Q & A: Giuseppina Bridelli On Her Role Debut As Piacere In ‘Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno’ At La FeniceBy Alan Neilson
At the age of 21, mezzo-soprano Giuseppina Bridelli made her professional debut in the role of Despina under the baton of Diego Fasolis, since which time she has been on what appears to be a never-ending upward trajectory. Now firmly established as one of the leading interpreters of the baroque repertoire, she is an artist constantly in demand, performing at many of Europe’s top opera houses. Although her focus is most definitely on operas and oratorios from across the 17th and early 18th centuries, this does not stop her from adding the occasional Mozart or Rossini role to her impressive CV.
Bridelli also possesses a notable discography, which includes, among many other recordings, a splendid interpretation of Galatea in Handel’s dramatic cantata “Aci, Galatea & Polifemo” on the Glossa label, a solo album entitled “Appena chiudo gli occhi” containing pieces by Scarlatti and Caldara on the Arcana label, and a DVD of Cavalli’s “Ercole Amante” on the Naxos label.
Towards the end of this month, she will make her debut as Piacere in a staged production of Handel’s 1707 oratorio “Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno” at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice, under the musical direction of Andrea Marcon, a performance which OperaWire will be reviewing.
Although exceptionally busy with rehearsals, Bridelli was happy to take time out from rehearsals for this interview with OperaWire.
OperaWire: What was your pathway into becoming an opera singer?
Giuseppina Bridelli: I feel that I am a very lucky person because I was born into a very musical family. My grandmother was the cousin of a very famous tenor in the 1950s, Gianni Poggi, so I grew up with an image in my mind of this great opera singer who travelled through America and around the world. At home, I listened to classical music and opera almost every day. I heard all the great singers singing the great arias by the great composers, especially Verdi and Puccini. I suppose it was no surprise that it became my passion. At a young age, I started singing in a local choir, and this led to my first experiences on the stage. I sang in many operas at the Teatro Municipale in my home town of Piacenza, and got to understand the beauty of being on the stage; I can still remember the smell of the theatre clearly.
I then progressed through the normal route. I joined the conservatory in Piacenza, where I studied the usual singing courses, and then went on to join the Opera Studio in Bologna. For the next two years, I sang in many operas from different repertoires, in different roles under different conductors. It was a very important and good experience for me; it provided me with a very wide range of experience.
In some ways, it was a strange experience. It was like being in a big family. I was always singing with the same orchestra and the same people around me. Then, after two years, everything finished. Suddenly, I felt like a small fish in a huge sea and didn’t know exactly what to do. I joined an agency, and I got some small parts, and fortunately things developed in the right direction. In many ways, it was all quite smooth, and I managed to find parts and kept singing. I recognize that I have been very lucky because I always seemed to make the right choices with regard to repertoire and roles at the right moment.
OW: Although you sing Mozart and Rossini, your focus has been on the baroque repertoire. What drew you towards the baroque?
GB: Firstly, it’s a repertoire I love and it is important to do what you love. Obviously, it is also very important for a singer, and for their career, to choose repertoire and roles that are right for their voice. I have a voice that I find particularly well suited to the demands of the baroque. I also have a very good coloratura, one that seems to fit certain roles, and so I choose the roles that allow me to shine by singing in this manner.
I actually come from the area in which Verdi was born, and so everybody in my town loves Verdi, including me, but unfortunately it doesn’t suit my voice. And as a singer, I must respect what I can and cannot do. It is only in this way that I will be able to succeed, and hopefully the audience will enjoy what I’m doing.
OW: Within baroque, do you have any specific composers or repertoire you prefer to sing?
GB: I really love singing music from the early baroque, from 17th century: Monteverdi and especially Cavalli. Of course, I like Handel, Vivaldi and other later baroque composers, but if I had to choose, I would prefer to sing Cavalli.
Also, I am always discovering new baroque repertoire. Last year, for example, I sang in “Atys” by Lully in Geneva and Versailles. This was the first time I had sung a role in a French baroque opera, and it is something I really want to do more of.
OW: Are you interested in expanding your repertoire beyond baroque, Mozart and Rossini?
