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Wednesday, March 3, 1999

Hi-Fly Guy

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Technically fluid and dramatically expressive, David Daniels uses his high-flying countertenor – a male alto voice – to fullest effect. Daniels, a former Ann Arbor resident and U of M graduate, has been enjoying spectacular success in the last few years, and with good reason: His singing is as rare as his vocal type. His breathing is superbly controlled; there are no distressing "gulps" for air when singing a long, highly decorative line. His phrasing is sculpted and pure, and his sense of drama keen.

Often, Handelian singers focus more on the composer’s acrobatic demands and give short shrift to the text. Not Daniels, who sings with heart-wrenching tenderness in "Cara sposa" from Rinaldo, only to give way to a burst of arrogant defiance in "Venti turbini," punctuated by exquisite displays of coloratura flourishes. Even though his voice is high and pure – he sounds at times like the great British contralto Janet Baker – it is nevertheless bold and masculine, as evidenced in the vengeance aria "A dispetto" from Tamerlano. There aren’t many singers who can command attention with a chestnut like "Ombra mai fu," but Daniels sings it with more wistfulness than lugubriousness, and his understated approach works.

The countertenor is more than capably assisted by Roger Norrington and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Daniels performed an electric and eclectic concert last year in Ann Arbor, singing everything from Poulenc songs to Rossini arias. He stops by again at 4 p.m., March 7 at Ann Arbor’s intimate Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre (call 734-764-2538) for a concert of Handel, Ravel, Schubert and Britten. Those who love the human voice shouldn’t miss it.

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