When did you start singing?
When I was 16, with my mother! I had been learning the violin, but without much enthusiasm.
Why did you start singing?
I was studying violin at the Conservatoire, and choral singing was one of the courses. It was in these classes that I fell madly in love with singing, and knew what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’.
Which singer do you most admire?
I love Maria Callas as a favourite singer from the past; the singer I most admire technically, and for her vocal longevity, is Mariella Devia.
What’s your favourite role?
I love all the roles I sing, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sing them. My favourites are Violetta in La traviata, Elvira in I puritani and Lucia di Lammermoor.
What role have you never played but would like to?
Ophelie in Hamlet by Thomas, and Massenet’s Manon.
What’s your favourite opera to watch?
All Puccini’s operas and La traviata.
Who is your favourite composer?
Difficult questions… I adore many composers for different reasons. I love Donizetti, Bellini, Mozart and Verdi.
Who is your favourite writer?
Emily Dickinson, Stephen King, Flaubert, Dacia Maraini.
Who is your favourite theatre or film director?
Strehler and Ronconi for the theatre, and for cinema… I love Spielberg, del Toro, Besson.
Who is your favourite actor?
Robert de Niro, Tom Hanks and Hugh Jackman.
Who is your favourite dancer?
What is your favourite book?
Pride and Prejudice.
What is your favourite film?
Gone with the Wind, Se7en.
Which is your favourite city?
Palermo, Madrid …Paris!!!
What do you like most about yourself?
My sincerity, my consistency and my deep sense of dignity.
What do you dislike about yourself?
My stubbornness and perfectionism.
What was your proudest moment?
There are many, thank goodness. Certainly when I sang one of the most difficult operas in the world, l’Europa riconosciuta, under the baton of Maestro Muti, for the reopening of La Scala after the renovations.
When and where were you happiest?
Every moment I’m with my family and friends.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My family (including some friends who, for me, are family); the love of my life is singing!!!
What is your greatest fear?
Illness… Death… Being abandoned.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To not be so tough on myself.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Coming up from nothing to where I managed to arrive, and remaining at that level; therefore more than 18 years now and still with the desire to grow!
What is your most treasured possession?
Health. My parents.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Everything! Ahahah! My way of dressing is extravagant!
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Success: my career, including the travelling. Everyone sees the glamorous side of it, and overlook the sacrifices behind it.
On what occasion do you lie?
Sometimes telling the truth can hurt, so sometimes I’ve lied to not cause harm. However, I think that honesty is the best policy.
If you hadn’t been a singer what would you have liked to be?
A fashion designer; I was studying to do just that!! It’s my second love!
What is your most marked characteristic?
My stubbornness and determination.
What quality do you most value in a friend?
Sincerity, irony, patience.
What quality do you most value in a colleague?
The absence of envy, consistency, professionalism and friendliness.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor; Mother Teresa.
Which living person do you most admire?
My father and my mother.
What do you most dislike?
Lack of values; indifference.
What talent would you most like to have?
The ability to quickly evaluate a person… to avoid delusions that there so often are.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Simple things: being with the people I love, and who love me, in peace and serenity.
How would you like to die?
I try not to think about death. If I really had to choose, I’d like to die in my sleep when I’m old, happy knowing that I’ve done some good things that have left fond memories of me.
What is your motto?
“Volere è potere” (Will is power).
Desirée Rancatore – a biography
Desirée Rancatore is one of the top stars of Italian opera in the light lyrical repertoire, and is outstanding for her virtuosity, technique and passion for music, with an absolute command of coloratura and the high register, inspiring true fervour among opera-goers.
Born in Palermo in 1977, she studied violin and piano before beginning, at the age of 16, to extend her study of singing with her mother and, in Rome, with Margaret Baker Genovesi. At the tender age of 19 she debuted as Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro in Salzburg Festival, singing for the first time in Italy in 1997 at the opening of the season at the Regio di Parma Theatre (L’Arlesiana de Cilèa). Since then, and in spite of her youth, she has become a habitué in the foremost theatres in Europe and Asia, while accumulating prizes such as the Ibla de Ragusa Award (1995) the Vincenzo Bellini de Caltanissetta Prize (1995) and the Maria Caniglia de Sulmona Award (1996).
At the age of 20 she returned to Salzburg Festival to sing in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with the Austrian event, performing numerous concerts in the Salzburg Mozarteum and singing in operas like Don Carlo (conducted by Lorin Maazel) and Piramo e Tisbe (conducted by Fabio Biondi). At the age of 21 she debuted in the Massimo di Palermo Theatre (Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier), in the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Mahler’s 2nd Symphony) and sang her first Olympia in Les contes d’Hoffmann (Catania), one of the most gratifying roles that she has sung, having performed it in the Opéra National in Paris, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London, Zurich Ópera House, Massimo di Palermo Theatre, Rome Opera House, The Regio Theatre in Turin and Parma, The Toulouse Théâtre du Capitole, the Teatro Real in Madrid, la Scala in Milan, the Sferisterio di Macerata and the Orange Opera Festival. She debuted her Olympia in Vienna, returning to the Staatsoper with Rigoletto and Puritani while in Paris she also performed in the operas L’enfant et les sortilèges, Parsifal and The Magic Flute –recorded on DVD (Arthaus Musik)-; her Nannetta from Falstaff which she debuted in Covent Garden also went down in posterity on DVD (BBC).
