Author: Francesco Meli

Un ballo in maschera at La Scala

Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera: from 4th to 22nd May at last I’ll be singing one of my signature roles at La Scala too: Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera.
I made my debut in this role in 2011 at the Parma Verdi Festival. After that, I performed it again in Parma, then at Teatro La Fenice, at the Rome Opera and Accademia di Santa Cecilia, at the Arena in Verona, in Seoul and at the Teatro del Maggio. Just like all the other Verdi characters that I interpret and love, I owe a lot to Riccardo. As a man, he is convinced that those in power, with the ability to decide for others, must do so to the advantage of those who are weaker, and not for personal interest. He is a character who could teach a lot to those in power today. Despite “betraying” the trust of his dearest friend, he remains loyal. So much so that, filled with remorse, he relinquishes his love in favour of his friendship with Renato and in the name of the righteousness that he pursues until his death.
It is an honour to interpret this role at La Scala at last, under conductor Maestro Riccardo Chailly, with stage direction by Marco Arturo Marelli and a magnificent cast featuring Sondra Radvanovsky as Amelia and Luca Salsi as Renato (with Ludovic Tézier taking the role on 19th and 22nd May). This will be my twentieth role at La Scala, a privilege of which I am immensely proud.

Photo © Roberto Ricca / Teatro Regio di Parma from the 2011 production conducted by Maestro Gianluigi Gelmetti

Dvd available here

Aida in Dresden

Dear friends,

from 5 to 20 March, I’ll be singing as Radamès at the Semperoper Dresden. I’m delighted to be singing for the first time under conductor Maestro Christian Thielemann, who will be on the podium of the legendary Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden. I have listened to this orchestra on so many recordings from the symphonic and operatic repertoires, and it has filled me with so many emotions! I am also extremely happy that our Aida will be broadcast for everyone on 13 March by Arte TV.

I also have a more intimate, personal reason for loving my role as Radamès: in October 2020 I was singing in a captivating concert performance of Aida conducted by Maestro Riccardo Chailly at Teatro alla Scala and, from the penultimate performance, was forced to drop out because I tested positive for Covid-19. It was one of the worst times to get infected, when vaccines were not yet available. I was lucky to recover fully, but my thoughts often go to those who didn’t make it, to the world which has been changed by Covid and to art and music which have paid such a high price.

Like everyone else, I hope that the time has come at last for us to move out of the pandemic and to go back to enjoying our everyday lives, and particularly music, in freedom and harmony.

Prima Verdi

Dear friends, I wish to share a very special emotion with you all. On 19th November Prima Verdi is being released: my first album dedicated to a single composer. I recorded it in June 2020, we were all still shaken by the first three months of lockdown yet the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino had the strength to believe in the project and engage its wonderful orchestra conducted by Maestro Marco Armiliato for the occasion.

This album is a journey through “my” Verdi, from the operas of the so-called years of hard labour to his last works. Above all it is a pathway through the vocality of Verdi, to sustain and fulfil the idea that the composer himself had of “his tenor”. Of course, I think that Verdi knew exactly what to ask of a tenor: certainly not stentorian expression, but quite the opposite: interpretation and in-depth exploration of the character through music. I have always paused to admire the meticulousness and skill in the dynamic markings that Verdi provides for the performer, the continual search for a deep relationship between words, rhythm and music. Each one of Verdi’s indications is indispensable for a proper understanding of the character; far from being a cage that limits the performer, it is a detailed canovaccio that opens up a world of music, dramaturgy and theatre, an immense range of opportunities for the musician who is prepared to make the composer’s indications his own.  This is my homage to the great father of Melodrama, there where words become music. But it is also a stage on my journey of attachment to Verdi as a man, father of the Nation and deep down inside, a revolutionary.

King Carlo VII in Rome

From 17th to 26th October 2021 I sang as the King, Carlo VII, in a new production of Giovanna d’Arco at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, conducted by Daniele Gatti, with stage direction and choreography by Davide Livermore, set design by Giò Forma and costumes by Anna Verde. Amazingly, this opera by Verdi had not been performed here at Rome’s Teatro Costanzi for almost fifty years.

I have sung many times as Carlo VII and the critics consider it to be one of my signature roles. I have to say that from a vocal and dramaturgical point of view, Carlo VII is a role with some fascinating features that verge on and at times reach the marvellous heights of the best Verdi. In Rome, at this theatre to which I owe part of my identity as a Verdi tenor, I performed with exceptional colleagues. Giovanna was sung by Nino Machaidze, who debuted with success in the title role. Another detail worth of attention is that conductor Maestro Daniele Gatti made his debut as an opera conductor in 1983 with this same opera: Giovanna d’Arco. In a word, it is quite a fascinating opera which wins over the theatre audience with a wealth of beautiful music and additional meaning. The performance on Sunday 17th October will soon we broadcast by Rai Radio3 and I’m looking forward to listening to it with you.

