Interview by Pino Pignatta
Famous English soprano with roots from Puglia lived a difficult time three years ago: “ I used to travel by plane and I had tonsillitis a few days later. A real tragedy for those who sing..”
Her Ave Maria was chosen as the official song for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy by Pope Francis in 2016. With her soprano voice, she had sung and enchanted at Fori Imperiali, in Rome and now we encounter again this song dedicated to Holy Mary in her CD, Due Anime. Carly Paoli, 30 years old, just finished it.
She was born in England, her father is English, her mother is Italian, from Puglia. In her new CD she presents two unmissable “gems” for two different reasons: an imaginary duet – Loveliest Night of The Year – with the late renowned tenor Mario Lanza who died in 1959, a “partnership” now possibile thanks to technology , like Carly and Lanza had recorded together . The other reason is her rendition of “Mi Mancherai”, the music from the movie “Il Postino”, a love song to which Carly Paoli wanted to give new meaning and she dedicated it to a Region she is very attached to: Puglia.
So, do you miss this place so full of light, sun and sea?
—and also with lots of olive trees which are in danger of disappearing because of Xylella, a drama which affects not only Puglia but also other areas in Italy.
This rendition of the masterpiece of Luis Bacalov is also a cry for environmental pain..
Yes, this is why I sing “Mi mancherai”. We risk to lose a natural landscape and a beauty which belong to everybody. Olive trees are already dead in large Apulian countrysides. Through singing and music I felt the urge to do something, to raise awareness towards this dramatic situation.
One could say that you go around with your “instrument”, your vocal cords, and they can suffer different types of threats. Spring has just started, pollen, allergies, temperature changes: how does a soprano protect her voice?
Luckily, I don’t have colds very often and I am not allergic to pollen, but I have to be careful and prudent. I often drink hot water with Manuka honey.
Does it protect your throat?
Yes, it is perfect for the inflammation of the respiratory system. It is obtained from the nectar of Manuka tree which grows especially in New Zealand and in Australia. It is a natural antibacterial.
Is it a preventive cure for everyone?
Absolutely. Even for those who don’t sing. It is very expensive, but it is a fantastic antiseptic for the immune system.
What else do you do to prevent other problems during the change of seasons?
I put on a mask when I have to catch a plane..(she laughs) In all seriousness, I take lots of vitamins.
How do you keep in shape? You always travel to do your concerts. Do you have time to take care of your body?
Sometimes I laugh about the stereotypes about opera. Everybody thinks you have to be fat and sturdy. But that is not true, to be an opera singer you need energy, you have to be strong.
What does it mean? What kind of gymnastics do you do?
I do aerobics, dancing classes, I run, I go to the gym four or five times a week. This helps when you are on the stage singing for hours.
This type of training could apply to everyone, except for those who have cardiovascular problems..
Yes, especially for us singers. When you are an opera singer, you use your breath, your diaphragm a lot and when you lose your energy – an opera show can last up to three-four hours – everything becomes more difficult: your body must be prepared to the fatigue applied to your breathing.
Dancing classes help, I have danced since I was a child and I have been taking singing lessons since I was 9 years old.
What about aerobics?
I ride my bike, I do running in my gym or outside, I have beautiful countrysides near my home in England, Somerset near Bath. Of course I don’t do that during winter, it is too cold.
I try to avoid exercises that strenghten stomach muscles because they take away the ideal flexibility to sing.
Does resting help?
Absolutely, I suggest it to everyone. You need to listen to your body, to stop, to stop living frantically, let time be a balm. You can hear that resting is a cure from the voice. I am a singer, but everybody can try on himself or with others: when you are really tired , in and out, your voice is burdened, precarious, faded, trembling. The cure is to stop, to rest.
How do you rest?
Sleeping is important to me. I watch the things I like, that make me feel good like Judy Garland musicals or Singing in the rain.
Are you careful with how you eat?
I eat fruit, even five or six times per day, lots of vegetables, so a good support of natural vitamins.
Your mum is “ half Pugliese” because your grandfather went to England to work in mines. So you eat fruit for vitamins, for your health but you must know some delicious recipes from Puglia..
Oh, yeah! My cousins, who come to visit me, bring me bread, we are a very close family. And then boiled vegetables with chili pepper. I also like to eat spicy food when I don’t have to sing. We use olive oil everywhere, eggplant parmigiana, orecchiette with cime di rapa. We are in the English countryside but we eat Italian. Our home is a little bit like a restaurant.
Has health always been an ally in your life as an artist?
Not always. I had a hard time three years ago, I was on a plane and I had a tonsillitis a few days later. A real tragedy for who sings. It became worse, antibiotics did not help. I was worried, I kept looking for solutions on Google, but I suggest not to look on Internet.
At the end, they took my tonsils out during an operation in Nottingham, England.
Finally, I was fine.
Do you spend a lot of time for your skin care, your beauty?
Not only time, but money as well for the effective creams. You have to protect your skin as much as possibile. At the moment, I am using a cream from a well known Swiss group specialized in anti-age creams. I am okay with that, I take off my make up and then I put on my creams for eyes, lips, even more when it is cold or another season begins.
Your song Ave Maria was chosen as the official song for the Jubilee of Mercy? How did it go?
I had sung it the year before at Terme di Caracalla. During that night, a person very close to Pope Francis was there. He listened to this modern rendition of Ave Maria which talks about how world is today and that is why they chose this song for the Jubilee.
In this appassionate song for Virgin Mary, is there more than just your artistic talent? Is there an expression of your faith?
I am a woman of faith and I hope I can glorify who gave me this talent with my gift and my work.
When I sing, I am really moved and I hope I can convey this to the audience. I want to give back what God gave me.