Sparkling energy and precision: Giulia Semenzato, soprano

A great joy for all friends of the great Mozart arias: After the ambitious CD recording “Angelica Diabolica” with the Basel Chamber Orchestra at the beginning of the year, the splendid Italian soprano Giulia Semenzato returns to Switzerland in July and will honour Klosters Music on the first concert evening. Semenzato, who completed her vocal studies at the “Benedetto Marcello” Conservatory in Venice with distinction in 2015 and subsequently specialised in baroque music at the “Schola Cantorum” in Basel with Rosa Dominguez, was a prize-winner at the International Competition “Toti dal Monte” in Treviso in 2012. She is also a prize-winner of the “Cesti Singing Competition” in Innsbruck 2014 and received the “Premio Farinelli” as the best baroque singer. However, the young singer and law graduate is not only at home in Baroque, but is also endlessly fascinated by the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In February 2015, Semenzato made her debut as “Celia” at Teatro alla Scala in Mozart’s “Lucio Silla” under the baton of Marc Minkowski and was heard in Mozart’s Coronation Mass, the Requiem and as “Zerlinda” in “Don Giovanni”, among other roles. What is outstanding about Giulia Semenzato’s singing is the soprano’s gift for combining palpable power, sparkling energy and the highest precision and sensitivity at the same time.

Interview with Giulia Semenzato

We had the opportunity to ask the exceptional soprano a few questions in the run-up to Klosters Music:

KM: Ms. Semenzato. Thanks for giving us some of your time. You did some of your studies in Basel. Has Basel become a kind of “home” for you? What do you like about Basel?

GS: I did my Master’s degree in Basel. The city means a lot to me: it was my first life experience abroad, in what is perhaps the best school for early music in Europe, Schola Cantorum, and in a multicultural, international environment: it is very easy to meet people from all over the world, not only in the school, but across the whole city. Basel signifies a huge step in my musical development, and I also made a lot of new good friends there. I find it the perfect city: not too big, lots of opportunities and a very rich cultural life. I find it incredible how you can have so many museums, an opera theatre, a variety of concert venues, and all this within a stone’s throw of woods, hills and rivers! I believe it is the perfect place to live. I always feel very welcome in Basel and I come back as often as I can.


KM: Have you been to “Graubünden” and Klosters before?

GS: I have never been to Graubünden and I am looking forward to discovering it! Rich in nature and culture, it sounds amazing!


KM: What does music mean to you personally? Why is music so important to you and maybe for us all?

GS: For me, music is above all a universal language. There is no skill or education required to appreciate music. Anyone can understand its emotional message and that is why it has a strong power of communication and connection between people. This is always central to my performances: when we play music and we listen to music played live, a kind of “timeless” moment is created, a moment when we forget about our daily routine, and through sound and theatre we attune to our inner being. This is also why I encourage people who have never been to opera theatre to go and experience it and see that anyone can enjoy it. It is very sad though that in our schools, history of music is still not given the same importance as history of art.


KM: How can music, in your opinion, influence and shape a society, given that music is always an expression of era and a culture status? Are there any examples which you think were or are symbolic in these aspects?

GS: Music has always followed social development and changes, it has accompanied every important historical event (marriages of kings, deaths of princesses, but also changes of political powers, political oppositions). What I love when I approach a new composition, is to firstly understand the context of how and when a piece was born: for example “Ercole Amante” by Francesco Cavalli, which I sang in 2019 at “Opéra Comique” in Paris was composed for the coronation of Luis XIV!! We all know the importance of this French emperor, and it is so fascinating to be able to know and hear which music accompanied this event.


KM: Regarding your current recording in Basel: Can you tell us something about this? How did this recording come about?

GS: I wanted to sing a program about a strong, free-minded woman, someone who is not afraid to follow her true feelings, to fight for her beliefs. I met Giovanni Andrea Sechi some years ago and when I explained my concept, he suggested to create a program about the women of Orlando Furioso.


KM: What will we hear from you once the recording is finished? The different “Angelicas”: It seems to be about strong-willed, intelligent and powerful women that are going their own way. With which of the several versions of “Angelica” do you identify most and why? Or is a part of each “Angelica” in all of us?

GS: “Angelica” is indeed the main character of Ludovico Ariosto’s poem, but the CD traces a path through many of the women in the story: Bradamante, Ginevra, Melissa, Alcina… When I was in secondary school I read many rhymes, they are a masterpiece of Italian literature, but when I recently came back to read these I did so with a different eye: maybe more mature, more able to discover the different characteristics of these women.

Angelica is strong but also aware of her power on all the men she encounters. I am absolutely fascinated by this self-awareness, and her ability to lie to the Chavalier Orlando in order to get rid of him and thus deeply and freely love Medoro, the simple soldier. A love that defies the conventions of who a princess should fall in love with. I definitely see myself as a non-conventional person, quite stubborn, but I am a very bad liar, I just can’t hide it!


KM:  Regarding Klosters: Why are you looking forward to this small and exclusive event?

GS: I am very much looking forward to singing at Klosters Music which is regarded as a very special and high quality festival to which top level artists are invited.


KM: Which characters will be on stage and what is your relationship to them?

GS: I will sing some of “Susanna’s” arias and duets from “Le nozze di Figaro”, and “Donna Anna’s” aria, which I never performed on an opera stage before.


KM: What is your relationship to Mozart’s music?

GS: I have had the pleasure of performing in many operas by W.A. Mozart already, and mostly in the role we normally call the Soubrette-Fach: “Susanna”, “Despina”, “Zerlina” (also with Basel Chamber Orchestra), “Serpetta”, “Celia”. Most of them are lower class characters (servants, maids), who are nevertheless witty, sincere, down to earth and very skilled.


KM: Do you particularly like some of them?

GS: I love how “Despina” teaches her two sisters to love frivolously; I love how Susanna is faithful to “Figaro” and her developing relationship with the Countess. I enjoy playing both sides of “Zerlina”: on the one hand attracted to “Don Giovanni’s” power, and on the other the honesty towards “Masetto”. I believe I learn something from each of the characters I play. Mozart can always teach us something, even after 275 years!!