Claudio Sgura:
Opera is life and no one can take it from us!

Claudio Sgura is one of today’s foremost Italian dramatic baritons. He has electrified audiences throughout the world with his performances of Verdi and Verismo repertoire. Born in Puglia, Italy Sgura began his vocal studies in Lecce with soprano Maria Mazzotta. After coming to international attention at the prestigious competition Voci Verdiane” in Busseto in 2006, he made his professional debut at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan as Sharpless from Puccini’s opera, Madam Butterfly, under the musical direction of Myung Whun Chung. Since then he performed everywhere over the world like the Royal Opera House (La fanciulla del West), the Vienna State Opera (Tosca), the Sydney Opera House (Otello), ABAO Bilbao (Giovanna d’Arco), Opera National de Paris (La Giconda), Teatro San Carlo in Naples (Lucia di Lammermoor and I Pagliacci), Teatro Regio in Turin (La Boheme), Teatro Regio in Parma (Il Trovatore and I due Foscari) and Teatro La Fenice (La Traviata). He returned at La Scala in 2011 as Alfio in a new production by Mario Martone of Cavalleria Rusticana conducted by Daniel Harding and in 2016 for La fanciulla del West conducted by Riccardo Chailly. After the lockdown he was one of the first singers who start singing again. He was part from an incredible cast for Aida at Napoli. He sang Amonasro alongside Anna Pirozzi (Aida), Jonas Kaufmann (Radames), Anita Rachvelishvili (Amneris) and Roberto Tagliavini (Ramfis). Also he performed at Festival Verdi 2020 Sparks of Opera in Fuoco di Gioia.

I want to thank you again for accepting my invitation and to tell you that I was very glad for having had the chance to listen to you in the concert Fuoco di Gioia at Festival Verdi, in Parma, with the M° Renzetti and your wonderful colleagues, the bass Marco Spotti, the tenor Luciana Ganci, the sopranos Desiree Rancatore and and the mezzosoprano Sonia Ganassi – a dream team for the public of Parma! We also had the chance to see some funny posts on social media related to this event. You had some fun! How did the concert go and what do you think about the courage that Festival Verdi has shown this year, in this particular situation?

It was a beautiful evening! Singing alongside with friends with who you have fun making art has no price. Moreover, if on the podium there is M° Renzetti, you are just looking forward to starting singing! Despite the concern of not being able to sing due to the bad weather of the day before the concert, we felt that magical atmosphere that is given by the music and the desire to step on the stage. This is the feeling that we all had that day and this is what charged us with emotion and positivity. We had fun and we tried to share it with the public. Teatro Regio, just as the Club dei 27 that has organized the charity event Fuoco di Gioia, have had the courage to schedule in short time a new version of the Festival with amazing results. I thank in the name of all of us, the artists, and also in the name of the many spectators who, after such a sad period, were able to enjoy the beloved music. 

You must have had a first special meeting with the opera world, since when you decided to completely dedicate yourself to music, you were working in an hospital – a quite unusual change! How did it happen?

My first important encounter with the world of the opera took place back in 1997. A lucky encounter with the soprano Maria Mazzotta in Lecce, who fell in love with my voce and proposed me to study singing with her. Actually, at that time I had graduated as a Professional Nurse and I was taking my first tests in a Nursing Home for Mental Illnesses. To make ends meet and not to give up on my hobby, I used to sing in the churches, restaurants and dance halls, but never, ever thought that my hobby would one day become a career. I remember an episode: in 1998, my dear Mr. Mazzotta made me audition with a singer whose name I didn’t even know. To tell you the truth, at that time I didn’t even know that was the wondering world of opera. It was an informative audition, not for a role. Only to know if it was worth it to continue my studies or if I should have turned home. This person, for who I have a lot of respect, told me: Son, continue to be a nurse. At least, in life you will do something good. This verdict left me speechless, I didn’t know what to say. I just said ‘thank you’. I continue to thank him again! Why? I fell in love with opera when I say him singing and acting on stage. I cried like a baby and, inside I said that I could have never reach its level and that I could have never step on the stage. After that audition, I studied, but reluctantly I was thinking about my work and my plan B. After the death of my parents I decided to move to Milano and Roma to work as a nurse and to try at least to study at the same time, so as not to abandon the study of opera, but above all not to disappoint my teacher who believed very much in me. In Rome, I met a lot of people who believed in my talent and above all my dear accompanist Annamaria Orlandi. A dear and sweet pianist of Teatro dell’Opera who was helping me to learn operas and to take my first steps on how to perform the persons of the operas I was studying. She was always available with my work shifts and very, very patient. Thanks to her help I won my first contest, Concorso Lirico Internazionale Ottavio Ziino, From Rome, I went to Reggio-Emilia to study with Maestro Paolo Barbacini, a great artist, but above all, a person of big heart. If the artist mentioned before didn’t believe in me, my dear Cristina Ferrari, in 2007, believed in my talent, making me, a completely unknown singer, debut a role as important as difficult, Ezio in Verdi’s Attila at Municipale di Piacenza. 

Read the entire interview here, in the 6th issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.

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