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Volume 11 Issue 6 - March 2006

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ecently in town

ecently in town !fteM.el';vi{1/(/at}/ ftfl1LE cf(}PR,1;1/() interviewed by Pamela Marg/es American soprano Michael Maniaci joined Tafelmusik in early February for an all-Mozart program. When he started singing, members of the audience were stunned. Soon they were dazzled, and by the end they were ecstatic. Maniaci is a natural male soprano, the only one singing on operatic stages today. He is emphatically not a countertenor, so he can't put himself in that small, but flourishing, camp. Tm in my own camp - for better or for worse,' he told me when I spoke with him after the final dress rehearsal with Tafelmusik. Tm having to create a professional niche for myself that doesn't exist yet. I have no precedents. 'Countertenors sing in falsetto - only the very edges of their vocal chords are engaged. That's why there is such a distinct quality to their sound. That's not to say that falsetto singing is any less valid than a traditionally produced voice, not at all. If it were, you wouldn't hear them producing such glorious sounds. 'Once amazing singers like Andreas Scholl, David Daniels, and Mathew White came into prominence the countertenor became a normal voice type - thank God. That has helped the baroque revival all over the world. But I'm quite different from a countertenor. When I went through puberty, my larynx didn't fill out, and so my vocal chords didn't grow. I have the body of a man - except for my vocal chords. Obviously they did mature, since I don't sound like a little boy. Doctors say that, for whatever reason, this is just what my body did, and they leave it as a fascinating curiosity! But this is my only voice range. It's not falsetto. 'I sang as a boy, but I was exposed only slightly to classical music. After my parents took me to Les Miz when I was fourteen, I just had to be on stage. I threw myself into singing musical theatre. I also started playing in orchestras and wind ensembles. Oddly enough, trombone and euphonium were my instruments - the lowest end of the spectrum. But when I went through puberty, my voice simply didn't drop. 'I didn't know what was going on. My voice was getting bigger and rounder and warmer, but I wasn't losing my top notes. I tried to force my singing voice down into a male register. But I lost my voice and became really sick. Later I forced my speaking voice as low as I could, trying to talk like a man and be accepted as normal. By the time I turned 18 I finally said, "To hell with it, this is who I am, for better or for worse! " This is my only voice - I don't have any other options. 'I'm sure this must happen to plenty of men. The thing is, how many of them know any- 16 Michael Maniaci (pictured with Meredith Hall): Nerone in Monteverdi's L' incoronazione di Poppea with Opera Atelier, April 2002. PHoro: BRucE ZING ER thing about music? You do come across guys with high speaking voices. Pop singers like Michael Jackson and the Beach Boys have a different way of singing. They would have made great countertenors. 'Now that I'm doing this, I hope more true male sopranos will emerge - it could only help . What James Bowman accomplished as a countertenor is exactly what I'm trying to do as a male soprano. For the first time he gave validity to his voice type on operatic stages and in major concert halls. That's exactly the challenge that I have ahead of me - it's fun, interesting, and exciting, but sometimes scary!' NOTWITHSTANDING his unique voice, Maniaci had a solidly traditional music education. 'Juilliard wouldn't accept me as an 18 year old because I was too weird for them. But when I returned to audition as a graduate student after five years at the Cincinnati Conservatory, there were by then a number of internationally successful countertenors, so they thought, "Maybe that's what he is, so, okay, we'll take him. " They were very supportive and gave me a full scholarship. I started working with Marlena Malas, and still do. So my technical approach has been that of any soprano.' Maniaci also studied for a summer at the Banff Centre with the prominent University of Toronto teacher, soprano Mary Morrison. ' She's a lovely, lovely lady. I had a fabulous experience working with her.' Maniaci first worked with Tafelmusik when he sang Nerone in Monteverdi's L 'incoronazione di Poppea with Opera Atelier in 2003, the year he won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. 'I absolutely love coming to Toronto. The music scene here is fabulous. Tafelmusik plays with a genuine, non-jaded intent. They have remarkable passion and glorious style. To be able to make music with them is a gift - especially because most ofmy career so far has been with mainstream opera companies, using modern instruments. 'I haven't had the opportunity to do much concert work. I've sung with modern arches- WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM tras at Carnegie Hall, in gala concerts, and on the Met stage when I won the prize. But this is the first serious concert work I've done with a baroque ensemble playing period instruments. I'm on cloud nine.' All the works on Maniaci's Tafelmusik program were written for castrati. 'Mozart is an interesting case because he wrote for both castrato and countertenor. When he was quite young castrati were still in vogue. Shortly thereafter audiences started rejecting them, and they had a depressing demise.' As the only man who can sing the soprano motet Exultate Jubilate today , Maniaci feels his voice best represents what Mozart would have wanted, since he wrote it for a man. 'It's too high for countertenors. Countertenors do the alto castrato roles. But I specialize in soprano and high mezzosoprano castrato roles that countertenors can't sing. My voice is so much higher. These works go up to soprano high C, though I can go even higher. But the high C that's often sung at the very end actually wasn't written by Mozart, so Jeanne (Lamon) has specifically asked that I not do it.' In the concert Maniaci popped it up when they repeated the final Alleluja as an encore. The two opera roles represented on the program, Sifare in Mitridate and Cinna in Lucio Silla , are both young men. 'I love these roles, and they feel wonderful. They are hard to cast because they are high for mezzos, but many sopranos don't want to touch them because they dip too low. That's where singers like Cecilia Bartoli flourish. But until me there haven't been any men who could perform them. No countertenor could. ' My voice is quite sizable. In rehearsal Jeanne Lamon, the violinist-leader of Tafelmusik, went into the house to listen to levels. She laughed and told the orchestra my voice was covering it up, so they should play much louder. That actually makes it much easier for me. The more support I feel from the orchestra, the more I'm buoyed by that energy.' Maniaci travelled to Houston Grand Opera and Cleveland Opera with Opera Atelier. He'll be back in Toronto with them in April. 'I love Opera Atelier to death. I wasn't turned on by them initially as a concept. I thought they would be academic and boring. But from the moment I met Marshall Pynkoski and had some rehearsals with him I was thrilled. Their style isn't bound to a treatise or stuck in a museum - it's living and breathing, with honest, genuine emotion. He and Jeannette Zingg use a specific, informed style, but it's always directly associated with the text to bring out the drama and the subtexts. To see audiences in places where they don't have an established relationship, such as Houston and Cleveland, go just as crazy as Toronto audiences is proof positive that the style absolutely speaks to a modern audience. 'The mainstay ofmy repertoire will always be the baroque. But I have fantasies of performing the pants roles that were written later for women. I'm one of the very few men who CONTINUES ON PAGE 67 M ARC H 1 - APRI L 7 2006

