Q & A: Clara Barbier Serrano on Performing with Andrea Bocelli

By Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Adam Markowski)

On Dec. 12, Andrea Bocelli performed a Christmas concert at the Teatro Regio di Parma entitled “Believe in Christmas.” It was an event that allowed people to watch the famed tenor’s artistry through a streamed performance.

Bocelli invited special guests including Clara Barbier Serrano, a current student at the Royal College of Music. Serrano was named the first recipient of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation – Community Jameel Scholarship and has taken part in masterclasses with artists such as Thomas Hampson, Thomas Quasthoff, Barbara Frittoli, Christine Schäfer, Anne le Bozec, and Eric Schneider.

The soprano has performed at the Oper Leipzig and Verbier Festival, among other major companies.

OperaWire spoke with the soprano about her experience performing with Andrea Bocelli and singing for no audience.

OperaWire: How are you and how have you been throughout this pandemic? Has it affected you as an artist and what have you learned from it?

Clara Barbier Serrano: I’m good and have been good this year as well. I’ve had ups and downs, but mostly I’ve been extremely lucky throughout the pandemic and could do a lot of things despite the state of the world.

It affected me, and I think most other artists, because not only can we not perform and do our jobs, but we also cannot really know when we’ll be able to start again and I think this is a source of major anxiety.

The unexpected amount of time I had in lockdown enabled me to learn a lot about myself and wonder about what kind of artist I actually want to be. I’ve learned how badly I would like classical music to stay alive (and live…) but also that it’s important to be part of a transition that would make it accessible to a larger audience and free from certain social and traditional values.

OW: How did you get involved with this project?

CBS: The Andrea Bocelli Foundation and Community Jameel co-fund my scholarship at the Royal College of Music and a week before the performance, I was asked if I wanted to sing in Parma with Mr. Bocelli. I was in Berlin and was not expecting this at all!

OW: Tell me about your experience with Andrea Bocelli?

CBS: This performance was something I’d never done before, a lot of things were overwhelming but I was happy to find support in Mr. Bocelli and his family, who were very warm and encouraging on and off-stage. It was very inspiring to see all of this huge production from the inside and meet him and the team on a more personal level.

OW: Is this your first time performing at the Teatro Regio di Parma? Would you be able to tell me a little about the experience and how you felt?

CBS: Yes, it is, what a fantastic theatre! I was mind-blown and deeply moved by the place, the atmosphere, the history. I watched all the rehearsals and tried to walk and explore backstage, under the roofs, see the technician’s work, etc.

OW: What are the challenges of performing without an audience?

CBS: It is a completely different type of performance. The challenges are to have cameras everywhere around and pretend not to see them, and to give the energy as if it were for a public. Also to accept letting the film and sound team make the final product; as performers, a lot is not directly in our hands.

OW: You performed “Amazing Grace.” Could you tell me about the piece and why you chose it? What does it mean to you and why is it appropriate for this moment?

OW: I was asked to sing Amazing Grace as a duet with Maestro Bocelli. I love this song but had never performed it before. I think every song about hope and research for a certain spirituality and enlightenment is appropriate at the moment.

OW: After your performance, what is next for you considering the current state of the world?

CBS: I am lucky to go back to Italy this week to record a Christmas concert with Andrea Bocelli in Assisi for the Italian TV. Then, I will finally go home to Montpellier for Christmas, and resume my studies in London in January. A lot of performances and projects have been compromised, and I don’t know yet what this next year will be like, but the fact that I am still studying is a safe basis and I am really grateful for this!


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