From his debut as soloist in the choir of the Sistine Chapel to his role as leading tenor in the most prestig- ious theatres in the world, the career of Vittorio Grigolo is a story of talent, passion and dedication. Born in Arezzo and raised in Rome, he studies singing at the Sistine Chapel’s Schola Puer- orum cantorum, under the direction of Maestro Domenico Bartolucci. It is in the Eternal City that he first appears, at just 13, as the young shepherd in Tosca at the Opera House in Roma, beside Luciano Pavarotti. At 17 he makes his debut as a tenor, the following year he begins to make a name for himself abroad, interpreting Don Narciso in Gioacchino Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia, at the Kammeroper in Vienna. At 23 years of age, in 2000, he is the youngest tenor to inaugurate the La Scala in Milan with the Verdi inspired concert to open the season. In just a few short years Vittorio Grigolo begins to perform on the most important stages in the world, under the direction of Riccardo Chailly, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Myung-Whun Chung, Daniel Oren and Antonio Pappano. In 2010 he debuts overseas with the role of Rodolfo in La Bohème, which crowns him as the new star of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. The repertoire of Vittorio Grigolo includes the leading roles in Italian and French opera: La Traviata, La Bohème, Rigoletto, Elisir d’amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Faust, Roméo et Juliette, Manon, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Werther and many others.
Vittorio, it’s so nice to meet you again in Vienna and, of course, to have the chance to chat about your most recent professional achievements! You are finally back to the Wiener Staatsoper… when was the last time you sang on this stage? Do you like working in Vienna? Did you enjoy singing in Tosca last month? We came on March 28th and we loved your performance! Congratulations!
I didn’t perform in Vienna in the past two years and I came back at a very important time for me (but also a very difficult one, both historically and personally) with an opera, Tosca, that has always given me great satisfaction. It couldn’t have been better! Vienna is a special city for me and I have a very special relationship with its theater and its public.
Indeed, these are pretty difficult times: it’s been more than a month since the war in Ukraine started. Your fiancée, Stefania, is Ukrainian and she was in Kiev when all of this started. It must have been so difficult for you to step on stage having these thoughts in your mind, but the show must go on, right? You chose to send a strong message during the standing ovations of your Tosca performances, through a T-Shirt.
In the past, in 2010 if I remember correctly, I wore a T-shirt at the Royal Opera House in London with the words “Ciao mamma, Ciao papa! Vi voglio bene!” and later, not long ago, I made one for my love Stefania, my fiancée, here in Vienna. Sending messages with T-shirts is a habit that I stole from football. I’ve always loved this kind of things and I think that opera singers always “score a goal” with their singing, their high notes and of course during the most wanted time of the performance … “the applause”. I also have to say that in Vienna, when you give it all, the public feels it right away and there always is this incredible, warm standing ovation that repays you all the energy you’ve given. When they start screaming “bravooo” and they applaud we get the same emotions as the football fans during a game. That’s the time for us singers to share who we are (not just what we think we are) and what others want us to be when we’re impersonating a character. In that moment, I think, we are even more real, and that’s why I always say that the show still goes on even during the curtain calls. This enthusiasm led me to that big misunderstanding during my tournée in Japan with the ROH. After that incident was cleared by an official statement, I said that I will forgive but will not forget the press that, without double checking information, made the allegations that they did. Unfortunately we live in a world that needs bad news in order to sell newspapers: we can see it even nowwith this horrible war that is going on. As for my t-shirt message, I wanted to show my true opinion, which fortunately was not distorted by journalists. I think it was the right time and the right opportunity to take a stand, even though I don’t like politics very much. War should be always avoided: millions of people are perishing and suffering tremendous consequences that will mark the rest of their lives, if they survive, for the interests of a few. I am against war, I am against someone who decides to send someone else to die without that person having decided on their own. During my Tosca’s performances, I understood even better by having both sides singing with me in the same rehearsal room. We are artists and I’ve always believed that music cannot be related to political decisions. Art and music are the glue that brings people of all kinds together, and there shouldn’t be any walls. Music, in fact, is the only common language that everybody can understand. That’s why on my T-shirt I decided to include not only the Ukraine flag, but also the Russian one: I believe that peace will come only by an act of love between both countries.
Read the entire interview here, in the 3th/2022 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.0