Hittin' the highs with Mama Alto: Countertenor Diva
We chat to Benny Dimas about his extraordinary show, Mama Alto: Countertenor Diva.
How did singing start for you?
I once read that the first song is the primal cry we make as we are born, filling our lungs with oxygen. If that’s true, no one has ever been able to shut me up from singing ever since!
Can you tell us a little about the show?
“Mama Alto: Countertenor Diva” is a cabaret about the fragility and power of the diva, the voice, and the human heart.
What is your interest in the idea of the diva?
As I see it, the idea of the diva is created around a complex mythology. While the diva is seen as a force of nature – powerful, formidable, glamorous – ultimately, that illusion is built upon an inner vulnerability and fragility.
Could you tell us about being a countertenor and how that plays with gender?
Countertenor is the highest male singing range – equivalent to the female contralto or mezzosoprano. There is considerable debate amongst music scholars and practitioners as to whether this is a natural mechanism – a variety of modal voice – or a chosen behaviour – such as a falsetto. I would argue based on my own lived experiences, and on considerable research, that it is natural, but speaking honestly, the whole ridiculous carry on reminds me of the debate surrounding sexuality: is it chosen, or is it innate? And in terms of playing with gender, being a countertenor – a voice ascribed to be feminine within a body ascribed to be masculine – confronts people’s expectations of gender roles, and disrupt society’s constructions of a binary gender system.
And sometimes when people are confronted they aren’t too happy! As a genderqueer person, and as such, with a heightened awareness of the performativity of gender roles, I am happy to embrace the alterity of my voice and to rejoice in the feminine.
What do you hope people take away from the show?
I want people to heed the message that fulfillment, love and beauty come from embracing your true individuality, not from struggling to achieve utter conformity. Our identities are the most precious thing we have – tend and nurture yours, and even in adversity, it will see you through.
Saturday June 21 & Sunday June 22, The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Off Little Collins Street, Melbourne, melbournecabaret.com