“I have always loved fairy tales. Everyone told me that I had my head in the clouds, that fairy tales do not exist; then as a young girl I decided that, if it ever was possible, I would prove that they were wrong, and so I did”.
Isabelle Adriani, Federica Federici’s stage name, not only has demonstrated that fairy tales do exist but made her own life a fairy tale. Deep expert in myths and legends, passion that is the fil rouge of her entire personal and professional life, Isabelle is an eclectic and talentfull artist, voice actress, journalist, writer, melodic and opera whistler.
Certainly an out of ordinary person who has turned her passions and incredible talents into a wonderful masterpiece to share with the whole world.
In knowing Isabelle it is not difficult to imagine her as the protagonist of the Brothers Grimm or Andersen’s fairy tales, like if her figure was emerging from the pages of books with an ancient and indefinite charm, heroine of her own story, drawing by the pens of writers from a fantasy that has no border.
Solar, gritty, stubborn, in love with life and its many facets, Isabelle shows every day that believing in one’s dreams is a duty towards oneself and that realizing them is possible; that knowing how to live the subtle and delicate balance between reality and fantasy makes one’s life an adventure worthy of the best stories, where sometimes happen incredible things, we could also say fairytales.
by Claudia Mele
Isabelle Adriani, three words that describe you.
Book lover nerd, eclectic, fairy-tale.
When did your passion for the world of fairy tales begin? What led you to write a thesis on this topic?
I have always loved fairy tales because they represented an important moment of sharing with my father; he is a doctor, in the evening he came home late and, to make us fall asleep, he told my sister and me the tales of the Grimm brothers from Andersen, Calvino and Rodari. Growing up I fell in love with it more and more.
Everyone told me that I had my head in the clouds, that fairy tales do not exist; then as a young girl I decided that, if it ever was possible, I would prove that they were wrong, and so I did. I graduated with a thesis entitled “The Fairy Tale DNA” – which is also the title of my outgoing anthology, on the story of the fairy tales –; for over twenty years I have studied the most ancient historical sources of myths and legends to compare them, then, with the classic fairy tales of the modern era, finding many similarities, as well as “The True Story of Cinderella” on which I wrote essays and novels.
I will never stop studying the historical origin of fairy tales because I have always thought that fairy tales are metaphors of life: if Cinderella exists in more than 300 version all over the world, this means the fairy tales become an instrument of peace, able to overcome differences, distances, colors, languages and status. I believe that fairy tales are an important source of teaching and hope, which is part of the heritage of all of us. Still today I continue my collection of ancient books of fairy tales and mythology; I am writing two books, one on history and one of classic fairy tales and I am the narrator voice of the classic fairy tales for Rai Radio Kids.
What do you like most about your acting job?
The fact that I can tell stories not only by writing them but also by living them through a character and therefore giving the public emotions (possibly positive), which is the ultimate goal of entertainment.
Is there a role to which you are particularly attached?
It is customary to say that the last film is always the best, and perhaps it is so. I am certainly very attached to the role of Maria Landi in the film Infidel, to be released in September, with Jim Caviezel under the direction of Cyrus Nowrasteh. In the film I am a co-star, playing the role of a journalist, actually an undercover secret agent, who in the end… well, I will not reveal the end!
Do you have an anecdote that you want to share with us?
Of course! During the filming of the last scene of the film in Amman, Jordan, I had to co-pilot a helicopter, to be precise a 4-seater Little Bird. Jim Caviezel for gallantry, helped me get into the cockpit; unfortunately I hit my head and had to turn the whole scene a little dizzy and bleeding. I did not say anything not to ruin the shooting, which was very complex, but I practically co-piloted a helicopter with a lot of wounds… a real 007 agent! Despite all this, the director was enthusiastic, so all right!
Melodic and opera whistler. Certainly not usual.
Usual no! I remember that Wikipedia created a category specifically for me: the category “Isabelle Adriani” as there was no whistlers one.
How do you become an opera whistler?
Actually you can whistle almost everything, but the opera is my passion and I specialized in opera whistle and soundtracks from films and fairy tales. In addition, the melodies of the opera go well with the long and melancholic notes and I believe that in the end it is a very special sound…
How did you discover your talent which then turned into work?
I was seven years old and I loved my grandfather, also a doctor like my father. One day he fell seriously ill, hospitalized he could not listen to his beloved opera. I thought that I certainly could not sing it, but that perhaps… I could whistle it!
