CULTURE

A baroque sensation makes his Greek debut

At the age of 35, Max Emanuel Cencic?s career in the world of classical music already adds up to no fewer than 29 years. That?s because the renowned artist got an early start: At the age of 7, for instance, Cencic sung the part of Mary Magdalene in Johann Sebastian Bach?s ?St John Passion,? in a series of touring performances. Then in 1988, when he was 12, he was one of the soloists who participated in a recording of Gustav Mahler?s Fourth Symphony, while in 1990 he recorded demanding works by George Frideric Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Schubert for Philips Records.

These days, the Croatian singer is one of the world?s top countertenors and possibly the only one who can sell out a stadium, as was recently the case in Nyon, Switzerland.

The prerequisite for this kind of immense success is outstanding raw talent. In Cencic?s case it is based on a particularly warm mezzo voice which the artist combines with his innate musicality and impressive technique, the result of endless practice over a number of years. Equally important is the artist?s desire to constantly broaden his musical horizons. Having said that, it is baroque works, compositions by Handel, Scarlatti and Vivaldi, which comprise the basic core of his repertoire.

At the same time, however, he is eager to take on parts originally composed for mezzo-sopranos, such as the role of Oreste in Offenbach?s ?La Belle Helene,? Orlovsky in Johann Strauss?s ?Die Fledermaus? and Cherubino in Mozart?s ?The Marriage of Figaro,? along with parts in serious operas by Gioachino Rossini, including ?Tancredi? and ?Semiramide.?

While baroque works are becoming increasingly popular, Cencic?s recordings are coming thick and fast. Two of his most recent recordings are the relatively unknown but still formidable opera ?Ezio? by Christoph Willibald Gluck — the opera?s second recording by the Croatian countertenor — and Vivaldi?s ?Pharnaces,? in which the role of Berenice is held by Mary-Ellen Nesi, the Greek mezzo-soprano who in the last few years embarked on an international career and is now finding her rightful place in the recording industry as one of the most interesting contemporary female interpreters of baroque works.

Cencic makes his debut in Athens on Sunday, November 6, at the Onassis Cultural Center. Accompanied by the Camerata Orchestra, conducted by Giorgos Petrou, he will perform Handel arias, with Vivaldi works also part of the program. Part of the ?Camerata on Period Instruments? cycle, the concert is billed as a major rendezvous for the constantly growing ranks of baroque fans in Greece.

Onassis Cultural Center, 107-109 Syngrou, tel 213.017.8000. For more information and tickets, go to www.sgt.gr.