London is drowning in Handel operas at the moment, each of New York City's major companies is doing one - "Flavio" is at City Opera, "Giulio Cesare" at the Met - and the 250th anniversary of his death is bearing down on us, promising further overdoses. It does make me wonder sometimes whether the Handel boom isn't a bubble. I wouldn't go as far as Andrew Huth, who in today's Guardian entertainingly expresses the opinion that the devotion to Handel operas is one more aspect of the dutiful and virtuous approach to music: I like them because they must be good. With alarming flair, Huth goes on to say that we're only hearing a bastardized version of the operas, anyway, because real castrati sounded nothing like the wan and plodding countertenor or the pants-wearing mezzo of today.
Whatever gender-bending solution we choose, it won't be the real thing until some enlightened Home Secretary decides that our streets could be made safer by castrating a few hoodies and teaching them to sing.
Now there's a way to crush a whole flock with a single boulder. Huth's strategy would (literally) expose youth to opera, harness classical music's crime-fighting potential, take historically informed performance practice to its logical endpoint, restore government support for the arts, and inculcate good Italian diction in British inner-city youth. On the other hand, it doesn't address the most severe vocal shortages facing opera today. How about rounding up prostitutes and sentencing them to careers as dramatic sopranos?