It was my grandfather who taught me to whistle. So I locked myself in the room for days listening only to La Bohème by Puccini and La Traviata by Verdi; I learned all the best arias and, as soon as I returned to the hospital, I whistled them.
For some fortunate reason, my grandfather recovered. I was small and then I tied his healing to my whistle, believing it to be magical and capable of healing people. Obviously it’s not something I believe in anymore; but I remember with emotion that Bernardo Bertolucci himself, one evening at dinner with Richard Gere, hearing me play Turandot told me that one could die happy after listening to my whistle. It made me very happy! Even today I often do concerts around the world for great characters (including Al Pacino, Nicole Kidman, Spike Lee, Woody Allen, etc…), they tell me that certain notes make them feel better, even happy, or that they touch them. Who knows if it’s true… my whistle certainly does not hurt!
Fairy tale expert, writer, journalist, actress, voice actress, melodic whistler. Among all these, is there a prevailing soul or do they merge to express themselves in their totality?
Well yes, there is one that is absolutely prevalent over the others. I have acted in dozens of films and on many stages, I have written over ten storybooks and storical novels and countless columns in newspapers and magazines, I have booed for the big Hollywood stars and traveled the world… Maybe one day I will be able not to act more, neither whistling, writing or dubbing films and cartoons, but I will never stop studying the historical origins of fairy tales and legends and the mythology linked to the origins of human.
Telling fairy tales online to children and young people, a project born during the quarantine. What is this experience giving you? Do you think to carry on the project even beyond the current situation?
Yes, I work as a video volunteer for CSV Emilia as part of the “All Inclusive Sport” project with children with disabilities. Initially I was the one who told the tales, now we tell them together! I try to convey to them what I learned in acting, mime, singing and dance schools, at least as far as possible via video. For example, I try to teach them to make the voices of the various characters, as in dubbing, or to create beautiful costumes even just with crepe paper and Christmas ribbons, and then we mimic words and emotions together. They are wonderful children, we have a lot of fun and I can not wait to hug them when it will be finally possible.
What do you bring from Italy when you live in the United States?
Storybooks, spaghetti and my computer for writing. But above all, the wonderful cultural and artistic heritage that belongs to the DNA of all Italians and that I feel as a great and profound responsibility.
Interview by Claudia Mele
Who is Isabelle Adriani
Graduated in History with a thesis on “Fairy Tale DNA”, Isabelle Adriani is a scholar and expert on fairy tales and their historicals origins; she has published a dozens of books from which she’s preparing a TV series in collaboration with the American producer Mark Wolper. She speaks five languages: english, french, german, spanish and italian.
As an actress, she has worked in more than 30 Italian and international films, with actors of the caliber of George Clooney, Penelope Cruz, Jim Caviezel, Sean Bean, John Cusack, Ryan Phillippe, Milla Jovovich and Jacki Weaver; in Italy, with Checco Zalone, Luca Argentero and many others in a dozen TV Series, from Don Matteo to Distretto di Polizia, from Commissario Manara to Capri 3.
Next starring film out with Jim Caviezel entitled Infidel directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh. In this movie, Isabella plays the role of an undercover spy. She will be Antonella in the new Amazon Princess Mafia series.
For Rai, she’s the Voice of Classics Fairy Tales and Fairy Tales from the World of Rai Radio Kids.
As a voice actress she lent her voice to the protagonist of the Ice Age, the baby mammoth Peaches, to Jeanette di Alvin Superstar and to the Pirate Fairy, protagonist of Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy by Disney.
She is a professional journalist.
She wrote and produced with Count Vittorio Palazzi Trivelli the Docufilm Open Quantum Relativity on the time machine and the documentary The Secrets of Wadi Rum.
Also known as a melodic and opera whistler, she has released two music album entitled Tribute and To Movies With Love; the latter is also the name of her series of paintings dedicated to cinema exhibited at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles and New York.
During the quarantine, began a collaboration with CSV Emilia connecting every week with some families that join All Inclusive Sport, a project aimed at including disabled children and young people in sports clubs. To these children, Isabelle tells the fairy tales using her collection of old books and fairy tale characters.
On the occasion of the 62 years of the founding of the Houses of Charity, she read to hundreds of people in live connection The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
She is currently writing a historical essay about the history of fairy tales. Isabelle Adriani lives between Italy and the United States.
Translated by Céline Alcala
Cover image by Céline Nieszawer