Dubbed one of the most popular tenors in the world, Alessandro Safina is certainly in demand. Hardly surprising, considering he has six albums to his name, as well as making countless television, theatre and live appearances. The opera singer also added “movie star” to his CV in 2001, when he appeared alongside Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in the film Moulin Rouge. Now fresh from an appearance on the popular LBC show, Star Academy 5, Safina jets in to Dubai for a private concert at the Madinat Jumeirah. Safina spoke to Emirates Business ahead of his performance about the region, the opera industry and Haifa Wehbe.
This is your first visit to Dubai and you are performing at a private business function. Have you had the chance to do anything over here yet?
I have been rushing in and out and have been so busy with rehearsals that I have not really had the chance to explore much but I have seen some of the city and the views are stunning. The hotels are beautiful, and I am enjoying some nice food. However, I hope I can return to perform at a show that is open to the public. Perhaps early next year.
You are no stranger to Arab audiences, especially in Lebanon, thanks to appearances on the LBC network and shows such as The Perfect Bride. Your most recent appearance was on Star Academy 5 [the Middle East’s version of the French show of the same name]. Was that your first time in Lebanon?
I love Beirut and I have had some fantastic times there. I have been there three times but it was my first time on Star Academy. It was a really good show and the contestants were really talented. I got to spend some time with them after the show, and for people their age, they are so focused and professional.
I hear you met Lebanese bombshell Haifa Wehbe.
Oh my God. I did not know who she was beforehand but when I saw her I was lost for words. She is so beautiful and delicate and she is a very, very sweet girl.
During your stay, you also recorded two songs with renowned Lebanese composer Elias Rahbani: Comme La Rose and Paris Paris. How did that come about?
It is all thanks to my label. I had heard of Elias and how well-respected a musician he is. It was a fantastic opportunity.
Do you listen to Arabic music?
Yes, I do. The beats and the rhythms are just so wonderful and different.
It is a well-known fact that you listen to pop and rock music, as well as classical, and that is how “popera” was born. Is it now becoming easier for tenors to cross over?
It is actually because more people are open to popular music. It is a great way of communicating to those who are not into the traditional version of the genre.
So is the opera industry a bigger business now?
No. Despite the fact that crossover genres are more popular, the truth of the matter is opera is still a struggling industry and it is on the decline because it does not make as much money as it used to. Back in the day, people would buy the music and go to the theatre but now there are less and less live shows because tickets have become so expensive. And promoters are finding out that they are not making a lot of money. It is cheaper to go to a rock concert these days.
A lot of artists nowadays tend to work on side projects, along with creating music. Are you one of them?
Far from it. I would be a terrible businessman because I am not passionate about it. I do not see myself working in any other business apart from music. The only thing I may consider doing in the future is open a school, so children can learn about opera at an early age like I did. It certainly will not be about money.
What about investments?
I do not invest my money because I have no interest in that kind of thing. I enjoy the simple things in life, such as good food and drink, and being able to enjoy myself. I am pretty down to earth and like bringing joy and happiness to the people around me.
So no fancy holiday homes and flashy cars?
Nope, far from it. I am not a Ferrari boy at all.
PROFILE: Alessandro Safina, Tenor
Born in Siena, Italy, Alessandro Safina, 44, discovered his passion for opera singing at an early age. His mother nurtured his enthusiasm by teaching him opera’s history, while his father’s love of singing served as an inspiration.
At the age of 17, the tenor suddenly found himself equally inspired by pop and rock music, and quickly became a fan of Genesis, The Clash, Depeche Mode and U2.
In the late 1990s, Safina was discovered by renowned Italian pianist and composer Romano Musumarra and the pair quickly began to record together in an attempt to bring Safina’s dream of creating “soulful new pop opera music” to fruition. The end result was Safina’s self-titled debut in 2001.
Since then, Safina’s career has gone from strength to strength, with the artist releasing five more albums, his latest being Sognami.
'Popera' singer to appear in the UAE