A shadowy presence has long occupied the European stages: countertenors, even when they clearly serve the soprano range. Often they have been cast in castrato roles, as their tessitura was perceived as essentially unmanly. Thankfully is this prejudice long since passé--for too beautiful is the art of men who, because of their disposition and technique, are able to climb into the high soprano ranges.
And so a large audience appeared on Sunday, as the male soprano Robert Crowe and the organist Julia Gillich-Naroschnaja invited them to a baroque concert in the Church of Saint Johann.
Robert Crowe, trained at the Boston University School for the Arts, set himself the task of presenting six different "Amen, Allelujas" from the quill of Georg Friederich Händel. Even when the reason for their creation is not really knowable, the beauty of these compositions and the sparkle of Crowe's presentation of them spoke for itself. The text could retreat into the background and one could delight entirely in Crowe's voice. This offered everything that could make the ear joyful. Being equally at home in the tessitura of the classical alto all the way into a shining soprano allowed Crowe to perform with feeling and sensitivity. As well as the lyrical, transparently woven passages, he sang enthusiastic runs that not infrequently culminated in fortes, bursting with power.
The opera singer couldn't be denied. To clear was his delight in performance, in ever new colorations of coloratura, in lyricism and in aria-like passages.
Crowe found a congenial partner in Julia Gilliach-Naroschnja. Powerfully communicative in their shared pieces where she balanced accompaniment and drive, she showed her true virtuosity in her solo pieces. Finely spun fugal passages were as successful as the solemn gravity of the opening Chorale "Veni Sancte Spiritus" by Peter Phillips.
Also impressive was her multi-tasking: highly skilled fingers on the manual accomplished simultaneously with page turning and changing registrations. Of course she could rely on her colleague Thomas Haller in the most difficult registration changes who, with his wife, was otherwise occupied arduously pumping the manual bellows that provide the organ its power.
After an hour of the best kind of sacred music, the musicians gave a two further encores.
Schwäbische Post, Sept. 10, 2017
Everybody knows the many-voiced Halleluja from Georg Friedrich Händels “Messiah.” Also surviving, from the same composer, are Hallelujas for smaller forces which are no less appealing, though almost completely unknown. On his new CD, the singer and musicologist Robert Crowe presents the “Amen-Alleluia-Arias” for the first time. The shortest of one minute and the longest of just over six, these small but refined compositions set the words Amen and Halleluja wonderfully artistically. Brilliantly jubilant, with majestic pride or with deep-seating feeling, Robert Crowe gives each aria its own character and expression. He masters coloraturas and trills with breathtaking virtuosity, using many-faceted vocal colors and articulations. As a male soprano, Crowe commands an enormous vocal range. The swift changes from the heights into the lower reaches give one goose bumps–also in the spiritual hymns of English composers which, alongside several instrumental pieces, are to be discovered on this CD, all well-worth a listen.
World Premiere, Roger Doyle's electronic opera Heresy at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin, Ireland
The ArtsReview, Dublin, Nov. 2, 2016
"Robert Crowe...delivers a truly astounding performance."
-- Chris O'Rourke
The Irish Times, Nov 1, 2016
"Bruno's various nemeses are mostly sung by the amazing male soprano Robert Crowe."
--- Michael Dungan.
Das Opernglas, Nov. 1, 2016
"The multitalented Morgan Crowley ... switches effortlessly between tenor and countertenor. His Giordano Bruno is a man of aestheticism and vision, which Crowley expresses through his unusually beautiful voice. At the same high level, singing the role of Bruno's antagonist Cardinal Robert Bellarmine is the American countertenor Robert Crowe. He achieves this cynical, infernally cunning character with great exactitude. He is just as convincing, however, as King Henri III and as Sir Francis Walsingham, the many-faced chief spy of Elizabeth I. His entrance as James Joyce in Giordano Bruno's death cell is especially moving--he imitates the movements, appearance and demeanor of the great poet astoundingly well."
Die Taunus Zeitung-Frankfurter Neue Presse, July 8, 2016
The audience was delighted and showed this with thunderous applause and calls of "Bravo." The ensemble "Lux et Umbrae"--above all sopranist Robert Crowe--more than earned them. ... With words like "I've never heard anything like it" the listeners at the concert in the Lutheran church meant the male soprano Robert Crowe. He made an impression with the range of his voice, its clarity, expressivity and timbre. ... Today male sopranos achieve their high head voice and warm lower voice with talent, technique and engagement. And these Robert Crowe delivered with delicately breathed tones of love, singing the agony of the fainting grief of love.
“Male Soprano Enchants: Robert Crowe sings Chansons d’Amour in Gmünd’s Schwörhaus” Gmünder Tagespost, February 16, 2016
“Fauré’s music has a special charm. Floating, dreamy, it is inwardly directed. Urbanely communicative, the singer directed his warm-timbred voice through this sound-world. Equally beautiful sounding in the upper and lower reaches, he offered these simple melodies of the French composer with expression and character. “Chanson d’amour” quivered with joyful excitement. “Lydia” sang the sweetness of the attractions of the beloved. “Clair de lune” sounded as sorrowful elegy. Pianist Feng Wu presented herself as a senstive accompanist at the grand piano, and between song sections played solo works by Claude Debussy.
