A former Italian stuntman is set to turn heads as the tenor of the moment on Sydney Harbour.

Have you ever stopped to imagine the pressure on the actor who has to open a scene with the immortal words “To be or not to be,” or “Now is the winter of our discontent”? If so, spare a thought for the operatic tenor having to open Act III of Puccini’s Turandotwith the dreaded and ubiquitous Nessun Dorma. “It’s absolutely the most famous tenor aria ever – ever! And everybody knows every single word,” laments Riccardo Massi, the star Italian tenor employed by Opera Australia to sing the role of Calaf in this year’s production for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour. “People have in their minds the interpretation of the great singers of the past – Pavarotti, Coreli, Gigli, Fillipeschi – so you just can’t go ‘Alright, let’s do our thing’. It’s tough to sing, there is a long note to hold – and people wait for that.”

Massi on the HOSH Turandotset. Photo by Prudence Upton

Not that Massi is likely to go unnoticed. At a hulking 6’4” he...