Having graduated from the Vienna Conservatorium and been away from Australia for 4 years, Dominic decided to return to Melbourne to embark on a combined career as a lawyer and singer, he got a job as a company solicitor, sang recitals around the country (see review below) and auditioned for the Australian Opera. Still singing as a baritone at that point he was cast, amongst other things, as Zurga in Bizet’s much loved Pearl Fishers.
“The undoubted personal triumph of the day was scored by Natoli.....he created a thoroughly satisfying Zurga ...his aria was excellent”
Excellent partnership in recital
(review of Dichterliebe recital in Brisbane 1991 Opera Opera, Patricia Kelly)
“D.N. is a multi-prize-winning singer who displays all the musical and artistic qualities that betoken a successful career. The voice is well produced and strong, he projects the imagery with conviction and relates well to his listeners... He gave a nice balance of the many moods of the poetic expression in the cycle... each piece was gently placed .. in this well- judged performance.”
Then something MAJOR HAPPENED!
This Pearl Fishers was followed by Ping in Turandot which was conducted by Maestro Carlo Felice Cillario, an iconic figure in the world of opera having conducted such megastars as Maria Callas, Montserrat Caballè, Dame Joan Sutherland and many others.
Dominic had for some time felt that his voice was “moving up” and having always had an “easy top” he began to feel equally comfortable in the tenor as in the baritone range. Holding Maestro Cillario in such high esteem, Dominic approached him for an opinion on the tenor versus baritone question. The maestro reacted with overwhelming enthusiasm and from that fateful moment on Dominic’s life as a singer changed forever.
Maestro Cillario was so convinced of Dominic’s potential as a tenor that he set up an impromptu meeting with Dame Joan Sutherland and Maestro Richard Bonynge, who were in Sydney rehearsing for Dame Joan’s final opera performances in Australia as the Queen in Les Huguenots.
Cillario figured, as Richard Bonynge had been so successful at guiding Joan Sutherland from a mezzo soprano to being one of the greatest sopranos in operatic history, they might both have some tips on what direction Dominic should take.
Eager to have their opinions, Maestro Cillario ended his Turandot rehearsal a little ahead of time so as to catch the Bonynges’ as they left their rehearsal. As soon as Dame Joan appeared Maestro Cillario bounced into her path, hurriedly introduced his young protegè whilst in the same movement managing to usher her and Dominic into an adjoining studio whereupon he sat at the piano and announced “Joan I know you are busy but you must listen to this boy”.
Dominic sang the baritone aria “Cruda funesta smania” from Lucia di Lammermoor, and Dame Joan exclaimed “That is lovely, has Richard heard you?” Before Dominic had a chance to reply, maestro Cillario burst forth into the introduction to “Ch’ella mi creda” from La Fanciulla del West punctuating those few chords with “Yes lovely, BUT now listen to THIS!” - Dominic sang the tenor aria! At the conclusion of which Dame Joan leapt to her feet, took Dominic by the arm and sailed back into the studio where Richard was still rehearsing with the other principals in Les Huguenots. “Richard” she exclaimed, “come on, it is time for lunch and you must hear this young man before we go!” Richard obediently dismissed the other singers who left in an air of envious curiosity and indignation.
Dominic repeated the same two arias while maestro Bonynge listened intently.
“Well, you seem to me to be one of those rare “baritenors”! You could continue singing as a baritone BUT I feel the voice speaks more beautifully in the top. You need to decide for yourself, but if you wish to be a tenor you must stop singing baritone repertoire and concentrate on consolidating your tenor technique for twelve months. I am going to give you the Joan Sutherland Scholarship so you can go to Europe and gather some other opinions. Return to whomever taught you to sing like you do, also go to Carlo Bergonzi for an opinion seeing as he began as a tenor. You might also give Gino Bechi a call.”
So, armed with this good advice, letters of introduction from Maestro Bonynge to Carlo Bergonzi and Gino Bechi, as well as the Dame Joan Sutherland Scholarship, Dominic headed back to Europe!