Olivia Salvadori

  • Talent  Olivia Salvadori
  • Photography  Mara Palena
  • Styling  Francesca Izzi
  • Words  Giorgia Baschirotto
Olivia Salvadori has been surrounded by music since she was a child. Her journey started studying cello while attending a Waldorf-Steiner School in Milan, before moving on to conservatoire where she eventually met soprano singer Gianfranca Ostini, who introduced her to the realm of opera. The core of it – the voice – became her primary tool to express the world living inside her, carving a new path in traditional operatic singing with boldness and innovative spirit. After years of research and practice, through which Salvadori investigated the nature of sound as well as that of space and time, the Italo-Australian artist has now released her very first studio album together with composer and long-time friend Sandro Mussida. Dare Voce brilliantly merges operatic traditional forms with haunting electronic soundscapes, while Olivia’s powerful voice blends dramatic performativity and lyrical intimacy – an experimental effort that navigates and sculpts the musical space in a crescendo of feelings, memories and imperceptible silences.

Olivia wears shirt and trousers by Ports 1961

From a very young age you have devoted your life to singing. How was your first encounter with music?

I have always felt a spontaneous urge to approach sound, a need to listen to my surroundings as they speak to me without words. Very often it regards some specific places or a particular architecture. My encounter with sound and music was, so to say, deeply connected with the space that generated them, and with singing that space coincides with my own body. As you said, I began making music at a very young age and studied cello for a few years at the Rudolf Steiner School in Milan; I feel that music has always been present in my life though; it just evolves through this intimate way of experiencing sound.

Your debut album is called Dare Voce, which means “To give voice”. What are the feelings, words and stories you wanted to give voice to?

Thinking about the quote Dare Voce I realised there are colours, sounds and rhythms all around us, and everyone – according to his or her nature – can experience these moods no matter what their personal feelings or stories are. These colours and sounds are there for everyone to see. So singing could also mean, ultimately, allowing yourself to become a tool for conveying certain feelings and make them resonate.

In Dare Voce there’s a desire for courage, a firm belief in new spaces full of beauty that need to be shared; beside all the distractions and the chaos in which we are living today, “beauty needs us to be seen”!

Left: Olivia wears top by Damir Doma and trousers by MARIOS, Centre: Olivia wears dress and trousers by Ports 1961, Right: Olivia wears top stylist’s own, shirt by MARIOS, coat by ARCHIIIVIO, trousers by Damir Doma and ring Olivia’s own


Left: Olivia wears top stylist’s own, shirt by MARIOS, coat by ARCHIIIVIO, trousers by Damir Doma and ring Olivia’s own, Centre Left: Olivia wears t-shirt by MARIOS and jacket with vest by Vivienne Westwood, Centre Right: Olivia wears dress, shirt and trousers by Ports 1961, Right: Olivia wears top by Damir Doma, trousers by MARIOS and ring Olivia’s own


Olivia wears top stylist’s own, shirt Vivienne Westwood, coat ARCHIIIVIO, trousers Damir Doma

Your video for La voce è un vento caldo ends with a very interesting quote — “The space in between things is still space.” Intermediality applies very well to your work. Do you believe that an experimental approach is essential in order to create something new and relevant today?

The video for La voce è un vento caldo was filmed by my sister, the video artist Rebecca Salvadori. The quote is taken from a poem of hers that talks about time dilation. She wrote it the day after we recorded this track together with Sandro and the sound engineers – Mirco Mencacci and Andrea Ciacchini – in the forest of Monte Santa Luce, Tuscany. Rebecca and I have been collaborating for several years now and I believe we share a similar sensibility when it comes to the relationship between sound and image.

There was a sense of timelessness when we recorded the track and shot the video; I agree with you, the sense of space is very present through the whole work. I don’t know if having the urge and freedom to experiment is necessary for everyone in order to create something new or relevant nowadays, but it is definitely important to me. Emptiness and silence are a necessary starting point that needs to precede any creative moment. I never really wanted to replicate something I had seen or heard… I might feel close to certain sounds or grooves but I have always felt the need to find my own way out.

