Performing helps pianist Giovanni Allevi forget his anxiety and panic attacks

Italian pianist and composer Giovanni Allevi says performing helps him forget his panic attacks.
Italian pianist and composer Giovanni Allevi says performing helps him forget his panic attacks.PHOTO: FABIO LOVINO

Italian Giovanni Allevi, whose albums have hit gold and platinum status, has fans in Nasa

Some musicians get stage fright.

However, for Italian pianist and composer Giovanni Allevi, performing is a way for him to forget about his anxiety and panic attacks.

The 46-year-old has been playing the piano since he was five, but began experiencing panic attacks 10 years ago, when he started to get famous.

"My entire life is a disaster," he says, speaking to The Straits Times over Skype from Milan, where he is based.

He has problems sleeping and when he does fall asleep, he gets recurring nightmares where he is standing in front of a black sea or falling from height. He sees a therapist for his anxiety and runs daily to clear his mind.

"Music saves me. It is a road from the dark to the light. When I'm on stage, I am totally free and happy," he says.

  • BOOK IT / GIOVANNI ALLEVI

  • WHERE: Jubilee Hall, 1 Beach Road, Raffles Hotel

    WHEN: April 5, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $45, $65 and $85 (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

Allevi will perform in Singapore on April 5 at the Jubilee Hall. The concert is presented by the Italian Cultural Institute in Singapore and sponsored by Italian wine exporter Angra Wine & Spirit.

Despite his aversion to being famous, he has plenty of fans who flock to his concerts, which have been held at the Carnegie Hall in New York, the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and the Beijing Olympic Games.

His albums have garnered multiple gold and platinum certifications too.

Last year, he penned a rousing hymn, O Generosa!, which is played before all matches in the Italian football league, Serie A.

And the man has fans in high places. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration named an asteroid after him in 2002, "111561 Giovanniallevi 2002 Ah3".

For someone who admits to being media-shy, he comes across as bubbly and is effusive in describing his love of music and for his fans.

He enjoys interacting with them, whether through social media or by meeting them after his concerts.

"Meeting them is very important to me. I can recognise myself in their eyes and I don't feel so alone," he says.

In Japan, however, some fans have taken that interaction to a new level. They come up to touch his hair, a shock of black curls.

With Allevi, his wild hair is not so much about maintaining an image than it is about being in touch with his younger self.

Between the ages of five and 10, he sported these locks and used to play the piano in secret at home. His parents, both musicians, kept the piano locked as they did not want him to pursue a difficult career path. Allevi found the key.

He says: "I started to play furtively. Even today, when I play the piano, I feel a mix of fear and desire, like when I was a child.

"As a child, I understood that music would be my life."

His father found out about his piano playing and took him to the music conservatory to be trained. He has two siblings who are not musicians. He is married, but declines to speak about his partner.

He is close to his sister, who is four years older than him and a philosophy teacher. Allevi himself has a degree in philosophy.

Perhaps that is why he looks beyond accomplishments and popularity. He calls being famous "unnatural".

When asked what the highlight of his career has been, he does not talk about album sales, concerts or even the asteroid.

His response is aptly poetic: "To enter the heart of the listener is the most important and most difficult accomplishment for me."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Pianist with an asteroid named after him'. Print Edition | Subscribe