Alice, now that’s living

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This article is published in number 10 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until March 9, 2021

What do I call her, Carla or Alice?
“But nothing changes for me, call me whatever you like.”

The foot on which the interview starts is not exactly what a journalist would call right. But only in appearance. The attempt to establish a sort of instant intimacy, albeit mediated by hundreds of kilometers away and by a telephone that seems, with its rustling, to increase the kilometers tenfold, or at least of artificial confidence, would seem to be cut short in the bud.

And, instead, that of Carla Bissi, in art Alice, it is only an analysis, as concise as it is honest, of what she knows she is today: a woman who adheres perfectly to the artist she has brought on stage for fifty years. And viceversa. Without smudges, divergences, differences.
“They are just names, which correspond to the same person. The separations are made by others, certainly not me ».

It was February 7, 1981: exactly 40 years since his victory at the Sanremo Festival with Per Elisa.
«Sanremo was a crucial episode in my artistic life, but also personal. A watershed. It is a moment that I remember with joy, but it remains only a moment of a much greater journey. There have been others with a heavier weight, at least compared to my expectations ».

What was your life like before, and what was it like after?
“Perhaps, in reality, the real artistic turning point had already been, with the album North Cape of 1980 which contained The hot summer wind, my first collaboration with Franco Battiato. With Sanremo it was my popularity that really changed. From the day after the victory I have not been able to live a… normal life ».

Popularity. Was it something he knew he wanted?
“No, especially not that kind of popularity. I have benefited immensely from it, but in some way I can say that I have also suffered it. It was the classic golden prison. I would have wanted something… calmer ».

She escaped from it. Today she gives herself little or nothing to TV, she lives in the Friulian countryside, a bit far from everything …
«I wanted to go back to what corresponds to me, to experience music in the way that is most congenial to me, trying to mediate with the recording needs. There, evidently, there were some problems along the way ».

Have you reached a balance from this point of view?
«Yes: every choice brings with it consequences. I accepted them all, and I found my sense of making music, of communicating. And to live. Why do you see that things are not separate. Life is one”.

Alice (real name Carla Bissi, 66) on the Ariston stage in 1981. She had already competed at the Festival in 1972, and will return in 2000 with Independence day.

Perhaps this was what Tiziano Ferro meant when he defined it as “an emblem of style and integrity”.
“He exaggerated”.

Are you happy with your choices, and their consequences?
«I’m not happy, more. Could I complain about what I did, about the meetings, even the interruptions, when there were any? Everything went right. Also the ways in which I related to the public. Did I have something to say? I said it. If not, I was silent ».

The ultimate form of wisdom.
“It would be appropriate to behave like this, in general. But today’s media feeds superficiality: words are expressed without real awareness. And when there is, there is often also malice ».

1981 goes down in history as the year of Sanremo’s rebirth, after a not exactly exciting period. How do you remember him?
“The tension, I remember the tension. Ariston was cut into slices. I went back there for a concert after a year and a half, and I still felt it impregnated. It is the thing that bothered me the most: it was as if the accumulation of general anxiety had become matter, dense and palpable ».

A black hole of nervousness.
«I returned to the competition in 2000, and then in 2018 as a guest of Ron for a duet, and it was different, joyful. It is people who determine the atmosphere in an environment. Or maybe, then, you get used to it. Certainly in those years there I was always tense: getting on stage, for me, was hard. There was the fear of not being up to par. I worked a lot on myself, to overcome those obstacles, which were all and only within me. Useless tensions which, God willing, are no more ».

What do you call this reached state?
“Awareness, individual growth. Maturity? But it doesn’t have to do with age. Maybe it was enough to be adults ».

When did you become an adult?
“Have I become? I do not know. The process began many years ago. In 1999, I would say. When I realized the dream of my life: to sing in churches and basilicas. For me singing has always been something very high, like a prayer. I did a research on the sacred in music that made it onto the album God Is My DJ. Here, the miracle happened there. (laughs) A great liberation ».

Did you think you could win that Festival?
«I thought Loretta Goggi would win. Cursed spring, like Per Elisa, it is still sung today ».

Do you remember who was in the race?
«Dario Baldan Bembo, if I remember correctly. And then…?”.

Then De Crescenzo with Yet, the Rich and the poor with It will be because I love you. Unforgettable songs. Do you remember a song from the last Festival?
“No, I haven’t followed him for years. It’s a form of entertainment that bores me. I find that the music that is offered to you does not totally correspond to what it could be. The bar could be raised a little, but instead… ».

