AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA, presents, THE SOPRANO : Samuel Marino, at Sydney City Recital Hall, in Angel Place. Thursday,1st September. Tuesday, 6th September. Wednesday, 14th September. Friday, 16th September. Saturday, 17th September Matinee at 2.00pm and night, 7.00pm.
Life is full of plans with "twists and turns' unexpectedly pointing one to adventures that can be either a positive or negative event. Recently, two acquaintances were unable to take up their Subscription Tickets to a concert at the Sydney City Recital Hall in Angel Place, and gave them to another friend who, then, been rebuffed by a 'gentleman caller' asked if I would like to accompany her instead. Indeed, I could. I had no knowledge of the program I was to attend but really chuffed to meet and greet my friend and hear some music with a live orchestra. A special bonus was that the concert featured the Baroque repertoire.
My friend and I sat in the stalls fairly close to the stage - how exciting! I learnt in the pre-concert gossip that we were to hear a male Soprano voice - yes, a MALE SOPRANO voice - curious. We were to hear Samuel Mariño, a 28 year old Venezuelan who began his training at the National Conservatory of Music of Venezuela with piano and voice, where with his extraordinary vocal gift first performed operatic repertoire with the Camerata Barroca in Caracas. This awoke a passion for the baroque repertoire and inspired him to further his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris. Two months ago he released a new CD on Decca Records, and it has sold, already, 3 million copies. Mr Mariño's career has ignited. He has a plan to perform in the coming months in Canada, the USA; and make his UK opera debut at the Glyndebourne Festival as Iris (Semele - Handel, 1744).
The Artistic Director of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Paul Dwyer, had invited Mr Mariño to Australia several years ago but Covid-19 interfered with the planned schedule. Persistence and the confluence of the Musical Gods arranged that fate would allow him to travel, at last, and here he is.
The audience gathered, the orchestra entered, the musicians played, under the spell of an enthusiastic conductor, Mr Dyer, a work by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). During, quietly, Samuel Mariño entered in a spectacular tartan skirt with shirt, jacket and other dressy accoutrements - e.g. a very bright red shoulder bag - as well as fingerless black gloves (leather?) and high, high heels. He was coiffed beautifully, subtly make-uped, with a youth-filled, youthful smile that was as flirtatious as one could be. I'm certain it was I he was flirting with but my companion differed and told me that it was she that he was shining at. I grasped, competitively, that each of us and all of us in the Recital hall were being touched by this flirt. And then....
Then, he began to sing.
THEN, he began to sing, sing an aria from Vivaldi: In furore iustissimae irae (translation:in a fury of righteous anger) :
In a fury of righteous anger
You are divinely powerful.
When you can punish me in my guilt
The very crime you bear is merciful.
All flagellant sounds making poetic welts, almost indecently, but, in recovery, we observe, not indecently, but with a musical sensitivity that reaches out to our vulnerability that he has given cause to be awakened within us. He held the key to our awestruck presence and turned it on, oh, so quickly and generously. His openness caused us to mirror his sacrifice, and together we revealed our mutual usually shy truths at the command of the music and the sounds of a foreign and ancient language of a long time ago. He awoke us to the music of the spheres - timeless - to the other worldly, via the pleasure of good/great musicianship of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and their guest, Samuel Marino.
A miraculous soprano sound swept us with a passionate exposure that could only induce in each of us an awe and a joy. We were his surprised slaves. Slaves, so quickly. Surrendering, so quickly. And definitely not looking for mercy, for if this were a punishment: BRING IT ON!
For, as well, the beat of this more than 400 year old music was absorbed by his body, invading him, taking, unequivocally, possession of him, so that it registered in expression as if he were in the centre of the Disco Beat at the greatest dance club in the contemporary world. We learnt from conversation later that Ballet was Mr Mariño's early inclination, and evidently he can move, but fortunately his Doctors on examining his vocal equipment recognised the possibility of a modern phenomenon. The voice, the body and the passionate, controlled dexterity, reveals a great actor bringing the character of his music vividly to life.
Phenomenon, undoubtedly. Samuel Marino, in his youthful time ought not to be missed. And that's whether you are classical music fan or a popular primal music fan.
He is clearly a humourist. Considering his extraordinary gift, the uniqueness of it, one can imagine the passage of his 'growing up': The pain of the bullying, the prejudices, the aggressive fears which the ordinary has thrown at him. Humour became his way of surviving. For that pain has been turned by this artist into a gift for his audience. The conclusion of the first act in a work by George Frideric Handel (1685-1750): Quella fiamma from opera ARMINIO, Act 2 Scene 8, HWV 36 :
That flame, which ignites in my breast,
nourishes itself in my heart's blood.
May that fire shine so brightly,
that it becomes the fuse that feeds my passion.
And, indeed, the fuse that has (historically) ignited Samuel Marino to feed his passion, bursts onto this platform/stage, so that the furious heat of the lyrics are smelted, counterpointed with a comedy act of almost burlesque greatness as he sings in a fiercely contested musical duel with the Baroque Oboe played by Adam Masters. Each of these artists challenging and lifting the stakes of the encounter. Tit for Tat. Thrilling! The laughter they create together, also, brings tears, that one young man could have so much to give. An unforgettable performance.
It is apparent that Samuel, if I may be so bold is, or, could be, a handful of brilliant temperament. Fiercely, humorously, his costume changes are a provocation of wonder. Following the full-length tartan 'frock' the second costume is teetering on heels once again, beneath tight white patterned 'stretch' pants, with a sheer, almost see through long sleeved top with a necklace of silver glimmer that has one distracted in moments as to wondering about the body beneath the clothing. Which is answered, perhaps, in the next set of 'vestments' that he dons to close the concert.
With the extraordinary power and dexterity of his vocalisations he supports it with intelligence and political wit. The courage that Mr Marino required to accept and grow into his gift, the patience he has had to endure the pain, is employed with the sure action of positive intelligence and wit to master all of his obstacles - personal and societal - is a wonder to contemplate. He is a cause for honest wonder and gratitude. A kind of beacon in the darkness of our contemporary life. An artist to celebrate.
Paul Dwyer and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra ought to be congratulated for the recognition and pursuit of this artist at the beginning of his career. One can only hope that he will visit again. He says he has an ambition to sing Lucia. With what his will and training have so far achieved it is a possibility, maybe, a probability. Who would have thought that this might be a possible path for such an artist - a Male Soprano? Not too many years ago, Samuel Marino may have been seen on a stage as a sensation in an underground cabaret. Today, in 2022, he stands on major concert platforms around the world and may be seen on the major opera stages around the world creating with the same passions Verdi's great and tragic hero: Lucia de Lammermoor.
I wept with awe and jealousy a great deal of the night at the gifts that Samuel Marino gave me, us. I wished that I had had them. Even one eighth of his courage to begin with. Not since the Audra McDonald Concert a few years ago have I been so emotionally breached.
The gift that my friends gave me is an instance of wonder, of chance, and provokes in me once again a comprehension as to why life is worth living. I can not thank them enough.
If you could go. I would. If not just check Youtube or Google to see what you missed. A little OTP, Kevin? No one iota, I promise.
P.S. Thanks, Richard, John, (Terry) and Maggie.