Bangor-born baritone seeks budding local opera singers for Italian job
A Bangor-born singer who swapped ice cream for opera in Italy now hopes to give a leg-up to budding performers from back home.
Bruno Caproni's family own a parlour in the seaside town, but the baritone now lives in Tuscany and has invited some local singers to Italy to perform with him.
NI Opera Voice of 2018 and winner of the Deborah Voigt Opera Prize, mezzo-soprano Margaret Bridge, and audience prize winner Catherine Donnelly will join Bruno at his exclusive Canto al Serchio Summer School and Festival alongside renowned pianist Julian Evans.
Bruno (inset) has enjoyed an international singing career spanning several decades, and is equally passionate about performing as he is about sharing his knowledge and love of opera with the future generation of singers.
He said: "During the summer school, the singers will immerse themselves in the Italian culture - both musically and more generally.
"Simply being in the country where opera was first performed will be an exciting experience, especially here in the region around Lucca, (Giacomo) Puccini's birthplace.
"Soaking up the atmosphere of the city and the landscape around it, as well as developing an understanding for the historical significance of this place, will be valuable additions to the other elements of the summer school.
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"We will offer them Italian lessons that are designed for a singer's specific needs.
"They will learn some conversational Italian they probably wouldn't pick up in an ordinary language lesson.
"We will spend a lot of time working intensely on operatic repertoire with the singers, building up to a concert at the end of the week.
"The concert will give our singers the opportunity not only to work towards something throughout the week, but also to practise performing for an invited live audience.
"In addition to working on their own repertoire, the singers will be taking part in short lectures on opera appreciation."
Caproni's of Bangor has been a fixture in the Co Down town for years, but Bruno's passion for music, allied to his Italian roots, led him to move there to pursue his dream of being an opera singer.
He said: "Being in Italy gave me a deep emotional understanding of the roots of this music, and how it connects to the Italian soul.
"I still have a strong connection with Northern Ireland, and it is good to see that Northern Ireland Opera continues to thrive, following on from a great tradition of opera performance in the region, which even persisted throughout the Troubles.
"When I left the island to study in Manchester in the 1980s, I was one of the very few who went abroad to pursue a career as a professional singer.
"A lot has changed since, and it is very uplifting.
"Sharing my experience and giving professional advice is very important to me.
"There are some great tips that I was given by very prominent singers when I was young - some of these have stuck with me for my entire career.
"I have always been very grateful for receiving advice and I would hope to pass some of it on to the next generation."
But Bruno has one secret he might not want to say too loudly around family members next time he is back home in Bangor - he thinks the ice cream is better in Italy.
He added: "I can say without bad conscience that we have one of the best ice cream parlours here in Barga."
He added: "It beats Bangor hands down!"
The 2019 Festival of Voice takes place from Thursday, August 29 to Sunday, September 1 in partnership with BBC Radio 3. Five bright young talents compete for the title of Northern Ireland Opera's Voice of 2019 in a weekend-long programme of recitals and performances, which culminates with the Gala Final in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Glenarm, hosted by broadcaster Sean Rafferty. Visit www.niopera.com/our-work/festival-of-voice for more information.