Gianluca Sciarpelletti: Music Is The Universal Language To Unite Nations

Preparing for his next stage role in the USA, Gianluca Sciarpelletti shares some thoughts with us about life, opera, and if beauty will save the world.

Gianluca Sciarpelletti
Italian-American tenor Gianluca Sciarpelletti.

Described as ‘the new Pavarotti’, Gianluca Sciarpelletti is an Italian-American son of art, raised in the world of opera. He grew up around the performances and teachings of family friends from his earliest age, attending and listening to world famous interpreters such as Franco Corelli, Mario Filippeschi, Richard Tucker, and Licia Albanese, thus inevitably attending his parents’ lessons with the great maestro Luigi Ricci. His musical education began in childhood, being introduced to the study of the violin by famous orchestra conductor Franco Ferrara and applying for the studies of this instrument at the Licinio Refice Conservatory of Music in Frosinone.

Naturally, Gianluca switched to the voice studies. He devoted himself to singing, first with his parents, tenor Giovanni Sciarpelletti and soprano Angela Centola, then moving to the Conservatory of Music Santa Cecilia in Rome to attend the singing classes of the tenor Antonio Bevacqua.

He graduated from the conservatory in singing, having accomplished all needed graduate and postgraduate studies and obtaining maximum votes diplomas on music and opera singing not only in Italy but also in the USA, and went on to earn a PhD in Political Science — Administration Management at the University of Siena.

He has received numerous awards and winnings in international competitions, and has appeared on stage both in his native Italy, as well as abroad — Lincoln Center in New York, the Opera City Concert Hall in Tokyo, the Forest Theatre in Tassaloniki, Royal Albert Hall in London, National and Presidential Theatre of Pyongyang in North Korea, the Beijing Poly Theatre, National Moravian-Silesian Theatre Ostrava in the Czech Republic, and Slezke Divadlo Theatre in Opava, Czech Republic. 

One Italian critic wrote, “He excels for his powerful stage presence and for his very distinct and classic vocality. The voice of higher pitch, rich in harmony and characterized by a lyric, heroic tone, one is struck by his ability to convey and instill emotions thanks to the richness of color and nuance as he performs the grand repertoire of classical opera.”

At the moment, Gianluca is preparing for his role as Radames from Aida by Giuseppe Verdi, to be performed at the Belk Theatre Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Charlotte, North Carolina, in the United States. We spoke with Gianluca about his career and his singing.

How did your passion for opera start?

My career began while I was still a student at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome. As the winner of an international competition, I made my debut in the difficult and demanding role of Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera by Giuseppe Verdi, even before getting the graduate diploma in opera singing. From then on my life changed completely. It was a turning point for me and my singing to become the beginning of an opera career in its true sense, immersed and projected from Italy to the world. The productions took me around the stages of prestigious theaters such as Royal Albert Hall in London, Lincoln Center Met Opera of New York, Opera City House of Tokyo, just to name a few. Each time I carry Italy in my heart.

We know that you are ‘a son of art’ — figlio d’arte. Could you tell more about your parents?

I was very lucky because I was born as the son of soprano Angela Centola and tenor Giovanni Sciarpelletti , both coming from the so-called ‘old school’. They studied vocal technique in Florence with the great tenor Mario Filippeschi and the repertoire with maestro Luigi Ricci, the author of the famous Variances. Cadences. Traditions. — volumes that each professional singer in the world uses for learning whatever new part. It can be also considered as my ‘generational bridge’ between the Roman school of singing of the baritone Antonio Cotogni and the ‘old school’ that forged the greatest voices of the last century.

Being a ‘child of art’ is always a great responsibility and not always an advantage. In fact, since the days of the conservatory I have always felt the need to do well, to make my best possible also out of respect for my parents and their high reputation in the professional world of opera. They managed to pass to me the ‘old school’ technique and the bel canto manner. People ask if talent is inherited. Surely talent is a precious gift, but I would rather say one inherits the passion and love for good music, as well as culture. Talent alone is not enough, the voice alone is not enough. It must be built day after day, it must be forged, educated, refined, like a rough diamond that needs to be elaborated in order to express all its light, its beauty, to be able express its value to the best.

