Katyna Ranieri begins her artistic career at the Festival of Sanremo where as a young, practically unknown recruit of the RAI broadcasting company, proposed by the Fonit Cetra record label, she historically wins 2nd prize thanks to her splendid rendition of the song Canzone da due soldi, her performance revealing her as an artist with a particular vocalism, notable interpretation skills and an outstanding stage presence. She is a talented breath of fresh air and the forerunner of the new, freer style that would soon change the traditional Italian song. She instantly becomes a household name.
Born in Follonica into a Tuscan family, Katyna had grown up in Florence, where her father, who was a Warrant Officer in the Carabinieri had been transferred. She had left high school in her final year to dedicate all her time to singing as she had already known from an early age that music and singing would be her destiny.
Thanks to her success at the Sanremo Festival, and with the approval of Fonit Cetra, she signs a prestigious record deal with the American multinational RCA which had opened an office in Rome, becoming the first artist to sign for the label’s Italian branch. A talented singer, always in search of creative ideas, the proposal she makes to RCA for her first album is an international repertoire, sung in four languages and entitled La ragazza di Piazza di Spagna. The record is released worldwide, enters the charts in Latin America and wins a gold disc in Brazil.
Out of the blue, in 1956 Katyna is offered her first contracts overseas, in Mexico and Cuba. She is immediately in demand all over Latin America: in Brazil, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and all over, where her success and popularity exceed all expectations, thanks also to her gift for communicating with the audience. She signs an exclusive contract with an important American management agency, MCA, and word of her success soon spreads to Hollywood.
Katyna is asked to perform at the launch party for the new CIRO’S nightclub in Hollywood, patronized by many of the big American stars and for this important event she creates a Special One Woman Show, taking her inspiration from the American style and enhancing the orchestra with eight choristers. This proves to be the launching pad for her US career.
Slowly but surely, Katyna continues to grow professionally and develops her own unmistakable style, a mixture of American influences toned down by elements from her Italian, Mediterranean culture. This “harmonic symbiosis” of different styles endows Katyna with a series of unique characteristics that shine through strongly in her performances. And perhaps it is precisely this lucky mixture of styles which holds the secret of her international success.
She gives many memorable performances in this period in the States: at the Persian Room in the Plaza and at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles and the Fairmont in San Francisco, at Palmer House and the Drake in Chicago. Her success continues on many other famous stages, such as the Eden Rock in Miami and the Cork Club in Houston, where she receives the Keys to the City and becomes an honorary citizen. She appears on some of the most popular television programs of the period, such as the Ed Sullivan Show and the Steve Allen Show, and is a regular guest on the famous talk show hosted by Johnny Carson.
1964 is an important year for Katyna: she is invited to the 36th Oscar Ceremony in the Santa Monica Auditorium in Hollywood, where she performs More, the soundtrack written by Riz Ortolani for the film Mondo Cane (by G. Jacopetti, P. Cavara, F. Prosperi). Katyna sings an international version of the song, making it a worldwide hit and obtaining the first Oscar Nomination ever won by an Italian musician. Thanks to this performance, the song is an instant success all over the world and, in addition to the Nomination for “Best Song”, it also promptly wins a Grammy award for the “Best Instrumental Theme”. To this day, Katyna is the only Italian artist to have ever been invited to perform at the Oscar Ceremony.
And thanks also to this same noteworthy, original performance, the famous pianist Liberace decides to take Katyna with him on a special tour of the auditoriums in the biggest universities in the States.
This is not only an extremely popular, exceptional tour hosted by the locations destined to educate the future citizens of the United States, but also a wonderful experience for Katyna in social and personal terms, and one that would have been difficult to acquire in any other context.
Again in 1964, MGM casts Katyna in the film The Yellow Rolls Royce (by Anthony Asquith). The scene in the tavern where she sings and acts out the song Forget domani by Riz Ortolani is written especially for her, and her performance later wins the Golden Globe in Hollywood in 1965 for “Best Film Song”.
But Katyna is not a typical artist: in the midst of her success, due also to the birth of her daughter, she decides to give up her career in the States which often obliges her to stay abroad for long periods of time, and in 1971 she cancels a six-week contract at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas.
She decides to perform as a “guest star” in concerts with symphonic orchestras directed by her husband Riz Ortolani, both in Italy and abroad, singing the most famous, important songs of her international film music repertoire. Katyna pulls out all the stops when performing, often experimenting with unusual arrangements and obtaining surprising results.
She is a creative, multi-faceted artist, who comfortably takes on particular musical projects: in 1973 she releases Amanti e Briganti, a collection of popular Tuscan songs enriched with symphony orchestra accompaniments (Teatro Argentina in Roma and Teatro San Babila in Milan); in 1981 she releases the album entitled The Fabulous Kurt Weill from America, which makes its debut at the Festival dei due Mondi in Spoleto and is performed with a quartet of classical harps arranged specifically for her by Riz Ortolani. She also creates the Midnight Concert at Teatro Cajo Melisso.
The same concert is again played at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, then at the Teatro Goldoni in Venice and, in 2001, at the Teatro Verdi in Padua. In 1984, encouraged and assisted with great enthusiasm by the director Federico Fellini, Katyna performs at the Concert for Fellini, with music by Nino Rota and lyrics written especially for her by some of the most important Italian songwriters: Tonino Amurri, Jaja Fiastri, Dino Verde and Tino Fornai. Fellini himself designs the cover of the RCA double album for her.
In 2002 the supervisor of the Rossini Opera Festival offers her another innovative artistic project: a new section of ROSSINIMANIA. This is a fascinating project which is performed at the Teatro Rossini in Pesaro in an original concert entitled Rossini monamour: a carefully selected range of unknown melodies by Rossini, or in other words the recovery of many well and truly “forgotten pearls” for which the Maestro Riz Ortolani conceives and writes a completely new version of the harmonic and instrumental arrangements.
In 2007 Katyna and Riz found the “Riz Ortolani Foundation” for music and continue performing.
Katyna Ranieri’s life is the story of more than 50 years of strong commitment and notable dedication to music and the art of singing, and of the greatest respect for her work and for those who have loved her in the past and who continue to admire her today.
A talented breath of fresh air: the forerunner of the new, freer style that was destined to change the traditional Italian song.
A freer style that would soon change the traditional Italian song