“Something Charming for Pounding Hearts:The Countertenor Robert Crowe and Pianist Feng Wu give a piano and art song Valentine’s Day concert in the Schwörhaus.” Rems Zeitung, February 16, 2016
French charm and an unusual casting: the piano and art song evening in the Schwörsaal put Claude Debussy and Gabriel Fauré in the focal point and delivered with “Chansons d’amour” a magical performance for Valentine’s Day.
On Sunday evening, Crowe brought to hearing twelve songs by Gabriel Fauré with an unbelievably facet-rich and sensitive voice. Melancholy works like “Spleen” (op. 51) or “Clair de lune” (op. 45) he sang with the dynamic balance of poignant longing, and he touched the listeners with inner warmth in the interpretation of “Lydia” (op. 4). A light vibrato was only judiciously employed and, despite a cold, the brilliance and clarity of his voice dominated. In the more lively songs like “Mandoline” (op. 58) or “Chanson d’amour” (op. 27) Crowe played with language and tone and the Melodies thus sparkled with a lissomeness, despite which one still heard the palpitating heart of the lovers in the music.
As is unavoidable in piano-art songs, there was a close dialogue between the singer, Crowe, and the pianist, Feng Wu. This tête-a-tête was always empathetic and mutually reinforcing. The performers complemented one another through a mixture of individuality and attention of each to the other.
“Magical Atmosphere” Frankfurter Neue Presse, January 21, 2016
The sopranist Robert Crowe appeared in Frankfurt’s Festeburgkirche, accompanied by Sigrun Richter (Lute) and Michael Eberth (Cembalo).
The young American Robert Crowe has mastered the soprano range like only very few of his peers. In a manner exceeding that of many countertenors, he ranges virtuosically in his head voice. Many songs from the sixteenth century (sic), heretofore unknown to his audience, were delivered with Crowe’s slender, gentle, warm-timbered voice which never gave the impression of strenuous effort.
The songs from John Danyel, Thomas Campion and the famous John Dowland bathed the Festeburgkirche, with its marvelous acoustics, in a uniquely magical atmosphere.
Operalounge.de, March 2015
For "Amore" in Martin y Soler's L'Arbore di Diana at the Prinzregententheater in Munich, with the Theaterakademie and the Bayerisches Rundfunkorchester
...he [Crowe] controls a multiplicity of variations and possibilities, vocal effects, the occasional intentional, controlled slippery phrasing or the ability to suddenly plunge into the baritonal “normal” range. Of this art, Crowe is marvelously the master. He can, in delightful order, coo, trill, moan and mock, so that it is a joy [to experience]. On top of all this, he spins through diverse, strange metamorphoses throughout these goings-on, always sure of his goals: that is, setting up explosive theatrical effects.
München Abendzeitung, February 24, 2015
In Robert Crowe, a male soprano, the ideal casting was found—in the “manly” scenes, he also went seamlessly into deeper registers. ---Adrian Prechtel
Süddeutsche Zeitung, February 23, 2015
...everything is steered by the eventually victorious Amore (as the guest, the superb male soprano Robert Crowe)...
--- Klaus Kalchschimd
Munich and Co, February 23, 2015
At last, the soprano Robert Crowe, who lent his talents to embody Amore, seems to play with the difficult coloratura with his beautiful, flute-like voice and clear timbre, as well as a delicious acting style, notably in the scenes de travesti.
For Giuseppe Nicolini's Carlo Magno, in the role of "Vitekindo." Frankfurt (Main) and Königstein (Taunus).
Taunus Nachrichten, Königstein, January 21, 2015
The sensation of the evening is Robert Crowe, a soprano. In the tradition of the bel canto, he’s the “true star” of the evening. ... After an amusing discourse [on the castrato as lover by Michael Quast] one hears the sound of Robert Crowe’s bright soprano voice and cannot believe the eyes or ears. There sings a man, the hero, in the highest female range, with a power and range that shocks...a stroke of luck to experience such an exceptional voice. ... The high point of the evening is a cavatina for the male soprano in which his [Velluti’s] “soul-to-soul relationship with the flute” (Quast) becomes audible...”The specialty of the castrato Velluti.” As listener, one is made speechless and breathless by the sound of Crowe’s voice.
Frankfurter Rundschau, December 7, 2014
Crowe is a secure, powerful male soprano--still a rare listening experience, when compared to the many male alto voices. It was a quite piquant delight to hear him in the duet with soprano Bernadette Schäfer, singing in the same range.
---Judith von Sternburg
Offenbacher Post, December 3, 2014
Intensively presented were the baroque solo motets by Robert Crowe: Carissimi’s “Salve Puellule” and Alessandro Grandi’s “Cantabo Domino.” In a perfect ensemble with [Sigrun] Richter’s filigreed lute playing, the American, now living in Schwäbisch Gmünd showed what an unbelievable vocal artist he is. Seamlessly the singer changed from playful, lower tones easily into the highest possible “castrato region,” also changing without effort from fine coloratura to powerful declamation. The expression and depth heard in the “Noels” and “Allelujas” could not be exceeded.
