Carly Paoli: Lorry driver’s daughter on road to opera stardom

Mansfield-born Carly Paoli is to perform alongside Jose Carreras and Russell Watson in Rome

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The Independent Online

A lorry driver’s daughter from Mansfield will next week realise a dream as she takes the stage where the Three Tenors – Jose Carreras, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo – debuted together a quarter of a century ago.

Carly Paoli may not be well known outside classical-music circles but her star could soon rise after performances at increasingly high-profile concerts and galas, including for the Royal families of Monaco and Malaysia.

The 26-year-old British mezzo-soprano has flown to Rome and is currently in rehearsals for her performance at Caracalla for Unicef next week, alongside Carreras and Russell Watson.

A year ago she was just another fan of Carreras hoping for a picture with her hero after a concert, now she is preparing to perform at the same show. “It’s unbelievable,” she said in a recent interview. “I never imagined we would actually be singing together.”

The performance will be staged at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, where she will sing with Cynthia Lawrence, one of Pavarotti’s favourite singing partners.

Teatro dell’Opera di Roma

Italian newspaper La Repubblica hailed the “extraordinary” concert and said, while the crowd would delight in seeing Carreras, Ms Paoli’s performance at the venue was “heavily anticipated”.

The singer said she was “raised in the language of opera and surrounded by the soaring voices of sopranos like Maria Callas and musical legends like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland”. She grew up inspired by classic musicals from the 1940s and 1950s.

Her father Paul is a lorry driver who transports coal and ash in the Midlands and her brother is a builder. Her mother is Italian and the bilingual singer said her family in Italy is where her musical blood comes from. Her uncle Luigi made over 40 records singing folk songs and playing the accordion.

“I fell in love with classical music’s ability to bring to bring to life the most emotional stories with beautiful lyrics,” Ms Paoli said.

She was spotted at the age of eight when a teacher at a performing arts class told her mother she had a “very special voice”. Ms Paoli went on to study at The Royal Northern College of Music, where she spent four years under the tuition of tenor David Maxwell Anderson.

The start of her singing career was not promising, as she sought to earn money through teaching and sang at weddings and corporate events on the side.

She was later spotted by David Foster, the 16-time Grammy Award-winning producer who has worked with Céline Dion and produced Andrea Bocelli, who asked her to perform at a charity gala in Calgary last September on a bill that included Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who called her “very good”.

That international debut was hailed as “amazing” by Mr Foster, who said: “She had such presence. I mean put that together with a great voice and you’ve got a winner.”

She then performed at the International Women’s Media Foundation awards, paying tribute to war photographer Anja Niedringhaus. Following her performance, she was given a standing ovation by guests including the Pulitzer-winning photojournalist’s mother and sister.

Some reports have compared the singer to Katherine Jenkins because of her her embrace of both classical opera and contemporary music. Fans include Paula Abdul who once said she had the “voice of an angel”.

She is working with Italian producer and composer Romano Musumarra in Rome on her debut album, due for release later this year.