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Classical Music

Classical Classroom, Ep 129: On Countertenors And Gender In Opera – With John Holiday

Holiday on voice.



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"All I have is a voice."
― W.H. Auden

“I was never particularly fond of my voice.”
— David Bowie

Countertenor John Holiday says that he’s never wanted to emulate anyone else’s voice, and that instead, he’s tried to find and be true to his own. And the unique sound that he belts out will make you believe that he alone can produce anything like it. But as it turns out, there’s a whole history behind voices like his. Learn all about the countertenor voice, as well as it’s historical relationship to the castrati in this episode. John also teaches about the opera world’s embrace of gender fluidity for art’s sake throughout the ages.

Audio production by Todd “Tremolo” Hulslander with side eye from Dacia Clay.

Music in this episode includes:

Skyline Sessions: John Holiday, “Stille amare” by G.F. Handel:

David Daniels, “Ombra mai fu,” Xerxes by Handel:

Alessandro Moreschi, “Ave Maria”:

  • Ewa Podleś, La Cieca “Voce di donna o d’angelo” from La Gioconda by A. Ponchielli.
  • Marian Anderson & William Primrose, 2 Songs for Contralto, Viola & Piano by Johannes Brahms
  • John Holiday, “Crude furie” from Serse by Handel (from Operalia, The World Opera Competition – part 2)