The High, Heavenly Voice Of David Daniels

Countertenor David Daniels (right) and dancer Reed Luplau in the Santa Fe Opera's world-premiere production of Oscar, based on the life of Oscar Wilde. i

Countertenor David Daniels (right) and dancer Reed Luplau in the Santa Fe Opera's world-premiere production of Oscar, based on the life of Oscar Wilde. Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera hide caption

itoggle caption Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera
Countertenor David Daniels (right) and dancer Reed Luplau in the Santa Fe Opera's world-premiere production of Oscar, based on the life of Oscar Wilde.

Countertenor David Daniels (right) and dancer Reed Luplau in the Santa Fe Opera's world-premiere production of Oscar, based on the life of Oscar Wilde.

Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera

"You very quickly forget whether it's a male voice or a female voice. ... Because he's such a terrific musician, and so expressive, the fact that it's a man singing in a woman's range becomes irrelevant, and what we hear is the music."

That's how Morning Edition music commentator Miles Hoffman describes the voice of David Daniels, one of the world's most celebrated countertenors. Most simply defined as a "male alto," a countertenor is a male vocalist who sings in a range that is — at least in modern times — ordinarily associated with women.

This weekend, Daniels will put that impressive voice to work in an opera written especially for him: Theodore Morrison's Oscar, based on the writer and wit Oscar Wilde, premieres Saturday at the Santa Fe Opera, with Daniels in the title role. Click the audio link for more on the history of countertenors, and read on for three examples of Daniels' voice in action — including a sneak preview of Oscar, recorded during this week's dress rehearsals.

The Voice Of David Daniels

Handel: Operatic Arias
Album cover

Handel: 'Va Tacito' (From 'Julius Caesar')

  • Artist: David Daniels
  • From: Handel: Operatic Arias

This Handel recital, recorded in 1998, was a breakthrough album for David Daniels. It shows off the complete voice. From Handel's slowly unfolding laments, suffused with agony and eloquence, to hard-driving, highflying arias of outrage, splashed with a fireworks display of notes, Daniels is robust, rounded and confident throughout the registers.

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Song
Giulio Cesare in Egitto, opera, HWV 17 [Va Tacito e nascosto]
Album
Handel: Operatic Arias
Artist
David Daniels
Label
Virgin
Released
1998

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Serenade
Album cover

Schubert: 'Nacht Und Träume'

  • Artist: David Daniels
  • From: Serenade

Here, David Daniels busts another countertenor myth. For so long, countertenors feasted principally on early music, with baroque arias and Elizabethan songs as staples. But Daniels approaches his concerts and recordings as would any other singer, making smart choices in repertoire that ranges from German lieder (like this gorgeous performance of Schubert) to 20th century songs.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Nacht und Träume (Heil'ge Nacht, du sinkest nieder!"), song for voice & piano, D. 827 (Op. 43/2)
Album
Serenade
Artist
David Daniels
Label
Virgin
Released
2008

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Oscar
Album cover

Morrison: 'My Sweet Rose' (From 'Oscar')

  • Artist: David Daniels
  • From: Oscar

Thanks to Philip Glass' Akhnaten, in 1983, the idea that an opera could star a countertenor no longer sounds crazy. The highly anticipated Oscar, by composer Theodore Morrison, receives its world premiere July 27 at the Santa Fe Opera. Daniels played a huge role in getting Oscar to the stage: He backed the project from its birth, even funded a demo recording, and shopped for the right company to premiere it. Judging from this dress rehearsal excerpt, Daniels will have some gorgeous music to sing.

Purchase Featured Music

Serenade

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Serenade
Artist
David Daniels
Label
Virgin
Released
2008

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

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