Monday, April 4, 2011

Baroque Opera Superstar Singer Moves to Cincinnati

In October, 2011 Catacoustic performed a magical program with male soprano Michael Maniaci. It was a beautiful program of 17th-century Italian music with Daniel Swenberg on theorbo. Michael has a real command of that repertory, and is an effective performer. It was a concert that will remain in so many people's minds for a long time.

I first met Maniaci in Houston around ten years ago when we were performing Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea with the Houston Grand Opera and Opera Atelier. I was amazed the moment he opened his mouth to sing. The sound and delivery was so powerful and exciting! He has had an amazing career, including winning the Met competition, singing with the great opera houses, such as La Fenice, and just a few weeks ago a concert with the LA Phil. He has a recent recording of Mozart arias with Boston Baroque that has had huge success and critical acclaim. Since we first met, I began scheming on how to bring him to Cincinnati to perform with Catacoustic.

The perfect opportunity presented itself when I was asked by the Student Tribunal at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) to present a Catacoustic concert and masterclass there. Michael studied at CCM with David Adams and has family here in town. It was perfect! Michael graciously accepted my offer to present a concert and was a lovely collaborator. We had a great week preparing the program and sharing it with enthusiastic students and the Catacoustic family.

I was shocked when Michael mentioned that he was thinking of moving from his NYC apartment to Cincinnati. He is constantly on the road and wanted to move from the "concrete jungle" of New York to our beautiful "Queen City." And, he would be close to vocal coaches, his family, Catacoustic, and an international airport.

A friendly guy, and a world-class talent, it has been a pleasure and an honor to have him live here in Cincinnati, and it will be wonderful to share his talent with Catacoustic's audience many more times in the future!

Cincinnati Resident Dedicates Herself to Baroque Guitar

I met Tina Gutierrez some years ago through Catacoustic concerts. She was very enthusiastic about early music and since has come to every Catacoustic concert. Tina is a Northside (Cincinnati neighborhood) resident and has had music in her life for many years. She runs European Bridal in the Reading bridal district during the day and practices whenever she can fit in the time. As a Classical guitar major in university, she later picked up the Renaissance and Baroque guitars. In addition to working with local lutenist Rod Stucky, she takes intense lessons with Catacoustic lute/early guitar players, when they are in town, (Michael Leopold, Daniel Swenberg, Ronn McFarlane, and David Walker). And, she has now started a group with Alice Nutter (viola da gamba player). Tina recently played in a masterclass in Columbus, Ohio with the great Baroque guitar player Hopkinson Smith. It was wonderful to have a representative from Cincinnati in this masterclass!

Tina, how long have you been playing early plucked instruments? How did you become interested in them, and what do you love about them?

I have been playing early plucked instruments for three years, although I played Classical guitar since I was fourteen years old. As a teenager, I heard lute music on WGUC (Cincinnati's classical music radio station), and I loved it. My guitar teacher, Brian Deyo, had a lute that he would bring around occasionally. I am interested in history, too. I love the purity of sound of the Baroque guitar and lute. When I met my husband, lute maker Larry Brown, it was a natural fit. The exact moment I knew that I had to play Baroque guitar was when I heard the recording of the Harp Consort's Spanish dances. I instantly knew what I had to do with my life. It was perfect that Larry then built one for me.

While Cincinnati's early music presence is now growing, it wasn't always like this. How did you deal with being somewhat isolated? What would you recommend to others who play early music instruments and do not live in centers where there are other people like them to play with?

It made all the difference having a husband who shared the same interest in early music. I recommend YouTube. The internet makes the world smaller. It is so easy to find good recordings and communicate with people of similar interests online. I also recommend going to an early music workshop at least once a year. The community that you meet there makes a real difference, and you can learn so much.

Tell me about your group and what your goals are for it, as well as your personal goals? What would you like to be doing, musically, in five years? Ten years?

We have no set goals. We get together and enjoy ourselves. We plan to have performances to push ourselves to improve. I am a very goal-oriented person, and I need that kind of structure to keep going. In ten years, I would love to be a professional Baroque guitar player. Ten years? I don't know... It takes so long to get really good, I don't know how long it would take. I would love to play music at a serious, high level. Right now I am enjoying working toward that.

You played for the masterclass with Hopkinson Smith last weekend. What did you learn from him? What do you gain from taking lessons from these different players from around the world?

The main thing I learn from most great teachers is how important it is to go back to the basics and make each musical line seem and appear like a simple, clear thought... to have it come off with ease, clarity, and understanding that people are hearing something that says something to them. One of the things Smith said was, "I don't want to hear the guitar. I want to hear the music." The touch has to be clean enough that the noise doesn't have to interfere with the line. The difference between the good players and the great players is tone.