What are the roles you love the most and which ones reflect your inner nature the most?

This is a difficult question, because I always love the role I have to play, each and every time identifying it somehow to myself. I love with my entire soul the operas by Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, what is absolutely certain. These composers had a precise awareness of the voice, where nothing is left to chance, where words and music blend in an unattainable perfection. All these make my voice get to its best expression and emission awarding me with the most beautiful feelings.

Other composers such as Gaetano Donizetti, Pietro Mascagni, Ruggiero Leoncavallo, Umberto Giordano, George Bizet composed masterpieces that I always love to perform and interpret. Therefore, in each character I do have something of purely mine: Alfredo, the Duke of Mantova, Rigoletto, Radames, Don Alvaro, Manrico, Rodolfo, Macduff, Otello, Pinkerton, Rodolfo, Cavaradossi, Calaf, Dick Johnson, Pollione, Turiddu, Canio and Don Josè and surely the new one that I am going to make my debut in the Masked Ball — Un ballo in maschera soon. Yes, I loved them all and for each of them, every time, I also try to honor the role, their soul, their feelings, giving the best of myself, my heart and my soul — la mia anima e il cuore!

Being an Italian artist better known abroad than at home, what is your relationship with Italy?

I sing more abroad than in Italy, and by singing around the world I always carry Italy in my heart wherever I go. I am happy and proud to be able to export in person the musical writings of the great Italian opera repertoire and bel canto, its phrasing and traditions that we have already exported for centuries from Italy to all around the world.

Precisely, in opera we (Italians) are still the elite in the world; especially where it is possible to make productions of the highest level, and which are taken as a model and get exported from Italy to the world. I believe that I may say that music is the highest ‘sublime’ expression of every form of art, and in particular, opera brings them all together into a single magic creation. On this topic, I’d propose again Cavaradossi’s words taken from the tenor’s aria Recondita harmonia from the first act of Puccini’s Tosca, “… art in its mystery, the different beauties confound together.” The same way, Italy, so rich in art, in its many forms and manifestations, exports art and culture to the whole world.

You also work a lot with foreign students. What can you say in that regard?

For some years already I have also been involved in handing down these traditions to new generations and foreign students. It’s mostly master classes, focused onto the mere vocal technique, on the performance modalities of the Italian operatic repertoire and of phrasing in bel canto. I underline always the importance of words and accents in the Italian language. Texts and librettos that had been so well written at the times were set even better to music by our great composers such as Verdi, Puccini, Bellini, Donizetti, Magni, Leoncavallo, Tosti and many others. They had made our musical and artistic culture unique and inimitable already then during their lives, and now their masterpieces are universally recognized.

Asia loves our music and is greatly contributing to its globalization, as well as keeping the mechanism of artistic turnover alive with the many students who dedicate themselves to opera. More, Asia loves music and has been discovering opera and its potential for years. At first it was the Koreans, then the Japanese and now the Chinese, present everywhere in our Italian conservatories to understand, study, and learn the technical and interpretative methodologies of the operatic repertoire and the interpretative and performing methods of bel canto.

The COVID-19 pandemic has discouraged the audience to come to the concert halls and theaters. In your opinion, what can be done to make people go more to theaters to see opera and classical music concerts?

Unfortunately, the pandemic has isolated us for a long time in lockdown, limiting and almost nullifying all forms of relationships, and relationships between people. This dramatically influenced their attendance in public places and places of cultural and social aggregation.

Surely today we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and slowly, with caution, we are returning to this ‘normal’ life. Until today everything possible has been done to make the theater a safe place, so we can return to attending it without any risks for the health in order to experience those emotions that only ‘live’ and ‘good’ music can give us and nourish our soul. This is the message that must absolutely reach the public to make people come back, so the message is: “The theater is a safe place.”

Seeing that you also have a degree in Political Science, my question is: will beauty save the world?

Beauty and culture have always been, and would remain forever, the two main elements that distinguish the level of civilization and culture of whatever country and its people. Only by educating and initiating young people to enjoy and create new beauty and new culture, it will be possible to make people of this world ‘better’, to open them the way to improve and elevate themselves.

In this sense, especially, music is the universal language that unites all the nations of this Earth without making any distinction.