Mozart Arias for Male Soprano
Michael Maniaci; Boston Baroque;
Michael Maniaci apparently does not mind being a Canadian. In one interview he admitted that frequent performances in Toronto (with Opera Atelier and others) convinced some of his fans that he must be a Canuck. He may not be one by birth, but he certainly was born to share his rare gift with us.
Male soprano has the same ring to it as narwhal – a rare, almost mythical creature, barely known and even less understood. By an accident of nature, Maniaci’s larynx did not grow to a full size in puberty and produces sounds that best can be described as unusual. Much higher than a countertenor, much more robust than a boy soprano, his voice is one of a kind, possibly approximating what castrati might have sounded like. It is a perfectly pitched instrument, with a lot of agility and great technique.
For his first solo album, Maniaci chose music written by Mozart especially for castrati, including the celebrated “Exsultate, jubilate”. This voice takes some getting used to – at first, Alleluja! sounds strange and not entirely convincing. Once you get over the shock of the unknown however, especially in the Lucio Silla arias, this new interpretation triumphs over pre-conceived notions. Our initial resistance to what is in effect a return to Mozart’s preferred interpretation is a testimony to the way in which performance standard shapes our listening ability. So, open up your ears (and minds) to Michael Maniaci’s unique voice and indulge in what could be considered full period performance of the familiar music.