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Ernani at the Maggio Festival

I am truly delighted to be performing one of my signature roles at the Maggio Autumn Festival. Ernani is a revolutionary, an unconventional man, who upholds his principles and defends his beloved at all costs, who is coherent with himself and his honour. He keeps his promises up until death: a character from whom we can learn a lot. Once again, Verdi gives us a hero full of ideals. This new staging in Florence of Ernani by director Leo Muscato, conducted by Maestro James Conlon, aims to outline these characteristics which I believe are fundamental. I hope that the live radio broadcast on Rai Radio 3 of the performance on 10 November, will not only give us the opportunity to reach a far wider audience, but also contribute to discussion around Verdi, his supremacy in the musical, political and artistic history of Italy, and around the importance of continuing to draw attention to the question of Villa Verdi in Sant’Agata, so that Italians will soon be able to enjoy all that it offers.

Meli in Florence

Dear friends,
next season, my relationship with the Teatro del Maggio and the Florence audience will become even closer, thanks to performances in four of what have become signature roles for me, scheduled one after the other from November 2022 to April 2023. It will be a great honour for me to spend so much time in this city which I love so deeply and to sing as Ernani, Don Carlo, Alfredo and Don Josè under the baton of such eminent conductors as James Conlon, Daniele Gatti and Zubin Mehta (the latter, for La Traviata and Carmen). I hope that it will be an opportunity for me to accept the invitations from my Florentine friends and to discover the less popular palazzi and works of art: the secret corners of this city with its calm, luxurious beauty, but also the wine bars and trattorie where I can sample true Tuscan specialities and the great wines of the region.

Take a look at the magnificent Maggio calendar here and, above all, don’t forget to buy tickets for these performances.

Ernani in Rome

It’s a thrill to be performing one of my signature roles again, Ernani at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. It was in Rome, under conductor Riccardo Muti, that I debuted this role in 2013. Today, the Opera di Roma is reviving that same production, with staging, set and costumes by Hugo de Ana and music direction by Marco Armiliato.
The world is living through difficult times and opera asks itself questions and asks us questions about great civil and private passions, about honour, betrayal and passion. Verdi’s music reaches places which we ourselves could not reach on our own: it is powerful, beautiful, illuminating. Rehearsing Ernani here at the Opera di Roma has given me further confirmation of this. But I’m also worried about Villa Sant’Agata, which is expected to be up for auction very soon. As an artist and an Italian, the villa is a symbol “in stone” of Verdi’s work. It is a beautiful house, rich with memories of Verdi and of Italian history. As Italians, we owe Verdi so much and that is why we should all make every effort so that the Villa becomes part of everyone’s cultural heritage to be enjoyed for what it is: Verdi’s home but also one of our memorial monuments.

18 years with La Scala

Dear friends,
throughout the first 20 years of my life in opera, the 18 years of collaboration with Teatro alla Scala have played an important part. In a few days time I’ll be singing here at La Scala as Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera. Everything started in 2004 with Dialogues des Carmelites under conductor Riccardo Muti, with stage direction by Robert Carsen. After that came Otello (Cassio), Idomeneo, Don Giovanni, Maria Stuarda, Der Rosenkavalier, Carmen, Giovanna d’Arco, I due Foscari, Don Carlo, La traviata, Ernani, Tosca, Il trovatore, Aida, L’elisir d’amore and Macbeth. In between, came the two masterpieces for orchestra and choir, La petite Messe by Rossini and the Verdi Requiem (at La Scala and in the cathedrals of Milan, Brescia and Bergamo, again with the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala), the Hymn of the Nations by Verdi and other concerts and events. It has been a marvellous journey during which I have formed a bond with the Milanese theatre, which has become more a second home than a place of work. I am grateful that throughout this journey I have been able to work with wonderful stage directors and colleagues, with whom I have shared magnificent experiences, but above all with the conductors who followed that first experience with Muti: Riccardo Chailly, Myung-Whun Chung, Daniel Harding, Nello Santi, Marco Armiliato, Nicola Luisotti, Adam Fisher, Michele Mariotti, Antonino Fogliani, Oleg Caetani, Gustavo Dudamel, Massimo Zanetti, Michele Gamba and Philippe Jordan.
Recital, 2017 © Archive at Teatro alla Scala

My first 20 years of Opera

Dear friends,
a twenty year long career is a very important milestone. Not a finishing post, because the road ahead is still long and full of delights and pitfalls. I believe I am lucky because I can recount such a long personal history in music and theatre. Over the years of my career, from its beginnings until today, I’ve had the honour of working alongside great artists and getting to know new, exciting environments. Since my first performance (Malcom in Macbeth at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto) many things have changed in my artistic and private life. Let’s say that these two “lives” have grown together and are indissolubly linked, projected towards a future in which family and music will continue to walk side by side.
I have lived through great cultural change within the opera theatre, with stage direction that is becoming increasingly experimental and elaborate and musical research that is attentive to philology and authenticity of the score. The life of a musician is at the same time many-coloured and monochrome: great experiences, wonderful people in your daily life, but also the routine imposed by the demands of the voice and the worries of being far from home.
In 20 years I have sung over fifty roles, from Mozart to Stravinsky, from the great romantic Belcanto heroes to the complex tenor characters of the Verdi repertoire. The thrill of working with conductors of the standing of Maazel, Chailly, Muti, Temirkanov, Plasson, Pappano or Mehta, is an honour which I would never have expected to have. Then there are the great theatres: Paris, Milan (with the theatre that is closest to my heart), Vienna, London, New York, Tokyo, Chicago, with their wonderful orchestras. I have learnt many things, most importantly the understanding that all the gifts an artist gives an audience are reciprocated. The audience immediately senses a musician’s generosity and sincerity and rewards him accordingly.
The presence of my wife, Serena Gamberoni, also an opera singer with a wonderful career, has been fundamental in creating and supporting this artistic journey. She has always helped and supported me when things got difficult: having a colleague by my side has been a blessing for me.
Today, I would like to say thank you for the privilege of living my life in this way, receiving the gift of music which allows us to live life even more intensely and profoundly.

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.