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A broad career

In the first of a two-part series
spotlighting countertenors,
Flavio Oliver


The Italian-born Spanish countertenor Flavio Oliver is one of the foremost male sopranos in the world today. Male sopranos are extremely rare, with only a handful of them performing at top level nowadays. They are officially categorized as countertenors yet the majority of today's countertenors are actually tenors whose falsetto range goes beyond the alto range. Or they are extremely high tenors, known as tenor altino or male alto. In contrast, the countertenors of the past sang in full voice, resorting to falsetto only at the high range. Modern countertenors can be suffering from poor diction, dull phrasing, even out of tune voices that are difficult to control in falsetto. But then there are a handful of performers in the world today that are genuine sopranos by nature, not by castration like Farinelli, Flavio Oliver being among them. Oliver's voice is full-bodied, and characteristic of this singer are his excellent diction and phrasing, his sweet clear timbre and his immense vocal agility. Ancient music is often full of exceptionally difficult vocal writing, something that Oliver is able to master. He prefers to steer away from solo recordings and restricts himself to live performances or complete opera recordings.

Flavio Oliver signs autographs for fans. Photo © 2004 Anja Ullrich
Flavio Oliver signs autographs for fans. Photo © 2004 Anja Ullrich

Born in 1965, Oliver had a broad artistic career before he was discovered for the world's opera stage, by none lesser than Placido Domingo who also helped start his world-wide career and remains his mentor to this day. We met Oliver in Munich for a Pizza when he was there for the European Music Festival, Europamusicale. The first thing that happened in the Italian restaurant, which was a fair way from the concert hall, was fans: a couple came up to Oliver and the woman told him: 'We just saw you sing and wanted to say how magnificent you were. We bought our tickets especially to see you because you are just like Farinelli. You were totally incredible!' Oliver is a kind and charming star and spent some time conversing with his fans, signing autographs, even posing for pictures at their request. When they left, the woman had tears in her eyes as she thanked him for the wonderful encounter. Fans and pizza out of the way, Flavio Oliver turned his attention to the interview.

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Copyright © 1 July 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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