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Singer can take both sexes' roles

A trainee opera singer has combined a sex change with a dramatic extension in her vocal range to gain admission into one of Italy's most prestigious music schools.

Emily De Salvo, formerly Stefano, was denied a place at the Tito Schipa Conservatory in Lecce three years ago when the admissions panel was not sure whether to place her among the male or female singers.

But after studying with baritone Maurizio Picconi and soprano Amelia Felle, 29-year-old De Salvo has convinced the conservatory that she has the potential to handle demanding roles from male baritones to female sopranos.

The young singer, who, according to the local Quotidiano Di Lecce newspaper, is still waiting for her gender reassignment surgery, yesterday thanked Felle for supporting her during the second audition. "She defended me against those who didn't want me," she said, before adding that she was proud to be the first transsexual to claim a conservatory place.

Now De Salvo says her unusual voice could help her claim a niche in opera buffa – the comic form that developed in Italy at the end of the Baroque period. "I've been exploring the Baroque repertoire," she said. "My vocal range is perfect for it."