Day 137 – May 7
As a result of my last post about counter tenors, I learned about male sopranos, thanks to a good friend from grad school. I hadn’t really heard of male sopranos before today. My voice teacher in college was a tenor, who also happened to be able to sing most of the notes in my soprano music. He was often able to demonstrate how to produce a note, even though he was a male. I suppose it was a bit strange, but very useful at times, too. So, in retrospect, I suspect he may also have been a male soprano?
Anyway, the person I listed to on youtube was Michael Maniaci. To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed upon the first hearing. I listed to his version of Mozart’s “Alleluia”, which apparently was originally written for male soprano . . . who knew? The sound was different from the countertenor sound and it bothered me, but I’m not really sure why. Maybe I’m just used to hearing the counter tenor sound. No, that can’t be it. As I said before, my voice teacher in college would often sing phrases from my music, and I never thought “Ick”. I’m thinking maybe it was less the male soprano sound that bothered me and more his execution of the music. The notes lacked a nice round, warmth, the vibrato was too crazy for my likings, he attacked some of the phrases in a less-than-musical way, and the way he moved his mouth was just weird with lots of unnecessary movement. (Although, that last thing really isn’t a problem specific to male sopranos, per se.) Oh, and let’s talk for a moment about his melismas. I seriously wanted to poke him with a cattle prod and say, “dude, don’t get so bogged down and keep up with the beat!”
But, not wanting to write him off after only one experience, I listened to another recording, this one an aria by Handel. I wasn’t really bothered by this performance. Maybe his voice was better suited to Handel than Mozart? Maybe he was having a better performance day? Who knows, but I didn’t mind this much. His vibrato still bothered me, but there are really great female sopranos that have bothersome vibrato, but who still give a great performance. (Maria Callas comes to mind.) I’m interested enough now that I’ll be hunting down other recordings to see what else he has to offer.
I also listened to a bit of an interview between Maniaci and a counter tenor in which the discussed the differences between the two voices. The main difference is that male sopranos aren’t singing in their falsetto, which means that they are able to actually add color and nuance to their sound and also have dynamic variety. How did I not know that counter tenors (or men who sing in their falsetto) have no dynamic variation?
So that’s TWO things I learned today! Thanks, Deb!