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KATIA

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RICCIARELLI

AN  APPRECIATION  by
James Mayhew

 
She shares her name with a delicious Sienese almond cookie, and it has been said that, as a child, Katia Ricciarelli would sit in a tree and sing to the birds. But this most glamorous of opera singers is no mere nightingale, despite being blessed with a voice of liquid beauty. 
Famed for her exquisite pianissini, her wonderful legato, and the sincerity of her interpretations, she has enchanted a generation of opera goers and has performed with the greatest singers and conductors of her time. She is also a much loved TV celebrity in Italy and her down to earth manner, quick intelligence and infectious sense of humour have undoubtedly contributed to her huge popularity, as did her on-and-off stage partnership with José Carreras, whose vocal gifts (and good looks) were the perfect match for her.

She was born in Rovigo, Italy, in 1946, and after the death of her father and her siblings, she experienced a frugal upbringing with her mother. 
Impoverishment taught her the need for hard work and dedication if she was going to follow her dream and study music, which she eventually did, in Venice.

Essentially a lyric soprano, she made her operatic debut in Parma as Mimi in La Boheme. Then, in 1971, she won the Voci Verdiane competition and indeed established herself as a superb Verdi singer, while being hailed as the “new Tebaldi”. Important international debuts quickly followed - Covent Garden, Vienna, Paris, New York at the Met and Rome.  
Her debut at La Scala was - as is often the case - more controversial, 
but soon she was accepted even there.

An advocate of bel canto methods, she has always had a special affinity for Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, and sang for many years at the Pesaro-Rossini festival, singing coloratura with purpose and discretion in music so often distorted by inappropriate decoration. But she has refused to be labelled a specialist in any particular area and has enjoyed an unusually broad repertoire, ranging from the earliest Italian Arie Antiche, through the great Romantic Verdi heroines, to the title role in Puccini’s Turandot. She was, in fact, severely criticised for exploring more adventurous and dramatic repertoire, and while it is true that her voice has changed and darkened, Ricciarelli has never been content to rest on her laurels and even now, in her sixties, she has taken on new challenges, including acting in the acclaimed film 
La seconda notte di nozze
.

Despite making studio recordings of many of her principal roles, she is a theatrical singer and often her greatest performances were given on the stage. Celestial Audio have uncovered and remastered live recordings of both well known and less familiar repertoire associated with this singer, including her triumphant Anna Bolena (“one of her truly great nights“ said Opera Magazine), her surprisingly dark and dramatic Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux, her vivid Bianca opposite Marilyn Horne’s Falliero, and her haunting Lucia di Lammermoor (in the original and authentic version) alongside her dignified and frightened Tosca, under Karajan.

Backstage, she was always surprisingly warm and approachable, her natural grace offset by her ready wit. In her prime she was a singer with a voice of gold - and occasionally steel - who brought real star quality and a sense of occasion to all her performances.


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London  1980

 

 

 

 

 

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