Max Emanuel Cencic ‒ Biography
“Mr Cencic is blessed with the finest countertenor voice of our day.” That was the view of the German magazine Opernwelt back in 2008, and ever since he has strengthened his iconic status among present-day countertenors, with a combination of beautiful, pure tone and passionate delivery.
Born in 1976 in Zagreb, Cencic first came to public attention aged six singing the Queen of the Night aria from the Magic Flute. He went on to sing with the Vienna Boys Choir, touring widely and launching his solo career in 1992 as a male soprano, followed in 2001 as a countertenor.
In 2003, Cencic’s interpretation of Nerone (in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea) in Basel was an early milestone in his career, prompting Opernwelt to name him Best New Singer of the Year. Other notable roles have included Perseo in Vivaldi’s long-forgotten serenata Andromeda Liberata (recorded live by Deutsche Grammophon), the title role in Handel’s rarely performed opera Faramondo, and the Herald in the world premiere of Reimann’s Medea at the Vienna State Opera in 2010. During the 2011-12 season Cencic stunned audiences in Paris, Lausanne, Amsterdam and Versailles, creating the title role of Vivaldi’s opera Farnace. The production achieved even wider success through widespread transmission on mezzoTV.
The crowning glory of Cencic’s 2012-13 season was the production, tour and recording of a newly-rediscovered opera, Leonardo Vinci’s Artaserse. Cencic masterminded the whole project, from the choice of work to the choice of cast. Originally premiered in Rome in 1730 ‒ a time when women were forbidden from performing on the public stage ‒ this re-creation too featured an all-male cast, including five counter-tenors. Taking the role of Mandane, Cencic was rewarded for both his singing and the production with rave reviews. Every performance at the Opéra national de Lorraine, the Theater an der Wien, the Cologne Opera, the Opéra de Lausanne and the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées received a standing ovation. The production won an equally enthusiastic reception when it was seen again between March and May 2014 in Cologne, Versailles and Amsterdam.
In November 2013 Cencic made his debut at the Frankfurt Opera in a production of Gluck’s Ezio, Il Giornale della Musica calling him “musically impeccable”. His 2014 schedule includes Hasse’s Siroe in Athens and Versailles, concert performances of Tamerlano in Versailles, Munich, Cologne, Hamburg and Vienna and Alessandro in Moscow, Carmina Burana at the Festival d’Orange and various concerts throughout Europe. His plans for 2015 include a production of Vinci’s Catone in Utica in Wiesbaden, Versailles, Bucharest and Vienna, Porpora’s Germanico in Germania in Innsbruck and concert performances of Tamerlano in Kraków, Alessandro in Brussels and Siroe in Vienna.
Cencic’s Decca recording of Handel’s Alessandro, released in September 2012, garnered six major awards, including Opera CD of the Year for 2013 from operaawards.com, and won rave reviews, as did his 2014 release Rokoko, a collection of opera arias by Hasse, which Limelight Magazine referred to as a “superb recital . . . Cencic’s voice is one of the richest around today with a gleaming top, a fulsome but firm bottom register and his technical facility is spectacular yet always beautifully expressive.” He follows this with the November 2014 release of Hasse’s Siroe with Armonia Atenea under George Petrou ‒ the latest fruit of an agreement between Decca, Cencic and his pioneering music production company Parnassus Arts.
Cencic’s extensive CD catalogue has won many awards, including eleven prizes for his Faramondo, four for a recital of Handel arias, and Germany’s prestigious Echo Klassik prize for his Duetti album. He sang the role of Valentiniano in a recording of Gluck’s opera Ezio, which also won an Echo Klassik prize, as did Leonardo Vinci’s Artaserse (all Virgin Classics).
Cencic frequently appears in productions at major opera houses worldwide, including the Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Semperoper Dresden, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro Real in Madrid, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, La Monnaie in Brussels, Geneva’s Grand Théâtre and Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon. In concert he has performed in such major venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall, Barbican Centre in London, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Vienna’s Musikverein, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Palais Garnier in Paris and Tokyo’s Opera Nomori, and at festivals in Ludwigsburg, Potsdam, Halle (Händel Festspiele), Spoleto (Due Mondi), Ambronay, Eisenstadt and Dubrovnik. He collaborates on a regular basis with conductors William Christie, René Jacobs, Ottavio Dantone, Diego Fasolis, Jean-Christophe Spinosi, George Petrou, Emmanuelle Haïm, Fabio Biondi and Riccardo Muti.
With his singularly beautiful voice, innately musical approach and ability to truly capture audiences, the future is surely looking bright for Max Emanuel Cencic.