Martina Belli: Beauty is always an opportunity. It is as much an opportunity as intelligence, education and everything that belongs to us. If someone defines me as a woman and as an artist only on the basis of my physical appearance, it is their problem, not mine.

Italian mezzo-soprano MARTINA BELLI studied at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and in 2014 she won Second Prize in the Concorso Etta Limiti in Milano. Her operatic appearances include her Royal Opera House debut in 2015 under M° Pappano as Lola (Cavalleria rusticana), Tancredi (Isaura) at Palau des Art Reina Sofia under M° Abbado, Melanto (Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria) at Paris’s Cîté de la Musique/Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Nerone (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Smeton (Anna Bolena) at Teatro la Scala, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Teatro Regio di Parma, Federica (Luisa Miller) at Teatro San Carlo (Naples), Festival Verdi in Parma under M° Abbado, Carmen in Ravenna and Teatro Regio di Torino, Gemma in the stage premiere of Tutino’s Miseria e Nobiltà for Teatro Carlo Felice (Genova), Isabella (L’italiana in Algeri) at Teatro Regio di Torino and Maddalena (Rigoletto) at Teatro Massimo di Palermo, Macerata Festival, Concertgebouw, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, under M° Daniele Gatti. Belli has toured Europe in concert under M° Biondi, in repertory including Vivaldi’s L’Oracolo in Messenia, Gloria and Salve regina, Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Caldara’s Morte e sepoltura di Cristo. Also in her symphonic/chamber repertoire is Verdi’s Requiem (Teatro Massimo di Palermo, under M° Riccardo Muti). She recorded Händel’s Lucio Cornelio Silla (Claudio) with Europa Galante, con. M° Biondi, live in Vienna (Glossa).

Martina, there’s such a pleasure to finally meet you! First of all, congratulations for your performance at the gala concert Fuoco di gioia at Teatro Regio di Parma. We are all so excited to be able to see you performing one of your statement roles, Carmen, on the stage of the same wonderful theater in January. What should we expect from your Carmen? Who is she? What is she like?

To be honest, I don’t know what to expect from this Carmen either. The wonderful thing about this job is that I can have my own vision of the character, but it only comes to life thanks to the shared ideas of all the people involved in the artistic project. The Carmen at the beginning of rehearsals is always different from the one that becomes on the evening of the debut. I expect it to be a beautiful journey, which fortunately I won’t be making alone. I believe that, from a strictly theatrical point of view, she is one of the most beautiful characters to live, she is complex, articulated, full of a thousand facets, she is a hymn to life, to the need to live intensely the time and the experiences you have in front of you, without the noose of social expectations. Being true to oneself above all fears is the hardest bet for any human being, Carmen succeeds, and this is what I love most about her.

You’ve been part of Damiano Michieletto’s Rigoletto at Circo Massimo, a production long discussed, with lots of rejecting attitudes from the part the public. What do you think about these modern productions and about the message the stage directors want to express through them? Do you think that art, and as a consequence opera, must have also an educational-social purpose, so that the stagings should have a stronger message?

I believe that people go to the theatre for very different reasons. There are those who want to hear great voices, those who want to rediscover the beauty of tradition, and those who want new expressive languages and food for the brain. I believe that theatre, when it is done well, must respond to all these needs. Above all, I believe that a spectator should not leave the theatre the same as he or she entered it; it may be more or less reassuring, but the theatre must always spread the cards of the soul. And I believe that the message must remain at the centre of the discussion, not the language one chooses to express it.

Read the entire interview here, in the 7th/2021 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.

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