At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

14 October 2017

Alessandro Safina – singer

Tenor who has blended opera and rock

Alessandro Safina has become a household name in Italy after several successful albums
Alessandro Safina has become a household name
in Italy after several successful albums
Alessandro Safina, a singer trained in opera who has expanded the so-called ‘crossover’ pop-opera genre to include rock influences, was born on this day in 1963 in Siena.

A household name in Italy, the tenor is less well known outside his own country but has recorded duets with international stars such as Sarah Brightman, South Korean soprano Sumi Jo, Rod Stewart, former Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde, Scottish actor and singer Ewan McGregor and the superstar Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

Safina’s biggest album to date is Insieme a Te, which has sold more than 700,000 copies.

It was written in collaboration with the Italian pianist and composer Romano Musumarra, who helped realise Safina’s ambition of creating soulful rock-inspired music for the tenor voice.  He first performed songs from the album at the Olympia theatre in Paris in 1999.

Safina was born into an opera-loving family and earned money to pay for singing lessons by working in his father’s stationery business.  Set on becoming a professional singer from the age of nine, he began attending a music academy at 12 and was accepted for a place at the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory in Florence at 17.

In 1989, he won the a competition – the Concorso Lirico Internazionale in Mantova, Italy – and made his opera debut the following year, appearing alongside soprano Katia Ricciarelli as Rodolfo in Puccini's La bohème.

Safina made his operatic debut in 1990 singing alongside the soprano Katia Ricciarelli
Safina made his operatic debut in 1990 singing
alongside the soprano Katia Ricciarelli
Professionally, Safina’s singing remained focussed on the classic tenor operatic roles for much of the 1990s. Privately, his musical tastes were much less confined. He was late to discover rock music, but once he had he became a fan of such bands as U2, Genesis, Depeche Mode and even punk outfit The Clash.

His collaboration with Musumarra led to his debut album, simply called Alessandro Safina, in 2001, from which the single Luna became a hit. After he had performed the song live in The Netherlands, it reached number one in the Dutch singles charts and remained there for 14 weeks.

This success sparked numerous engagements over the coming years, including a duet singing Elton John’s Your Song with Ewan McGregor for the score of Moulin Rouge, an appearance in front of Queen Elizabeth at the 73rd Royal Variety Performance in London (singing Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Music of the Night) and another rendition of Your Song, this time with Elton John, for the Sport Relief fund-raising campaign.

He made his acting debut in the role of the painter Mario Cavaradossi in a film based on Puccini’s Tosca and sang a duet with Rod Stewart on the latter’s album, As Time Goes By.

His links with South Korea began after he performed at the opening ceremony of the 2002 football World Cup.

Safina’s second album, Insieme a Te, consolidated his position as a star of the crossover genre, featuring his duet with Chrissie Hynde as well as Lloyd Webber’s classic Music of the Night.

In more recent years, Safina has recorded a duet with the British soprano Sarah Brightman for her album, Symphony, performed "O Sole Mio" with Andrea Bocelli.  He recorded his fifth album, Dedicated, in 2014.

The Palio di Siena delivers spectacular thrills
The Palio di Siena delivers spectacular thrills 
Travel tip:

The city of Siena is famous for its twice-yearly horse race, Il Palio, which brings massive crowds both to watch the spectacular action as the horses, ridden bareback by colourfully adorned jockeys from 10 of the city’s contrade (wards), career around a track that follows the perimeter of Piazza del Campo.  Generally speaking, the race takes place on July 2, when it is contested as the Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, and on August 16, when it is named the Palio dell'Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary.

The Piazza del Campo is shaped like a scallop shell
The Piazza del Campo is shaped like a scallop shell
Travel tip:

The Piazza del Campo is the heart of Siena’s medieval centre, one of the largest and most beautiful squares in Italy, shaped a little like a scallop shell, with a gentle slope towards the imposing Palazzo Pubblico.  From the square, some 11 narrow streets and alleyways radiate outwards into the city, which has a sense of charm and mystery that visitors find beguiling.

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