Tuesday, May 05, 2009

An Interview With Diane di Stasio

On April 12th Bloggerhythms posted a review of Vox Eterna, the debut CD by Diane di Stasio. I was so captivated by her wonderful voice that I wanted to understand what made this immensely talented singer tick. I wanted to know her influences, her musical background, and her career plans for the future. Many of those questions are answered in this ten question, e-mail interview she agreed to do for Bloggerhythms. Thank you Ms. di Stasio for your time.

Below is the interview.
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CR: Based on the brief biographical information I have it appears your career has been primarily as an opera singer. Is opera your first love? If so, why then, did you make your first release a pop album?

DiD: Initially, growing up, my first love was rock music. It was later in my teens and early twenties that I developed a love for the beautiful opera melodies, especially from the Bel Canto and Romantic periods (e.g. Bellini, Puccini and Verdi). I have always loved and had a great appreciation for rock voices, and the belief that the intense passion and emotion expressed in both the rock and opera genres have a lot of similarities. I felt it natural in this first album to fuse both styles together – vocally having more of the operatic/classical/ethereal feel and instrumentally with a touch of rock.

CR: Tell us a little about your musical history, background, and education. Do you play an instrument?

DiD: I would say that my musical history growing up was eclectic. I took ballet for eight years as a child which had a classical, instrumental influence. I began listening to rock music from junior high on listening to everything from the Beatles, to Queen, to AC/DC… also enjoyed dance/club music as well as the great jazz singers – Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald.

My musical education began with an Opera Scholarship at the University of Southern California (U.S.C.), finishing it up at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. I play a little piano, but not enough to accompany myself during a performance.

CR: How was the music chosen for the CD? Who chose the titles and why?

DiD: Some of the titles on the CD were songs that I had recorded as demos a couple years ago which Billy Smiley had heard and loved and wanted to include them on this debut CD – ie. "Fra Nuvole e Acqua," "Frozen," "Dream." The other songs were selected through a collaborative effort between me and the producer. The two covers were also selected by me and Billy. We both had listened to over 200 to 300 covers before we narrowed it down to "Nights In White Satin," and "Fields of Gold." We both felt that these two covers were a wonderful fit for my voice and for the overall sound of the CD.

CR: Many singers just come into the studio and sing whatever the producer and the record company tell them to sing. Your media kit indicates you had a hand in the arrangements. What kind of input did you have? For instance, whose idea was it for Brendan Smiley's guitar solo closing out "Shadows?"

DiD: Billy and I talked at length about how we wanted the songs to sound and how we would fuse styles together instrumentally. I brought more of the classical/ethereal elements and Billy brought in the rock elements. ie. the combination of the orchestral with the rock elements – as in "Fra Nuvole e Acqua" and "Nights in White Satin" as well as just having electronic grooves as in "Take Me There" and "Find A Place to Breath." The vocal line that takes the place of the flute from the original version of "Nights…" was an idea that I presented. I just kept hearing my voice sing the flute part in the song. I also had input for the arrangement of "Shadow" and how I wanted it to sound, but the actual electric guitar part was all Billy and Brennan’s doing… love it!!!

CR: I noticed that on the song, "Kiss," you share a composing credit. Do you write on a regular basis?

DiD: I have not always written on a regular basis, but have started to more often in this last year. I would like to have more writing credits on the next album.

CR: In the future do you have any plans to record opera or will you stay working in the pop world?

DiD: I primarily want to work in the pop world, but would like to continue fusing elements of the classical/opera styles and sounds with the popular ones.

CR: Will you be touring in support of the CD?

DiD: Yes!!! Both the label and I have plans to do a tour in support of this CD. I would very much like to do an international tour going into Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

CR: What kind of music do you listen to for pleasure?

DiD: For pleasure, I primarily listen to jazz and instrumental classical but I also enjoy listening to rock and dance music.

CR: I've seen your video of "Silent Night" (The Jimi Hendrix mix). If it's OK with you I'd like to post it as part of this article. My question is, aren't you afraid of alienating both rock fans and opera fans with performances such as this one? I like this video a lot but many fans who enjoy the electric guitar solo may be put off by the operatic style vocal that follows it and vice versa. The two genres seldom mix well or resonate with the same fans.

DiD: I would agree that these two genres seldom mix well but in this version of "Silent Night" I believe that the fusion of the two styles does work very well. What’s most important when combining differing styles of music like in this version of the song is how it is approached vocally and with the arrangement. As you notice, I’m not singing out in a full operatic voice with lots of vibrato. Instead I used more of an airy, easy sound with very little vibrato which I believe helps in making this blending of the two genres work. I’d like to mention two other collaborations, in combining both rock and classical elements that have worked beautifully – the duet sung between Freddy Mercury of Queen and opera soprano Montserrat Caballe and the duet "Misere" between Andrea Bocelli and Italian rock singer Zucchero.

CR: Finally, what are your musical goals? Would you like to produce, or is singing enough?

DiD: I would love to have more of a part in helping produce my upcoming projects as well as a hand in producing the stage shows for tours.

Finally, even though it's not Christmas time, here is Diane di Stasio and Brennan Smiley performing a live version of "Silent Night (Jimi Hendrix Mix)."

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