Photo: Fabrizio Sansoni

My summer 2021

Dear friends,

at the end of a long, exciting but tiring summer, it’s time to take stock and I’m going to give you an update here. Many of you follow me on the social networks, but here on my website I have a more select following, and so it is here that I want to bring you up to date. I started off singing at the beginning of July at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in a Requiem which I appreciated very much, conducted by Daniele Gatti. The Verdi Requiem has a special place in my repertoire and in my heart, because it is one of the profound musical works that I have been engaging with for years on a personal level too. This was also the case in Valencia. I found answers which only Verdi’s genius can provide, time after time, to those who sing and to those who listen. The Requiem was conducted magnificently by Maestro Gatti, and this is one of the reasons why I can’t wait to sing in Giovanna d’Arco next October at the Rome Opera, again under his baton.

After Verdi, came Verdi again. One can never have enough of his music. I gave two extremely interesting performances of La Traviata at the Arena di Verona and sang in Aix-en-Provence in I due Foscari, under conductor Daniele Rustioni.

Between July and August I again took on the role of Cavaradossi in Tosca set in the Courtyard at Palazzo Farnese in Piacenza. Here, as in Verona at the Arena, a visual art project allowed the stage directors to cut stage action to a minimum, fully exploiting the atmosphere and citations provided by the projections, all closely linked to the action on stage. Theatre has suffered huge losses because of the health restrictions, but theatre people have come up with beautiful work. Far from being a compromise, these were winning ideas.

I have done other things which captured my heart, such as taking part in the commemoration of Enrico Caruso’s death at the Hotel Vesuvio in Naples, as a guest of Luciano Pituello, the most incredible connoisseur of the tenor and his recordings. I  also returned to Mola di Bari to give my third consecutive masterclass at Palazzo Pesce, where the surroundings and the young aspiring singers have become familiar. I then sang a tribute to Carlo Bergonzi, outside the Church of San Cristoforo a Vidalenzo di Polesine, his birthplace, as a guest of the great tenor’s children. I was absolutely thrilled, since Bergonzi has always been a bright guiding light for me. 

On 5th September, Serena and I received the Aisico award at the Festival della Piana del Cavaliere at the Teatro Mancinelli in Orvieto. As always when one receives an award, it was a great honour. As a couple, both in private and in art, it was a double joy to receive this appreciation and reward together.

Finally, I allowed myself a dip into the glamour and creativity of the Venice Film Festival. I spent a few wonderful hours as a guest of Cartier alongside Eleonora Buratto, both of us “Friends of Cartier”. I was swept away by the overwhelming euphoria at the Festival and met many charismatic artists and other people. Above all, I had the chance to applaud “The last duel”, the out of competition film by Sir Ridley Scott, and I was delighted by the “Cartier Glory to the Filmmaker Award” which Cartier awarded to the eminent English film director.

And now here I am at the Teatro del Maggio in Florence, waiting to step again into the role of Alfredo. The première is today, 17th September. I’ll tell you some more, and you will be hearing a lot about it … stage direction by Davide Livermore, conductor Zubin Mehta.

From the Academy to the stage

On the eve of the opening of Elisir d’amore, staged by the Academy of Advanced Professional Training at Genoa’s Teatro Carlo Felice, emotions are running high. With hard work and a strong will, we’ve reached our objective, at the end of an intense journey in which I got to know thirteen amazing young people, artists full of sensitivity and the desire to grow, to learn and to share all together our experiences, our uncertainties and our fears.
I’m feeling proud and satisfied with the work done together, which has given the students of the Academy greater self-awareness. The time we have spent together has been extremely valuable to me from a personal and artistic perspective. I have been able to give these young people everything which my experience on stage has taught me. For the fulfilment of this project (a dream, almost), I would like to thank first of all Serena, my wife, who has coordinated all the activities and solved all the problems involved in managing an academy and has joined me in tutoring. Without her contribution this adventure would undoubtedly have been more difficult and less complete. I would also like to thank the other tutors, Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz, Silvia Paoli, Antonella D’Amico, Roberto De Candia, Vittorio Terranova (my beloved mentor), Giulio Zappa, Daniele Callegari, who have all been invaluable for the development of our Academy.
“In bocca al lupo” to all of you when you make your debut in a few hours at the Teatro Carlo Felice. It will be a great opportunity for you to show the audience what you are capable of and for me to celebrate with you your success.

Cavaradossi for Zubin Mehta

Words cannot describe what it felt like to sing as Cavaradossi in a theatre which is close to my heart: the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino under conductor Zubin Mehta, who celebrated his 85th birthday in this way. Our Tosca was a concert performance and I have to say that, since this is a significant score amongst Maestro Mehta’s aesthetic and interpretative choices, the lack of scenery highlighted the orchestration and the Maestro’s ability to find ever new colours and musical solutions in this incredibly 20th century opera. I think it is important not to be integralist when it comes to giving concert performances of operas, always saying yes or no. There are operas and occasions which can benefit from a performance in which the music stands out prominently in the foreground.


