Following the trend of singers releasing recitals based on the repertoire of great performers of previous centuries – Cecilia Bartoli's tribute to Maria Malibran and Juan Diego Flórez's to Giovanni Battista Rubini, for instance – countertenor Philippe Jaroussky has devoted a CD to the repertoire of eighteenth century castrato Giovanni Carestini, who was a rival of Farinelli's. According to contemporary accounts, Farinelli was the more virtuosic of the two, with a hair-raisingly dazzling coloratura, and Carestini was noted for the beauty and purity of his tone, and his profound musical and dramatic characterizations. The demands of the arias collected here make it clear that Carestini must also have had a fully developed technique, because they require remarkable agility and an awe-inspiring range that essentially encompasses both soprano and contralto registers, as well as great interpretive sensitivity. Jaroussky's voice is not large, but he has plenty of power for even the most dramatically charged of these selections. It's notable for its absolutely accurate intonation, and its pure, creamy tone, with a gleam not often heard in countertenors. He also possesses a formidable technique and sings the most treacherous coloratura passages with effortless-sounding agility and freedom. He has a breathtaking pianissimo that can broaden from near inaudibility to full-throated warmth. Perhaps the most striking thing about his performances, though, is the depth of his musical characterizations, which comes from giving life to his characters' emotions through the deeply felt shaping of every phrase. There is not a moment of perfunctory Baroque note-spinning on the album – every run and ornament is packed with meaning and passion.
Following the publication of Jules Verne's novel Around the World in Eighty Days in 1873, Americans had an increasing interest in travel. World travel was becoming even easier with the faster steamships of the day. In 1888, Nellie Bly, a feisty, investigative reporter for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World newspaper, pitched a story idea of traveling around the world in 75 days to beat the record achieved by Phileas Fogg, the character in Verne's book. While the editor thought it a great idea, he naturally thought the trip should be made by a man. The idea was shelved for over a year.