GB: I was scheduled to perform in Donizetti’s “Lucrezia Borgia” in 2020 in Piacenza, but unfortunately, it was cancelled due to Covid. I had prepared it and even had a costume fitting but one week before it was due to be performed, it was cancelled. It was a pity, as I was really happy with it. I would love to sing it at some point in the future. Baroque is my main focus, but I am always open to expanding my repertoire. I think it’s also very healthy and helpful for the voice to practice new repertoire. The voice needs to be exercised and to try different things. It is something that keeps me fresh.
OW: How would you describe your voice?
GB: I would say I’m a high mezzo with a good-quality coloratura and a pleasing extension. I can sing quite high, so I think I would be able to sing some soprano roles, such as Dorabella. It’s also a round voice with a degree of dark coloring, but not too dark. I am definitely not an alto.
OW: You are about to play in five performances of Handel’s “Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno” at La Fenice. It is an oratorio, but it will be presented as a staged production. Is it suited for a theatrical presentation?
GB: I think they do this sometimes because they enjoy the challenge. I also think that an oratorio of this type, that is, an allegorical oratorio, becomes more concrete if it’s staged. Although, at the moment, I do not know how it will work for this production as we are only in the early stages of rehearsals, I know it includes a lot of dancing; the well-known Japanese choreographer, Rihoko Sato, is working on the dance sequences. The singers will move between the dancers. I have performed in many productions in which dancing has been incorporated into the staging of baroque pieces, and usually they work very well, especially with allegorical pieces.
I am not sure that the work lends itself easily to a theatrical production as there is not a great deal of action, but I think the use of dance may work successfully.
OW: You are playing the role of Piacere. What are your thoughts about this role and its challenges?
GB: I have never sung this role before, and I’m really enjoying discovering the music. It is fabulous. The oratorio contains many beautiful arias, and my character sings the famous “Lascia la spina,” which later reappeared as “Lascia ch’io piangia” in “Rinaldo.” It is also a role that has some very strong coloratura passages, and I’m really looking forward to singing them. “Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno” is one of Handel’s earlier works and is a long way from his later London operas; in some ways, it sounds fairly modern, and it is not easy music for anyone to sing, but it is certainly very beautiful music.
Piacere is not a particularly likable character; there is a nasty side to her! She is the one who tempts Bellezza towards the dark side, which is great as I like playing these types of characters.
What is really pleasing for me, however, is that the four characters form the core of the piece and all have beautiful arias to sing. Also, there are beautiful quartets and duos, and I think the audience will be very pleased with what they hear.
OW: Apart from dance, what else can be expected from the presentation?
GB: it is being presented outside of time. I haven’t actually seen the costumes yet, but what I have understood from the director is that he is not interested in setting it in a concrete, specific period. It will be an abstract concept.
OW: Your next opera performance will be very different. You will be playing Isolier in Rossini’s “Le Comte Ory” in Bologna this October. What attracted you to this role? Have you done much comedy?
GB: I have done a couple of comedy pieces, such as “Il Barbieri di Siviglia” and some Mozart roles. I admit that I don’t do a lot, but I do some, and I like them. It is really good to do both the big tragedies and the lighter comedies. It brings balance to my life as a singer.
I have never sung the role of Isolier. I know the music, which I really like, and so I am looking forward to it. It It also means I will be returning to Bologna, which will make it a happy experience for me. I have been away from the city for too long. It will be great to return, even if the Teatro Comunale is actually closed for refurbishment.
OW: In many ways, you have a settled career; you are firmly established performing roles in the baroque repertoire; you sing throughout Europe; you are able to choose the roles you want to sing and you always have work. So, are there any ambitions you still want to fulfill?
GB: I would love to sing at least once at La Scala during my career. It is something I really want to do, but at the same time, I’m happy to have it as an ambition.
In regards to repertoire, I would like to do some more Mozart roles and expand into the bel canto repertoire of Donizetti and Bellini. I would like to sing Verdi, but I am realistic; it is not something that suits my voice, so it is not going to happen, at least as far as I can see.
I would like to sing more French repertoire, which I really love. I know Italians can find the language quite difficult, but I speak fluent French.
OW: Do you have any dreams that may become a reality one day?
GB: I would like to live in Paris. I work a lot in France and I have a lot of friends there. I find this to be a good environment for musicians, but I don’t think this is going to happen. I am too connected to Italy and to my family here. I want to raise my daughter in Italy, so Paris is unlikely to happen.
I would love to have been a tenor, but that is actually impossible.