“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 Cencic 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. In the 2012–13 season came a tour and recording of a newly-rediscovered opera, Leonardo Vinci’s Artaserse, once again attracting rave reviews.
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”. The following year saw 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 many concerts throughout Europe. In 2015 he performed Il Catone in Utica in Wiesbaden, Bergen and at the Opéra Royal de Versailles in May and June. The Versailles performance was recorded and broadcast via FranceTV’s Culture Box. He takes the production to Bucharest and Vienna in September. There are also further performances of Siroe in Moscow, Krakow and Amsterdam and appearances in Handel’s Tamerlano in Amsterdam, London and Poissy. In February 2016 he directs and plays the title role in a production of Handel’s Arminio at the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe and gives a concert performance of the work in Vienna in April.
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, the first fruit of an agreement between Decca, Cencic and his pioneering music production company Parnassus Arts to create a series of landmark world premiere recordings of Baroque masterpieces. Limelight Magazine referred to the recording of Hasse arias 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.”
His November 2014 release of Hasse’s Siroe with Armonia Atenea under George Petrou was chosen as Recording of the Month in BBC Music Magazine, Editor’s Choice in Gramophone and awarded the prestigious Diapason d’or Award, adding to the many honours his extensive CD catalogue has garnered, 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 has no fewer than three releases during 2015. The 5 Countertenors was released in March (“… the disc is full of treats …” – Opera Now), Vinci’s Catone in Utica in May (“… a stunner …” – ClassicalSource). Within weeks, Catone in Utica had reached fifth place in the official Classic Charts Top 20, published monthly by Gfk Entertainment GmbH. In October comes a new solo album of Neapolitan arias with works by Porpora, Vinci and their contemporaries written for the superbly talented castrati of the day. Cencic’s well developed musical curiosity is in evidence, with ten world premiere recordings, including Auletta’s Concerto in D major for harpsichord, two violins and continuo played by the dynamic Maxim Emelyanychev.
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.
His extensive touring diary and recording schedule bear witness to the fact that with his singularly beautiful voice, innately musical approach and ability to truly capture audiences, the future is looking bright for Max Emanuel Cencic.