Offenbacher Post, July 2, 2013
"...a thoroughly manly singer began his solos, but (his listeners) heard a bell-clear soprano voice. His playful, high-climbing virtuoso voice mastered the Heart's Pain songs, little musical dramas and laments of ... John Dowland; those difficulties, coloratura and artistic, as if everything were terribly easy." ... What she (Lutenist Sigrun Richter) and her high-flying vocalist Crowe offered in Dowland's "Go Crystal Tears" and "In Darkness let me Dwell," and Thomas Campion's "When Laura smiles" and Thomas Ford's "Come, Phyllis, Come," must belong to the most beautiful lute songs Offenbach has ever heard."
Boston Musical Intelligencer, May 18, 2013
"Sung beautifully by male soprano Robert Crowe with an ensemble of Baroque flute and strings, the music [Ruth Lomon's "Songs from a Requiem] is an attractive essay in what might be called post-expressionism, occasionally reminiscent of Schoenberg or Webern and certainly sharing their concision."
Boston Musical Intelligencer, January 31, 2013.
"Crowe sang Crescentini's "Dal Di Ch'Io Ti Mirai" ... playfully, with the little upper register twists of "Se Spiegar Potessi O Dio" ...sweet and delicate. ...the aria "Bella Fiamma Del Mio Core" highlighted Crowe as a period singer who isn't afraid of portamento or hitting the back of the house, as awell as a male soprano with rich, even production across registers.
Frankfurter Neue Press, May 8, 2012.
"The Höchster Organ-Summer started with the baroque suites of organist Simon Harden and the vocal wonder of the soprano, Robert Crowe, who, in selections from "Napoleon's Castrato" Girolamo Crescentini, caused female hearts to melt. On the faces of the women in the church's pews, Crowe magicked captured, dedicated smiles."
Opera News, May 2011
"...his voice is smooth and vibrant--he reserves the once-obligatory straight tones as a tool with which to shape sustained notes--and his tuning is pure and accurate... Additionally, his careful balancing of registers allows him access to a wider range of colors and dynamics than many male trebles can muster. (In Salve, Salve Puellule) Crowe's solid midrange "sit" is welcome, and he rises easily to the triumphant cry of "Rex sine termino" (King without end).
--Stephen Francis Vasta
Darmstäder Echo, February 24, 2010
"Crowe executes the changes of mood and feeling with great sensitivity and understanding--and admirable ease. This ease is also evident in his technique. Crowe effortlessly moves out of the depths into the uppermost ranges. When he reaches the top, his voice fills the great space of the church, at times penetratingly. This makes the effect of Crowe’s voice in the soft passages even more delightful. He matches his voice exactly to the organ in the beginning of the motet “Domine, Deus Meus”, emerging through tremolo with ornamentations precisely sung. Once he arrives in the rush of ornamentation, the singer further decorates the final motet with an extravagant cadenza."
Süddeutsche Zeitung, December 7, 2010
"Robert Crowe presented in two solo motets of Giacomo Carissimi the other extreme of the male voice, penetrating into the chilly heights, contrasting with the expressively warm piano."
For "Sesto" in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito in the Bode-Museum Berlin
Münchner Merkur, November 3, 2010
"The poised, clear, at times penetrating countertenor of Robert Crowe made Sextus’ inner conflict palpable. The high point of the evening was his aria “Parto, ma tu ben mio” in which he—in a magical internal dialogue with the clarinet—sings himself the courage for the assassination attempt."
Berliner Zeitung, October 30, 2010
"Brilliant, above all others, countertenor Robert Crowe"
Märkische Oberzeitung, October 30, 2010
"...and especially Robert Crowe’s male soprano enraptured the public."
Der Tagesspeigel, October 30, 2010
"His aria, „Parto, ma tu ben mio“, in which Sesto sings himself the courage for the attack, was one of the highlights of the evening."
Die Mark Online, November 1, 2010
"Countertenor Robert Crowe sings with bell-like clarity and compels the audience again and again to scene-breaking applause. "
OperaBlog, November 29, 2010
"From a distance, his gripping sonority, puissant inflections and sensual vibrato recollect acoustic recordings of sopranos long past. His technique -- if you can even use that word in his case -- is astounding. It's as though his gifts were endowed, not developed: no perceptible breaks between registers, solid at the bottom, malleable in the middle and resplendent at the top. He is also blessed with a swimmer's torso and can rattle off ornamentations while crawling snake-like along the catwalk. Crowe apparently concentrates his professional activity on pre-romantic repertory, but it would be fascinating to hear what he does with Orsini, Bellini's Romeo or even Oscar and Oktavian. … Titus continues at the Bode Museum through 19 December. If you can manage to get in -- it's pretty much sold out -- it will open a new window onto Mozart's masterpiece, especially if Crowe is performing."