For this album you have teamed up with composer Sandro Mussida. What did you learn from each other while working together and what makes a collaboration a great collaboration for you?

With Sandro it’s an ongoing process, I’m definitely still learning! What I could say is that I am very lucky to have found a person I’m growing together with through this musical journey, and with whom I am able to freely open up about my own curiosities, objectives and practices, strengths and weaknesses, always sharing a common goal – to develop our contemporary vision in which the operatic tradition can coexist with modern forms.

For me this is a great collaboration; it is great to work with people that you admire for their intelligence, to have a common direction and mutual feelings, to share the same individual practice and sensibility with curiosity and respect, care and attention, and to listen to what each one has to offer. I’m always intrigued by the unique combinations that some encounters can bring… sometimes it can be magical!

Olivia wears top by Damir Doma, trousers by MARIOS and ring Olivia’s own


Olivia wears t-shirt by MARIOS, jacket with vest by Vivienne Westwood, jeans Levi’s and hat vintage photographer’s own

Speaking of in-betweenness, in Dare Voce you sing both in English and Italian. Was your decision to sing in both languages driven by the need to experiment with your multilingual identity?

It was a very organic choice – Italian is connected with the birth and tradition of opera and operatic singing. I was born in Italy and started my singing studies in Florence, but always felt the need to explore and honour my Australian roots as my mother is from Perth. I have listened to and spoken English since when I was a child. It is fascinating how the sound of this language gives birth to a very different approach and attitude to opera… very different to the Italian one, but both very intriguing. So yes, I guess it is part of my multilingual identity to write in both languages and listen to what they can express thanks to their specific melodic quality.

You now live between Milan and London. How have these two cities inspired you so far?

Milan was the place where I had the opportunity to build the foundations of my operatic voice. Just as an athlete learns how to work with his own body to achieve the best performance, I learned how to work with mine, so to speak. Moreover, having La Scala just five minutes from home by bike was more than inspiring.

On the contrary, London is challenging in so many ways, and music culture permeates the social fabric. Here it is possible to dialogue with the rest of the world.

Top Left: Olivia wears top by ARCHIIIVIO, trousers MARIOS and ring Olivia’s own, Bottom Left: Olivia wears t-shirt by MARIOS, jacket with vest by Vivienne Westwood, jeans Levi’s and hat vintage photographer’s own, Bottom Centre: Olivia wears dress, trousers and shirt by Ports 1961, Bottom Right: Olivia wears top stylist’s own, shirt by MARIOS, coat by ARCHIIIVIO and trousers Damir Doma

In Italy you curate the residency Tutto Questo Sentire in Capalbio, Tuscany, together with composer Sandro Mussida and your sister Rebecca Salvadori. Can you tell us a bit more about your project and how it is evolving?

I’ve been organising TQS with Sandro and Rebecca since 2014. We have invited artists from different backgrounds to join us at Capalbio, a beautiful medieval town in Tuscany, asking them to step out from their own genre or specific field and open up to experimentation. We want to offer a neutral space where you can meet and create, something different from the usual performative spaces. This way it has been possible to create something original and offer it to the public with a concert. This approach has evolved over the years integrating free improvisation with pre-structured material, investigating the relationship between virtual and live sound, and including the participation of dancers and visual artists. We are now getting ready for the 2017 edition.

You have been collaborating with several artists, Grace Schwindt among others. What is your relationship with performance art and how does contemporary art shape your work?

I’ll answer this question with a thought I had some time ago… “I have always perceived the voice as a sculpture, as a vibrating material in which intimate and shared spaces become one, and can be lived and verified in a continuous process thus becoming the root of vocal experience.”

See more at oliviasalvadori.com, mara-palena.com, models.com/people/francesca-izzi, giorgiabaschirotto.tumblr.com