The Italian mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona has become a prominent singer in the bel canto repertory, specializing in the travesti or cross-dressing roles in Rossini's operas. As her career has developed, she has added music as far forward as the verismo period to her repertory.
Barcellona was born in Trieste, Italy, on March 28, 1969. She studied piano at the conservatory there, but switched to opera under the teaching of conductor Alessandro Vitiello, whom she married in 1998. Unusually, he has been her only voice teacher, and he has even composed her vocal ornaments, which singers use to distinguish themselves in the early bel canto repertory. Barcellona made her debut in 1993 in La tragédie de Carmen, director Peter Brook's adaptation of Bizet's opera, but most of her other early roles were in Italian opera, including an appearance as Cinderella in Rossini's La cenerentola in Genoa in 1997. Her first major travesti role was as Tancredi in Rossini's opera of the same name at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pessaro in 1998. She has gone on to play similar roles at La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Salzburg Festival, the Royal Opera House in London, and other top venues. By the early 2000s, Barcellona was an international star. She sang Verdi's Requiem with the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado in 2001, and that year performed at a Metropolitan Opera season-opening gala in New York in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Another season opener in 2002, at La Scala, was the first of a number of appearances Barcellona has made under conductor Riccardo Muti; under Muti she sang in a performance of Verdi's Requiem celebrating the composer's 200th birthday with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2013. Barcellona has performed a series of roles at the Rossini Opera Festival, including Malcom (2001), Falliero (2005), Ottone (2006), Calbo (2008), and Sigismondo (2010). Her repertory since the mid-2000s has broadened, including other bel canto composers, Baroque opera (she has worked with top historical-performance conductors Fabio Biondi and Ottavio Dantone), and, increasingly often, the operas of Verdi. She has ventured back into French opera, singing Berlioz's Les Troyens in 2011 and 2012, and into verismo with the role of Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, but has continued to sing the Rossini roles that made her famous. Barcellona has been recorded many times, and in 2018 she was heard as Arsace in perhaps the most difficult of Rossini's travesti roles, in his final Italian opera, Semiramide, in a groundbreaking, historically oriented performance on the Opera Rara label.