Hailing from Sarnano, in Marche, Riccardo is internationally recognised as one of the most exciting and accomplished interpreters of the difficult Italian spinto repertoire, and has earned a number of awards worldwide for his interpretations of the great Italian composers Puccini and Verdi.
Riccardo will showcase his talent in Sydney from July 18 to August 31, playing Radamès in Davide Livermore’s production of the historic epic Aida.
The talented tenor will share the role with fellow opera stars Diego Torre and Yonghoon Lee.
Riccardo explained that he enjoys portraying the hero in this story of a kingdom in triumph and a nation in chains, adding that Livermore’s interpretation of the classic focuses on the emotions of each character.
“If you remove the armies and the Egyptian setting, at the end of the day it’s just a love story about three kids,” he said.
“They live this very wild and passionate love but everything that moves around them is too big and in the end they pay the price.”
As an artist, Riccardo hopes that his Australian audience can appreciate not just the singing, but also the “human side” of the performance.
The tenor knows the role of Radamès well and rightly so, considering it was the character he played in his operatic debut at the Teatro Verdi of Salerno in 2009.
Years of work and dedication led up to that moment on a cold December day, when Riccardo stepped onto the stage for the first time as a fully fledged tenor.
Unlike many opera singers, Riccardo doesn’t come from a musical family.
The only connection to the musical world was his great-grandfather Domenico Silveri, who composed The Silver Trumpets, a hymn which is played every time the Pope enters the Sistine Chapel.
Despite this rather significant piece of Riccardo’s family history, he was raised in a relatively average household when it came to music.
Then when he was a young boy, his father took him to see Lucia di Lammermoor.
“I was blown away,” he recalled.
“I began to sing, but nobody taught me, I’d just sing along to Pavarotti in the car.”
When Riccardo’s father realised his son possessed a natural talent for singing, he took him to a professional pianist who confirmed his beliefs.
However, the pianist said that Riccardo first had to grow up and allow his voice to develop before beginning to use it.
“And that’s what I did,” he exclaimed.
When Riccardo graduated from high school, he moved to the hustle and bustle of Rome to finally pursue his passion for opera.
Needing to pay the bills while completing his studies, he began training as a teacher of medieval fighting with ancient weapons such as swords, shields and knives.
His teacher just happened to be one of the stunt coordinators in Cinecittà, Italy’s answer to Hollywood.
“It was during a time in which American companies were shooting in Italy and they needed people to perform stunts and so I began,” Riccardo said.
He ended up working as a stuntman for Hollywood productions – including Martin Scorsese’s ‘Gangs of New York’ and ABC’s ‘Empire’ – for seven years, all the while developing his vocal technique with David Holst, who has been his sole mentor.
Riccardo recalled shooting the final episodes of HBO’s ‘Rome’ in June 2007, and auditioning for the Accademia Teatro alla Scala just a week later.
“I showed up and I was covered in bruises and cuts,” he laughed.
“I still managed to win the auditions and get into the program.”
Eleven years later, Riccardo will travel halfway around the world to perform his fifth production with Opera Australia.
The Italian said he adores everything about Australia, from the beautiful natural surroundings to the “warm and welcoming” people.
“I also like that the Australian lifestyle is very laidback,” he said.
“When you travel for work of course you feel some level of pressure, but whenever I’m here I feel that pressure a little less. In some ways I feel at home.”
After his final performance of Aida on August 27, Riccardo will return to Europe to star in Simone Boccanegra in the French port city of Marseille.
To find out what nights Riccardo Massi will be performing and for tickets to his shows, visit Opera Australia’s website.