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Mozart: Arias For Male Soprano
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The first permanent Baroque orchestra established in North America, Boston Baroque is widely regarded as "one of the world's premier period-instrument bands" (Fanfare). The ensemble's performances and recordings of the Baroque and Classical repertoire have been hailed by audiences and critics in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia for their freshness, virtuosity, and exuberant appeal. Although Maniaci's voice is natural, his stunning performances give Boston Baroque the opportunity to add yet another "original" instrument - the male soprano voice - to their critically-acclaimed performing forces.
Michael Maniaci has been lauded for "his natural male soprano that is probably the closest thing on earth to the sound of the castrati of long ago; and he uses it with a finesse that's rare among singers so young" (Toronto Globe and Mail). A voice type that was enormously popular in opera and religious music in the 17th century but completely disappeared over a century ago, the male castrato's true chest voice - unlike falsetto singers - was in the soprano or alto range, yet extremely powerful due to the male lung capacity. Up until now, all we have really known of this voice are the verbal descriptions of contemporary listeners and a single, scratchy recording made late in the life of the last castrato performer.
Maniaci's voice gives us our first glimpse of the power and unique timbre of this voice in his hauntingly beautiful performances, and his extraordinarily agile coloratura and ornamentation. His vocal prowess is never more evident on this recording than in Mozart's popular and virtuosic "Exsultate, jubilate," a solo motet originally written for the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini in 1773 that most music lovers today have heard many times--but always as sung by a female. It is a fascinating treat to hear it sung by a male soprano.
Top Customer Reviews
The selections are all wonderful and it's difficult to name a favorite. Perhaps the allegro of Exsultate, Jubilate just because there is so much infectious joy in Mr. Maniaci's singing. It makes me smile and it stays with me! The voice is perhaps at its most exciting in the upper register--you'll hear five high C's on this album! He sings selections from three operas, and I would travel to see him in any of them: "Idomeneo", "Lucio Silla" and "La clemenza di Tito." He sings everything with beauty and feeling for what the words are expressing. This is one highly talented, sensitive singer.Read more ›
My conclusion is that Michael Maniaci live is even better that on the recording, although this CD is excellent (yet I personally prefer to listen to a complete opera instead of assorted arias). I have first learned of Maniaci when he sang Nerone in Boston Baroque concert staging of Handel's "Agrippina". We were amazed at his high and beautiful voice, which is higher than of most countertenors, including Andreas Scholl and perhaps even Philippe Jaroussky - Maniaci is certainly a soprano, and not a mezzo or alto, as most countertenors are. We can see from this recording that Maniaci voice lends itself perfectly to the repertoire of a castrato soprano of Mozart times - Venanzio Rauzzini. It was for Rauzzini that Mozart composed the part of Cecilio in his opera "Lucio Silla" (1772), and the motet Exsultate Jubilate (1773). Maniaci sings arias from Lucio and the motet on the recording, and one can easily compare his voice with many other singers or his register, who are invariably female soprano. There are many Lucio recordings available, and a great soprano voice of Kristina Hammarstrom is on Adam Fischer's recording of the opera; one can listen to Cecilia Bartoli with Harnoncourt as well. In my opinion, his voice is more metallic than a female soprano, and certainly of a more beautiful coloring than of a lower sounding mezzo voice of Bartoli.Read more ›
Does he sound like a boy soprano? No -- too powerful and far too rich.
Does he sound like a woman? No -- his voice is clearly a healthy male voice. It's a bit like a vocal shoo-fly pie with a meringue crust: light and sweet, but with a nice, thick stripe of darkness beneath it.
Does he sound like a castrato (to judge from the Moreschi recordings and men like Radu Marian)? No -- there's not a hint of that annoying ringtone pungency. His voice has the complexity and texture of a healthy voice in a normal adult body.
Maniaci's entirely unique -- the light and airy voice of a boy in the body of a rather burly adult man, which adds a richness and "belt" to the sound that I imagine no castrato could touch given the effect of castration on the male body (maintenance of a high position in the throat for the larynx, nearer the small resonating chambers of the head, and a general lack of dark undertones due to the otherwise narrow shape of the body). His musicianship is pleasantly modern and reminds me a bit of musical theater, he's got a deft and somewhat playful touch, and he's got a nice feel for rubato, sadly not a common thing for many classical singers. I'd love to hear what he can do with Haendel after hearing him interpret Mozart so well.
He is at the moment one of a kind although as rare as he is, Mother Nature never makes a miracle only once. Hopefully, Maniaci's rise to stardom will signal to the other rare men with natural soprano (or more likely alto) non-falsetto voices that the time has come to step forward, claim their voices, and make miracles of themselves as well. Bravo!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
He has a fabulous, true male soprano voice--Yes they do exist, rare but they exist...I wish he had another CD offering. I love the CDPublished 1 month ago by Not_you
Mozart Arias For Male Soprano is a recording under the direction of Martin Pearlman who leads the Boston Baroque and starring Michael Maniaci. Read morePublished on October 22, 2010 by Bjorn Viberg
First, as the other reviewers say, this is a unique voice! It has a darker, thicker quality than a female soprano, but with a BEAUTIFUL sound! Read morePublished on June 8, 2010 by Rev. Ben Cox
Magnificent voice used with outstanding musicality to produce an almost sublime sound. I keep playing it over and over and doubt that I will ever tire of it
I really... Read more
My daughter and I happened to catch Michael Maniaci singing a singlel aria in Handel's Julio Cesare, and we both sat up and took notice. Read morePublished on March 25, 2010 by Margaret Moorman
Many who praised this album praised the unique voice of Mr. Maniaci, since few have heard what a male soprano sounds like. Read morePublished on March 24, 2010 by Abert
After hearing a selection from this CD on WFCR PBS radio, I added it to my list.
On first listening, it's a bit unsettling, hearing soprano from a male. Read more
This is good as this music is ever going to sound sung by a voice that approximates a castrato. Too bad that it's mostly early Mozart, since castratos were going out of style... Read morePublished on February 13, 2010 by Chris Protopapas