Charming beginnings: Erica Cortese

Soprano, Erica Cortese, was born in Carpi in Emilia-Romagna on the 6th of December 1994. She began her young career as a mezzo-soprano and graduated with her Bachelor Degree in Music with honours from Conservatorio “Arrigo Boito” di Parma where she studied under the guidance of Adriana Cicogna. In the same year, the young artist also participated in the Accademia del Belcanto “Rodolfo Celletti “in Martina Franca and subsequently took part in the 44th edition of the Valle d’Itria Festival. She also had the opportunity to deepen her knowledge and experience of the Baroque repertoire, attending a free course held by Gloria Banditelli at the “G. Frescobaldi” of Ferrara. She has participated in various masterclasses with the following artists: Eva Mei, Daniela Barcellona, ​​Fabio Luisi, Richard Bonynge, Francesco Meli, Fabio Biondi, Alessandro Vitiello, Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz, Stefania Bonfadelli, Vincenzo Scalera, Roberto Frontali and Antonella DAmico

Cortese made her debut in the title role of Hänsel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel at the Teatro Regio di Parma, the leading role of Leonora in The Triumph of Honour by A. Scarlatti in the 44th edition of the Festival della Valle d’Itria, the role of Bersi in Andrea Chénier by U. Giordano at Magnani Theatre in Fidenza and the role of Dorabella in Cosí Fan Tutte by W.A.Mozart. She has performed as the soprano soloist in G. Rossini’s Stabat Mater at the Paganini Auditorium in Parma, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and A. Vivaldi’s Gloria. Directed by Federico Maria Sardelli, she performed Vivaldi Stabat Mater RV621 and the role of Ruggiero in Alcina by Händel. She has collaborated with conductors including Michele Spotti, Stefano Rabaglia, Marco Dallara and Alessandro Benigni and directors such as Riccardo Canessa, Rosetta Cucchi and Cristina Mazzavillani Muti. In 2019, Erica participated in the Ravenna Festival at Teatro D. Alighieri. An important highlight was her debut in the supporting female role of Clotilde in Norma by Bellini where she performed alongside the famous soprano, Vittoria Yeo. She sang in the chorus of the two other operas in the autumn season including Carmen and Aida, with subsequent repeated performances at Teatro Amintore Galli in Rimini, Teatro Comunale di Ferrara and Teatro del Giglio in Lucca. 

During the aforementioned productions, Cortese underwent an exciting period of vocal discovery and decided to commence her studies as a soprano. Shortly before the Italian lockdown period, she participated in a masterclass with bel canto specialist, Mariella Devia where she tested out some new repertoire with encouraging results (Medora from Il Corsaro by Verdi, Micaëla from Carmen by Bizet, Liù from Turandot by Puccini). 

During quarantine, Cortese began a series of inspired collaborations with various contemporary classical composers including Francesco Neglia (alias Mordecai) for whom she recorded the song, Nulla è semper which is part of the new album, entitled, Quarantine Scenario by Casino Royale. In July 2020, she brought her vocal talent to the soundtrack for the short film Le Sevrage des Agneaux by French director Paul Brihaye. Another opportunity to showcase her artistic prowess came when she was given the opportunity to debut a piece by Luigi Abbate, who was a pupil of Azio Corghi. Earlier in 2017, Erica performed, Privatum III (actio), a piece that Abbate dedicated to his master.  Currently, Cortese is concluding her postgraduate degree in operatic studies at Conservatorio “A. Boito” di Parma and has resumed her work as a concert soloist with a series of performances including the VerdiOFF and the Verdi Festival in Parma. At the beginning of November 2020, she was scheduled to debut the role of La Fame in the new production, Faust Rapsodia, conducted by M° Antonio Greco and directed by Luca Micheletti as part of the 2020 Autumn season of the Ravenna Festival. The production was postponed to 2021 due to Covid-19. 

Allow me to introduce you to our readers. How old were you when you discovered your love of singing? Was it love at first sight or did you pursue other interests before making peace with your path? 

It wasn’t love at first sight at all. I guess singing has always been a part of who I am, ever since I was a child. I used to hum all the time, while playing, at school (ehmmm even during class. … I was penalised for this!) and during dance class (I danced rather poorly, but sang the melodies we practiced to with great ease and nonchalance). My parents became increasingly aware of my talent and repeatedly asked me if I was interested in taking singing lessons. This may sound odd but, for me, singing was such a natural and instinctive part of my being, much like breathing, that I absurdly did not consciously recognise my affinity with melody. 

After much deliberation, I decided to start taking singing lessons. I learnt songs and whole records off by heart and asked my parents to enrol me in a singing school. From then on, my love story with music and singing was officially consummated. Although I do not come from a family of musicians or even music lovers, my intonation was accurate and I was naturally musical. I learnt pop singing between the ages of 14 and 17. I even had my own metal band and we performed many concerts and even composed music together. My voice teacher, at the time, who was a graduate of the local music conservatory, felt that I had a natural vocal inclination to classical singing. 

As an experiment, she gave me some opera DVDs to watch (La Bohème with Pavarotti and Freni and wonderful productions of both Le Nozze di Figaro and Carmen among others).  I was enthralled! On the one hand, classical singing seemed like such a challenge but also entirely stimulating. It was a musical opportunity I could not resist. So, at the tender age of sixteen, I decided to become an opera singer. 

Read the entire interview here, in the 1/2021 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.


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