Charming beginnings: Alessia Pintossi

Alessia Pintossi, Lyric soprano, approached to the studies of opera singing at only sixteen and in 2010, with  soprano Nadia Engheben, artist of the chorus at La Scala in Milan. In 2015 she has graduated with honour obtaining the first level Academic Diploma in opera singing at the Luca Marenzio Conservatory in Brescia, Italy. Subsequently, she perfects the studies of operatic repertoire with Vincenzo and Paula Scalera, Cristina Pastorello, Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi, Vittorio Terranova, Claudio Desderi, Patrizia Orciani,  Leone Magiera. In 2013 she performed the role of Clarina in La Cambiale di Matrimonio by G. Rossini, under the conduction of Umberto Finazzi. In the same year, with harpist Barbara Da Parè, she engaging in contemporary chamber music repertoire and she performs world premiere new pieces by composers Teresa Procaccini, Carla Rebora, Alberto E.Colla, Giancarlo Facchinetti, Paolo Ugoletti, Lorenzo Ferrero, Federico Biscione, Carlo Pedini and Giampaolo Testoni. During 2014/2015 seasons she sang the title role in the opera Il segreto di Susanna by E. Wolf-Ferrari, Rita in the homonymous opera and Adina in l’Elisir d’amore by G. Donizetti, Zerlina in Don Giovanni by W.A. Mozart and Musetta in Bohème by G.Puccini. In 2016 Susanna’s role in Le Nozze di Figaro by W.A. Mozart, conducted by Claudio Desderi she made her debut at the Teatro Bonci in Cesena with whom, the following year, she prepared and debuted the role of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, for the project dedicated to the Da Ponte Trilogy. She was the protagonist for the sacred repertoire, in the motet Exsultate Jubilate K. 165 by W.A. Mozart with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the International Piano Festival of Brescia and Bergamo conducted by Pier Carlo Orizio.  Under the conduction of Massimo Mazza she interpreted the Requiem op. 48 by Gabriel Faurè and, for the first time in Italy, the Magnificat by Kim André Arnesen. For the Teatro Grande of Brescia she was the testimonial for the advertising campaign of the Opera Festival 2016, protagonist of the advertising video Sempre libera and interpreter of numerous events organized by the Theater itself. In 2019 she performed, for the first time ever, the Santa Maria del Fonte music elevation in Caravaggio, composed and conducted by Roberto Grazioli. As part of the XXXth edition of the Ravenna Festival, Frasquita debuted in George Bizet’s Carmen, conducted by Vladimir Ovodok and directed by Luca Micheletti from one of Cristina Mazzavillani Muti’s idea. In 2020, during the 2020 edition of the Riccardo Muti Italian Opera Academy, she performed the role of Nedda in Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, conducted by Riccardo Muti.

Hello, Alessia! It‘s such a pleasure to have you interviewed for our Charming beginnings #webedition! You debuted in important roles such as Susanna, Nedda, Donna Anna… how do you prepare for a role? Do you perform a character study and play the role as if you were the character’s spokesperson? Do you play the role offering to it your life experience?

Preparing for a role is not a simple thing: especially if you find yourself impersonating well-structured characters of strong women. The first thing I do is start from a general analysis of the work, studying the composer and the particular historical moment in which he lived. In the second phase, when I have studied the plot well, I open the libretto and begin to “translate” what the librettist and the composer want to tell us about the character. I use the word translate because a. It is not obvious to be able to understand everything in a first reading as the Italian that is used for the works is now obsolete in our ears and b. because you have to extract the essence of the character by capturing the nuances only from a few sentences. Once I have done all this and studied the part relating to the score, I try to relate to it through some similarities that may have happened in my life. If in this case I cannot find these, I document myself with films, experiences and examples of other people’s lives in order to understand the main characteristics of my character well.

I would like an immediate answer: which composer do you feel closest to right now? If you could meet one of them face to face today, who would that be?

I think Mozart, perhaps because he too is the composer who is closest to my heart and about whom I have the most information. I love Mozart’s “genius” inherent in him. I would not be able in any way to be able to compare him to someone of the present day without generalizing about a person of genius mentality.

Now, perhaps, a difficult question: what is your favorite opera character and why? If you could embody it today, how do you think she would behave? How will she dress up? Do you think contemporary theater direction should be inspired by current world events or would a more traditional reading be suitable?

