Meet Samuel Mariño, gender-defying male soprano

Liza Miri
Samuel Mariño recently made the first ever recordings from a male soprano of some arias.

The art of male sopranos has long been a thing of the past; the last official castrato retired in 1913. Since then, many roles originally intended for a castrato are performed by women.

Venezuelan-born male soprano Samuel Mariño is bringing the artform back into the spotlight with a stunning natural voice and gender-defying performances. Mariño’s voice never broke as a teenager. He pursued medical options for deepening his voice, but it was his doctor who suggested leaving his naturally high voice and pursuing a music and singing career.

Mariño was bullied as a teenager; along with his unique voice, he was also out as gay. Today, he’s set on being a role model. “Whether someone feels like a man, a woman, non-binary, I want people to make music. When I wear a dress and make-up on stage, I do it because I love fashion and it’s a statement,” Mariño says. "I get messages from transgender people who say thank you so much for being on stage like this. This encourages me to continue to make this art that I love so much.”

His album “Sopranista” released May 27, and Decca record label co-presidents Laura Monks and Tom Lewis say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime voice. “As a teenager and despite the bullies and crushing pressure to conform, Samuel found the strength to stand out. As a result, he has traveled the world, charmed the musical world and become an extraordinarily inspiring role model for acceptance and understanding.”

Hear Mariño singing the famous soprano aria “Voi che sapete” from Mozart’s "Marriage of Figaro."

Looking for music exploring gender in Colorado? Opera Steamboat brings you Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed’s “As One,” an opera about a trans woman’s journey, identity and self-love, later this summer.

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