It isn’t unusual for an Italian artist to perform abroad, especially in Paris, for a recital or even for a production that has been exported, but typically lasting only ”l’éspace d’un matin”. However, this wasn’t the case for the singer Gabriella Zanchi who decamped along with the rest of the cast for the French version of the musical ‘Beauty and the Beast’, already a great success in Italy with over 600 shows in 2 years; 8 month runs in Milan, and 6 months in Rome at 8 performances a week.
Gabriella Zanchi was launched to stardom by ‘Concha Bonita’, a fantastic musical comedy by Oscar winner Nicola Piovani. She went on to get the soprano part of Mme Grande Buche in ‘The Beauty and the Beast‘, which has definitely had both critical and audience acclaim. In spite of these grand successes Gabriella, trained at the Morlacchi Conservatory of Perugia, still taking on leading roles in small Umbrian-produced gems, most memorable of which were ‘Due triste tigri’, (‘Two sad tigers’), directed by Ivan Teobaldelli, ‘Calda Diva’, (‘Hot Diva’) and ‘Dalla parte di Violetta‘, (‘On Violetta’s side’), created by the ‘Amici del Festival’ association and directed by Alessandra Carmignani.
interview by Massimo Zangarelli
Gabriella, how did this opportunity in Paris come about?
«At a particular point in my life I felt the need to have a change of scenery and to find a new personal and artistic adventure. As if by magic the opportunity to come to Paris to perform in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ came up – a much-loved musical that I’d already had the pleasure of doing in Italy, and with the same production company Stage Entertainment – a multinational that produces musicals world-wide».
How are you feeling after such a rewarding season?
«Although Paris is a beautiful city, I have to say that at first it was rather difficult and complicated. But with time I felt more and more accepted, and now I think Paris is a place that can offer a lot to a person who has the desire and strength to get in the game: it’s a wonderful feeling».
The musical was nominated for best show at the prestigious Molière Awards, the highest recognition in French theatre and therefore the world. How does it feel?
«I won’t deny it makes me very proud of my work. But it is a team effort: the show is a perfect machine which emotionally affects thousands of visitors every night. There are 32 performers on stage and a live 7 piece orchestra. It’s a rigorous, precise machine but one made of art, passion and talent. Having the public affection and esteem of colleagues appreciating the quality of the work we’re doing is an exceptional boost».
Voice, stage presence and an ability to interpret. You have a crossover talent that allows you to give rare, expressive performances.
«Thank you for that. Every day I try to remind myself that I’m lucky to do this job: gratitude and commitment are the basis of everything we have in our lives that is beautiful».
Is it true that your meeting with Nicola Piovani marked the turning point in your career?
«I still fondly remember the day of the audition with Piovani – my hands were shaking. As soon as I started singing, the ‘maestro’ climbed on stage, asked me to sing again and then gave me suggestions on the interpretation and musical phrasing. It was an audition for the part that was then one of my favourite roles: ‘Evavabette,’ the diva in ‘Concha Bonita’. I couldn’t have been luckier! Piovani gave me the opportunity that changed my life. Without his esteem I might not have had the strength to continue on this path».
Will you be doing more musicals in the future?
«The future is uncertain and needs to be recreated every day, especially in this business, but I learned a lot from my time in Paris. Living abroad is a life experience I would highly recommend to everyone». How does a beautiful young Italian woman live in the ‘charm capital’? «I smile to myself, because never before have I learned to appreciate Italy and Italians».