“It’s like I’m going through my closets and I can’t put on some clothes anymore. Listening to some of her compositions again after the confinements, Barbara Carlotti noticed that several of them no longer corresponded to her: “We all came out of this traumatic moment groggy and, in terms of melody, harmony, of text, they were telling something that no longer interested me. In 2020, the musician and singer preferred to surprise her audience with Corse, île d’amour, an album of covers of songs typical of the region where her family is from. “A form of cultural reappropriation,” she says.
But, once this identity crossroads had been made, she had to dive back into her creations from the world before and sort out the raw material that was still exploitable and what she now considered less relevant. To do this, it was in Rome that Barbara Carlotti landed, in October 2021, in the stunning setting of the Villa Medici, where she landed a residency of around twenty days. She goes there for a short week, first. Then two other stays follow, in December and then in the spring of 2022. “I knew Rome above all through the great Italian cinema that I admire, that of Fellini, Pasolini, Antonioni. I had been there, but I had forgotten how beautiful it is a city that turns your brains around,” she says.
At the Villa Medici, she was assigned a room-office “bare, with high ceilings, large windows that let in light, a fridge, plates”. At night, she walks in the gardens of holm oaks and orange trees, sees films shot nearby, such as Roman Holidays, by William Wyler (1953), or La Grande Bellezza, by Paolo Sorrentino (2013). During the day, she goes down to the Place d’Espagne, wanders the streets and, once back at the Villa, strolls through the long corridors of the building: at each bend a sculpture or a fresco emerges. “The impression of being immersed in a childhood dream or in Beauty and the Beast, by Cocteau. »
Elsewhere in weightlessness
One evening, after a dinner in the center with friends, the director of the place, Sam Stourdzé, drags him into the towers, climbing the endless stairs. “Up there, in front of the panoramic view of Rome, illuminated by night, I was blown away and cried with joy. I could take in at a glance all the geography that I had surveyed on foot. It’s a very powerful feeling that I had already felt on the heights of Sao Paulo, “recalls Barbara Carlotti, who, for her fourth album, L’Amour, l’Argent, le Vent (2012), went to glean inspiration especially in Brazil.
Notebooks of lyrics turned upside down, scribbled texts, tinkered songs, research of melodies on the synthesizer… The Villa Médicis gives him energy, enthusiasm. Outside, while the world seems petrified by the war in Ukraine and France heckled by elections with tense debates, the Villa is welcoming for those who curl up there, enchanting like “an elsewhere in weightlessness”, conducive At the creation.
Five or six songs will eventually be born there. “Rome allowed me to see what my next album would look like,” says Barbara Carlotti. After the pandemic, I needed breath, light, and Italy awakened in me this desire, for openness and lightness. With her team, she intends to work all summer to bring sparkle to the arrangements, a rhythmic liveliness. Will a next round trip to the French Academy in Rome be necessary? “I would like to go back,” she hastens to retort, all smiles. Now, when I go there, I feel like home. »
The Italian capital will not appear frontally on her album, like a sponsored product, but will keep, she hopes, a little of its atmosphere, its superb. In addition to a piece called Roma/Amor, taking up the famous local palindrome, Barbara Carlotti could not find a better title for another than Le Syndrome de Stendhal, this physical shock that assails the traveler as the surrounding beauty dazzles him. If the French novelist gave his name to this expression in reference to his moving Florentine experience, she appropriated it, two centuries later, to pay homage to the Eternal City.