Piero’s Secret Weapon by Susan De Bartoli

Episode Two: Piero’s Story
Courtesy of Suzana Gutierrez
Before I begin my story today, I have to first tell Piero how very proud all the fans are of his great achievement in the 2023 New York City Marathon. You had us sitting on the edge of our seats for over four hours on Sunday! We watched you cross the Verrazzano Bridge then make your way through all five boroughs of New York City!
Every time someone spotted you they posted a story!

Courtesy of Dario Mirabile
Dario captured you in Long Island City. You were so happy you made all of us happy!

Courtesy of Piero Barone

Courtesy of Piero Barone
Mile after mile we rooted for you and when you crossed the finish line we all cheered!

Courtesy of Federica “Kika” Fina
And Kika caught you at the finish line!
And what did Piero have to say about this experience?
Months ago I decided to challenge myself on a new adventure, the New York City Marathon. I never imagined it would be so difficult to reach this goal, full of beautiful moments but also the ones where I felt I could easily give up. The feeling when you realize you are a few meters away from the finish line made it all worth it.
I would like to thank all the people who accompanied and supported me in this incredible and unforgettable adventure!
Thanks davidcolgan_coach for the great training plan and thanks to @gianluca.personaltrainer who always believed in me from the very beginning!
Thanks also to @dr.marco.scozzari @danilocamilleri and to all my friends who encouraged me every single day!”
Thank you for giving us a wonderful treat. Can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday!
Now let’s return to our regular story…

No matter what Piero calls his secret weapon. I call Piero, the secret weapon of Il Volo. Piero brings drama to the stage, with his magnificent voice, that never fails to give us show-stop moments. Over the last few years, Piero has extended and expanded that voice into the perfect operatic voice, a voice that is so ready for any opera stage in the world.

In my last story, we left Piero and his grandfather on the road to Stefano Tese’ mother’s house for a piano lesson. But, before we move on to Piero’s Secret Weapon and his classical education, I would not do justice to Piero if I didn’t mention what is closest to Piero’s heart. Let’s join Piero in the countryside….
I am proud to say mine is a real Sicilian family, one of those that on Sundays reunites at the grand house, the grandparent’s house. There are great lunches from the first to the sweets, things so good that you cannot even imagine them. And the saga continues, when summer arrives, and everyone moves to the countryside.
From the time I was one until I was thirteen, I spent every summer at my grandparent’s house. And who was there with me, my grandparents and my great-grandmother Lina (my grandmother’s mother). I swear, they were perhaps the most beautiful days of my life, and I will never forget them.
Piero’s grandfather Pietro, his mother’s father, had made a campaign with his hands. He built it all, the house, the plants, the land, everything.
I could not wait for it to be Saturday morning when we lit the wood burning oven. I went to collect wood around the ground, I helped to light the fire, and I helped to take out the pizza. In addition to pizza, we did “u pani impurnatu”, which is bread baked in the oven. How good it was! It kept that good taste all week. The week passed and the next Saturday we started over again. The bread was beautiful, warm and fragrant. We also made the ‘impanate’ which are rolls of pizza dough with vegetables inside, a typical dish of my area. In short, I ate a lot of good things, and it was visible. (I was really fat.)
(Note: It is most likely that the impanate (empanada in Spanish) was introduced in Piero’s region of Sicily in the 16th century during the Spanish rule of Sicily.)

The ‘campaign’ was also the kingdom of my minicross. I always had a passion for motorcycles and cars. And at age six or seven my father gave me a minicross. It is a cross-country minimoto, but without gears. Why did I tell you that I spent the best time of my life in the country because I was there with my minicross!

Definitely not a minicross!

I have lived the most beautiful adventures in the garden of the Riolo family?

