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Cliff Zammit Stevens: A true passion for his art

Cliff in Concert 2015 - 2 Nick Scicluna (1)

Cliff Zammit Stevens: A name already known to regular tappintomalta readers following Isabel Tapp’s interview with him in September 2015. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Cliff this week during a press conference to announce the dates for his 8th annual solo concert in Malta.

I had done some research about Cliff before heading out to interview him at the Club InterContinental Malta. But one piece of news really surprised me: Cliff is his own concert organiser. That means that not only does he have the pressure to put on a great performance, but he is also the person who ensures that everything goes off without a hitch logistically. Needless to say, the first question I asked Cliff was “Why?”. His answer was simple; “I like a challenge”. However, he did acknowledge that it is becoming increasingly tricky to marry the two sides of the event and be 100% sure of the ultimate aim, his performance.

Photo Credit: Nick Scicluna

Photo Credit: Nick Scicluna

Cliff conceded that, although it has been great taking care of his annual concert from A to Z for the past 8 years, this would have to change soon. With his 10th anniversary concert approaching in 2018, Cliff has some very special plans in store. This will mean him handing over the organisation baton.

When tappintomalta last interviewed Cliff he told us about his ambitions to tread the boards of the great opera houses such as La Scala and the Royal Opera House. I was keen to know if he was any closer to achieving these ambitions. Cliff told me that in his profession “you never know when it’s going to happen. You have to keep working and perfecting your craft to be ready when the opportunities do arise.” This gave me true sense of Cliff’s passion as an artist.

This was compounded by his feelings about reviews. Having read a great review following his performance as Tebaldo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi for the BBC, I asked Cliff how much great accolades and reviews motivate him. “Of course everyone reads reviews” he said. “The good ones really encourage me. However, I equally relish constructive criticism. It helps me to work on the things that I need to improve.”

Anyone listening to Cliff can hear what a beautiful, pure voice he has. There is no doubt that he is an extremely talented tenor.  But operatic performances also call for the ability to act. I wanted to know how naturally that part comes to Cliff. “I attended theatre school from a young age so that really helped me with the skills I need to portray my characters.”

In fact, Cliff believes very strongly in exposing children to the classical arts at a young age. So much so that for this year’s concert he has introduced tickets for children between the ages of 5 and 12 at €15.  I asked him why he thinks this is so important. “Childhood innocence is very special. Opera is often seen as something very elitist among adults. But through their unconditioned viewpoint, children from all backgrounds are often mesmerised by the passion and emotion portrayed in an operatic performance.” Cliff has already performed to an audience of school children in the UK and says that he was impressed by the wonderment and “burst of emotion” that he witnessed from this unique audience.

Photo Credit: Robert Workman

Photo Credit: Robert Workman

The 8th annual Cliff Zammit Stevens concert takes place on Sunday 4th September at 8pm at the historic Pjazza Teatru Rjal in Valletta. Cliff Zammit Stevens in Concert 2016 – brought to you by InterContinental Malta will see the tenor joined by guest soprano Nicola Said, as well as the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of British conductor Mro Philip Walsh.

Tickets can be purchased now on www.ticketline.com.mt.

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