Musician of the Month: Gabriella Di Laccio
As far as I can remember I have always sang. Although I don’t come from a family of musicians there was always music in the house. Joining the school choir when I was 8 was a very natural step and since then I never stopped singing. Although singing was a great enjoyment in my life, I only started having proper singing lessons when I was 16 and that opened up a whole new chapter as I started to find out the different aspects of my voice and how to use my instrument properly. It was a fascinating experience and I fell in love with the act of communicating through music and I believe it was then I first thought of becoming a professional classical singer.
How is singing baroque music different from singing classic or romantic music?
The baroque period was very rich artistically speaking and produced very intense and varied emotions in the arts. In music, this new emphasis was clearly stated and generalized in the “doctrine of the affections”. The doctrine arose under the influence of classical (ancient Greek and Roman) rhetoric, which focused on the art of using language to persuade listeners to a specific point of view or emotional response. Any performer of baroque music needs to understand this concept and use their instrument to get as close as possible to this idea. The notion that baroque music should be always sung with a straight tone is in my opinion a misconception of the reality. It is our job as singers to have enough command of our voices to be able to use both straight tone and vibrato to express emotion and reflect the mood of each part of the work we are performing. Vibrato in baroque music is an ornament – and the baroque period is full of ornamentation.
Can you tell Handel’s music was written for his specific singers? Do you feel like you need to channel your inner baroque diva to perform it?
It is very clear that Handel was extremely inspired – and challenged – by his singers and one can certainly imagine the thrill of being one of Handel’s Divas. The stories of Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni having a fight on stage can certainly gives us an idea of their intense personalities and undeniable talent. I don’t consider myself the stereotype of the “Diva” people generally have in mind. One can always imagine a diva like this immensely flamboyant, proud, glamorous and dramatic woman who combines these generally positive attributes with a less desirable set of traits, including being volatile, demanding, vain, controlling, self-absorbed, unreasonable, suspicious, and jealous. Having said that it is unquestionably true that when I am performing I am certainly not just myself. One needs to explore different kinds of emotions in order to express the message the composer had in mind for that particular aria. So from that perspective at that moment I am not only Gabriela Di Laccio, but an instrument that should communicate all the emotions that my character is feeling and singing about. Singing and music in general is an art of giving, of sharing emotions, of moving the listener and tell stories. This is always my main goal in every performance.
What is your favourite operatic role to perform?
I enjoy singing roles of women who have strong personalities so from that prospect it always a joy to sing Handel as he has some amazing soprano parts in his Operas. If I had to choose one Handel role it would have to be (with no doubt) Cleopatra from Giulio Cesare.
What do you enjoy most about Handel’s compositional style?
One of the things that is very clear when you sing Handel is that he knew the vocal instrument extremely well. Everything he writes feels confortable on the voice and although he challenges the instrument technically speaking, it is always done in a way that complements the melody and the singer’s tessitura. I also love his coloraturas and how he uses them to change the mood and intention in his arias.
Why do you think Handel House is such an enjoyable space in which to perform?
I find really amazing that I can be at the house where Handel used to live, compose and rehearse. Just the idea that not very long ago he would be walking in those very same rooms and writing some of the most significant musical works in our history is a wonderful thought. Having the chance to perform there is really a privilege as the venue has an undeniable musical atmosphere that fills the air with inspiration for all the performers.