Vittorio Grigolo is a firecracker of a man, exploding in all directions, often loudly, causing excitement – and a little disorientation – among those nearby. At least that is the impression he left on Laura Pezzino, journalist for the Italian Vanity Fair.
As Grigolo has decided to make London his base for the time being (before he was in Los Angeles but the 9 hour flights were not good for his voice), Pezzino went to meet him in Chelsea and, after surviving his impressions, gags, and general ebullient behaviour, she finally managed to ask him a few questions.
They covered the usual topics: the love of motorbikes, singing from when he was four years old, his love of pop culture – “Fonzie is one of my idols, together with Freddie Mercury.” – but there are a couple of nuggets, new to this reader at least. One personal, and one professional.
Do you have any siblings?
Two, a much older brother and a sister, born from my father's previous relationship, which I knew nothing about until I was 13. It was a blow: I broke my piggy-bank with my savings and caught a train to Arezzo to meet them. I didn't know where they lived, so when I arrived at the station at night I searched for their surname in the phone-book. They ran a pub in the town centre. When I walked in I saw this 30-year-old behind the bar, he looked at me and cried: he knew it was me.
It is well known that when he was 13 he played the Pastorello in a performance of Tosca at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, where he shared the stage with Pavarotti. It was here that he was given the nickname ‘Il Pavarottino' (‘the little Pavarotti').
How was your last meeting with Pavarotti?
I went to see him in Pesaro a month before he died. He was lying down attached to a drip. We were preparing for my début as Rudolfo in La Bohème in Washington. That day he sang Maria che dolce nome [which Grigolo has recorded for his new album Ave Maria, out in October].
At a certain point the Maestro asked everyone to leave the room, and he said to me, [he imitates Pavarotti's voice] “Champ, you're not a tenor, you're a star tenor, and star tenors we lack. Go to Washington and grab the success you deserve.”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.