The story of a true love and death | Lucia Cirillo

We speak to internationally acclaimed mezzosoprano Lucia Cirillo (Italy), who will be performing the part of Orphee in the Manoel Theatre’s production of Christopher Gluck’s enduring opera, Orphee et Eurydice — with Denise Mulholland directing a Victorian-themed production based on Berlioz’s 1859 version of the original

Lucia Cirillo
Lucia Cirillo

Could you tell us a little bit about how you first got into music, and what were some of your first steps in this regard?

I started approaching classical music when my grandfather gave me a piano as a present (not practising very hard in the beginning, to be honest). I was five. I then moved to classical guitar when I was 10, and since that moment I always sang in a choir (children choir first and then a youth choir) and I loved it. Since then, music became a very important part (if not the most important) of my life.

When I was twenty I got my degree in guitar; when the chorus master asked me to sing little solos, I decided to take singing lessons in order to be able to use my voice in a better and healthier way.

But I would never have thought (at that time) to become an opera singer.

After a few years I met two very good teachers. After winning a few important singing competitions in Italy, my career as an opera singer started. The first experiences in opera studios (as Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo, the Baronesse of Champigny in Nino Rota’s Il Cappello di Paglia di Firenze, and in the title role of Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène) gave me the opportunity to learn how stage life works and to start acting and singing in the theatre space. And from that moment on, I really started loving the unique atmosphere of every singular theatre: a little special world, each time in a different city and country.

What would you say are some of the most important attributes of a mezzosoprano, and are certain aspects of this particular role still a challenge for you to this day?

I always found the mezzosoprano voice very natural. There are different kinds of mezzosoprano, of course, but the lyrical coloratura mezzosoprano is the one that is nowadays considered more similar to boys or very young men voices (to give examples, Cherubino and Sesto and Idamante in Mozart’s repertoire), and to the castrato voices, concerning the Baroque repertoire. It also includes many beautiful belcanto roles, not to mention Strauss with his absolutely stunning roles of the Composer in Ariadne and Octavian in Rosenkavalier.

It is a wide repertoire, that includes trousers roles, that I particularly love singing and acting.

As a mezzo, you must have a certain versatility in order to be able to sing a very expressive legato or unbelievably fast coloraturas in very long phrases (the castratos were famous for their particularly developed lungs and very long breaths), keeping the voice fresh and flexible along the entire register, generally quite wide.

What is it like to perform in different countries? Do you see, and appreciate, different cultural reactions to some of the classic operas that you’ve interpreted?

Performing in different countries is one of the most interesting sides of our job. I always thought that working in a country (even if just for a few weeks), instead of visiting a country as a tourist, gives a person a real feeling of how people live and what people think, of their real habits and attitudes.

They have different reactions to some of the classic operas, but not only this: they actually have different reactions to opera in general, and the performances represent a different value and experience, depending on their cultural interests and offers, on their history and musical background.

In your opinion, why do you think Orphée et Eurydice remains an enduring opera? What elements of it do you think ensure it still resonates with audiences? And are you looking forward to performing the part of Orphée in particular?

Orphée is an enduring opera for a variety of reasons: it’s the story of a true love and death. Orphée is ready to go through the most challenging and terrifying experiences in order to save his beloved.

But it’s also the story of a man that has this power of enchanting animals and creatures with his music and art, a character that is at the same time divine and very, very human (in his continuous mourning, in his suffering, in showing his fears and doubts, and in making mistakes). And we all know how much we need to be surrounded by beauty and art, and love, nowadays, and to trust that all these qualities can show us the way to achieve the most demanding targets.

That’s also why I like performing this role: it gives the possibility to show a variety of nuances, both in singing and acting, and we must thank Gluck and Berlioz for their genial ability of translating this variety of feelings in such a dramatic and expressive music, displaying a writing that is simple as much as effective.

On a similar note, do you look forward to performing in Malta?

I think it’s very important, for every artist, to perform in different situations and environment. I performed this role in the Teatro Massimo in Palermo last year, and I started this new year working in a Handel production in La Scala in Milan.

Having sung in big theatres, I can tell that this beautiful little Teatru Manoel, a real jewel, surrounds an artist with a more familiar atmosphere, and gives the possibility to perform almost looking in the eyes of the people in the audience, and hopefully reaching their hearts from a very close distance.

In this respect I also would like to thank the whole team that is working to create a show as much as possible adherent to text and music, for their kindness, professionalism and hard work. I am absolutely convinced that a good human ambience is an essential basis on the way towards a captivating performance.

Orphee et Eurydice will be taking place at the Manoel Theatre, Valletta on March 16, 17, 19 and 20 at 20:00. Cirillo will be singing the part of Orphee on March 17 and 20, with Hadar Halevy singing the part on March 16 and 19. The rest of the soloist include Gillian Zammit (Eurydice) and Francesca Aquilina (Amour). Bookings: [email protected], 2124 6389