I take it that he won’t even look at it this year.
«He deduces well. But maybe an eye then I’ll throw it ».
The fact remains that we don’t remember the most recent songs.
«The question is not the Festival, but Italian music. Once upon a time, technology could not help those without talent. Today it helps everyone. For those who really have the skills it is more difficult to emerge than the invasion of proposals ».

She succeeded thanks to an original style: it can be defined that of Per Elisa avant-garde pop?
“Oh my God, that’s a little bit risky. It was a sui generis pop rock ».

In concert: a picture of the tour I travel to italy, of 2018. Here Alice stops at the Fabbri Theater in Forlì, the town where she was born.

In his career he recorded Erik Satie and Gabriel Fauré, but he also participated in the Festivalbar: a musical range that few can boast in Italy.
«I owe a lot, perhaps everything, to the meetings I had and the proposals that came to me. They opened my vision, they made me confront my most real possibilities. I have always tried to go further, to space, to measure myself with what I did not know. I thank the many people who told me: go, don’t be afraid ».

He knows that in Sanremo 2013, Emma and Annalisa sang Per Elisa in the evening dedicated to the covers?
“They told me, but I haven’t seen them.”

Is there an artist of the new generation in which you glimpse something of the Alice’s grit of 1981?
“I’ve never paused to think of such a thing. And why should I do it, then? ».

Reformulation: a young Italian singer that you like?
“But that’s another question. (long silence) The truth is that I don’t have the tools to be able to answer. I don’t listen to Italian music, I hardly listen to pop anymore ».

Do you exclude going back to the Festival one day?
«In the race, I don’t think about it at all. I’m so distant from a certain kind of interactions. Years pass, my priorities are different: I follow what is most in keeping with my nature ».

A domestic nature.
“But not that much. (laughs) I like living in the middle of nature. But I also like people. I like to live fully, that’s it. And slowly: my rhythms do not accord with those required today ».

For Elisa speaks of jealousy and resentment towards a woman who has taken the man away from her.
“Above all of the dependence that love can generate.”

The text is signed by her and Franco Battiato: whose is this vision of love?
“Franco, as usual, started with the title and the first lines: For Elisa you want to see that you will lose me too. From there the rest arose ».

A rest full of anger. A woman who comes to say of her rival: “Besides, she’s not even beautiful …”.
“But it’s a way of saying, it’s a song.”

Have you ever met an Elisa in your life?
“No, it is not life lived. An author observes what is happening around him, listens to the stories of his friends… ».

According to her friends, do men get plagiarized so easily?
“I am a woman and I spoke of a man, but the point is the emotional dependence to which a certain type of passion can lead. An addiction from which we should learn to emancipate ourselves before it becomes violence ».

It can also be wonderful to depend on the person you love, isn’t it?
(silence) “Well, well, if you like it, that’s fine. But don’t confuse dependence with need ”.

The song has also been interpreted as a metaphor for drug addiction as well.
“It wasn’t born with that meaning, but it’s interesting.”

She declared that she became an author, as an interpreter as she was, out of necessity and desperation. Even?
(laughs) «I said it. When I started making records I was really a little girl, but my tastes were very different from what was imposed on me. One fine day, after having stopped singing twice, I said to myself: now I’ll try, now I’ll write. In the worst case…”.

In the worst case?
“I’ll do some crap! (laughs) It was Battiato who made me understand that I should continue writing ».

Who was Franco Battiato for you and who is he?
«A person who gave me confidence, who made me grow. A man of extraordinary intelligence, sensitivity, generosity, with whom I shared interests of a cultural and spiritual nature. A friend. Nothing to add”.

And what would he say about her?
“That I’m a friend, I think.”

Will you still give me five minutes for three more questions?
“Well, we’ve been talking for an hour …”.

The interview is likely to end as it seemed to have begun: not very well. But again, only in appearance. Alice’s is not roughness. Or of Carla. Rather, perhaps, a light that comes on, at the exact moment in which the artist, who has always preferred her music to speak for her, knows she has told herself enough. Enough compared to “if I have nothing to say, I’ll shut up.”

The last curiosity: does that wonderful striped jacket he wore on the evening of victory keep him?
“But no! (laughs) But do you think he’s wearing a jacket, to do what? The memories I have are within me. I do not attach myself to things: they only remind me of the transience of life ».

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