It’s all very well extolling the virtues of sitting in a theatre – but what happens when we want to go further? Adriano Graziani, Welsh tenor and graduate of the RCM/Cardiff International Academy of Voice, is here with a rather exciting type of careers advice.
The news is, at first, bad. Adriano’s current workdays start at 10am, break for lunch, restart at 4pm, and continue well into the night. That’s six days a week. “It’s heavy duty…it does take it out of you”, he concedes, mentioning that (as is usual) he’s not really allowed to sing in full voice most of the time, lest he ruin it before opening night (in a mere ten days). And we thought 9-5 sounded grim.
Is it really worth all that? “Don’t get me wrong, there’s ups and downs. I might work with horrible conductors or singers with huge egos – in fact, I have…but I can’t believe that I’m getting paid to be doing something that I love to do. Opera gives you sensations that you’ve never felt before. And, you know, to be able to do it as my job is just wonderful.”
Adriano is firm in his praise for opera as a medium, and eager to appeal to a younger audience with it. We ask why: “Well, I think because it’s got everything that exciting movies have got. Death, love, passion, everything that you want. Like any Blockbusters, but with amazing music!”
Of course, it’s not always fun and games; the tenor is lavish with his praise and equally passionate with critique. “Some operas I find incredibly boring! The staging is terrible, the voices are terrible, they’re torture to sit through. You just have to go to the more popular ones.” He cites Tosca and La Traviata, his current project, as good starting-points: “they’ve got some great tunes”. Succumbing to the obvious, we ask about his dream role. Adriano expresses his love for Traviata at first: “The soprano dies, a tenor dies, the baritone dies…luckily, I get to live in this one, so that’s good.” But Cavaradossi and his famous arias take the crown.
And, finally: gossip. Opera is a small world, says Adriano, and it’s certainly not without its scandal. Perhaps wisely, he refuses to tell us the worst things. But… “Well, I was working with this mezzo in Germany, and there was a bit of a love scene, a close kiss encounter, but no actual kiss. And – how can I put this politely? – she wasn’t the prettiest girl on the block. And she got closer each performance, until she gripped the back of my head, and…well. Oh God, you should have seen her, I’m still having nightmares.”
Adriano Graziani is at the start of his operatic career, but his zeal and nerve are testament to a potential that seems destined to last. It isn’t a career for the faint-hearted – but nobody can say it’s not exciting.
See our opera feature here: oxfordstudent.com/students-opera-and-the-myth-of-incompatibility