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Andrea Scholl

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The countertenor is making a comeback. A new generation of interpreters has begun to overcome the weirdness factor and familiarize audiences with a kind of singing that resembles a falsetto yet most certainly is not. Three such singers will be in town over the next few weeks--Andreas Scholl, in a recital at the University of Chicago, and David Daniels and Bejun Mehta, in Lyric Opera's production of Handel's Partenope. Now in his mid-30s, the German-born Scholl started singing at age seven in his hometown choir; he eventually found his "head voice," an alto generated from above the chest and distinct from the baritone of his speaking voice. His countertenor is less nasal and eerie than some of his colleagues', with a robustness and purity that make it seem more natural and therefore less distracting. Scholl modulates his voice to produce exquisite effects, which he's brought to bear on the Baroque repertoire and European folk songs--he's recorded a sampler of the latter as a tribute to the great mid-20th-century countertenor Alfred Deller. Since his debut recital in Paris a decade ago, he's worked in both concerts and operas with an enviable list of maestros, including William Christie and John Eliot Gardiner, and his CDs sell well, thanks to his dramatic flair and personable approach. But he remains a recitalist at heart, a champion of lesser-known Baroque items. Two summers ago he made an auspicious local debut at Ravinia, accompanied by the Italian ensemble Europa Galante in an all-Vivaldi program that avoided the expected. His Mandel Hall program is similarly unusual. He'll perform Handel's cantatas "Nel dolce tempo" and "Vedendo amor," both for alto and basso continuo. But he'll also make a quick survey of the German Baroque that contains vocal works by obscurities such as Johann Nauwach, Heinrich Albert, and Andreas Hammerschmidt. Trust Scholl and harpsichordist Markus Markl to make a strong case for them. Friday, January 24, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 773-702-8068.

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