The Venezuelan male soprano Samuel Mariño has been signed to Decca Classics, which will launch his new album Sopranista (a term for male soprano) on 27 May.

The album, on which Mariño performs opera music from the 18th century with La Cetra Barockorchester Basel under Andrea Marcon, will be the first ever to feature a male soprano singing arias that have been more commonly performed by female voices in the years since castration was banned. Among them is the Trouser role aria ‘Voi, che sapete’ as well as castrato arias from operas by Mozart and Gluck, and works by Joseph Bologne and Domenico Cimarosa, the latter two heard here in world premiere recordings.

Despite being bullied as a teen for his high speaking voice, Mariño decided to forego surgery to lower his larynx and deepen his voice, going on to pursue a career in singing. He studied at the Conservatoire de Paris and was mentored by Barbara Bonney in Salzburg. It was Bonney who encouraged Mariño to focus on the Mozart soprano arias that are threaded throughout Sopranista. ‘She said you can sing all the Mozart castrato roles that countertenors cannot sing’, says Mariño. ‘She taught me them all. Idamante from Idomeneo, Aminta from Il re pastore, Sesto from La Clemenza di Tito, Cecilio in Lucio Silla, even Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, which even though it’s not a castrato role she said I had the perfect voice for.’

Mariño won the Interpretation Award in the International Singing Competition with Opéra de Marseille and the audience prize in the Neue Stimmen Competition. Shortly after, he made his stage debut at the Handel Festival in Halle and was nominated by the magazine OpernWelt as the ‘Best Revelation Artist.’ In 2019 he founded the period group Ensemble Teseo and continues to champion underperformed music.

He says: ‘If I want to sing a role and I am able to, then I sing it. It’s not because it’s a man or a woman or a castrati. If one day I’m wearing a dress on stage, I want you to love me like that. If another day, I’m in jeans and sneakers, I want you to love me like that as well. I’m not making a piece for a museum – I am making live art.’

Mariño makes his London debut in a recital at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 22 April.


Hannah Nepilova is a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine. She has also written for The Financial Times, The Times, The Strad, Gramophone, Opera Now, Opera, the BBC Proms and the Philharmonia, and runs The Cusp, an online magazine exploring the boundaries between art forms. Born to Czech parents, she has a strong interest in Czech music and culture.