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(photo credit: courtesy)
Italian singer Alessandro Safina, who plays a one-off concert in Israel next Saturday night (August 11), created pop-op (a synthesis of opera and pop) by pure chance.
"Back in 2000, when pianist and composer Romano Musumarra approached me asking to sing pop, for me, despite all my love for ensembles such as U2 and others, it was almost a joke," said Safina in a phone interview from his native Siena, Italy.
But that joke turned into a style that has been most successful. His first single, "Luna," in which he builds a bridge between classical music and pop, stayed number one for 14 weeks. His debut album Insieme a Te (Together with You) soon turned platinum and sold in 38 countries. Since then, Safina has been touring Europe, Brazil, the US, Korea and Canada, appearing with stars like Barbara Hendricks, Sumi Yo, Elton John and Cher.
The Italian singer, whose remarkable resemblance to American movie star George Cloony is often remarked upon, and who was himself listed among the 50 most beautiful men in the world by People Magazine in 2002, has also acted in movies.
Classical music was Safina's first love. Born into a musical family, he started studying music at an early age, and after graduating from Conservatorio di Musica 'Luigi Cherubini' in Florence and winning first prize at the 'Concorso Lirico Internazionale' in Mantova, he embarked on a career in the opera.
In 1990, he debuted as Rodolfo in La Boheme alongside Katia Ricciarelli, and since then has appeared on important opera stages in Italy and abroad. He also sings the sacred repertoire and, from the other end of the classical spectrum, light operettas.
Despite his success in the field of mass music, Safina makes a point of keeping both musical careers running.
"In Italy, people don't really want an operatic tenor to sing pop, due to our long operatic tradition. So there I am foremost an opera singer who makes occasional sorties into pop. But in countries with a developed pop-music tradition, such as the US or Brazil, it's different."
On his disc Safina's warm, free-flowing voice is beautiful, with its operatic schooling and culture quite evident. His concert here will be comprised of popular arias from Italian operas, Neapolitan songs, as well as hits from his seven albums, including "Your Song" by Elton John (which he sang together with the composer) and "Luna," which he will perform with Israeli opera singer Shirli Hod (in every country where he appears, Safina sings "Luna" with a local; recordings of local opera singers were sent to him and the young, beautiful Hod was his choice).
Devoted to the operatic style, Safina hopes his pop performances will entice new audiences into opera halls, which he says are experiencing a crisis even in Italy: "People are less eager to go to out to theaters."
Safina will be backed by the Simfonette Ra'anana at his Amfi Park concert in Ra'anana on August 11, which will begin at 8:30 p.m.