Nicholas Clapton

Writing, broadcasting, talking

My first book, a biography of the “last castrato”, Alessandro Moreschi, came about as the result of a chance meeting with Barbara Schwepke, owner of Haus Publications, after a concert I had given at St John’s, Smith Square. Discussing likely musicians as candidates for biographies I mentioned Moreschi and was more-or-less commissioned on the spot. The resulting book was published in November 2004 and was named by the Tablet magazine as one of its Books of the Year for 2005. It has since been republished in a revised and enlarged version as Moreschi and the Voice of the Castrato (2008; Classic FM Book of the Month January 2009). In the course of my work on this book I visited Moreschi’s home town of Montecompatri, near Frascati, which has led to enduring friendships with many of the monticiani, who now hold an annual festival in honour of their famous townsman, at which I have performed several times.

The lives and music of the castrati had long been a fascination of mine, so in many ways this had been a book waiting to be written. I was subsequently asked to curate, in 2006, the exhibition Handel and the Castrati at London’s Handel House Museum, and to present a documentary, Castrato, for BBC4.

I have since written several articles on castrati, counter-tenors and related topics, the latest being The Singularity of Alfred Deller, for that great singer’s centenary, published in Early Music in October 2013. In August 2012, during the Utrecht Early Music festival, I also read a paper on Deller's collaboration with Gustav Leonhardt to the International STIMU Symposium. Such matters are a perpetual source of interest to anyone interested in history, music and society, ranging from the general music-lover to the academic specialist in gender studies, and my talks and lecture-recitals in this field are very popular with societies, clubs and learned institutions. To enquire about a talk for your club or society, please click here.

My second book, Budapest, City of Music, was published by Haus in 2009, and is the fruit of my long association with Hungary, where I have been teaching and performing since 1996. It’s not a guide book by any means, but rather describes the beautiful Hungarian capital’s history “in music”, with plenty of tips on eating and drinking as well as listening and visiting sites of musical interest. It recently received a 5-star reader’s review on Amazon.com. In spite of its present political and financial difficulties, Hungary remains a fascinating and beautiful country, and Budapest is a wonderful city – I recommend it to everyone for its culture, traditions, and excellent food and drink; everything is also great value, particularly if the traveller does that very “untouristy” thing of taking a fifty-yard sidestep away from too-well-trodden routes and over-visited sights (and sites).

Published last year on Kindle, my book Thoughts on Singing is intentionally on the "short and sweet" side: there are already too many vast tomes on this subject. In less than 50 pages, it offers succinct advice and practical ideas about singing and vocal pedagogy, plus exercises.

I have also written notes for several very successful CD recordings, such as Franco Fagioli's award-winning Arias for Caffarelli / Franco Fagioli , Max Emanuel Cencic's Rokoko - Hasse Opera Arias and Decca's 2015 anthology The Five Countertenors.

Future writing projects include a major study of the falsetto "phenomenon", and the first biography in English of the great castrato Farinelli.