Riccardo Zanellato: The most important thing for me is hearing that the one who is singing is conscious and has the knowledge of what he or she is doing.

The cover artist of the 1st OPERA Charm Magazine issue, Riccardo Zanellato is back in conversation with Bianca L. Nica for our one year anniversary issue. After thanking him for believing and supporting our concept, Riccardo told us his feelings towards returning to the stage of the Arena di Verona immediately after the first lockdown, but also about taking part of the first staged production of the summer theater’s reopening, Rigoletto, at Circo Massimo, in Rome, directed by the controversial Damiani Michieletto and conducted by Daniele Gatti.

Winner of the 2019 Oscar della Lirica, Riccardo Zanellato is known in the international opera world for his extended and soft vocality, which has led him towards the more challenging Verdian bass roles as well as the those of Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Gounod and Boito. Among the most significant works in his repertoire are Attila, Rigoletto, Otello, Simon Boccanegra, Aida, Trovatore, Macbeth, Luisa Miller, Maria Stuarda, Anna Bolena, Lucia di Lammermoor, Norma, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, I Puritani and, of course, Nabucco, the debut of which he prepared under the guidance of his maestro, the legendary Bonaldo Giaiotti, becoming himself a definitive reference point today for the role of Zaccaria.

The beginning of 2020 celebrated another of his encounters with an important figure for his career, the M° Riccardo Muti, in Vienna for Verdi’s Requiem alongside the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and continued with Nabucco at Teatro Regio di Torino and the Masterclass of Vocal Technique and Interpretation organised by OPERA Charm Magazine in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, right before the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Fortunately, Zanellato returned to the stage as soon as the restrictions regarding the pandemic allowed the theaters to continue their activity, however briefly, in June as Sparafucile in Teatro dell’Opera di Roma’s Rigoletto, and in July in a Gala Concert in Arena di Verona. Next, we had the chance to meet him in Parma, where he performed the role of Banquo in Verdi’s French Macbeth in the 20th edition of the Verdi Festival, as well as in the theatre of his hometown, in Rovigo, in a concert called La Debolezza In Me Può Diventar Furor, alongside with the string quartet of Teatro alla Scala.

Riccardo, nice to meet you again, on this special occasion, the anniversary issue of our Magazine. One year ago you were our first cover artist. How time flies! I want to thank you again in the name of our entire team for believing in our concept since the very beginning and for supporting it on every occasion! 

I’m the one honoured to be your first cover artist! It was my first, and maybe also my last, chance to be on the cover of a Magazine! (laughs) But, anyway, it’s been a huge honour and a pleasure! Not just that I believed in you from the beginning, but I also hope I brought you a little luck. Probably a more beautiful younger artist would have attracted more attention but you chose me, so you must have believed in me as well. So it’s been reciprocal.

In the debut of this interview, let’s check up a little! Due to the social media networks we were more than happy to discover that you’ve once again been the protagonist of Verdi’s Requiem, conducted by THE Maestro, Riccardo Muti. Initially announced to be livestreamed on March 27th, the performance will be available on the 10th of April,  on the website of Teatro Massimo di Palermo, if I’m correct. I’ll let you tell us more about it, about your colleagues, about returning to a masterpiece so dear to you, with such an important personality in charge of it. 

I’ve been missing Palermo for a long time now too. My previous performance there was also Verdi’s Requiem, that time with M° Roberto Abbado. This time, there was M° Riccardo Muti on the podium. Every time I work with him it’s an indescribable joy because there’s always something to learn from him. My first Verdi Requiem under his musical guidance happened in 2013 in Napoli, and when my agency gave me the news I almost couldn’t believe it. For me, it was a dream, so I thought they were pranking me. And since then we have worked a lot together and, as I said, every time, besides the emotion, I learn something. 

Of course, we all felt a particular emotion due to the particular situation we are experiencing: the theaters are closed, the audience is missing… It’s weird. You step on the stage and see the empty stalls, with the chairs removed and their place is taken by the orchestra, which musicians spread out 2m from each other in accordance with the health restrictions. And then there’s the choir singing from the boxes. I got very emotional at a certain point, which I hope that the recording cameras didn’t film. We could feel each other’s emotion and inside this emotion there was both the pain of watching the world of the art suffocated and the infinite joy of having the chance to be able to sing again, to be able to experience the emotion of this masterpiece – Verdi’s Requiem – again. Each of us dedicated this prayer to someone… someone we knew or not, maybe to someone who passed away because of this terrible pandemic. I dedicated it to my grandmother, who, despite the fact that she passed away a few months ago, I felt was there with me. The day after should have been her birthday… An avalanche of emotions. 

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