By Mattia Marzi
The room where it welcomes us, is in a Roman house, its walls painted with photographs. In one of these, black and white, it looks beyond the lens of the camera. "It's beautiful, is it not? I've took it at Abruzzo, I did not even set it up ..." she remembers.
To many people she is known as "the voice of 'Once Upon a Time in the West". " Which is a bit ridiculous: because although the collaboration with Master Ennio Morricone and the soundtracks in general has played an important part of her activity, Mrs. Edda Dell'Orso's career - the real name Edda Sabatini - has not remained confined to film music.
Born in Genoa in 1935, the singer was able to collaborate with great masters such as Morricone, Piero Piccioni, Marcello Giombini, Roberto Pregadio, Bruno Nicolai, Luis Bacalov, Armando Trovajoli and Piero Umiliani. She was also able to participate in recordings of - among others - Chico Barque de Hollanda, Claudio Baglioni, Fabrizio De André and Francesco De Gregori.
Today Mrs. Dell'Orso is 83 years old and continues to make music. Among the latest projects she has participated in there is also Danger Mouse and a Daniele Luppi album, featuring collaborations with Jack White and Norah Jones, and some polytechnic’s albums Alex Puddu.
She agreed to meet us to retrace some of the most significant milestones in her sixty-year career.
She graduated in 1956 in singing and piano at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, and in 1960 she became a member of the "Cantori Moderni" by Alessandro Alessandroni: with the choir of Alessandroni she was able to participate in the recording of many 45’s and LPs of Italian RCA artists. What do you remember about that time?
There was a musical cooperative to which the masters addressed when they needed musicians, including choreographers. We were called by the cooperative and went to the studio to record. The choir was very demanding: in addition to the films, we participated in the recordings of songs, for 45’s and LPs. That was how it worked: first they recorded the orchestra, then the choir, and finally - when it was already - the singer sang. When we the chorus about our parts, the artists listened to us with the director. We often went to RCA, for me it was almost a second home: it was a beautiful atmosphere there, it was the time of songwriters. With the choir I was very good and Alessandroni was a great master
She later sang on several albums of "light music": "For a Fist of Samba" by Chico Buarque de Hollanda, for example, in 1970. The lyrics and music of that album are by Sergio Bardotti and Chico Buarque, the arrangements by Ennio Morricone. Remember who was the producer who called you on that occasion?
Morricone himself called me, he wanted my voice. He was thinking of the orchestra, and the choir.
In the chorus of that album, in addition to her voice are those of the sisters Mia Martini and Loredana Berté. You met them?
No, and I will be honest: I know I've sung with Chico Buarque de Hollanda, but I do not remember this record ...
In the same year she participated in the recordings of a song by Claudio Baglioni's first eponymous album, released when the Roman songwriter who was not yet famous. The track is "The Silence of Love" and the arranger was Ruggero Cini. Do you have any memory related to that song or that experience?
I do not have any special stories to tell. Let's put it this way: I loved singing and I was just thinking about music: my goal was to sing. I went to the studio when they called me, I adjusted to my part, that's enough. Sometimes I was listening to how the recording was in the director’s room, often there were the other artists. But what came next did not interest me: I did not even listen to the disks ....
Always in 1970 Nicola Piovani called her to sing in Fabrizio De André's "No Money, Not Love or Sky" album, whose producers were Roberto Dané and Sergio Bardotti. The record ends with her voice singing in "The Player Jones": after the concluding sentence of De André, "and not a regret", there are her vocalization ...
They told me about the track with De Gregori ...
"Le strade di lei", one of the songs contained in the album "Alice Does Not Know": it was in 1973.
De Gregori was not very famous yet. But even in this case I have no special memories. I repeat, I went to the studio to record my part and that was just enough. It has to be said then that in those years I had worked with several musicians and remembering them all is really impossible.
She sang a song with words only once: the song was "Liebeslied" for the soundtrack of Roberto Faenza's "My Dear Glossary" a movie from 1990. The movie was in costume and Morricone decided to write a musical inspiration to Schubert. The song she sings, accompanied by piano by Morricone, is written by an Austrian author and so the words are in German. Do you remember it? How did you get it with the German language?
I do have good memories of that experience. Singing in German was not difficult, because as a child, when I was in Venice, my father took me to classes with an Austrian professor. That project gave me double satisfaction: it allowed me to sing with words and not with vocals, as I always did, and sing in German. "Liebeslied" is a song that I really enjoy.
About vocalization: Some songs you have vocalized and also have versions with sung texts, such as "Have Dinner Tonight" and "Diabolik". And also a song from "Once Upon a Time in the West", sung by Céline Dion. What do you think about those voice interpretations entrusted to other voices?
It's not up to me to judge, but those songs were born to be played with vocalization ...
In 1974, Mireille Mathieu recorded Morricone's themes in French with vocalizations (the album was "Mireille Mathieu Sings Ennio Morricone", published by Polydor). On that occasion you worked with the French singer, right?
