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The young Venezuelan newcomer Samuel Mariño possesses an incredibly rare type of voice, a male soprano – so a voice which has not broken, as opposed to a countertenor who chooses to sing in a higher register. I have only heard one male soprano in live performance – Michael Maniaci in Meyerbeer’s Il crociato in Egitto, 13 years ago – so this really is an opportunity to savour something new. And this album isn’t about curiosity value, as Mariño’s soprano is a lovely instrument. He tackles arias from Handel and Gluck, based on music that the two composers played when they met in London in 1746.

Handel composed roles for a high and flexible castrato, Gioacchino Conti (known as Gizziello), and three of his roles are presented here, from Berenice, Atalanta and Arminio. Mariño sails through them with apparent ease, soaring to a melodious top C. His coloratura is precise and the trills are tight and attacked with immediacy. ‘Care Selve’ from Atalanta is particularly glorious in its simplicity, with Mariño displaying his sensitive phrasing and immaculate breath control which only very occasionally turns a touch squally. He is not just a singing machine: the recitative for Gluck’s Berenice (Antigono) is full of drama – this Berenice, although a female character, was also written for a castrato as was Demetrio in the same opera, a male character, and with an aria delivered here in spacious voice. Confusingly, the male role of Massinissa in La Sofonisba was composed for a female soprano, and Atalanta in Gluck’s La Corona for Empress Maria Theresa’s daughter Maria Amalia, Duchess of Parma, who was obviously highly accomplished – as is Mariño today.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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