Katia Ricciarelli will be one of the contestants in the new series of Italy's Grande fratello VIP. It's not her first experience in such a programme, having participated in La fattoria (The Farm) in 2006, which saw her being dragged through mud and getting stuck in a chicken coop. After that reality TV experience she said, “Never again!” Fifteen years later, at 75, she's back.
Many years have passed, and I've changed my mind. I think that I can bring something valuable to Celebrity Big Brother and show who I am.
As a regular guest and opinionista (commentator) on television shows, the public probably have a good idea of who she is by now.
I want to give to those who love opera, and those who don't know that world, some interesting ideas, without taking anything away from the world I love, that of music.
All the opera heroines are melodramatic, but I love to laugh. I like people who have a sense of humour and irony.
When asked if she's taking part in the reality show for the money or the publicity, she says,
I'm alright, I have everything I need… though I do miss work, which was interrupted because of the pandemic. I've always been curious, and I've always done things that many people have thought that I shouldn't have. But I like to go against the tide. I think everyone should be curious. I've done things that I would have never dreamt of doing: tv, film, musicals, teaching. I've even done crossover because I enjoy it. I do everything with honesty, and without the presumption that that I can do everything well – if I do something badly, I admit it. I'm always confessing my faults because I'm a perfectionist.
Will she be alright in the Big Brother house?
At my age, I think I have a little more self-control and I've never attacked anyone, even in La fattoria. I always say what I think but I try not to offend anyone – if someone is hurt, then I'm sorry, but one must tell the truth. Also, I know how to defend myself!
Certainly, I'll miss my dog, Ciuffi (quiffs or tufts). However, doing a job that takes me all over the place, I'm used to being away from those I love.
I've been part of the opera world for 50 years and there are those that love me and those who can't wait for me to fall flat on my face. I need to be ready for everything that comes at me because, as my mother used to say, “Chi va al mulino si infarina.” (Who goes to the mill will get covered in flour, i.e. whatever you do has consequences.)
Ricciarelli on relationships
Ricciarelli never knew her father, and now, as in the past, she expresses a somewhat confused attitude to her father, relationships, and children.
Until now, I've always said that I'm attracted to paternal figures, but with the passing of time, I've come to realise that you can't fall in love with a father who didn't love you and whose presence you didn't miss; my mother was everything for me. Certainly, I would have liked a child, but I believe in destiny and that if a child didn't arrive than it wasn't meant to be. The determination to have one at and coast is absurd and can ruin a relationship. I love children, but you need to know how to handle them – I'm a woman on her own, but if I'd had a child then I wouldn't have left that partner, and to stay together for the children isn't right. They say that children can save your life but at times children with wonderful parents finish badly. I've always worked, and done many things, and those close to me are my family… I think I've given lots of love.
Ricciarelli had a relationship with José Carreras that began when they were both 23 years old, and lasted for 13 years. Then in 1986 she married one of Italy's most famous television presenters, Pippo Baudo; they separated in 2004.
My last love was Pippo… though it may not be the last love in my life – who knows, I might find someone during Celebrity Big Brother. It's ridiculous to say, “Let's remain friends,” especially when there are no children, but I have great esteem and love for him, and I wish him well.
[My relationship with Carreras] was completely different, and one can't make comparisons. We separated in an ugly way as he was unfaithful. I'm like Carmen and I love only one person at a time and if I decide to go with someone new, then I leave the old love.
I haven't had any more boyfriends, just a few flirts, in the sense that I've been courted. But I'm too old now.
After many years of marriage the important thing is respect, friendship, and shared interests, including cultural ones. It must be this way because, in the end, it's the most important thing. Sex? Well, things change with time. Believe me, it's more important to have things in common. Even just talking rubbish together, because after lots of talk, something right emerges. Silence, though, is the end because it spreads like an oil slick.
Katia Ricciarelli was talking to Chi magazine
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.