Singing student earns ticket to the stage

When a singing student went to order opera tickets the last thing he expected was to be on stage just a few hours later.
But that is exactly what happened when 32-year Adriano Graziani made the fateful call on the eve of a concert at the Weston Studio at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff last month.

The original tenor for the performance, arranged by the Friends of Welsh National Opera, had fallen ill hours before the start.

Undaunted, Mr Graziani answered the distress call and had just enough time to rehearse and get ready before singing in front of hundreds of people.

His performance of E Lucevan Le Stelle from Tosca, Core N’grato, a Neapolitan song, the Brindisi Duet from La Traviata and the Welsh song, Arafa Don, won rave reviews and led to him being offered a three-month contract as an understudy for the role of Rodolfo in La Boheme in Birmingham next year.

The part will see the former bank worker from Neath, South Wales, taking the lead in a matinee performance at the city’s Hippodrome Theatre.

He has also accepted the lead role in a revival show of Tosca at the Richmond Theatre in London next February.

Speaking from Zaragoza in Spain, where he is taking part in the Montserrat Caballe International Singing Competition, Mr Graziani said of his lucky break: “I called up for some tickets to the gala concert last month as I thought it would be nice to sit in the audience for a change rather than be up there on stage singing.

“The person putting on the event for the Welsh National Opera asked if I was a tenor. I told him I was and he said ’I’m ever so sorry but could you take part in the concert tonight because the tenor is ill?’

“I was ’umming and ahhing’ because I would have only had a few hours to get ready and rehearse but I went ahead with it and it was a really big success.

“As a result I had a working session with the director of the Welsh National Opera to see what I was able to do and that led to me being offered the understudy in one of the principal roles in a production of La Boheme.

“Because of that I got auditioned for a lead role in a revival of Tosca at the Richmond Theatre in London and I got the role in that as well.”

He added: “It was all because I phoned up for tickets. I think I’m going to be ringing up all the time for tickets now!”

It is not the first time Mr Graziani, who is currently studying at the Cardiff International Academy of Voice, has stepped into a role at the last moment.

Last year, after leaving the Royal College of Music he became the understudy in the Glyndebourne Touring Opera production of Macbeth.

When the principal had to return to Italy to be with his pregnant wife, Mr Graziani stepped up and won a most-promising newcomer award for his efforts.

The plaudits he is now garnering are a long way from where he was less than five years ago, working for a bank.

“It really wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Mr Graziani. “I knew that I wanted to be a singer and I was having lessons.

“I was always in the opera world in my mind. I think I was destined to be a singer or performer of some sort but opera was the thing that made me alive.

“It is in my blood because I’m part Italian.

“One day I was walking past the Royal College of Music in London and I asked if there was any chance I could see the head vocal coach.

“As a result of my singing that day, they offered me a two-year study and that really was the crunch.

“I was 28 then and I knew if I didn’t do it then, then I would never do it. If I left it any later then maybe people wouldn’t take me seriously.”

He added: “I’m very, very lucky to be doing what I’m doing because it is the best job in the world.

“You do need a bit of luck though.”