The neighbors in the countryside were the Riolo family. They were the owners of the villa that was right next to Piero’s grandfather’s house. They were the richest family in the country. They lived in Agrigento and since they only came to the villa once a month, the marvelous orchard that surrounded it was practically abandoned.
What was I doing then? I took the minicross, my grandmother would sit on back, and we would get into what we called “a stradella pi ‘Riola”, the road of the Riolo. Their gardens were full of very, beautiful fruits trees. The Riolo’s knew of the raids. My grandmother, Rina, told them that we went to collect the fruit and they gave her permission to do so. My grandfather had worked for Mr. Riolo for many years, and they were family friends. But for me, what was I doing I was going to “steal”, it was a secret.
There were no fences, so you could enter from anywhere. The fact that we entered through the gate in the saddle of the minicross gave me the feeling of really doing something dangerous and secret.
‘Grandma, where are we going?’ I said, even before finishing the road.
‘Lemon trees’ she answered.
‘Here we go!’ And off we go to fill the bag of lemons.
‘Grandma, where are we going now?’
‘Pear trees.’ And off we go to fill the pear bag.
There were peaches, plums, there were fruits of all kinds.
One day, the Riolo’s came to the countryside with us, and they carried a bag of small, round, burgundy fruits. I asked Mr. Riolo, what are these things? I had never seen them before. They tasted very good, very soft, very sweet. They were jujubes.
‘Where did you get them?’ I asked.
‘There are many trees like this,’ Mr. Riolo said. And while Mr. Riolo explained it to me, I already saw myself under the tree picking up the jujubes.
But how did we get the bags home? I put a broomstick on the handlebars of my minicross, we hung the bags on both sides, and we walked.
Also, on the ground were walnuts and prickly pears. We picked up the prickly pears, and then with my great-grandmother we peeled them, she cleaned them without even putting on her gloves, at the end she scraped away the thorns from her hands with the knife, rinsed herself with water, all right.
In the countryside there were almonds. My aunt Lucia, my grandmother’s sister, had them on her land, and in the second half of August she had a “cugliuta di mennule” (almond harvest). There were always two, three huge bags to be shared for the whole family.
Who peeled those almonds? My great-grandmother. Stone fingers, tac, tac, tac. And after who divided the almonds from the skins? I. So, my grandma tac, tac, tac, and I divided. An assembly line!
This was what happened to us in the countryside. They are images that I will never forget.

Now that we’ve listened to Piero’s story about his summers in the countryside it is now time to go back to Piero’s classical education.

So, in my last story about Piero I left him on the road to his piano lesson. So, if you’re Piero, what do you do next to get from that road to the road that leads to stardom? You do what all three guys did! You start by joining a choir.
Let’s listen to what Piero has to say about this first meeting with the choir…
The first thing I find myself in front of these guys who are in a semicircle. I enter, I hear them singing and immediately I see in the center of this semicircle a lady and a gentleman sitting at the piano.  I had just made the acquaintance of the Little Singers of the Philharmonic Association – Santa Cecilia of Agrigento. The association was founded in 1983 and has two choirs, one for white voices and one for adults. Until 2008 they also collaborated with the ‘Sistina’ Music Chapel of Rome, which led the choir to perform before the Pope during the Jubilee and which was opened to the best singers with the possibility of doing an internship in Rome.
The master accompanist was Alfonso Lo Presti and the director of the chorus of white voices was the maestro, Marisa Bonfiglio.

I will owe everything in my life to this lady.

Marisa was right in the middle and waiting for me. My father had warned Marisa that we would go to see the evidence to understand how it worked and if she could like me. I arrive, I was ten years old and, I was pretty chubby and, I find myself in the midst of all females and just two boys, Davide and Arturo.
After the greetings, Marisa asks Piero to introduce himself.
Hi, guys, I’m Piero, Piero Barone, I was born in 1993 and I like to sing. In a chorus what else should I say? If I was there, I had to like music, right? I thought it was the first thing to clarify.
At that point the master Bonfiglio made me sit on the left, next to Davide and Arturo, while all the rest of the chorus – all females – were on the right.  Three males in a world of females:  The number three would be my destiny, right?
We begin to sing Easter songs, Christmas carols, church choir songs.  With Davide and Arturo, I established a very strong relationship, which continues today: we are still friends. We phone each other when I am far from Naro and, when I come back, we go out together as often as we can.
At the time of the choir, we were always attached to each other, we looked at the girls but, we were three losers of nine to ten years, losers!  Marisa never scolded anyone, but if we were disruptive, she looked a little like that and said “Guys,” and we were immediately serious again.
This is the point where Piero’s voice is beginning to change and so adjustments have to be made to accommodate this change. Let’s hear what Piero had to say about that….

Even my passion for red is in some way linked to the chorus of the little singers. I dressed in red, all red from head to toe. They make my presentation and I start to sing. I could still sing but I was at my limit, and I started the Ave Maria.  Until then other tenors have arrived at the end of the piece all red in the face for the effort. Because singing, in reality, requires a much greater physical effort than one imagines. In short, I finish the song, the teacher looks at me, looks at Marisa Bonfiglio, looks at my father, looks at all the others and says: “Do you see this guy? He has everything red, except his face: he sang with incredible ease”. And to my father’s question, ‘What could I do with my son?’ The master replied: ‘Mr. Barone, now your son is having a change of voice, your son in his throat has a diamond. What would I do in his place? I would take this diamond, put it in a safe and hide the keys. Between two years we reopen this safe.’
And, so, we did!
What about those red glasses?

