Photo by Lee Woolcock
Italian opera singer Paolo Guidoni, 45, talks to Nicola Thornton about his passion for singing and his work to introduce opera to more people
I came to Barcelona in January this year. I have travelled a lot through my work, but this is the only city that I miss when I am away. It has such interesting culture for me and I find that I can really be myself here.
This is my third life. When I was 17, I was selected to play football for Hellas Verona FC. I was good, the number 10. I played for seven minutes in a ‘Serie A’ championship match in 1985 against Juventus in Turin. During the preparation to play for Bologna FC at the end of that year, I had an accident and had to stop.
In my second life, I was a businessman, working in tiles and construction. I did it for 11 years but it was very stressful and I realised I needed to rethink my priorities and follow my passion, which was music.
I started hanging out in an area of Bologna that had a good night scene, where people would get up and sing Sinatra songs. I got talking to a singing teacher and he told me to go to him for lessons, so I did. I was 30.
I studied music and singing for five years and graduated from the Conservatorio GB Martini in Bologna. I participated in master classes and courses with some great teachers, including baritone Claudio Desderi. I debuted in the role of Colas in Bastiano e Bastiana (Mozart) in Croatia.
My voice is a bass, which is good as that range has a lot of longevity! I know of a bass who is 74 and still performing.
Opera is singing and acting together. For me, when I am on stage, I concentrate purely on the emotion; what I am saying and expressing.
My favourite role is Leporello, the servant in Don Giovanni. He has a lot of different sides to him, so it’s fun. I also enjoyed playing Sparafucile, the assassin in Verdi’s Rigoletto. The opposite of what I am.
I once understudied for Pavarotti. He was an incredible talent, but a sad man. While I respect Domingo as an all-rounder, Pavarotti had a unique tone.
People shouldn’t be afraid of opera. Go and see something light to start with, like The Barber of Seville or The Magic Flute, and listen to the voices, the emotion. Definitely don’t choose a six-hour Wagner!
I do look after my voice. I rest a lot. I sleep and eat well. I do aerobic sport, like swimming, cycling and rollerblading because it’s good for the breathing. My only vice is coffee!
I teach singing in-between my work. The voice is capable of producing a sound greater than any instrument and I always try and get my students to reveal their true nature.
I’m currently working with ‘L’Atelier de l’Opera’*. Our goal is to give young and talented people the opportunity to produce operas in a professional way. We had proper auditions and staged Verdi’s La Traviata in September at the 120-seat theatre. Our plan is to open a season of opera and concerts, which will be great for the city and for opera.
Sometimes strange things happen. Once, I had to lift an overweight soprano on stage and ended up in hospital with a hernia. Another time I was given two completely different parts in the same opera, with only three days to prepare for the second one. I told the conductor I would never do that again. I was all over the place.
It makes me laugh when I tell people I’m a singer. They always say “Yes, but what do you work as?” My dream is to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
*L'Atelier de l'Opera—Abaixadors 10, next to Santa Maria del Mar. www.atelieropera.com