Luca Minnelli in unprecedented live concert in Malta

Maestro Luca Minnelli is set to perform in Malta on 19 November at the Eden Arena

From serenades in Gondola in Venice to collaborations with the big names of world music such as Brian May of Queen, and recently with Lady Gaga, the Maestro Luca Foffano aka Minnelli is according to the well-informed the next real big star of Italian opera and pop, the only one capable of collecting the witness of Andrea Boccelli, so much so that the author of Con te partirò Francesco Sartori declared that his story and his voice were a new source of inspiration for him.

Minnelli has spent the last two years of Covid-19 preparing himself, recording and mixing in the best studios together with the top international musicians, to arrive in the spring to excite and speak the whole of Italy with his songs, his albums, his tournee blockbuster, even a book: and the single that just came out of great success on the web with guest star May is just a taste.

We met him, wanting to get to know him and make him known before everyone else: because we are sure that in a couple of months he will be in every newspaper… ahead of his live concert in Malta on Saturday 19th November at the Eden Arena, Intercontinental Hotel.

Luca, how was your passion for music born and what are your influences?

I have loved music since I was a child, especially opera because my parents were great lovers of it, and I have understood since then, always feeling it with them, that I wanted to dedicate myself to that in life. My favorites were Pavarotti, Carreras, Domingo, all the great voices in short. But I was a versatile listener: I also loved Queen, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin so much ... I listened to them and sang to obsession with my peers. So since I was a kid, while I was studying and then graduating and starting to work, I committed myself to learning to sing and to play different instruments, and with some friends I started a band; we did both covers and our own songs, ranging from many musical genres. A path that went on throughout the 80s and 90s, between local music competitions, piano bar evenings, street parties, and singing lessons from the world-famous soprano Michela Remor, up to what I can consider my true carried out in 2004, when I started singing serenades on a gondola in Venice, obtaining an unexpected and remarkable success that took me almost everywhere in the following years, making me one of those Italian artists much more active, known and appreciated abroad who with us, with many international collaborations behind us that I remember with emotion, such as the one with Dionne Warwick to name just one.

Here I would like to deepen your special relationship with the magical and romantic city of Venice, with its canals and gondolas ...

In this regard, I would like to say that the gondola is the symbol of Venice as much as the lion and one thing that saddens me is that if today one goes to Venice he will find that all the gondoliers have put the gondola not in the water but on land because they have no more work. The singers of the gondola serenades are in great difficulty, like many of us singers specialized in live evenings in general: this category has remained for a long time without the possibility of performing and earning, and without any help. Venice itself is a city that needs to show the world all its art and beauty and Covid-19, stripping it of tourism, has sent it frighteningly into crisis: the world of those who work in restaurants, hotels, bars has suffered a terrible blow from the which still has not recovered, and this makes me suffer because with Venice as you rightly said; I have a very strong emotional relationship.

Let's go back to music: from the gondolas of Venice you landed on an international career that has made you sing all over the world in the last 20 years…

Yes, I really spanned a lot geographically, from America to Russia, think that the new turn my career has taken comes from a concert I held in Abu Dabi, in the Emirates, where I met my current manager, Franco Trevisiol, a very particular figure, because he was not born as a music manager, he became one for me. He is an entrepreneur, with a degree in psychology and a lover of music and art, and when he listened to me he fell in love with my voice and proposed me to set up a dream together, become my manager, create a label, called Voice and music, and making albums and tours that enhanced my talent as he thought it deserved, because he believed I could aspire to so much more. I thought about it and decided to dream with him, and from there everything that I have done and I am preparing in the last two years comes from: I thank Franco because he pushed me to believe even more in myself and in my artistic possibilities, to be more ambitious, which is already giving important results and I would like it to take us soon to the Sanremo festival among the big names.

How did you go about making this dream come true, this new adventure?

In these two years we have been very active: if Covid-19 globally was a catastrophe that has brought so much suffering and death, and many problems also to the entertainment world, at least however not being able to sing live, having to wait and give up so many scheduled concerts, it gave us the opportunity to spend all the time preparing ourselves in a really thorough way: we are very perfectionists, and we wanted that for when this new solo project of mine was launched, for which I took the pseudonym of Luca Minnelli ( another tribute to Venice, because the Minnellis were a local noble family from the times of the Venetian maximum splendor, but I don’t mind if someone instead thinks of Liza and Vincente), everything was ready in an impeccable way. So we started looking for important people in the entertainment world to collaborate with, and in fact the ensemble we put together on a musical level is exceptional. We have already recorded two CDs, which will be released soon, which we recorded partly with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Diego Basso in the same studio in the Hungarian capital used by all the big names including Disney, and partly in one of the best studios in the world.

Italy, that of Ron in Garlasco, to then have the mastering performed in New York by Sterling Sound, which are the world number one, with songs signed by names such as Francesco Sartori, the author of “Con te partirò” and other songs by Boccelli, and in which musicians from the bands of Vasco Rossi and Renato Zero play: my philosophy is that either things are done in a super professional way or they are not done right. Just think of the first single I released, “Forever and Ever with You”, written by the well-known Venetian producer and composer Stefano Panizzo alias Steven Tibet, where guest stars are the star of the Broadway musical Kerry Ellis and especially Brian May of Queen, in which myth I grew up since I was a kid.

In fact this was a point I wanted to get to: how was the human relationship with May?

Here, this was a good dream. We were together for seven days, and he is a splendid person, of exceptional humility and affability, but of great culture. I discovered at that moment that he also has a degree in astrophysics, and this makes us understand a lot of the uniqueness of his person in my opinion. A great friendship was born between us, and there is an episode that I want to tell because it is very beautiful and meaningful. It happened that with my manager Franco you wanted to take a gift for him, and what can you give to such a man, who already has potentially everything? So in Austria we bought him two spinning tops, just the game for children, obviously spending very little: May was moved, he told us that this gift made him go back to his three or four years, and that for this he will always be grateful. He will never forget it. Even if we had given him a real plane he wouldn’t have been so happy. I believe that this gift, by touching particular keys of the human soul linked to childhood, has created a particularly strong bond between us, similar to those that are sometimes created when we are children and that often last a lifetime.

A really good story, as is the wonderful single with May, which came out with excellent feedback on YouTube a month ago. Covid-19 permitting, what are the dates of the next releases, and beyond?

The first thing that was borne last February was an interview book on my story, the result of several meetings with a RAI journalist, which will be published by Male Edizioni, and which we will present on various television channels. The twelve-track album, on the other hand, will be released at the end of March, accompanied by the second single “La voce è musica” which is written by the aforementioned Francesco Sartori of “Con te partirò” and “Aria” by Gianna Nannini. Among other things, Sartori fell in love with my voice and told me a beautiful thing, namely that knowing me and my life was an important source of inspiration for him. So our tour happened in late spring, which was very special. We did not want to be like Boccelli, for example, who has an orchestra behind him: our musicians were instead almost hidden, while we the audience saw a gigantic video made specifically, which in my opinion has wonderful thematic ideas, as well as dancers and a light show.

On each date there was a high-level musical guests of honour, both national and foreign: a kind of gift to the spectators, in the style of Zucchero with his jam sessions. All this was followed by a winter tour in theaters, going towards the goal of participating in the next Sanremo: reaching that goal and exceeding it will be our challenge this year, as I prepare for my grand concert, together with my band, in Malta thanks to Dynamic Events Limited, who have worked hard to make this concert possible.

Interview conducted by Umberto Baccolo, translated from Italian by Martin Vella