But it must be said, my ‘fixation’ for red glasses was not born here but was born in 2010 in Los Angeles. I was at my first photo shoot, and I went to the studio, it was the first real photo shoot. In short, I had glasses, as always, but one of the photographers who follows us looks at me a little and tells me: ‘You have to keep your glasses, but they must be red.’ And how could I do a pair of red eyeglasses in Los Angeles in one day? I think and think again, in the end the idea came: I called my optician of confidence in Naro, Giuseppe Minio, and I asked him to do it for me. Would you ever believe it? In twenty-four hours, I received the envelope in Los Angeles with my red glasses, and inside I also found rose petals and little hearts, pure affection directly from Naro, which is always good.
But I’m getting ahead of myself I still had to face the change of voice. That moment of change is excruciating because you cannot sing, so no longer being a white voice, I had to leave the chorus. But Marisa Bonfiglio did not let me go like this, ‘Piero, see you soon,’ she cared about me and then helped me again: she took me to Palermo to a conservatory professor, a tenor. The master’s verdict was again, ‘Let’s wait.’  But in the wait, I could not remain silent. In reality, the wait for the change of voice lasted less than I thought because, towards the fourteen and a half years, my voice had already changed.

So, the change happened, and Piero moved on in his life. He did participate in many singing competitions and won most.
But there was also his schoolwork to consider….
Piero said… Had it been for me I would have studied only singing and music.
But in fact, Piero studied accounting. Piero tells us….  I excelled in Math, in fact, I am so good, that I am the one of the three that runs with a bag full of all of our accounts.
In my story about Gianluca, I wrote about passion. What about Piero’s passion? What were his passions?

Piero certainly had a passion for his opera, but his passion went in other directions too.

Piero had a passion for Chemistry and Math but not for all of his school subjects. And, so, I introduce my personal favorite story about Piero, the Story of Denise!
We know if Piero had a passion, it had to be for music but, in this story, we find out he had no great passion for school but, he did have a passion, so to speak, for chemistry and math!
Piero tells us that he had good grades in school because of his Secret Weapon Denise….

Denises’ Wedding Day
Piero said, For Denise I should make a monument.
Denise was Piero’s classmate for twelve years. The good grades were thanks to her. In the afternoon Piero would pick her up in his electric car, an E50, and they would study together. She repeated the lesson, and he learned by what she was saying. Well let me have Piero explain it to you….
I did not like reading books, what could I do? The songs have always remained in my head right away, I listen to a song and after two, three times at most, I know all the words, but the lessons no, these do not come into my head even with the hammering. You imagine that once, out of despair, to memorize a history lesson, I gave it a reason, that is, I put it to music. But when I could not do this – that is, most of the time – I sat next to Denise, and I listened to her repeat the lesson. Or, in classwork, she wrote and did it, zac! She put the paper in the middle of the desk and I copied it. The professors probably knew but they never caught me and so they always gave me that half vote less than she, even if the tasks were the same. But, who cared, I was very happy.

At school, I did not like gymnastics, instead I loved chemistry. I had good marks which I earned by myself. No Denise. And I excelled in Math, in fact, I am so good, that I am the one of the three that runs with a bag full of all of our accounts.
As for the other school subjects, I was always ordered, I was studying only the necessary, I did what I could. It is not that I did not study because of bad will, it was that I had other projects, and the professors knew and understood it. I was not a tramp that ran from morning to night with the motorbike, I was one who was at home studying piano, solfeggio, I had many commitments, I always had something to do.
I was known in the country, I never smoked a cigarette, never used drugs of any kind, never went to the disco, I never did stupid. In short, never.

If you ask Piero’s father, he will surely tell you about the wheelies with the motorbike. It was the only thing that he did not do right. His friends told Mr. Barone that Piero did wheelies and he got angry….
When I arrived at the roundabout in the center of the city, voom, I did a wheelie with the motorbike. Just that. But even in those cases I was very responsible. Do you know what I was doing when I was driving the motorbike? My father gave me sheets of newspaper, I put them on my chest, under my shirt and I went around so the wind did not enter my chest, understood? Full helmet, strictly integral.
If you’re wondering, yes, I was a little weighed in those years but, I was so controlled because, I had a thousand allergies that put my respiratory tract “in danger.” I never went to school trips, I could not go to the disco, I could not do certain things that all my peers did. But now, when I return home I go to the disco, we are never less than twenty, twenty-five people, and Dad is calm because I’m even more responsible than before and because in the group there are also people older than me, even forty years and married.
I like being with people much older than me because, even if I’m only twenty years old, I have to manage my life in a very serious way and at a certain point I had to ‘grow by force.’ It’s strange if I think about it, because that little boy Piero, who was attentive to everything he did, so as not to ruin his voice, and not to have some asthma attack, would never have imagined becoming a singer. He had other plans.
So, we come to the end our story today with Piero in the choir and continuing his classical education. We found out that Denise was Piero’s Secret Weapon but it seems from this story Piero had more than one secret weapon and as I said in the beginning, for me Piero is Il Volo’s secret weapon.

I want to end my story today with Piero singing the beautiful “Lamento di Federico,” an aria from act 2 of the opera L’arlesiana by Francesco Cilea. Absolutely beautiful! Bravo Piero!

