Soprano Luiza Formenius aims to modernise opera with her take on 'The Godfather' theme

The singer records contemporary versions of classic tracks that she hopes will also encourage a younger audience to tune in to the genre

Luiza Formenius's track 'Parla Piu' has been viewed more than half a million times on YouTube. Photo: Luiza Formenius
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An operatic take on a film classic is making waves online.

Parla Piu, a cover of the theme song of 1974 Oscar-winning film The Godfather by soprano Luiza Formenius, has amassed nearly half a million views on YouTube within a week.

With Formenius’s silky vocals backed by a throbbing dance beat, the track also comes with an eye-catching music video, which was shot in Al Madam in Sharjah, a location known for its “Ghost Village”, an abandoned area near the Dubai border.

The feat marks the singer’s biggest triumph to date in a seasoned career that has spanned more than a decade in the UAE.

It also continues Formenius’s mission to recreate modern versions of current and 20th century classic tracks.

Parla Piu is the singer's fourth single, alongside a cover of La Vie En Rose by Edith Piaf and Rebel Bird, a version of the aria L'amour est un oiseau rebelle from George Bizet's 1875 opera Carmen.

Formenius, who lives in Dubai, tells The National she wants to reach a young audience of people who may be turned off by classical music.

“I do this to keep the music relevant in the future,” she says. "There is this battle between traditional and modernity when it comes to classical music and a lot of opera fans are traditionalists.

“Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with that because I love singing the classics, but we need to reach out to the next generation.

“By creating music that mixes both past and future styles, I can hopefully help them to understand the opera tradition.”

Her eclectic career has her well placed to be that guide.

Born in Stockholm to Indian and Romanian parents, she moved to Dubai as a child and grew up to immerse herself in the UAE’s nascent music scene.

Training to be a soprano at 13, she joined a music troupe called Dubai Divas, which has since disbanded, for a series of local shows, before performing musical standards and arias in large auditoriums as a guest of Abu Dhabi’s National Symphony Orchestra.

Formenius recalls these momentous events with a tinge of sadness as they weren’t fully shared by her peers. Being an opera-loving teenager in the UAE didn’t exactly make her popular at school.

"Studying opera wasn't the coolest thing to do, so most of my friends had no idea about what I was really doing," she says.

"They kind of thought that it was dorky and it was partly from there that I had this idea of eventually collaborating and working with artists from the popular music world."

In order to do that, she would sporadically return to her second home in Sweden to record with local talents such as Erik Lewander, who has also produced Parla Piu and Rebel Girl.

"The great thing about the whole collaboration was that I didn't really have to change the way I sing," she says.

"Even though I studied classically and the music is very modern, it all just felt very natural and not forced."

And this is the enduring hallmark of great songwriting.

The fact that songs such as Parla Piu, La Vie En Rose and Rebel Girl can still retain their power, despite being used and remixed ubiquitously for everything from ceremonies to commercials, demonstrates how classical music can still be part of popular conversation.

"What I am trying to do, in my own way, is to be some kind of bridge between these musical generations," Formenius says.

"Young people deserve a chance to really appreciate the beauty of the music if we are open enough to present in a way they are able to appreciate it.

“I am sure this can happen and will continue to do so."

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Updated: August 12, 2022, 9:38 AM
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