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Rising Stars: Meet Matthew Maisano (Balena Canto) of Philadelphia

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matthew Maisano (Balena Canto).

Hi Matthew, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I started life as a singer in school and church choirs at a young age. In high school, when I started auditioning for the select choirs and trying out for the school musicals, I realized I wanted a life in music/singing. My high school choral director always programmed big (and challenging) classical choral reps for us to tackle, and the introduction into that world is what made me fall in love with the classical vocal repertoire. Plus, as I started working more on my solo voice in private lessons and getting solos in choir, it became more evident that my voice was more suited for an operatic path. I decided to go to Temple University in Philadelphia for Vocal Performance, and the rest is history!

As a drag performer and drag queen story time host, my life started in late 2017 when a friend asked me to join them in a drag opera night at a local Philadelphia bar. I had been toying with creating a drag character ever since I saw one of my idols, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe performing as their drag king persona, Blythley Oratorio, in a drag/opera cabaret hosted by Opera Philadelphia earlier that year. I remember vividly the feeling of excitement and an actual realization that I wanted to do what Stephanie/Blythely was doing on stage—fusing the worlds of opera and drag.

I identify as binary/gender-fluid with a strong lean towards the feminine side of the spectrum. Drag attracted me because I never felt connected to the male/masculine characters I was forced to portray in opera/musical theater. So one might imagine how lost and inauthentic it felt to perform many of these roles that were heteronormative and, quite frankly, often full of toxic masculinity.

All that being said, when my friend asked me in late 2017 to do this little opera drag show, it was the push/catalyst I needed to make the jump and start my drag journey finally.

In terms of drag queen storytime, my very first one was held in Annapolis because a friend from college worked in the children’s department of one of their branches. She knew I had started doing drag, and she also knew I had a day job as a library assistant up in the Philly Burbs. So she arranged for me to come down and give my first storytime. I’ve been hosting them ever since!

Hi Matthew, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I started life as a singer in school and church choirs at a young age. When I started auditioning for the select choirs and trying out for the school musicals in high school, I realized I wanted a life in music/singing. My high school choral director always programmed big (and challenging) classical choral reps for us to tackle, and the introduction into that world is what made me fall in love with the classical vocal repertoire. Plus, as I started working more on my solo voice in private lessons and getting solos in choir, it became evident that my voice was more suited for an operatic path. I decided to go to Temple University in Philadelphia for Vocal Performance, and the rest is history!

As a drag performer and drag queen storytime host, my life started in late 2017 when a friend asked me to join them in a drag opera night at a local Philadelphia bar. I had been toying with creating a drag character ever since I saw one of my idols, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe performing as their drag king persona, Blythley Oratorio, in a drag/opera cabaret hosted by Opera Philadelphia earlier that year. I remember vividly the feeling of excitement and an actual realization that I wanted to do what Stephanie/Blythely was doing on stage—fusing the worlds of opera and drag.

I identify as binary/gender-fluid with a solid lean towards the feminine side of the spectrum. Drag attracted me because I never felt connected to the male/masculine characters I was forced to portray in opera/musical theater. So one might imagine how lost and inauthentic it felt to perform many of these roles that were heteronormative and, quite frankly, often full of toxic masculinity.

All that being said, when my friend asked me in late 2017 to do this little opera drag show, it was the push/catalyst I needed to make the jump and start my drag journey finally.

In terms of drag queen storytime, my first one was held in Annapolis because a friend from college worked in the children’s department of one of their branches. She knew I had started doing drag, and she also knew I had a day job as a library assistant up in the Philly Burbs. So she arranged for me to come down and give my first storytime. I’ve been hosting them ever since!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m a classical/opera singer, drag artist, cabaret artist, singing actor, and drag queen storytime host, just to name a few. I specialize in singing classical vocal repertoire, opera, musical theater, the American Songbook/jazz standards, and numerous pop genres.

I primarily sing life in drag, and it’s what I’m known for. I love writing original song parodies and creating characters and comedic sketches. As I love comedy, I am also very comfortable with drama. I’m known for my ballad performances and for delivering high drama and emotion on stage. I love vintage fashion and glamour. I’m the queen who will wear a gown to host karaoke.

What sets me apart from others is that I am a multidisciplinary artist who treads the worlds of opera, theater, cabaret, drag, comedy, and beyond. I strive to use all these skills and love to create transformative and beautiful art that forces my audiences to think, feel, and hopefully find meaning. I also strive to heal and entertain. Laughter is some of the best medicine out there! Not only do I dabble in different art disciplines, but I love working with artists of all kinds, including drag, burlesque, singers, musicians, dancers, aerialists, visual artists, etc., to collaborate and create new and engaging forms of performing art. I wholly believe that through the melding of great minds and talents, we all truly excel as artists and as people.

One of my greatest accomplishments is my drag show, “Fach Off,” at Philly’s Tabu. It’s an all-live singing/performing drag show that welcomes a diverse cast of queer artists (drag, burlesque, singers, instrumentalists, dancers) and showcases the unique gifts and talents in the city. It’s not like any drag show I’ve ever attended. There is something so magical about a live sung/played performance that cannot be replicated through any other means. For instance, I often sing opera at my show, and the audiences enjoy it. Never in a million years would I expect Millennials and Gen-Z patrons to go crazy overhearing opera in a gay nightclub. The world surprises you sometimes.

My goal for the future is to produce and perform large-scale theatrical productions that feature all the disciplines of art and artists mentioned amalgamating in some incredible queer performance art unlike anything ever seen before.

How do you define success?
I am making a positive and lasting impact/impression on someone in need. I fully believe in the transformative and healing power of music, singing, and the performing arts. It’s the main reason why I do what I do.

Pricing:

  • If you’d like to book me for singing, drag, etc. please feel free to contact via email for more information

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Personal Photo #1 & Additional Photos #1 & 5: Sayten Studios Additional Photo #2: Nigel Rowe Additional Photo #3: Rachel Meirson Additional Photo #4 & 6: Alexander John Photography Additional Photo #7: Ophelia Hotass Additional Photo #8: Braxton Sage

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