Know that Annio kid?
Is it just me or there is a bit of a trend of casting men (countertenors and possibly tenors) as Annio? I first saw a school production from the Cluj Conservatory boasting a countertenor Annio earlier this year and may I say he did rather well in the great scheme of things which wasn’t particularly spectacular (poor Sesto, his Parto didn’t make it into the show! But poorer Tito, even, all of whose arias were cut…! On the other hand he did have remarkable hair, even though not cut a la Titus).
But back to Annio. Today I saw an ad for another school production of Clemenza – and we know I care about all, big and small – so I checked it out. They also had a male Annio, although it did not say whether he was a countertenor or a tenor. Simply judging by the name I wasn’t sure if Sesto was sung by a man or a woman but I have an inkling it was a woman after all. This ambiguity might work well for a versatile mezzo, heh.
Now, much like Cherubino, Annio was written with a woman in mind, so why the need to transpose it? Unlike castrati, we still have women, and chances are good we won’t run out any time soon. I don’t really want to shoot myself in the foot with this question and start up the “well, what’s up with all these mezzos still singing trouser roles when we’ve got a slew of great countertenors these days?” conversation. When it comes to Handel and them I’m for equal opportunity in those high pitched primo uomo roles but when we’re talking Mozart I favour the ladies over the men every time.