carly paoli fope

Hitting the high notes: Classical singer Carly Paoli talks on-stage style and teaming up with FOPE

08 May 2024 | Updated on: 07 May 2024 |By Annie Lewis

Praised by Pope Francis as having ‘the voice of an angel’, Carly Paoli is certainly one to watch – and 2024 will be her biggest year yet

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Carly Paoli is no stranger to the spotlight. Having started classical singing at the age of seven, and now with performances for the likes of the Pope, King Charles and Queen Camilla under her belt, the versatile soprano is at her most comfortable on stage with a microphone in hand. She’s regularly trod the boards of some of the world’s biggest stages – as well as at the Roman Forum and St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican – but even she admits that her career trajectory still feels surreal. “I still pinch myself sometimes, thinking how far I’ve travelled and where I’ve come from because it did start with a big dream,” she says, grinning. 

Born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, Paoli is a self-proclaimed “Northern lass” who splits her time between the UK and her second home-from-home in southern Italy. With Italian roots via her maternal grandfather, she recalls spending every summer in the Apulian city of Lecce, surrounded by musical aunts and uncles and performing at local fiestas where she first sang Italian church music. 

Fast forward to today, and 2024 is shaping up to be a big year for Paoli, as she goes on tour with The Fulltone Orchestra across England and Wales, performs as part of the Royal British Legion D-Day 80 remembrance service, and appears alongside Alfie Boe during his summer tour of the UK. But, music aside, one of her most exciting engagements this year is a new ambassadorship for Italian heritage jewellery brand FOPE. Best known for its innovative approach to creating 18-carat gold jewellery, Paoli will be sporting a range of FOPE’s exquisite gold pieces throughout her tour, as well as hosting a small number of private concerts with the brand’s VIP clients.  

“I love the elegance and versatility of FOPE,” says Paoli. “It is jewellery I can wear all day,  every day and yet still stands out as unique statement pieces on a performance stage. I love  the effortless elegance of the necklaces on a gown but then the same necklace on a simple  black polo creates a statement and the look and feel of quiet luxury.” Here, we chat with Paoli about her humble beginnings, career highlights and signature on-stage style. 

How did you start your musical career?

I’ve sung since as far back as I can remember. My parents always say if they had a pound for every time they told me to shut up, they’d be very wealthy. When I was about five or six, my mum introduced me to Hollywood musicals and I discovered the likes of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, who have gone on to be huge inspirations for me in the kind of music I love to perform. I always had this voice bigger than my body, it took me a long time to grow into my sound. At seven my mum took me to Stagecoach and I took part in acting, dance and drama classes. I was only there for a few weeks before the singing coach took my mum to one side and said, “I think your daughter has got a great voice and I would love to work with her privately”. She brought me on leaps and bounds.

From the beginning, it was always a classical sound. We’re all born with unique voices but I always had that classical engagement when I started to sing. Now, I perform an eclectic list of music from opera to musical theatre but I still like to go back to the days of the Hollywood musicals, and that’s certainly what my last album paid tribute to.

Tell me about your Italian heritage.

My grandfather was from Puglia. I grew up in Mansfield but my summers were spent in the south of Italy, known for fantastic weather, beautiful beaches and, I am biased, but I would say the best food in Italy too. It’s a really wonderful place to be and it’s where a lot of my family are from and they’re extremely musical, which was such a huge benefit for me. I now have a house right on the heel of Italy, meaning I can see Albania and Corfu on a clear day, but, in the village where my grandfather came from, we had an apartment next to my aunts, uncles and cousins who all played instruments. After big lunches, everybody would get their instruments out and it became a very noisy house.

It was my grandfather and uncle who took me at about 14 to my first big fiesta. In these small villages, life revolves around the Catholic church calendar, and every village has a big festival which starts in the church. I remember performing Ave Maria, and the fiesta would start from there; so during my summers from a very early age, I was performing. It was a great experience for a young artist.

How does your day-to-day jewellery differ to that you wear on stage?

I have known about FOPE for a long time given I’ve spent so much time in Italy. A big element of what I do as an artist is the fashion element. I think about the concert, the occasion and the atmosphere, and choosing the right gown and the right jewellery plays a big part in that. What I found with FOPE is that it’s very versatile; the pieces I wear in the day can be added to or stacked differently. They do collections in all varieties of gold, which is unique, and they have some fantastic diamond-set pieces which are so light-catching on stage – that’s what I like to wear while performing, as well as at red carpet events.

I’m an earring person and I’d usually pair earrings and bracelets with rings. But if it’s a real statement necklace, then I might leave the earrings at home. There’s some fantastic FOPE gold necklaces that just absolutely transform a black polo neck, and it’s a lovely finishing touch to make something so chic.

How does it feel to know that people like the Pope and King Charles listen to your music?

I’m blessed to have an amazing family around me who inherited my dreams and supported me. It’s lovely to know anybody listens to your music and feels moved by it. I grew up completely immersed in music and I was captivated by actresses on stage, but also the likes of Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion, and the fact that people can move you in that way. There’s such a nostalgic element to music and it can whisk you away to the first time you heard it. While performing for Pope Francis and His Majesty King Charles is very fulfilling and a huge honour, I like to think I’ve inspired a young artist in some way too.

Who do you count as a style icon?

I am an old soul and, like a lot of people who love fashion, I love to look at Audrey Hepburn photos and see the graceful way she seems to captivate the screen. In today’s world, I could look at what Zendaya is wearing all day; I think she’s one of those people that, despite what they put her in, she can pull it off.

My mum loves fashion as much as I do. It’s our guilty pleasure. We spend a lot of time looking at what I will wear on stage. My grandmother was a great seamstress so back in the early days she would make lots of my costumes with sequins and feather boas.

Who would be your dream duet partner?

That’s a hard one. I have performed with my original dream duet partner David Phelps; we recorded a song together on my last album, Carly Paoli and Friends. He’s got one of the most sublime tenor voices. We had to record remotely, so he sent his recording in from Nashville – it was Frankie Laine’s I Believe which is such a beautiful song that transcends time with an ever-relevant message. That was one of my special moments.

Otherwise, it’s lovely to sing with lots of different people. I love Latin music so I’d like to duet with Marc Anthony. That’s probably an unusual suggestion but I love salsa.

Tell me about one of your career highlights.

The thing that stands out the most, because it couldn’t happen again, is that my song was adopted for Pope Francis’ Jubilee in 2016. It was a modern Ave Maria, with English, Italian and Latin text, and I first performed it at a UNICEF concert at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome where the Three Tenors first premiered together in 1990. I performed there and a representative of the Pope was in the audience, and within a few weeks, they asked if they could use this song which took me on the most incredible journey. The grand finale of that year was performing in the Roman Forum, which is a great UNESCO site – you’re essentially in an open-air museum that’s been turned into an arena – and that night was absolutely magical as I opened and closed the concert. I can still remember that feeling of looking out onto Ancient Rome – it was bliss.

Just last year, that journey came full circle because I was asked to perform at the Vatican for the Pope’s humanitarian concert. That was in front of St Peter’s Basilica in broad daylight so I was singing into Vatican square, which was really special.

Discover more about FOPE by visiting the London flagship store at 1A Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4PA. Visit