Singer Elena Lorenzi conceived and performs in 7 Star Arts’ new show Cabaret Beyond Borders at Live at Zedel at Crazy Coqs Soho on Friday 31 January
Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and pursue a career in music?
It was life itself that showed me music as a path.
I’ve been singing since I was a child. I won my first competition at the age of three, but I started to approach and studying singing in a serious way after the death of my father, when I was 13 years old. After a few years of suffering, I began to study opera singing, and this was truly therapeutic for me. The use of the opera voice, with its power and the need for technique and control, gave me a way to process pain. Singing for me has always been a necessity, something very cathartic. Singing has always been a way to shape my energy, it has given meaning to my life. I love the fact that I am my instrument, my voice is my instrument.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I am an eclectic singer who loves many different musical genres and as a result I have been influenced by many singers, musicians and composers.
When I started singing opera, I was actually a little girl in love with symphonic metal, in particular a Finnish band, “Nightwish” and their singer Tarja Turunen. I was fascinated by the use of the opera voice and orchestral parts in such a strong genre. Growing up and falling in love with Opera, especially the composers Wagner and Puccini, I loved the angel voice of Renata Tebaldi, but my favourite opera singer is the Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Obratzova. In jazz I am a fan of Ella Fitzgerald, and in the music of my country, Italy, I owe a lot to the singer Mina.
As for the vintage repertoire and cabaret, in which I have specialized in recent years, the whole world of French music is essential for me, from Lèo Ferrè to Dalida, Juliette Greco, Edith Piaf….the list could be endless. The interpreter who today most reflects the path I have undertaken is undoubtedly the German actress and singer Ute Lemper, but I also love the great performers of the past like Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra. Honestly, there are so many other musicians and performers who have given me such a lot.
In general I love the energy that a singer transmits, the depth of the interpretation and the truth of what is told through music.
Furthermore, art is a source of inspiration for me (I am a fan of painting), nature and people too. Life itself is a constant source of inspiration for me, for better or for worse. I try to capture every little thing or great teaching and to tell it through my voice in the songs I sing.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Surely the life of the musician is full of challenges? The musician’s unstable lifestyle forces you to continually find new ways. But for me my singer’s life is such a wonderful journey that I adore new challenges and getting out of my comfort zone, even if it’s not always easy. The only difficulty, when I started to study singing, was to make my family understand that music for me is not just a passion, but that it would become my job. My family has always imagined another kind of path for me, more stable and safe, so for several years I did not have their support.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I have a lot of concerts in my heart and it’s hard to choose. I remember with satisfaction the first time I played a program of French songs, in 2013, on the occasion of the festival “Le X Giornate”, in Brescia, my home city. From that moment I totally fell in love with this kind of music, I began to study the world of cabaret, French and German music, songs of the vintage world. That concert really changed my musical life. During the same festival, always with the pianist Stefano Marzanni, I performed the Rückert–Lieder (Songs after Rückert), a song cycle of five Lieder for voice and orchestra or piano by Gustav Mahler, based on poems written by Friedrich Ruckert. The concert, of which I have a beautiful memory and I am very proud of, was dedicated to the city of Vienna and its music and it was magical.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
As a classically-trained singer, I’m in love with opera, and I really love to sing it. Also because being a mezzo-soprano, I love the roles for this vocal register, for example Carmen. But I never felt part of the world of opera, I preferred to choose my path and create something of my own. I feel totally comfortable when I sing repertoire of old songs, as I said before. I can use various vocal registers, experiment with the voice using lyric, pop, jazz voice. I can create my own style. I love the music of the early 1900s; I think the lyrics are very deep, beautiful to interpret.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I always look for something new to study and interpret in a personal way. Surely the choice of the repertoire depends on the request, but for me it is really important to never stop and continue to create new shows.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
My favorite venue is definitely the Crazy Coqs in Brasserie Zedel, Soho, London. I love the atmosphere which links directly back to the vintage world of the Parisian bistros of the early decades of the 1900s. It’s perfect for cabaret shows, for French music and vintage repertoire. I have a funny memory of a very special venue for a concert of contemporary music in Holland in 2014, in the city of Den Haag. The venue was a beautiful ….. cemetery.
As a musician what is your definition of success?
Success for me is simply being able to do what I love, and to be able to express myself. Being able to experiment and see that the public appreciates it. For me, real success is knowing that I have given all of myself in the music I sing, in the best way possible.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I think that an aspiring musician should know first of all that the work of the musician is a wonderful job but it requires many sacrifices, much study and a lot of passion. We need a lot of determination to overcome the challenges and obstacles, a lot of patience, because the results do not come immediately. But I believe that humility is fundamental above all. We have to really focus on the goals, do not give up if the road is not easy. A little advice: be yourself.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
I live for music so I can only imagine my future singing in theatres. I dream of taking my shows on tour in the most beautiful cities in the world. I love travelling, visiting new places and meeting new people.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
For me happiness is not lack of pain or suffering, but the ability to understand that there is a reason for everything. True happiness for me is something very profound, which goes beyond sensory experiences: it is a way of being. In this I am close to the Buddhist philosophy. I am a happy person, because I love life, I love my job, my family and my friends. I have learned to always see the positive side of everything and not to worry too much about the problems. I learned to be happy for any gift life gives me, even the smallest. It is not always easy to follow this path, but I am convinced that it is the best way to face life, which for me is something extraordinary. I “love to spread love”
What is your most treasured possession?
I could answer this question in several ways. For me the most precious thing is life itself, the experiences I do, so health is fundamental. Obviously as regards my person, my most precious asset is my voice, without that I can not work, but above all I can not express myself and elaborate the experiences. But I can also say that my greatest treasure is the people I love, family (including my four dogs) and friends. The moments spent with the people I love are something that enriches me, something that for me is very important and that I want to enjoy because unfortunately I learned as a young person that people can be taken away at any moment.
What is your present state of mind?
At this moment I am extremely grateful for the wonderful opportunities and the possibility that life is giving me. I am full of joy and I hope I can share it, in life and through music. Thank you so much for this interview.
Cabaret Beyond Borders is at Live at Zedel at Crazy Coqs Soho on Friday 31 January (tickets here)