Next time we will follow Piero to the competitions which will lead him to Ti Lascio una Canzone.
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
Next we week follow Ignazio kicking and screaming to Marsala where he meets his fate. The future he least expected.

*What I have written here are excerpts from the book the guys wrote about their lives. “Il Volo, Un’avventura Straordinario, La Nostra Storia.” (An Extraordinary Adventure, Our Story) This is just a small piece of each mans’ story. The book is written in Italian. If you can read Italian, I would highly recommend that you read it. It’s wonderful! If not, I can only hope that someday it will be translated into English. Or you can use Google Translate to translate it.

I also recommend you read their second book “IL Volo: Quello Che Porto Nel Cuore” (What I Carry in My Heart).

Just in time for Christmas, the guys released a new EP 4Xmas Amazing Grace, O Tannenbaum, Feliz Navidad and Happy Xmas (the War is Over) order yours now on Spotify, Amazon, etc.
If you would like to share a story with me, please email:  susan.flightcrew@yahoo.com
To read more Il Volo stories visit us at www.ilvoloflightcrw.com and don’t forget to visit the Archives.
Credit to owners of all photos and videos



9 thoughts on “Piero’s Secret Weapon by Susan De Bartoli”

  1. Such a great story about Piero, with many videos and pictures of his NYC Marathon! Thank you, Susan.

    Also, thank you for the video of him singing Lamento di Federico, which I had listened to over and over again when it was first published. Such a magnificent voice with no accompaniment whatsoever, except Igna doing his part! I wonder “when will he begin” to fulfil his dream of opera?? As long as he doesn’t forego his “brothers” of Il Volo. Hugs, Dol.

  2. Many thanks Susan. Much of what was in the first book also appears in the second, but with a few added words, words I am still trying to get to grips with because they are not Italian. I presume they are Sicilian. But between us Dolores and I came up with something that looks about right!

    I love the part that Denise played. Everyone needs a secret weapon to help them in some parts of their lives. 🙂

    The videos are brilliant, I saved most of them onto my laptop, then when I discovered it was possible to convert them to MP4 files meant I could save them to my external hard drives and flash drive.

    I couldn’t watch the marathon here in the UK, but I did follow what was going on via Facebook. To finish 19,769th out of 51,295 in the race was pretty good going, especially as he had never run that distance before. Well not in public anyway, I dare say he probably has done either privately at home in Naro, or on the treadmill.

    The average time for the race is Fours and fifty minutes, so he broke the average by quite a long way. I have seen a video of the end of the marathon. While others were flagging, our Piero managed to put in a final sprint gaining several places and knocking at least a minute of what would have been his time.

    Well done Piero. 😉

    1. Thanks for the mention, Roz, but you did 98 percent of the work, what with translation and research. I helped out a bit by editing and offering suggestions and was pleased that you sent me the finished products of Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca’s stories. Hugs, Dol.

  3. I am a huge Piero fan, although I do love them all, Piero is my favorite. Everything he does, he does with all his heart. His voice is magnificent and I love the duet Miserere that him and Ignazio do together, I just keep watching it over and over. I felt like a proud grandmother when he finished the Marathon race, just sprinted like he was just starting instead of finishing and in almost every photo he had that beautiful smile on his face. Thank you for all your wonderful articles.

  4. I so enjoy your stories about our guys you get such great insight and you’re such a great storyteller I feel like I know them through you thank you very much look forward to the next chapter God bless you for all your work

  5. Thank you Susan! I wasn’t able to watch the race but wanted too, so I checked FB & INSTA for his standing! So proud of his first effort, it’s quite amazing, especially considering his breathing issues when he was young! For that matter that he can expand his lungs the way he does when he sings! We are all so very proud of his accomplishment , the NY MARATHON is renowned around the world and he did an incredible job of it and had GREAT time too! Love the videos and listening to his gorgeous voice…..can’t wait to see Piero in a full opera on stage!
    Affectionately, Carol 💖💖💖🎼🎤☮️🤍💙💛🦋🙏

  6. Thank you for the report on Piero ,i think he had a lovely childhood with his grandparents ,he is very clever young man he could have been a maths teacher ,but we know singing is his first love and the love of Opera which is his big dream to sing in La Scala ,i think he will be there soon ,his voice is amazing ,as for the marathon he has trained hard for it what an achievement for him we are so proud of him in whatever he does regards

  7. Thank you for your stories about tee guys, I have to sto calling them the boys I also call my 5 male grandchildren , the boys, and my friends never know whickh group I am referring to.

    To those who did not see the maraschino on TV, while it was nice to see, I was mot able to find Piero in the massive crowd. I was very thankful for the published i s and videos and also thought all his smiles were great.

    Thank you Susan

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