There was just one performance in Florence, on 19th May. I’d like to thank the Florentine audience, who called for an encore of “E lucevan le stelle”. I see it as a great honour for me and a further tribute to the Maestro. At the end, all of us and the audience celebrated him with interminable applause and lots of chocolate (of which we know he is very, very fond!).


Teatro Carlo Felice Academy

I am extremely grateful to the Teatro Carlo Felice and to the Theatre’s Superintendent, Claudio Orazi, for entrusting me with the artistic direction of the newly-created Academy of Advanced Professional Training and Placement for Opera Singers: it is an honour which I wish to share with all the teaching staff, who have embraced this educational project with enthusiasm.  We are ready to welcome and start working with the thirteen promising young singers who were recently selected from amongst 250 candidates.

We want both to create a virtuous organisation for our city and to contribute to the educational role of the Italian music environment, guaranteeing that young singers from the Academy can debut first at Teatro Carlo Felice and then at other theatres.

Lessons start on Monday 22nd March and in June we will be on stage at the Carlo Felice with “L’Elisir d’amore”, entrusted entirely to the singers of the Academy. This production is very dear to me. I sang here as Nemorino in 2004 (it was my Genoa debut) and again in 2017. It is a memorable, totally Genoese production, unforgettable thanks to the poetic scenery by Lele Luzzati, in the year which marks the one hundredth anniversary of his birth.

The tutors include internationally esteemed musicians, who will alternate to ensure provision of the various lessons, starting with singing technique given by Vittorio Terranova and Antonella D’Amico, but also performance skills entrusted to Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz, Giulio Zappa, Roberto De Candia, Serena Gamberoni and myself. Then an introduction to stage movement by Silvia Paoli. There will also be a decisive moment: two days of music rehearsals led by Daniele Callegari. The Maestro will prepare the young singers for theatre music rehearsals. Lastly, they will have “vocal hygiene” sessions with voice therapist Antonella Giusti.

Towards the end of the course, around the last two weeks, lessons will end and the laboratory phase will begin, working exclusively on “L’elisir d’amore”. Here we will aim to dissect the music, note by note, word by word, until we gain a perfect understanding of the roles. It is a phase which means a lot to me and I have decided that I alone will follow the students in their pre-rehearsal “retreat”.

Wonderful Japan

A fortnight after my return to Italy after over a month in Japan and then the required period of quarantine, I can now look back with a clear mind to the wonderful evenings spent on Japanese stages: five performances of Tosca at the New National theatre in Tokyo and three recitals with piano accompaniment. After such a long time away from the stage with no costumes or make-up, for the first time in a career of almost twenty years, it was a thrill to be back at last on stage. The Japanese audience was, as always, full of happiness and eager to listen to opera in its only rightful place, the theatre! What more can I say about the audience? Always generous and enthusiastic, the Japanese have never failed to amaze me with their simplicity and their profound love of opera. My dear friend and colleague, Chiara Isotton, sang as Tosca. We have often been together on stage at La Scala. She is a young, extremely talented singer, with an old-school voice, always sensitive to the music.  Dario Solari made a magnificent Scarpia, always elegant and restrained, as only a true “villain” can be. My great friend Daniele Callegari was on the podium. He is a splendid musician, with whom I have made many important debuts in the course of my career. It is always an honour and a privilege to be able to sing under the baton of a great musician.
The performances of Tosca were followed by three recitals accompanied on the piano by Naoko Asano. Three concerts in which I was again rewarded by the audience (I never tire of saying so) each time with great satisfaction and success. It was an enormous pleasure to receive so many requests for an encore at the end of each concert, culminating in the final concert in Tokyo where I gave ten encores!
I love Japan and the Japanese audience. It is always wonderful to be back in this marvellous nation where politeness and mutual respect lie at the foundations of society.
Japan, I’ll be back soon.

An unforgettable year at La Scala

After Tosca on 7th December 2019, which was truly well-received, and Il Trovatore in February 2020, which I will never forget because performances were interrupted by the first terrible lockdown, I was able to relive the emotion of singing again in a concert at La Scala this summer. After that, in September I sang in an unforgettable Verdi Requiem in the cathedrals of Milan, Brescia and Bergamo, again with the orchestra and chorus of La Scala conducted by Riccardo Chailly. Finally, singing in the role of Radamès last October, I was forced to drop out before the penultimate performance because I tested positive for covid-19. La Scala always means so much to me, from a personal and an artistic point of view. In few theatres are emotions able to multiply and leave their mark as they do here. So, to experience such a new production as “To see again the stars” was amazing. None of us were prepared for anything like it: singing an aria which was simultaneously exploited by director Davide Livermore to create an evocative performance; it was true story-telling in which the opera extracts conducted by Maestro Riccardo Chailly served to transport the audience into the enchanted world of musical theatre with its eternal truths.

The production was broadcast on the evening of Saint Ambrose 2020, 7th December, by Rai1 and Radio3 Rai, streamed on RaiPlay and recordings were shown on scores of television channels worldwide. Well, it certainly was a special opening night, which I undertook alongside more than twenty infinitely talented artists. None of us will ever forget it.