Countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic enchanted the audience at the Opera of Monte-Carlo

Salle Garnier perfect venue for baroque concert

The Second Empire, ornate architecture style of the Salle Garnier at the Opera of Monte-Carlo built in 1878, made it the ideal venue this Saturday for the Rokoko concert by Max Emanuel Cencic (click on his name to hear him singing), high countertenor from Croatia currently living in Austria. The impressive red curtains remained drawn, and the musicians of the Armonia Atenea Orchestra under the baton of George Petrou, were placed in front and closer to the public, as if we were attending a private concert in the room of a Palace in the 18th century, like in the famous Barry Lyndon movie. The vaulted ceiling adorned with four panels painted on canvas, with the one entitled “Instrumental Music” by Gustave Boulanger (1824-1888) hanging just above the stage making a composition with the orchestra and singer below for a memorable scene.

Max Emanuel Cenci singing like the angels

Max Emmanuel Cencic 1Critically acclaimed Cencic gave a moving performance, from delicacy to fiery passion, singing Opera arias from the finest of Johann Adolf Hasse’s dramatic works, from his recently launched CD recording. The artist started singing at the age of 6 « Queen of the Night’s coloratura showpiece on Zagreb’s TV and he became a member of the Vienna Boys’s Choir. From 1992 to 1997 he pursued a solo career, singing soprano although his voice had already broken. He then took a sabbatical to re-train his voice as a high countertenor, enjoying a successful career that takes him around the world, and obtaining a Grammy award for Best Opera Recording.

George Petrou passionate conductor of the Armonia Atenea Orchestra

Cencic and Petrou with the Armonia Atenea orchestraThe Echo Klassik winning conductor George Petrou from Rumania, who is the artistic director of the Armonia Atenea Orchestra, turned to conducting after a successful career as a concert pianist. He has a wide repertoire with emphasis at opera interpretations, comfortable with romantic and contemporary repertoire working successfully with all kind of orchestras. The internationally celebrated Armonia Atenea (new name for the Athens Camerata founded in 1991), shares the same multifaceted identity, playing period and modern instruments encompassing a wide concert repertoire from early baroque to 21st century, as well as opera and ballet productions.

Interesting period instruments

As for some of the period instruments I discovered during the performance, Theodoros Kitsos played the Theorbo, a plucked string instrument developed during the late 16th century inspired by the demand for extended bass range for use in opera by the Florentine Camerata and new musical works based on basso continuo. Musicians adapted bass lutes (c.80+cm string length) with a neck extension to accommodate open bass strings, called diapasons. The instrument was called both chitarrone and tiorba. Kitsos alternated by playing with the much smaller mandolin.  While Markellos Chrysikopoulos was performing on the Harpsichord, an instrument widely used in Renaissance and Baroque music, that produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed. You could also spot the lion head contrabass, all instruments that together with the Countertenor took us on a musical voyage back to another era.

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