Charming beginnings: Francesca Pia Vitale

Born in 1995, Francesca Pia Vitale began her musical studies in piano and singing at a young age. In 2010 she was admitted to the Conservatory Domenico Cimarosa in Avellino where she studied piano and organ as well as organ composition and singing. She graduated in Opera Singing in 2018. During her training at the Conservatory D. Cimarosa, she performed in many concerts with works by Antonio Vivaldi (Gloria in D major), Giuseppe Verdi, Luigi Cherubini (Requiem in C minor) and W.A. Mozart. She also took part in several masterclasses with Mariella Devia, Dora Kutschi, Maria Grazia Schiavo and Gül Fahriye Evrem. Between 2016 and 2017 she performed in numerous concerts (in the different editions of the exhibition ‘È aperto a tutti quanti’ at Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano in Naples) and as a soloist in works directed by Giuseppe Sollazzo, such as Satyricon by Bruno Maderna and events such as Opera in the Eighteenth Century: Handel and Pergolesi, styles and genres in comparison. In 2018 was admitted to the Accademia di perfezionamento per cantanti lirici del Teatro alla Scala. Whilst at the Accademia Teatro alla Scala, she performed in numerous concerts and took part in masterclasses with Luciana D’intino, Renato Bruson, Eva Mei, Leo Nucci, Ildar Abdrazakov and Nino Machaidze and enriched her studies under the guidance of Vincenzo Scalera, Michele D’Elia and Umberto Finazzi. She has received praise and acclaim from directors such as Woody Allen, Gilbert Deflo, Grisha Asagaroff, Ulrich Peter and Marina Bianchi and from conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Daniel Oren and Stefano Ranzani. She made her debut on the stage of La Scala playing the role of Giannetta in L’elisir d’amore per i bambini, conducted by Pietro Mianiti and staged by Grischa Asagaroff. Accademia productions in the 2018/19 season at La Scala included the roles of Tonina and Nella in the diptych Prima la musica poi lei parole and Gianni Schicchi, conducted by Ádám Fischer and directed by Woody Allen, and Il Paggio in Rigoletto conducted by Daniel Oren under the direction of Gilbert Deflo. Later in the same season, she performed the role of Giannetta in the La Scala production of L’elisir d’amore, conducted by Michele Gamba and directed by Grischa Asagaroff with scenes and costumes by Tullio Pericoli. She also took part in La Cenerentola per i bambini as Clorinda. She made her debut at the Teatro Lirico in Cagliari in a production of Hänsel und Gretel by E. Humperdinck in the roles of Sandmanchen and Taumanchen. She was due to perform the role of Oscar in Un ballo in maschera in a production at Teatro alla Scala in the 2019/20 season which was subsequently cancelled due to Covid-19. In July 2020 she was a finalist in the 6th International Lyric Competition of Portofino. During the Autumn 2020 season of La Scala she sang the role of Annina in La Traviata under the direction of Zubin Mehta, and on 24 October 2020 she graduated from the Accademia Teatro alla Scala – Biennium 2018/2020. At the Premio Etta and Paolo Limiti Opera 2021 she won the role of Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, which will be staged at the Teatro degli Arcimboldi under the direction of Davide Garattini Raimondi. June 2021 saw her as the winner of the First Prize at the XIX Edition of the International Opera Competition ‘Ottavio Ziino’, (2020 edition, postponed due to Covid-19). She won the 27th International Voice Competition of Clermont-Ferrand and Vichy for the roles of Amina and Lisa in Vincenzo Bellini’s La Sonnambula that will see her engaged in a 6-month tour in France and Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Thank you very much for accepting my invitation, dear Francesca! First of all, congratulations for your debut in Arena di Verona, as Annina in La Traviata, your most recent big achievement! How did it happen and how did you feel on the stage of the biggest open air theater in the world?

Thank you Bianca for this opportunity, it is a beautiful and prestigious rubric! To be honest I haven’t processed it fully! On the morning of 23 July, I was on my way from Milan to Rome when I got a call from the Arena di Verona production company to replace Annina for a performance that day and I didn’t think twice about it. I got off the train and headed for the city of lovers. Just before arriving at the Arena I found myself near Via Leoncino, right where Maria Callas lived between 1950-55 – a sign! As soon as I entered Porta 57, just crossing those walls, going down those steps, I felt like I was in a dream. Instead I found myself on the huge stage of the Arena, with the blinding sun, studying the stage movements for the evening’s direction: it was real! As I said, I didn’t realise straight away. During the first acts I was very anxious and concentrated on doing everything I’d been shown a few hours earlier in the musical rehearsal with the intelligent and scrupulous baton of Maestro Francesco Ivan Ciampa. But then at the beginning of Act III the magic happened… Annina, not Francesca Pia, was sitting on those stairs, exhausted by sleep and by the pain Violetta was feeling, and after the prelude … “Annina?” and the “Comandate?” as Verdi writes, waking up confused, I open my eyes and… There I am in the Arena of Verona, with a full moon and a heart full of dreams, and all I do is give myself to Lady Music.

Speaking of unexpected situations, how does a young artist prepare for such moments? How important is it to be ready to take  opportunities as an opera singer, especially at the beginning of a career?

I think that people should seize these opportunities, especially for a young artist to make their voice heard; to be able to demonstrate professionalism and above all readiness in such a situation is a fundamental requirement. We know that to be a good singer you don’t just need a beautiful voice, you need to study – study a lot – but also a brain and intuition, or if we want to call it musical instinct, which makes the difference.

Read the entire interview here, in the 5th/2021 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.

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