For now my favorite character I think is Susanna as she is a very resourceful woman. Nowadays she could easily be a very nice housekeeper who works at the home of a couple of very wealthy people. She  is fresh and young, bursting with energy from all pores and obviously the “landlord” really likes this thing … I would imagine her dressed in a pair of jeans, a white short-sleeved T-shirt and comfortable sneakers for every occasion. A theatrical direction has two paths to take: mirroring tradition or setting the opera in the present day. There is no right or wrong but only the directorial taste and the direction you want to go. You just need to be able to bring people (both in traditional and modern clothes) closer to what is being narrated, making it clear that there is nothing more modern than operatic topics.

What would you advise on choosing the perfect Master? How do you trust your voice and how do you improve your ability to listen to your body?

I believe that a Master can be perfect when he understands your potential, your voice and teaches you through his own experience, the art of singing. One thing I’ve noticed is a flaw with many teachers: they never let themselves go. For fear of losing the pupil or that the pupil may have wrong experiences, they never let go of the reins, not leaving the singer the opportunity to learn different notions from multiple sources. Instead of prohibiting certain, let’s call them “badly seen transgressions”, the student should be directed to experiences that are instead in line with one’s singing method. The more experiences the singer has, the more he will have a baggage for life to carry on stage.

My voice is constantly changing and I think it is a marvel that can be shaped to our liking. Attention to your body and voice is essential for the safety that we will then bring back to the stage.

You are young and full of enthusiasm. You represent the class of opera singers of tomorrow. This can inevitably involve asking crucial questions about where the world of opera is going. Have you ever participated in online performance activities or streaming projects? What’s your take on the digitization of live performances?

Every day I wake up aware that the world of opera needs a good “wake up call” so as not to slowly risk dying. Unfortunately, I believe that streaming solutions are only a temporary replacement for the unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves. Going to the theater, like going to a pop music concert, is a ritual, not an indifferent set of sensations. Unfortunately, these cannot be obtained by proposing them in streaming which can only be a temporary palliative to tell people: << we will return, we are only in a great momentary pause >>. I also believe that at the basis of everything there is the carelessness of the government with regard to school education. Why is the opera audience varied and heterogeneous abroad? Because from an early age, children study the world of opera and go to the theater. In doing so they become passionate about this fabulous world so little considered in Italy, which is absurdly the country where it was born. It is therefore necessary to leave at an early age to be able to upset the mindset of people and this can only be implemented through an education that starts from elementary schools through special workshops, and reaches high school by combining the study of art history with that of history of music (of all music!)

What relationship do you have with contemporary music? You have been involved in the contemporary chamber music repertoire: how do you approach the performance of new world premieres? Who is your favorite modern and / or contemporary composer?

Since my first studies, I have looked into the contemporary repertoire because I was lucky enough to collaborate with a harpist on songs written especially for us in world premiere. Here too I think that one of the most important things to take into consideration is the feeling you want to convey to the people who listen. Sometimes you have to mediate between falling back on too many technicalities and wanting to leave something to people. I think my favorite contemporary composer at the moment is Kim André Arnesen.

You were testimonial voice for the advertising campaign of Teatro Grande Opera Festival of Brescia 2016, but we also know that you posed as a model for luxury fashion brands: what ingredients should a new generation opera singer possess in terms of physical preparation and well-being?

I believe that an opera singer nowadays should not only be an excellent singer but also an excellent actor. In addition to these two main characteristics, however, there are other auxiliary ones to pay attention to. I believe that the professional figure of a singer must have a physical characteristic: to be suitable for any situation on stage. This therefore does not mean being thin or chubby, simply having a body that allows us to execute every directorial request that suits the situation. Personally, I care about my physical shape because I feel good about myself when I do it. Food is essential in a singer’s life in both practical and psychological terms. Paying attention to what you eat in preparation for an opera can make a difference and an athletic and well-trained body, like an athlete, can better tolerate a performance in this case.

COVID-19 permitting, what are your next appointments, in terms of roles and performances?

Unfortunately, at the moment everything is suspended even if there are many hearings in progress. I also have overdue canceled contracts that I hope to be able to recover soon, but this momentary “recovery” is unfortunately, as we all know, not sustainable in terms of numbers for now.

What is the most charming feature of opera?

Your name and how you also propose yourself through the graphics reflect a lot of what I consider to be characteristic of the opera world: elegance, refinement, modernity. I appreciate the uniqueness of the opera, the continuous search for a study that goes on for years, the elegance of the places where it takes place and the modernity of what it deals with because there could be nothing more common than the topics that come up. I think it’s up to us as performers to try to bring more and more young people closer to this world to ensure that art always wins over everything.

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