“You very quickly forget whether it’s a male voice or a female voice. … Because he’s such a terrific musician, and so expressive, the fact that it’s a man singing in a woman’s range becomes irrelevant, and what we hear is the music.”
That’s how Morning Edition music commentator Miles Hoffman describes the voice of David Daniels, one of the world’s most celebrated countertenors. Most simply defined as a “male alto,” a countertenor is a male vocalist who sings in a range that is — at least in modern times — ordinarily associated with women.
This weekend, Daniels will put that impressive voice to work in an opera written especially for him: Oscar, based on the writer and wit Oscar Wilde, premieres Saturday at the Santa Fe Opera, with Daniels in the title role. Click the audio link for more on the history of countertenors, and read on for three examples of Daniels’ voice in action — including a sneak preview of Oscar, recorded during this week’s dress rehearsals.