Yes: I remember Morricone sending Mireille to me to teach her to sing the pieces, the melody.
In that time she worked in the theater and sang songs by Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich. How do you remember that period?
It was a very nice time. I worked theater with Salvatore Martino. He called me to sing at some shows he had reduced to two characters, one played by him and the other by me. I had never played before, if they were not considered small. And thanks to that show I could sing beautiful songs: not only Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich, but also Theodōrakīs. There was the piano on the stage: arrangements were made by my husband Giacomo.
What can you tell us about the album "Edda's Classical Machine: In Homage to Ennio Morricone", released in 1983 and made with Fabio Marchei?
That disk was requested from Germany. The arrangements are of my husband, kind of disco music. And that Fabio Marchei is "fake" ...
Fake? Yet his name appears in the credits of the album, and there is also the cover on it ...
The story: those in the record company said that to sell the record, since I was not very young, it wanted a counterpart. They chose him because he was beautiful. But Fabio Marchei did not participate in any of the album recordings. He did come when they called me to attend the broadcast of Raffaella Carrà, "Pronto Raffaella", with guest Ennio Morricone. I would have to sing a song of that record, in the play: Marchei pretended to play. He had been specifically called for the image ...
In 2011 she collaborated with the "Rome" project of the producers Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, who recorded an album inspired by the world of the Spaghetti western and master Ennio Morricone. Do you own that disc?
No, I have nothing to do with the exception of "Edda's Classical Machine: an Homage to Ennio Morricone," because I sing all over the disk, the artist is me. In the other cases, if there was anything I liked doing, I'd make recordings, to listen to them at home. However, about the project with Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi: they called Alessandro Alessandroni with his choir, the "old" Cantors, gathered for this occasion.
And how did you find you old colleagues?
We had never lost sight of each other, even though we had not sung together: it was great to go back to work in the studio. After the choir's work, then, Master Luppi asked me to record parts as a soloist.
In 2014 she recorded 14 tracks for the album "Recordings in the Dark" by the musician Alex Puddu, a Roman musician with a past as a DJ, specializing in dance-funk and "salsoul" and sincere passionate about all the soundtracks of Italian cinema of the ‘70s. And again, in 2016, she sang three songs in Puddu's album "The Eye of the Cat": the three songs sung by her are orchestrated by her husband Giacomo Dell'Orso. What do you remember about this experience?
Puddu lives in Copenhagen: I met him in 2014 in Milan. His record company managed to get in touch with my husband's brother, Gianni, who has a publishing company, and through him they came to me. He called me to ask me to record a disc, he liked my voice. Then the collaboration came about: by the end of the year we will record another record.
Mrs. Dell'Orso, offered her voice to the scores of the greatest Italian composers of soundtracks: Armando Trovajoli, Piero Piccioni, Stelvio Cipriani, Bruno Nicolai, Ennio Morricone, Piero Umiliani, Marcello Giombini, Roberto Pregadio and Stefano Torossi. Apart from Nino Rota (who did not use solo voices) and Riz Ortolani (who used his wife Katina Ranieri), is there someone she would like to have worked with but did not happen to her?
I've worked with everyone and I'm very happy with this. What to ask for better? I did not have a great career in mind: I just wanted to sing.
In an interview, she said, "It also happened that Morricone wanted me to sing a song instead of the usual vocals, and I loved singing songs, especially the American standards!" Morricone replied in this way: "Madam, if you sing the songs you become one of many, so remain the only one!" Do you think Morricone was right?
Probably yes. And I will always be grateful to Morricone, I owe everything to him: he had the intuition to use my voice as a tool. But the story is a thing: many years ago, when Joan Baez came out, I remember that RCA made me sing, without telling me anything, some of her songs. If I remember, they were bad Italian translations of her songs. In the studio there was also Ennio Morricone. In my opinion, RCA had a blueprint for a solo singer-it was a way to understand if my voice was working with the singing. But then nothing was done any more: they obviously realized that my peculiarity was vocalization.
Is there some Italian song you would like to sing? Can you think of some titles?
I think of American standards. I would have liked to sing those songs and once I did. In the late 1980s I was able to organize a small concert in the theater of a Roman music school I taught, where I sang American standards: it gave me a lot of satisfaction, it was a challenge I wanted to get away with.
Which Italian singers of the 60's and 70's did you like?
Mina. Mina was the best. She had a personality that the others did not have and a crazy voice. I do not even know if she studied: they say no ...
And what do you study is important?
It depends on what you have to do. To sing songs maybe not, but if one wants to write lyrics you have to study, there is much to do. I only studied a lyrical song for a year: my teacher did not set my voice lyrically; I cannot say I'm a soprano, but he taught me breathing technique, the basics. I think my voice is quite natural, not lyrical.
And do you know some Italian singers today?
I do not really follow contemporary music. But I think Giorgia is a good singer, just like Pausini. What I miss, however, are the songs. Beautiful songs and beautiful melodies ...