Another of the roles which has elevated Desirée Rancatore to the highest echelons of the international opera scene is Gilda from Rigoletto, which she has performed in Melbourne, San Francisco, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Tokyo, Venice, Mexico, Vienna, Zurich, Arena di Verona, Parma, Beijing, Florence, Salerno, Palermo and Naples among other cities. She debuted in the lead role in Lucia di Lammermoor in the Donizetti Theatre in Bergamo in the 2005-06 season, later doing a tour of Japan in this role, which included Tokyo, one of her favourite places. She sang the role again in the Oviedo Opera House, in the Zurich Opera House, at the Mannheim Nationaltheater, the Gayarre in Pamplona, the Comunale in Bologna, the Cilèa in Reggio Calabria and in the Comunale in Ferrara.
Another of her best-loved roles is Adina from L’elisir d’amor, which she debuted in Laurent Pelly’s production at the Bastille Opera House in Paris and which she performed again in the Lirico Theatre in Cagliari and in La Fenice in Venice in a historic performance in which it was she who had to give an encore of her aria after the clamorous applause of the audience, (not Nemorino, which is usual). After debuting as the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte in Paris, she also sang the role in Rome and Cagliari, and also received warm reviews for Il viaggio a Reims in the Bologna Comunale, in the Carlo Felice in Genoa and in the Théâtre de La Monnaie in Brussels. Another of her great roles is the lead in Delibes’ Lakmé, which she has sung in Palermo, the Campoamor in Oviedo and in the Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo.
The role of Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which she sang for the first time in the Petruzzelli Theatre in Bari, was also her triumphant calling card at the Teatro Real in Madrid (2006), and in Palermo and Cagliari.
In December 2004, at the reopening of La Scala in Milan, she sang the role of Sémele in Salieri’s L’Europa riconosciuta, conducted by Riccardo Muti, with whom she travelled to Paris to sing Carmina Burana with the National Orchestra of France. She was invited to open the 2005-6 season at the Bologna Comunale in a new production of Ascanio in Alba and in October 2008 she made her debut as Elvira in Bellini’s I Puritani in Palermo with which she also travelled to the Palacio de la Opera in La Coruña and the Wiener Staatsoper. In 2010 she sang the role of Amina from La Sonnambula for the first time in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
She has performed in festivals in Wiesbaden (Lucia di Lammermoor), and Valle d’Itria de Martini Franca (Les Huguenots), in the Umbria Music Festival (Stabat Mater de Pergolesi), and in the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro (where she debuted in 2006 as Fanny in La cambiale di matrimonio and where she returned in 2010 to perform in the opening concert of a cycle of bel canto), in Cincinnati Festival (Christ on the Mount of Olives, by Beethoven, conducted by James Conlon), the Savonlinna Opera Festival (I Puritani), in the Radio France Festival and Montpellier (Piramo e Tisbe and Stabat Mater).
In concert she has also performed as a soloist in the Petite Messe Solennelle in Paris and in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor in Salzburg, in Mozart’s Requiem (Massimo, Palermo), Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (Paris, Radio France National Orchestra, conducted by Muti) and in Montpellier. She also participated in the opening concert of the 2003-04 season at La Scala and has sung with the Turin RAI Symphonic Orchestra and, in a gala alongside Bryn Terfel and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London, as well as a Spanish tour with the Catania Massimo Bellini Philharmonic. In 2007 she sang Schumann’s Escenas de Faust in the Regio di Parma and began 2011 and 2013 with the New Year’s Concert at La Fenice.
Among the numerous prizes she has received for her work, outstanding awards include the Ester Mazzoleni Special Prize, 2008, and the International “Mimosa d’Oro” Prize, 2008, which was bestowed by the City of Agrigento. In 2010 she was awarded the first Opera Oscar for the most popular soprano by the Verona Arena and it was in this same city that she won the Zenatello Prize for the best soprano in 2008.
Her recordings include Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra; the film Mozart in Turkey shot in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul; Die Zauberflöte in the Paris Opera House; and CDs for Dynamic (Les Huguenots, Lucia di Lammermoor, La cambiale di matrimonio, Les contes d’Hoffmann), Bongiovanni (Ascanio in Alba), Arthaus Musik (Die Vögel), TDK (Die Zauberflöte, Les contes d’Hoffmann), and Naxos (Lucia di Lammermoor, La cambiale di matrimonio).
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.