ON THE PHONE WITH ANNA PIROZZI

“To feel that there is someone listening to us with interest, that is what is missing. Hearing the breaths … maybe even someone’s cough … is part of the life of the theatre. It is like a body missing a limb.” Anna Pirozzi.

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Opera Gazet: We all live in a difficult time, and it is doubly difficult for theatre artists. Nowadays opera – including your recent debut in the role of Elisabetta in Don Carlo – is done almost exclusively in concert form and, moreover, via live stream. How do you, and how do your colleagues, live this situation?

Anna Pirozzi: Speaking for myself, very badly. Of course, I am happy to set foot in a theatre, even if for a short time. But we are used to staying there for a whole month, with all the rehearsals, and we miss the atmosphere, the environment, the development of the role day after day. Now everything is different. A week, and we go on stage. And even with all the love and passion you put into it, when you finish no one is there to applaud you, there is a silence that really makes you feel bad. Moreover, a role also grows from performance to performance. The way we perform now, I feel that there is not even time to let the role set in my throat properly, to understand the obstacles, the difficulties… the joys, also, of singing it, because you cannot be happy about rehearsing and making your debut in such a momentous role in just a week. Of course, you study it, and I had been studying the role of Elisabetta for years, at home, but with the orchestra everything is different. Living the scene, interacting with the other characters, helps a lot to get completely into the part. All of this is missing right now. And then there is no audience, which is fundamental. For us, the aim of all our rehearsals, of all our work is to ultimately go on stage and receive the appreciation… or the non-appreciation, whatever it may be. To feel that there is someone listening to us with interest, that is what is missing. Hearing the breaths … maybe even someone’s cough … is part of the life of the theatre. It is like a body missing a limb.

Opera Gazet: I would like you to tell me something about your next debut in the role of Butterfly at the Teatro di San Carlo, scheduled for April, and not in concert form, but on stage, as a reprise of the direction of Ferzan Ozpetek, which also includes a rather daring (or ‘osé’) scene.

Anna Pirozzi: Unfortunately, Madama Butterfly has been cancelled, and the theatre is closed. I already knew something about the direction, and I had warned the management that I would not have ‘dared’ too much … I was amazed, however, when I found out that it was not even going to be done in concert form, which certainly would have been possible. I am disappointed, because the role is heavy, it is difficult, and I had worked hard to study it. It is a challenging role. I had been asked to sing it several times in the past, but I had always refused, because it is a role of great commitment. The vocal resilience must be there, and complete, because Butterfly sings for three acts, and it is full voice singing. And then there are so many emotions. For me, being a mother, the final scene is emotionally difficult. I had already suffered a lot singing Suor Angelica. These are roles that you need to ‘digest’, understanding how far you can go by giving voice to your feelings, and when instead you need to have the necessary detachment.

Opera Gazet: How do you choose to study a role? Do you do it because you receive a proposal from a theatre, or because you like it, find it interesting and suitable for your voice? Or both?

Anna Pirozzi: One of the important things I take into account is the nature of my voice, what might be good for my voice. Maybe there are roles I like, but they are not suited to my vocality, for example Mimi and many others… But there are also many within my reach, which I choose and then propose.

Until now, I have done all of the roles that I wanted to sing, that I loved to sing.  Perhaps the one still missing was this Butterfly. I had been thinking about it for some time and now the opportunity presented itself. There are others on the horizon, such as Fedora, which I will debut in May at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. And let us hope it is possible because times are uncertain. Turandot in Rome has been cancelled, and now the same opera seems at risk in Vienna as well. We are hoping for the Arena di Verona season to go ahead, where there will be many performances of Nabucco, some of Turandot and just one of Cavalleria Rusticana. This is an opera I do not often sing, because I think it is more suitable for a mezzo-soprano’s voice. But at the Arena it will be an important first night, so I accepted. All in all, if you want to write what my secret dream is, here it is: to sing on an opening night of the Teatro alla Scala season.

Opera Gazet: What would you feel like saying to a young man or woman who wants to pursue a career as a singer? What is the important thing that you would like to get into the head of a youngster who wants to try this career?

Anna Pirozzi: Apart from the period we are living in, I would tell them to go forward with all their strength, and above all with stubbornness, because where there is a will, there is a way. I wanted to succeed with all my strength, and I did it, so I would tell them to hold on and insist. But in these times, everything is more difficult, so maybe I would advise them also to have a ‘plan b’, another path to pursue, because the world of opera will certainly change as a result of this crisis. The opera was created to be done in a theatre, played, sung and listened to in a theatre. The voices ‘suffer’ from the microphone, lose harmonics, become ‘drier’. We do not really know what the future holds.

Opera Gazet: Finally, I would like to ask you a somewhat personal question, if you wish to answer. You are the mother of two young children, and I know you care a lot for your family. How hard is it to be a mom and a prima donna? How many sacrifices does it involve? And how do you manage to reconcile these two roles?

Anna Pirozzi: For the first seven years, when she was little, my girl followed me everywhere, thanks to my husband, who left everything so we could face the problem together, as a family. Without his help it would not have been possible. But then the little girl got tired of that life: she had to go to school, she wanted to be with her friends, and so I made the sacrifice. Then the other child came, and it was even more difficult then. I carried him with me for nine months until I nursed him. Now they are more grown up, more autonomous, but for me it is always painful to leave them at home. Of course, one has to know how to separate the two: being a prima donna is one thing, being a mother is another thing. You have to keep your feet firmly on the ground, know where you come from and who you are. I have always remained myself. I love what I do, but there is a life, as well as a career.

Marina Boagno

 

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Marina Boagno

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Marina Boagno acted for many years as an amateur talent scout, organizing concerts, and creating and directing events. Author of "Franco Corelli – Un uomo, una voce" (1990) and a biography of Ettore Bastianini’s, “Una Voce di Bronzo e di Velluto” (2003).

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