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Carly Paoli

The voice of an angel

British soprano Carly Paoli talks to Lisa Marks about her Italian heritage, her love of Judy Garland and her new role as an ambassador for jewellery brand FOPE. 

Carly Paoli is known around the world for captivating audiences with her angelic voice and heartfelt performances. Born and raised in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, the 35-year-old’s meteoric rise to musical stardom has been marked by her passion and unwavering commitment to her craft. 

She was called “the voice of an angel” by Pope Francis after she sang for the Pontiff during his Jubilee year at the Vatican, and has performed with many contemporary greats including Andrea Bocelli, Elaine Paige, Aled Jones and Alfie Boe. 

 But mention Judy Garland and her eyes light up. In 2020, she performed a tribute to the Hollywood legend as part of BBC Radio’s 2 iconic Sunday Night is Music Night series at the London Palladium. The Wizard of Oz star was a huge inspiration to young Carly and this set her on the road to show business. 

“I became captivated with Judy through the MGM Hollywood musicals. Mum introduced me to the film Meet Me in St. Louis when I was around five or six,” she recalls. “It’s still my absolute favourite. Judy was one of those iconic singers who was able to tell a story through song, and whatever she sang she seemed to have an ability to make it her own. She put her heart and soul into everything she did.” 

“Growing up, music was always part of the household and it was something that was meant for sharing. It was a joy.”

                  – Carly Paoli

Carly Paoli FOPE ambassador

Carly’s Anglo-Italian mother, Tina, her father, Paul, and her wider family in Puglia were also supportive during her early career and have played a huge role in Carly’s development as a performer. She joined the Stagecoach Theatre Arts drama, music and dance school in Southwell, near her home in Mansfield, where a vocal coach noticed her natural talent. She was advised to take private singing lessons, and after a few years at Tring Park School in Hertfordshire, Carly landed a scholarship to the Royal Northern College of Music. But while all her training was in Britain, her dual heritage loomed large through her childhood. 

 Carly says: “I was sort of in two worlds. I was living in Mansfield but would spend my summers in Italy. I was 14 when my grandfather took me to a fiesta. It was a three-day festival that’s also a religious occasion, and I performed Ava Maria a capella in church for the whole community. It was just something I did, and I understand now how fantastic it was as a young artist to be able to have that experience.” It was this song that she performed for Pope Francis in 2016 to such great acclaim.  

Carly Paoli performing with theatrical director and pianist Jae Alexander at the Crazy Coqs cabaret in Soho, London, April 2024.

Having been immersed in music from such a tender age herself, Carly is keen for younger generations to find classical music. “For me, it’s about finding ways to make it more accessible and relatable,” she says. “It’s lovely when you can translate a piece of Italian music into English because all of a sudden people think, ‘I can hear that it’s passionate, but now I know why it’s passionate.’” 
The soprano, who is now based in Wiltshire, says that one of her goals is to move people with song. She visits schools to perform and talk about her music and is often touched by the reaction from children to her voice. “I remember one boy in particular who was autistic. He had a conversation with me afterwards about how he was going to get his grandfather to laminate my autograph,” she says. “It was really special. The teachers later told me he doesn’t talk to people, especially strangers.”

The Movie Collection features 13 songs, chosen by Carly from some of her favourite movies plus abonus song from musical theatre.

Carly Paoli The Movie Collection

Thrillingly, Carly was recently announced as an ambassador for the Italian jewellery brand FOPE. “I love the ethos of the brand, and that it was founded in 1929 and still owned by the same family,” says Carly. “FOPE celebrates great Italian jewellery craftsmanship. They built upon that foundation to create what are considered pieces of art that are still relevant to today. But they’ve maintained their original traditions. That resonates with me as an artist because that’s something I try to do, much like we were discussing earlier about making classical music more accessible.” 

Carly has released five albums to date, her most recent, The Movie Collection, came out last year. With so much experience already under her belt the singer says she wants to write more.

“Some of my most rewarding moments have been seeing my words and my thoughts brought to life in song and being able to perform them is the icing on the cake.”

                       – Carly Paoli

Carly Paoli FOPE ambassador

A busy remainder of the year awaits. She is performing at a few events connected to the 80th anniversary of D-Day in June, has upcoming shows with the fabulous Fulltone Orchestra, Aled Jones and Gareth Dafydd Morris, and is set to support tenor Boe on his UK tour.  

With such a busy life, there’s barely a moment to take a breath but Carly is determined to find time to visit her home in Italy and catch up with family — and is set to perform at the famous basilica in historic Galatina near Puglia. It will be a joyful experience because the region is her “happy place”.  

“Puglia has always been where I spend my downtime, and there are people I know there who have been my friends since childhood. The food is fantastic, there’s a real community spirit and a lovely rhythm of life,” she says. “I’m proud of my Italian heritage, but I’m equally proud of my British roots, as well as coming from Mansfield.” 

Opening image: Carly Paoli wears FOPE Eka gold Flex’it chokers, Panorama You ring and Flex’it gold bracelets with diamonds. Barbour waistcoat and shirt.
First image in an interview: Carly wears Fope Super Eka diamond earrings and necklace, Panorama Flex’it white gold and diamond ring, and Panorama and Super Eka diamond bracelets. Huishan Zhang dusty pink gown.
Last image in interview: Carly Paoli wears FOPE Eka gold Flex’it chokers, Panorama You ring and Flex’it gold bracelets with diamonds. Barbour waistcoat and shirt. Holland Cooper trousers. House of Bruar boots.
Photographer: Catherine Harbour. Stylist: Karl Willett.

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