Sanremo 2024, the singers’ osteopath speaks: “So I accompany them from rehearsals to the stage”

Valentina Carlile, a career alongside international and domestic stars, teaches artists and their coaches how to take care of the voice to give the best to the festival. Here are the tips to avoid getting stuck

The curtain is about to rise on the 30 artists competing at the 74th Sanremo Festival. From the old glories of Italian music to the new talents, from the veterans of the event to the debutants, there is a common thread that unites the singers waiting to perform: the ‘Ariston panic’, the fear that a high note may tremble, that a tone low dies in the throat, that the breath cannot hold. Avoiding splints is not just a question of profession, but also the result of long team work involving many voice professionals. One of them is Valentina Carlile, a leading name in phoniatric osteopathy, who in her career has collaborated on tours of national and international stars. Under her hands pop stars, as well as opera stars. This year too, the expert helped prepare some Sanremo competitors and at Adnkronos Salute she explains how she accompanies them “from the rehearsal room to the stage”.

“The oldest, truest, most beautiful musical organ, the only origin to which our music owes its existence, is the human voice”. Born in Sesto San Giovanni in 1974, studio in Milan, Carlile chose this phrase by Richard Wagner as a business card to present on the Internet the activity that has absorbed her since, in 2002, she put herself “at the service of those who work with the voice”. Which, just like an instrument, must be ‘tuned’ and maintained, because in front of the public – especially in front of the Ariston audience – you cannot improvise. “We start working in December – he says – immediately after Christmas. Just after the official presentation of the title of the song competing in Sanremo”, the singers’ osteopath “started to receive requests for vocal coaches and phoniatrician referrals for the assistance in the preparation of artists”.

What exactly happens? “The artist – describes Carlile – is welcomed into the studio with the reporting of his difficulties or weak points in the performance, which can vary from back pain, note jumps or breakages at the transition between a note and the other, to jaw tension or disturbances in tuning at the level of acoustic feedback. Almost always accompanying the singer is the manager or vocal coach with the data from the phoniatric examination. We then begin to make an evaluation with tests, palpation and, if necessary, also structural monitoring of the entire ‘voice engine’, from the thorax (starting from the diaphragm and its anchors), to the actual vocal tract with its associated structures, and we begin to set up a treatment plan”.

In the months that separate the singer from the steps of the Ariston, the therapeutic program drawn up by the osteopath proceeds “hand in hand with the vocal work to allow the artist maximum comfort and maximum freedom and performance – continues the expert – and sessions are planned in accordance with pre-event commitments”. A delicate combination of “interviews, room rehearsals, theater rehearsals and a thousand other appointments”.

“Throughout this process – underlines Carlile – the vocal coach becomes the ‘caregiver’: he will be the one who will follow the artist until he enters the stage, then the singer and his vocal are taught self-treatment strategies for managing the vocal elements even in the event of last minute difficulties”. However, since a perfect performance depends on the voice, but also on the ear, “synchrony with the acoustic system”, the auditory apparatus, “will be very important, which will be evaluated by the audiologist in order to be able to transmit the most correct data to the sound engineer once once we arrive at the theater.” In short, “there is never too much time – specifies the osteopath – and preparing is a ‘slalom’ within an immense calendar of commitments, but the close contact between all the figures who follow the artists is fundamental for the result to be the best” .

Tips on the eve? “Certainly – observes Carlile – one of the difficulties of the first evening is having to sing in a full theater after having rehearsed in an empty theatre. This sometimes leads the artist to push the voice a little more to overcome small adjustments of feedback”. The advice is “to try to follow only the physical vocal sensations, without adding or modifying what was assimilated in preparation and rehearsal, so as not to create small overloads that could weigh on the voice in the following evenings”. Anyone wishing to exploit even the wait behind the scenes to their advantage will be able to put into practice the ‘maneuvers’ learned from the osteopath: “Self-massage of the masticatory muscles and the upper lingual chain – prescribes the expert – combined with the usual warm-up and vocal cooling, before performing and after performing”.