Walk like a man, talk like a man,” or so the song goes. When people think of a man with a high voice, they often think of Frankie Valli, Neil Sedaka, Smokey Robinson, or Art Garfunkel. Michael Maniaci, a male soprano, is a 32-year old singer whose voice is being compared to that of many female sopranos. What’s the difference? Female sopranos are from Venus, and the male sopranos, from Mars, right? I’m afraid to ask.

Singing as a boy, Maniaci discovered a love for music and singing. Then, reaching puberty, his voice didn’t change, or at least, not much. To this day, as far as we know, he remains to be the only natural male soprano on the operatic stage today. I ask if his vocal range is the same as a female soprano.

More or less,” Maniaci replies, “I mean, my voice most naturally rests in sort of a high lyric mezzo tessitura. I call myself a soprano because I’m not a countertenor and the roles that I sing are substantially higher that what traditional countertenors can do.” He adds, “If people are expecting to hear a countertenor, then I will be far from what they expect.”

Read more: Early Music: April 09

What would we do without conductors? Would we be wandering aimlessly around the musical streets, searching for direction signs? Conductors offer ideas, projects, sense of purpose, interpretations, and guidance, not to mention encouragement and inspiration.

For example, take the Classical Music Consort, conducted by the new kid on the block, Ashiq Aziz. If it’s Haydn that you’re seekin’, take a look at his extraordinary concert series dedicated to Franz Joseph Haydn, marking the 200th anniversary of his death. Highlights of the CMC series include Haydn’s twelve London Symphonies, Nos. 93 to 104, in four concerts, in the order they were first performed, to allow the listener to hear the progression of compositional refinement.12_ashiq Aziz

Aziz clearly reveres this classical master and notes that interpretive clues are in the score. “I hope,” he says, “that we are somehow able to bring out the wonderful humour that is so inherent in his music. Often the cleverness and wit of his ideas are expressed through the manipulation of form, harmony and structure.” Aziz continues: “For example, the element of surprise in Haydn’s music is one that I feel is quite important to recognize in order to ensure a successful performance.”

Read more: Haydn, Handel, et al.

The Flanders QuartetLast month, Tafelmusik co-produced a marvellous concert program, “The Galileo Project,” with The Banff Centre — an immersion in the stories, people, and times of the 16th century, through a fusion of arts, science, and culture. It was in 1609, you see, that Galileo Galilei’s first demonstration of the telescope took place, and Monteverdi’s Orfeo was published. So, 400 years later, it was a natural to jointly celebrate Galileo’s work and the music from that period. The collaboration included the Orchestra, astronomers, a stage director, a filmmaker, a set and lighting designer, astronomical photographers, and a recording engineer. It was the kind of sensory experience that gives us a context for our musical relationship with the world, and a reminder that “the music of the spheres” is not a phrase to take lightly.

This month, celebrating their 30th anniversary, and just returned from their Carnegie Hall debut, Tafelmusik features a suite from Rameau’s Dardanus and Handel’s Water Music (February 18 – 22). Website: www.tafelmusik.org / www.myspace.com/mytafelmusik

Read more: Love Letters, stars and Chocolate Roads
Back to top