CRITIC’S CHOICE: CD – MICHAEL MANIACI, Mozart Arias for Male Soprano

Boston Baroque’s 20th release from Telarc features arias intended for the Castrati

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Thirty-three year old Michael Maniaci stands out among today’s countertenors because he is the only true “male soprano” in the world of Classical music. The singer’s larynx – or what is popularly referred to as the “voice box” – did not develop or “change” during the normal course of puberty. Thus, the boy soprano develops into an adult male soprano. Before and during Mozart’s time and up until 1870 when the Italian government cried, “Enough already!” – such vocal effects were achieved by castrating pre-pubescent boys who could cough-up a decent scale. Instead, the young Michael Maniaci, native of the Midwest, made lemonade from his natural gifts and wound up graduating from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and earning a Masters Degree in Vocal Performance from Juilliard. This was followed by his placement in a number of prestigious young artists training programs and winning such competitions as the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Today, Michael Maniaci is an internationally respected vocal artist. On January 26th Telarc International and Concord Music Group releases Mozart: Arias for Male Soprano. It is the 20th recording featuring three-time Grammy® nominee Boston Baroque, conducted by founding music director Martin Pearlman.

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MICHAEL MANIACI, Male Soprano

This solidly excellent recording includes arias from Mozart’s Idomeneo, Lucio Silla, La Clemenza Di Tito, and the four motets of Exsultate, Jubilate. Conductor Pearlman also offers stunning renditions of the overtures to Idomeneo and La Clemenza Di Tito. In his aria from La Clemenza, “Parto, ma tu ben mio”, are all the hallmarks of Mr. Manciani’s extravagant vocal skills and the unhesitating chutzpah and fiery commitment of a highly-pitched Divo. The coloratura passages are amazingly agile, the lower register is warm and balanced, and his dramatic sense as the would-be assassin of Emperor Titus clear and aggressive. The final track, the Alleluia, will astound those who believe it to be the exclusive property of coloratura sopranos. This popular chestnut requires a flagrant exhibitionist. Manciani’s energy is unstoppable from start to finish and the climactic High C is bright and shimmering with vibrato.

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Boston Baroque’s previous recordings and broadcasts of Mozart have included such career milestones as the American period-instrument premiere of Don Giovanni, which was broadcast nationally on public radio, and the first period-instrument recording of Robert Levin’s completion of the Mozart Requiem (Telarc, 1995), which CD Review named as one of the three most important classical CDs of that year. Boston Baroque collaborated with Jacques Zoon on a recording of the two Mozart flute concertos (in Zoon’s first recording on period flute); that recording also includes a stunning account of the Jupiter Symphony. Michael Maniaci and Boston Baroque have enjoyed several collaborations in live performances including a program of arias, and semi-staged performances of Handel’s Agrippina with Maniaci as “Nerone” as well as the title role in Xerxes.

Martin Pearlman founded Boston Baroque in 1973. The ensemble presents an annual subscription concert series in Greater Boston and reaches an international audience with its critically acclaimed recording series on Telarc. Under the direction of Pearlman, three Boston Baroque recordings have been Grammy® finalists: Handel’s Messiah (1992); Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 (1998); and Bach’s Mass in B Minor (2000). Boston Baroque is the resident professional ensemble for Boston University’s Historical Performance Program. Martin Pearlman, a harpsichordist, conductor, composer and early music specialist, is among America’s leading interpreters of Baroque and Classical music on both period and modern instruments.

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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