OPERA The Glenn Gould School Opera Ensemble Glenn Gould School Voice Department students Brahm Goldhamer artistic director Jennifer Tarver stage director The Royal Conservatory Orchestra Timothy Vernon conductor BRITTEN A Midsummer Night's Dream MARCH 17, 21, 23, 8 PM MARCH 19, 2 PM RCM Concert Hall 90 Croatia Street (Bloor & Dufferin) Adults , Students & Seniors Group rates available 416.408.2824, ext. 321 ORCHESTRA m . The Royal Conservatory Orchestra Andrew Aarons piano Program to include EST ACIO Safaris PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 2 FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 8 PM Glenn Gould Studio CBC, 250 Front Street West Adults , Students and Seniors Group rates available 416.205.5555 www.rcmusic.ca The D& T Davis Charitable Foundation ~ : l "*-1 Canadian "'I'" Heritage Patrimoine canadien The Britten-Pears Foundation ~ ~i~~ncial ffiljj. Group Women's Musical Club of Toronto AFTERNOON CONCERT March 9, 1.30 p.m. Xiang Zou, piano First Laureate Honens International Piano Competition Works by Schubert, Godowsky, Liszt, and the premiere of a new work by Chinese composer De-Qing Wen Walter Hall Edward Johnson Building 80 Queen's Park Tickets 416-923-7052 UPCOMING CONCERT April 20, 1.30 p.m. Meredith Hall, soprano, Bernard Farley, guitar, and Sylvain Bergeron, lute Works by Monteverdi, Schubert, Purcell, Blow, Lanier, Strozzi, Giuliani, Carulli, Bernard Farley, and the premiere of a new work by Alexander Rapoport, commissioned by the WMCT Sponsor: WMCT Centennial Foundation Subscribe to mUjiC in lhe_A/ternoon 2006-2007 Sea6on Five great concerts.for the early-bird price of 5 (until May 30th) Thursday afternoons at 1.30 p.m. Pre-concert lecture 12: 15 p.m. I Musici de Montreal, baroque chamber orchestra October 26, 2006 Susan Yi-Jia Hou, violin, Daniel Spiegal, piano November 23 , 2006 Jane Coop, piano, and Shirin Eskandani, mezzo-soprano February 8, 2007 OCTAGON: Andrew Dawes, violin; Patricia Shih, violin; Rivka Golani, viola; Antonio Lysy, cello; Joel Quarrington, double bass; James Campbell, clarinet; Kenneth MacDonald, French horn; George Zukerman, bassoon March 15, 2007 Marion Newman, mezzo-soprano Gregory Oh, piano April 26, 2007 Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building For more information or to subscribe, call 416-923-7052 www.wmct.on.ca M ARCH 1 - APRI L 7 2006 WWW, THEWHOLENOTE,COM 17

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