I once attended a master class with Birgit Nilsson. Not as an active singer, but as a silent observer. It was right at the beginning of my study and I was in no way ready to expose myself to that level of expertise. One of the things she said was that more or less, singers are “german” or “italian” by nature. La Nilsson was naturally german. Big time! Even though she did a legendary Turandot. That distinction hit a cord within me. I new directly – I belonged to the italian crowd!
I became true to my inner “Italian singer” in Italy.
I became an “italian singer” in style and expression when studying in Italy for two years. Actually I lived in Rome as a child. I went to school, spoke fluent italian and when we were going back to Sweden I cried.
Going back to Swedish language, culture and society took away part of that “italianization”. But I do think my instinctive Italian feel for music might have evolved from those childhood years.
The italian singer happened organically when returning. By watching how they handled their motorino’s through the insane traffic in Rome. By eating pizza with extra olive oil poured over the mozzarella. By not standing the unsalted bread in Florence. By visiting the churches, museums and being squeezed onto the bus in rush hour. By realizing the scenery in Toscana IS misty. It’s not because the paintings are fading, or dirty… The pecorino, the wine, the gelato and that particular little bar, in that little square where the melanzane al parmiggiano was to die for!
This is not to diminish my wonderful teachers, Elisabettea Sepe, Bruno Rigacci, Ann English Santucci and Francesco Paolone. Yet being immersed by the culture and the language did something that would not have happened had I had the same amount of lessons and master classes with the same teachers in Sweden, plus recitals.
My italian of course became better. But the funny thing is my Mozart singing became better too. Why? Because basically Mozart is an italian composer. He was fostered in the Italian tradition, just like everyone else. And while my Mozart interpretations improved so did my german, by default!
This aria from The Messiah is usually cut out. Wonder why, it is one of my favorites! Händel wrote mainly for the italian singer, even though he turned to english when he started to create works for choirs.