RICHMOND, Va. — While shopping at various Richmond-area grocery stores in the early 2000s, customers may have heard a toddler sing in the cart as his mother shopped for her family.
Little did they know that the young cereal aisle singer would one day perform opera on the international stage and release her first single recording, “Cinema Paradiso”, based on the closing scene of the award-winning 1988 film.
“I’ve always had a love for music and a listening ear,” said Hannah Magnelli. “I was taking singing lessons at a young age and, of course, it was very basic singing that suited someone in that age group.”
The second eldest of James and Raquel Magnelli’s four children – she has an older brother, Phillip, and a younger sister and brother, Olivia and Benjamin – she played the violin for more than a decade before singing became his greatest interest.
“I started taking classical voice when I was about 13 and slowly doing Italian art forms, Latin music used in church,” said Magnelli, whose family belongs to the parish. St. Joseph of Richmond, where Mass is celebrated in Latin. “Then I did a bit more in the realm of classical musical theatre.”
As a student at Blessed Sacrament Huguenot High School, Magnelli became involved in the performing arts. She sang “Time to Say Goodbye” at the senior talent show, and at graduation, she and Olivia sang “The Prayer.”
After a semester at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, and a private internship at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Spain, under the tutelage of German conductor Sebastian Weigle, Magnelli entered Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008. from Richmond, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance.
“When you go to college, whether or not you want to sing pop or Broadway music, classical singing is the basic technique, so you have to sing and learn more classical opera technique,” he said. she declared. “It’s kind of the basis for going into other genres that you desire.”
Magnelli, who is fluent in Spanish and is a Spanish-English interpreter contractor, with a minor in German.
“Everybody said when I went to the opera, ‘You have to learn and know German.’ The reason is that it is a very popular language in the world of classical music, not only among singers and musicians, but it is a very universal language in European countries,” she said, adding that she spoke some Italian and would like to learn Arabic..
While Magnelli draws inspiration from the works she has performed, such as ‘La Clemenza di Tito’, ‘Carmen’ and ‘Così fan tutte’, she draws daily inspiration from the practice of her faith and takes the 1999 work of Saint John Paul II. “Letter to the Artists”, in which he writes: “In song, faith is experienced as vibrant joy, love and confident expectation of God’s saving intervention. »
“Knowing that it’s a gift that God has given me, and that it’s something that I know brings joy to people, it’s something that I’m very passionate about, something that I likes to do,” she told the Catholic Virginian, Richmond’s diocesan newspaper. “So when I sing, I know I’m sharing God’s gift. I feel like I can brighten someone’s day or convey a message that someone could easily relate to.
Magnelli knows that when she sings, she can inspire someone or spark a “wonderful memory” for them.
“Sometimes when you listen to music, and it’s really beautiful music, you feel like God is talking to you, and it’s just sharing the beauty that God has created,” she said. “You really feel like your mind is dancing inside what it hears, depending on what exactly you’re singing.”
Noting that in her profession and in other performing arts, there is a lot of pressure “to be perfect”, which Magnelli says some performers deal with with drugs and alcohol.
“For me, I’ve never had to do that. I want to have that confidence on my own without having to, and being decently grounded in my Catholic faith has helped me be able to deal with those things,” she said, adding that praying the daily rosary is one of the “little things” that keeps her grounded.
Magnelli said it’s easy to “get swayed by a very secular world” when you’re in the entertainment business, but she managed to deal with it.
“When I travel alone, I still go to mass on Sundays, and if I need to, I will try to find a place to confess, even abroad,” she says. “I was able to stay on track with my Catholic faith.”
Magnelli said she doesn’t “trust anyone”, taking an example-based approach.
“Be the light in the darkness. If you want to influence someone and hope they convert or come back to God, the best thing you can do is absolutely nothing,” she said. “Do what you do , be yourself, be that light, and if they see that influence, then you can talk to them about it and give them resources if they ask.”
She recalled how she bonded with another Catholic.
“I met another Catholic girl, a new roommate, when I was singing for ‘The Sopranos,’ who was a devout Catholic,” she said. “I didn’t know she was Catholic.”
“I was studying music and she saw the brown scapular hanging off my shirt and she literally said, ‘Oh my God! Are you wearing that?’ And she pulled hers out. I did a double take like, ‘What! Are you wearing one?'”
One of the most popular devotional scapulars, the brown scapular is associated with Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
“I was a bit shocked,” Magnelli said. “It’s just not something you see. It is a very liberal and secular field. Many of them are birthplace Catholics who do not practice or go to mass.
“It was really nice to connect with her,” she said, “and we still stay in touch to this day – to meet someone who believes the same as you because it’s really hard. in this area if you are godly with your faith.”
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Editor’s Note: To learn more about Magnelli, visit www.hannahmagnelli.com, or find her on Facebook (Hannah Magnelli, Mezzo Soprano) or Instagram (@hannah_magnelli). Visit https://modernclassicalx.lnk.to/CinemaParadiso to order his single.
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Olszewski is editor of The Catholic Virginian, a bi-weekly publication for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.