The young French countertenor on why he’s taking eight months off singing to smoke and drink.

This is your third tour with the Brandenburg Orchestra – what keeps you coming back?

I found out about them when I saw some YouTube videos of the orchestra with Andreas Scholl. When I came for the first tour it was to discover Australia, but I also discovered that the Brandenburgs are very open-minded, and of course Paul Dyer has become a good friend.

In this program you’re pitting the rival opera composers Handel and Porpora against each other.

It’s about the rivalry between Handel and Porpora and their competing opera theatres in London, but it is also a rivalry between their two star castrati singers. Porpora is a composer from Naples who taught the great singer Farinelli – his best card to play. But at the same time, Handel engaged one of the most incredible singers of the 18th century: Carestini, who was a tricky guy, very self-confident; the opposite of Farinelli. In a program like this you can imagine the fights between them, and hear the differences between the two voices in the way the composers wrote for them.

Porpora was incredibly popular during...