemingly gave Mendelssohn nightmares after the composer heard him sing. Male soprano Robert Crowe has made a detailed study of Velluti and in The Romantic Castrato offers us a selection of songs and arias performed with the singer’s original vocal ornamentation. So far, so interesting. Unfortunately my enthusiasm has to end with the accompanying booklet, as the actual performances are not good. Crowe’s intentions are obviously sincere but the voice is uncomfortable to listen to. It is hollow and wavering, often hooty, the line meanders and the pitch sags. Pianist Joachim Enders does as best he can in coaxing the singer to the end of his phrases. I love the idea but not the execution. I won’t dwell for the sake of being rude; just let it suffice to say that it is a no from me.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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