Italian opera: The little New Jersey girl fulfills lifelong dream

Annamaria Borelli
Annamaria Borelli plays Musetta in the opera “La Boheme” at Rome’s Teatro Vittoria Tuesday through Jan. 16. Altra Scena photo

(Director’s note: Annamaria Borelli hails from Ocean Township, N.J., and has lived in Italy for 12 years and in Puglia for the last two. This is her guest blog on achieving a lifetime goal of singing an Italian opera in Rome. Follow her blog, Not My Grandmother’s Italy, at

The artistic life.  It is appealing to some, daunting to others.  Artistic life and expat life are very similar.  It’s a bit like tightrope walking: Keep the balance and hope you make it to the other side.  When I was a little girl, around the age of 7, I realized I could sing.  One day, while listening to my girl, Barbara Streisand (my father was a theater teacher so yes, Barbara Streisand was already known and loved.  She was like Aunt Barbara), I thought to myself, Wow! I can do this. 

“People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”  It just came out, effortlessly.  It felt fabulous, the first note was like the first hit and I was hooked. 

My favorite song when I was a little girl was “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie.”  When the days get gray and lonely that song still comes to my mind.  I would sing this song so much that my grandmother would yell, “Avast, Annamarì, AVAST!” (This means “enough” in the dialect from the towns around Bari, Puglia).  However, for me it was never avast.

Here is Annamaria at age 4 or 5 singing on her deck in Ocean Township, N.J. The message means, “I was a diva and am a diva.” Annamaria says, “I really don’t like divas, but I have to say, this kid is pretty cute!”

Seeing potential

As I matured, I realized that my voice had other characteristics and potential.  My voice teacher at the time said, ‘Try this “O mio Babbino Caro, mi piace è bello, è bello!” I said, ‘Oh…”è bello” indeed!’  My voice just flourished.  It was a new sensation, a new technique, it was, in fact, opera.  At first I refused. I thought, “How could I betray my beloved musical theater?”  It wasn’t a betrayal. It was expansion. A whole new world.  A whole new repertoire. 

There were years of conservatory, study and exhaustion.  At times you love it, and at times you hate it.  The plight of an artist is you try to run away from it, but something keeps pulling you back in.  You want to flee because you get so frustrated if the voice doesn’t work the way you want, if the technique is not there. But then you have to go back.  You must respect your talent, wherever it comes from: God, Buddha, your soul or your gut. 

Annamaria Borelli before the Musetta’s Waltz. Altra Scena photo

Maria Callas said, “Singing is an expression of your being, a being which is becoming.”  When you sing and you love it, something shines within you.  You exude happiness, confidence and pure joy.  It’s a very attractive sight.

The role in the Italian opera

Through all of these years of singing and struggle, after 11 years in Italy trying to audition on and off and nothing happening,  I finally landed a role in “La Bohème.”  My la vie Bohème is in motion.  After studying the role for two years and rehearsing the blocking since September I am honored and proud to announce that I will be playing the part of Musetta at the Teatro Vittoria in Rome from Tuesday to Jan. 16.  

Annamaria Borelli and Martin Kurek in act II. Altra Scena photo

La Boheme is a timeless story written by Giacomo Puccini about a group of best friends living their bohemian life in Paris. It’s a story about love, passion, friendship and loss.

I have the privilege of sharing the role with Giorgia Costantino, another fellow soprano who came to Rome from Bari to study at the renowned Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Giorgia relocated from Bari to Rome to follow her passion for opera.  She currently attends the Santa Cecilia Conservatory and will soon graduate. 

From left: Vladimir Jindra (Marcello), Giorgia Costantino (Musetta), Martin Kurek (Benoit/Alcindoro), Flavia Colagioia (Mimi), Alessandro Fiocchetti (Rodolfo), Ivan Caminiti (Colline), Vittorio Ferlan Dellorco (Schaunard).

Since opera is so demanding vocally, there are two people assigned to each role. Here are some more incredible performers that are an integral part of the project.

Joseph Dahdah playing Rodolfo and Silvia Susan Rosato Franchini playing Mimi.
Victoria Merkulyeva at the piano.

Cast of characters: This is a remarkable cast from all over the world.  Czech Republic, Slovakia, United States, Lebanon and from all over Italy: Sicily, Lazio, Molise, Calabria and, of course, la Puglia.

The cast

Flavia ColagioiaSilvia Susan Rosato Franchini – Mimì

Joseph DahdahAlessandro Fiocchetti – Rodolfo

Annamaria BorelliGiorgia Costantino – Musetta

Vladimir Jindra –  Marcello

Ivan Caminiti – Colline 

Vittorio Ferlan Dellorco – Schaunard

Martin Kurek – Benoit/Alcindoro

A dream has come true for many of us.  There is nothing like being center stage.  No thrill more electric and no passion more vibrant. Under the musical direction of the renowned soprano Amelia Felle, the innovative direction of Giancarlo Nicoletti and the production of Altra Scena, we have produced something magical.  Behind every great artist there are about 20 people behind the scenes. Umberto Cipolla and Victoria Merkulyeva are the magnificent musicians at the piano. Alessandro Chiti’s sets create that Bohemian atmosphere perfectly, along with LT Costruzioni which makes his ideas a reality.  

Maestro Umberto Cipolla at the piano. Altra Scena photo

The costumes created by Vincenzo Napolitano, inspired by the 1950s era, add that special touch, not to mention the lighting crew whose lights bring the opera to life. A special shout out goes to stage manager Alex Angelini who assists the cast backstage to make sure everything goes smoothly.  

An amazing feat of teamwork for which I am pleased to participate.  It’s a dream come true.  The little Annamaria who sang on her deck is bursting with joy, and the adult Annamaria is just ready to take center stage.  This is our “La Bohème.”                                             

Please click on this link for ticket information, times and calendar: