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Anthony Roth Costanzo Wants to Shock You (So That You Listen)

Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo
Matthu Placek
Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo

With a voice that cuts the air like a knife, the 2019 Musical America Vocalist of the Year Anthony Roth Costanzo speaks with WCRB's Chris Voss about his debut album, ARC.

If you’ve never heard a countertenor sing, the first time can be a shock. And if your first countertenor happens to be Anthony Roth Costanzo, he’s joyfully going to exploit that shock.

“When I go into a room and people haven’t heard a countertenor, and they think ‘What the hell is going on? Why is this guy singing like that?’ I love that,” he says. “I love using those 30 seconds of shock to bring people in and to make them really listen to what this music is.”

Well, the opportunity to lean in and really listen to Anthony Roth Costanzo on your own time has arrived, with his debut album ARC.

ARC blends two sound worlds into one masterfully-performed album, alternating between florid opera arias by Handel and repetitive, trancelike songs by Philipp Glass. On the surface, these two composers would appear to have little to do with one another. One wrote in the 18th century, in the ornate Baroque opera tradition, and the other is an 81-year-old 21st-century minimalist, composing in almost the opposite direction of the excess-prone baroque era.

But for Anthony Roth Costanzo, these two composers are inseparable. As he writes in the liner notes for ARC, “I’m a countertenor, and I’ve spent half my career singing baroque music and half my career singing contemporary music.

“Handel defined me. Philipp Glass changed me.”

Anthony Roth Costanzo's debut album "ARC" is available now. Find it on Arkiv Music.

Anthony Roth Costanzo makes his Celebrity Series of Boston debut on Wednesday, November 7 at the Longy School of Music of Bard College's Pickman Hall. For tickets more information, visit the Celebrity Series of Boston.  

Chris Voss is the Weekday Afternoon Host and a Producer for CRB.