The countertenor Iestyn Davies also had a crack at playing Farinelli, in Claire van Kampen’s drama Farinelli and the King, although he didn’t actually sing much music that the castrato performed, partly because his voice lies lower. Davies, currently starring in the Royal Opera’s production of Written on Skin, has a sinuous, silky-sweet sound, allied to the technical precision honed by his training as an falsettist in the English cathedral choir tradition.
In his new Bach album he explores three intense cantatas, devotional works that, staggeringly, would originally have been sung by a boy alto rather than the countertenors or mezzo-sopranos who handle them now. The main pleasure in this album is the partnership between the eloquent soloist and the tangy playing of Arcangelo, wonderfully led by Jonathan Cohen, who doubles as a fizzing organist. Davies’s cool concentration heats up for a compelling Ich habe genug, finely weighted between religious ecstasy and resignation.