Photo by Giuseppe Gangitino
One summer, Cori Scotti ’97 spent three months at the Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolofo, 15 miles outside Rome on Lake Albano; it is also known as the Papal summer residence.
“They sent a car for me every Sunday morning. Then I would go and sing for Pope John Paul II at his residence,” Scotti fondly recalls. Often she sang the Mass, or a portion of it, and when the pope extended an invitation, she had lunch afterwards. “I had conversations with him—normal conversations,” she adds. As she grew to know him better, she would tease Pope John Paul about his image appearing on souvenirs such as bottle openers, playing cards and such. She remembered that he jokingly replied, “See what they do to me?”
As if singing for Pope John Paul was not enough for one lifetime, Scotti also met Pope Benedict in 2014 at the Vatican when she led a pilgrimage for Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Lakewood, New Jersey, where she serves as director of music and liturgy. In 2015, she accepted an invitation to sing for Pope Francis when he came to Philadelphia. Although it was an honor to meet Francis and Benedict, she admits that her time with Pope John Paul will always be special.
Scotti learned to use her voice to make an impact. “I love when people are moved by the music. I want people to feel emotion toward the music,” she explains. “I feel that if you do that, then you did your job well.”
During her professional singing career, she sang under the stars in Italy and around the globe for sold out crowds. She has performed with the late Luciano Pavarotti in his guest home in Luca, Italy. During her time with Pavarotti, he reviewed Italian diction, opera scores and staging with Scotti. He introduced her to another mentor, composer Gian Carlo Menotti, the founder of the annual summer Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) held in Spoleto, Italy, since 1958.
“Pavarotti taught passion. What each note meant. What each phrase means,” she remembers of the superstar Italian operatic tenor.
The famous Spanish opera singer Plàcido Domingo also helped Scotti work on her technique, staging and different diaphragm breathing exercises. She recollects performing with Domingo during a dress rehearsal for the French opera, “Carmen.” She played the role of Micaela and Domingo was Don José. She also performed several times with Domingo both in Washington, D.C. and at the Opera Company of Philadelphia and with the Italian soprano Renatta Scotto.
Throughout her career, she has developed relationships with people all over the world. She continues to perform regularly at charity events, college concerts and venues in New York City. This October, Scotti will perform at Immaculata’s Centennial Mass.
Returning to her alma mater will be special. As a music therapy major in the ’90s, she was determined to sing with the Immaculata Symphony, a feat never attempted before or since by a current student. In her senior year, she stood on the stage of Alumnae Hall, with the full symphony backing her up singing a French opera. She sang “O Holy Night” at Carol Night and performed at other campus events. She credits Dolores Ferraro, a 25-year adjunct faculty member in the music department, for introducing her to Immaculata, and for her start in voice lessons as her private instructor while Scotti was in high school.
“In a way, that describes Cori—a lyrical soul that pours forth a vitality when she sings that never fails to move her audience.”
Ferraro recognized Scotti’s immense talent early on and devoted extra time to her because she was so eager to learn and absorb the lessons. The teacher and student bonded and have remained friends and colleagues. Ferraro still serves as a mentor. Scotti notes that they schedule Zoom meetings to conduct a check-up of her vocals. Beyond the voice lessons, Scotti credits Ferraro with teaching her how to perform: what to wear, how to sing with allergies or a cold, how to position her hands during a performance––she taught Scotti how to be a professional singer.
Describing Scotti’s voice as naturally beautiful with a sizable sound, Ferraro explains that she has a spinto voice, which is essentially a lyric soprano that can rise to moments of dramatic intensity. “In a way,” she says, “that describes Cori, a lyrical soul that pours forth a vitality when she sings that never fails to move her audience.”
After many years working with Ferraro, Scotti was ready to expand her education. She studied at Juilliard and then received a scholarship to attend the opera program of the Rome Festival, where she earned a master’s degree in music performance from the Academy of Saint Cecilia in Rome, Italy. The program provided opportunities for Scotti to travel across Europe to perform. She was the finalist for two of the Cecilia Bartoli competitions and won the Mario Lanza competition. She also performed in the 400-member papal choir. It was during this time that Scotti received the invitation to sing for Pope John Paul II—just her and an accompanist.
Her current position at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish provides Scotti with a flexible schedule that allows her to continue performing. She finds an abundance of inspiration working with multiethnic members of the church choir, arranging music for Mass, and singing at special events, weddings and funerals. Recently she sang “Ave Maria” at a funeral for a 23-year-old police officer. After the service, his mother approached Scotti to voice her appreciation and to say she was sure her son could hear the music. It is in these moments that Scotti feels especially blessed that she can provide comfort in the time of greatest need.
Understanding the importance of a powerful teacher and mentor, Scotti often donates her time for private singing lessons. She does not want students who cannot afford the luxury of private lessons to miss their opportunity.
Again, it is not all about the singing. She teaches her students how to be a professional performer. One final tip that Scotti passes on to her students is the importance of interacting with your audience, learning to play off their moods. Anyone who has heard Scotti perform knows that she moves an audience and can channel their moods—joyfully or in somber moments that touch the soul. In this capacity, she has done a tremendous job.
“I love when people are moved by the music. I want people to feel emotion toward the music. I feel that if you do that, then you did your job well.”