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Andreas Scholl is one of the world's best-known exponents of the countertenor voice -- of male singing in the alto range. He focuses on Baroque operatic and concert works, but later in his career, he has also recorded a wide variety of music from beyond that period, some of it not originally written for a countertenor at all.
Scholl was born November 10, 1967, in Eltville, on the Rhine River in what was then West Germany. He grew up in nearby Kiedrich, where his father was a boychoir conductor. Andreas and two siblings sang in the choir, and as a child, he had a solo at a choral festival in Rome and met Pope John Paul II. When his voice changed, he realized he could still sing the soprano parts to which he was accustomed. A vocal coach spotted a countertenor in the making, and Scholl began listening to records by early countertenors such as Alfred Deller and James Bowman. He sang in a rock band as a teenager, but settled on early music and in 1987, enrolled at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland. He studied with René Jacobs and Richard Levitt, and as his program approached its end in 1993, he was recommended by the ailing Jacobs as a replacement for an appearance at the Théâtre de Grévin in Paris.
That appearance proved to be a classic example of a substitute slot that launched a brilliant career. Scholl earned rave reviews, then joined Jacobs on a live broadcast of Bach's St. John Passion, BWV 245. On the train home that night, Scholl met conductor William Christie, who had heard the broadcast; Christie invited Scholl to sing the alto part in his upcoming recording of Handel's Messiah, HWV 56, with his ensemble Les Arts Florissants. From there, Scholl's career expanded rapidly. In the beginning, he sang concert works, appearing with a variety of Europe's leading historical performance ensembles. In 1998, he sang the role of Bertarido in Handel's opera Rodelinda, HWV 19, and since then, he has excelled in both operatic and concert appearances. He appeared in Rodelinda at the Metropolitan Opera in 2006, opposite Renée Fleming, returning there in 2011. In 2008, he appeared at Avery Fisher Hall with the New York Philharmonic in Handel's Messiah.
Scholl's recording career has been especially notable for its depth and variety; he has been associated mostly with the Harmonia Mundi and Decca labels. In 2007, he moved to Sony BMG for his album Andreas Scholl Goes Pop, on which he explored his interest in electronics, pop songwriting of his own, and popular music generally. In addition to his Baroque specialties, he has recorded such novelties as the music of medieval German poet and singer Oswald von Wolkenstein; Mozart, Schubert, and Brahms on the 2012 album Wanderer; and, with his pianist wife Tamar Halperin, 20th century song on the 2019 album Twilight People. By that time, Scholl was as close to superstar status as a countertenor can be, and his career showed few signs of slowing.