“The Fantastic World of Ernesto Tomasini” by Carla Sais [Interview]

We can listen to the same mreserves.r and over again or we can open our hearts to new wonders…Once Pandora’s box is open, its treasures burst out and spread themselves through the universe. This is how I got to know Tomasini’s art. Ernesto Tomasini will go down in history as one of the great artists in the tradition of Klaus Nomi, Nina Hagen or Martyn Jacques. Those brave, authentic and daring performers who blend classical music and opera with rock, cabaret or electronics. There is also something else that they have in common: their fanciful essence, which shows them as coming from another planet. They eventually return to that same cosmic landscape but not before leaving an indelible mark here on earth.

The range they are capable of is flabbergasting and the vitality of their vocal cords makes them dance on the border of the classical with the most extreme and experimental.

Tomasini has an extensive biography that stretches over thirty years on the stage and endless collaborations that give usgoosebumps: Marc Almond, Current 93, Alfonso Cuaron, Peter Christopherson, Othon or Ridley Scott, are only some of them.

It is an honor and a pleasure to have this conversation with the Italian artist currently based in London:Ernesto Tomasini.

So, ladies and gentleman, welcome:

* How would you describe your childhood and your first approach to Art?

I believe the artistic streak to be genetic. My great grandfather was the last star of Commedia dell’Arte in the 19th Century. I never met him, of course, but I must have inherited his genes because, for as far as I can remember, I was always putting on a show. My very first approach to art was through drawing. I was a child prodigy of the pencil. I never saw the “real” world around me and lived in the one I drew. This eventually led to performing, for I went to study visual arts in America and there – by chance – I begun a career on the stage; I was 16.

* What does London offer to you artistically, that your native Italy doesn’t?

London gave me an international career and funding! The Italian government constantly cuts all the money for the arts, in London it’s a totally different story.It also offered depravity but that’s an “artistic” matter of another kind.

* What mark has left in you the madness and freedom of Cabaret?

I will always be a cabaret entertainer, that’s how I started and I inject its anarchic spirit in all my projects. Cabaret (great cabaret) is the most sophisticated and extraordinary art form. It is also the most difficult because it’s the only one that is based on personality and you cannot learn that.“You either got it, or you ain’t!” . Think of Marlene Dietrich, Dario Fò, Bette Midler.

* Your fondest memories in theatre?

My early days in Italian Vaudeville are packed with extraordinary memories but I should write a book, there’s too many to list them here.

* Your acting career includes works for the BBC, Universal Pictures and collaborations with the great Alfonso Cuaron…What were these works and how have they affected you?

Cuaron cast me in a small role in one of his films. I adore him! He is extremely erudite but he is also one of the lads, if you know what I mean. He has a terrific sense of humour and great passion. He loves Vivaldi and would often ask me to sing to him some pretty obscure arias. He deserves his success and I call myself lucky for having been touched by him and many other greats.

* You have performed in some of the most important theatres in the world, while at the same time maintaining a career in the underground. What’s your attitude towards the “noncommercial”?

I see absolutely no difference between the two worlds. They both present challenges and I love a challenge. The underground gives me the chance to express myself in a more personal way and I need that. Commercial theatre can be technically more demanding and that thrills me.

* You’ve given master classes in Drama Schools. How is a class with Ernesto Tomasini?

What I do is very idiosyncratic so I don’t offer generalized exercises. My classes are a bit divine, a bit erotic, a bit deranged, always theatrical!

* You participated to the documentary “Heavenly Voices ~ The Legacy of Farinelli” (2013). What was your contribution to this project? How do you imagine the life of castrated singers?

I am the main presenter in the documentary, alongside countertenors Philippe Jaroussky and Max Emanuel Cencic. In it I say that I am not a countertenor. Countertenors sing opera in their upper register. I sing contemporary music in the span of 4 octaves… what’s the name for this type of singer?

That of the castrati is a fascinating history which I told in a play that I produced and performed in, many years ago. I feel very close to the castrati and in the documentary I try and make parallels between them and those singers of today who are “different”.

* Having been on stage in so many countries and having sung in so many different languages, what’s the culture or country that has impacted you the most?

Mexico has had a huge impact on me, more than other places. Meeting Astrid Hadad and Javier Medina in DF, for example. I feel a strong connection with the Mexicans: I am from the abused South of my own continent and issues and urges are incredibly similar. Also spending crucial, teen age years in the States and the UK has had an impact, of course. My home town, Palermo – the meeting of East and West – is a constant source of inspiration. But how not to steal from Indian dancers, Spanish drug dealers, Athenian prostitutes?

* You’ve performedin some of the most important theatres in the world: the Royal Albert Hall, the English National Theatre, the Purcell Room.What are your feelings when you find yourself before the magnificence of this places and their public? How does Tomasini prepare before a concert?

I always say that while I perform, I also watch a show. The audience, sitting out there, against those breathtaking backdrops, provides a wonderful spectacle.

I am not the type who needs to concentrate, or prepare mentally before going on stage. I am an actor not a Buddhist monk. Some of my colleagues need that concentration thing but it’s mostly artists who never went through eight shows a week for many consecutive years. They never had to face a crowd of hostile Sicilians who were not expecting a young man in high heels, singing subversive ditties! My life on stage is so perfect why should I prepare for what is beautiful? Everyday life, on the other hand, needs constant concentration and sometimes I wish I could go through it in a trance!

I am a part time alcoholic but I stop the booze throughout rehearsals and the run. This is my only preparation.

* What experiences have your many collaborations left you with? Have you fulfilled your dreams?

Every single collaboration teaches and touches you. I think that the man who has conquered his dreams is a dead man. My dreams are always changing and, hence, never ending.

* You are discussed in several books published in Italy…

There’s a bit of everything in there, from poetry and photographic books to academic essays about the voice and performance styles. Some crazy university students have even used me for their theses! I hope they don’t get expelled!

* How is the daily life of a singer with a four octave range?

Most of it is spent in an airport… Many airports! Then it depends which moment in the show’s gestation we are talking about. There’s the rehearsal period and that is a self-inflicted lonely affair. The show’s opening is the best time. Then there is the show’s run and that can be an endurance test but not always. Finally there are the intervals between one show and another… Friends of mine have taken videos that prove how these are a hell of a lot of fun, I wish I could remember any of it!

* Your music and art icons are…

Julie Andrews, pornography, Walt Disney and the architecture of zoos.

* What’s next for you?

On February 19th, at Deliquium in London’s Elektrowerks, I will sing in a thoroughly new ambient/noise project with Jose Macabra and Gunther Iscariot. On March 20th I will première my new solo show, “One Life To Live!”, at Theater Dortmund in Germany. In April a new CD – a collaboration between Berlin’s T.C.O. and myself – comes out in China. It’s some sort of electronic operetta based on Bataille’s “Madame Edwarda”. Also there will be a revival of “Mamma Schiavona”, a play that opened last year in Italy, in which I sing some wonderful music by Julia Kent. Throughout the year I will be recording new material for Almagest!’s new album. There’s more but I cannot reveal it right now.

* Your number one wish…

Being rich again. At the end of last year I went bankrupt and lost everything! Now I am working hard to keep the boat afloat. I was born in poverty so I am well armed and am going through it all with ostentatious nonchalance but I cannot wait for the day in which I will be able to spoil my nephew rotten, once again!


Al rights reserved



~ by Manicomio Magazine on February 9, 2015.

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