25 April 2007

The Met's run of Giulio Cesare features Michael Maniaci, the lone "male soprano" in the current Met roster, as Nireno; but last night Gerald Thompson, debuting as Tolomeo, out-interpolated Maniaci, tossing high Zs at every chance, despite being listed only as a lowly "countertenor" in official documents. Oh this incarnation of Handel's gender bender is severely confusing--the tessitura partitions have been largely erased, this stage direction decidedly gay--so that I had to take a moment to think if it was alright for the Republicans in the audience that Lawrence Zazzo was kissing Danielle de Niese. (Zazzo = Cesare; de Niese = Cleopatra ... so ok, no cause for alarm.) Elsewhere, Alice Coote, a handsome Sesto, and Jill Grove, a chesty Cornelia, added to my perplexity.

Spotted in the audience: Mercedes Bass in her center parterre box, Chelsea Clinton in the manager's box, and Sieglinde in her usual box. What do you think that means. (Meanwhile, Sieglinde sends her apologies to Ruth Ann for missing her sensational Cleopatra. It was a cruel scheduling conflict.)

Further "research":

Maniaci is a true male soprano. He is not a countertenor with a falsetto head voice above a tenor or baritone chest voice...

“During puberty my voice just stayed where it was; it didn’t change with the rest of me, although it’s got stronger and fuller. Doctors examining my throat found that the larynx and vocal cords had not lengthened and thickened in the normal way; I don’t have an Adams apple, and yet in every other way I’m a normal male.”
I need to stalk the Met stage door Friday to verify this myself.

UPDATE: These two baroque arias reveal Maniaci's extraordinary gift.