Saturday, 7 June 2014 | MYT 4:55 PM

'I have a gift to give': Singing nun wins Italy's The Voice talent show

A singing nun clinched the final of The Voice of Italy television talent show contest after winning millions of followers with her lively dance act and soulful renditions of lusty pop classics.

Wearing her black habit and a crucifix around her neck, Suor Cristina punched the air and thanked God for her victory, reciting a prayer to the puzzlement of organisers and audience at the final concert of Italy's version of The Voice, a reality TV singing competition, on June 5. 

”I want Jesus to come in here!” said the wholesome 25-year-old with a self-effacing manner, who was dressed in the sensible black shoes and ankle-length black skirt she has worn throughout the contest. ”My presence here is not up to me, it’s thanks to the man upstairs!” said Suor Cristina after winning against a 28-year-old hard rocker with long curly hair who had performed Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven.

Singing nun: Suor Cristina, who won The Voice of Italy, by singing upbeat pop favourites, credits her victory to God, saying "My presence here is not up to me, it's thanks to the man upstairs!" — AFP

Suor Cristina, a reformed rebel who used to sing in a band and now lives with fellow nuns in Milan, has won a recording contract with Universal but she hinted she might shun a full rock’n’roll career. ”I will go back to my priorities — prayer, waking up early in the morning, school service. That’s fundamental for me to be able to begin something new later on,” the Sicily native told reporters.

Suor Cristina said she was following Pope Francis’s appeals to bring the Catholic Church closer to ordinary people and was not shy about her newfound success. ”I have a gift to give, and I am giving it to you, what can I do about that? Jesus has called upon me. It wouldn’t be worth much if I kept it for myself,” she said.

She shot to television fame in recent months in this predominantly Catholic country with her versions of songs like Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Bon Jovi's Livin' On A Prayer, and (I've Had) the Time of My Life, the hit song from the film Dirty Dancing

But most Italian viewers would remember her most for her spirited performance of Alicia Keys’ No One that first drew attention to her in March. She sang the tune again at the final to cheers from an audience that included nuns from her Ursuline Order. That the YouTube video of her performance of No One — which can be seen below — has racked up over 50 million views is testament to her popular appeal.

There was some confusion when one panel judge — rock star Piero Pelu — joked that she was the “devil incarnate”, prompting the host to quickly step in saying this was meant with “maximum irony”.

The talent show was also apparently being followed in the Vatican corridors of power, with top culture official Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi tweeting a quote from a Roman thinker: “If we commit injustice, God will leave us without music.” 

Suor Cristina has already sung alongside Kylie Minogue and Ricky Martin during the show and whom Keys defined as “pure energy” after seeing Suor Cristina’s performance of her song, which received more than 50 million YouTube hits. She also received a celebrity endorsement from actress Whoopi Goldberg — the star of the 1990s comedy Sister Act, in which her character helps a group of nuns form a singing group.

But Suor Cristina still defined herself as a “humble servant” and ascribed her sudden success to a “thirst for joy, for love, and a message that is beautiful and pure”. ”Since Pope Francis talks of a bible of joy, I think I’m on the right track,” she said in the run-up to the final showdown.

Livin' on a prayer: The 25-year-old Sicilian, who now lives in Milan, started training to be a nun in 2009, after finding her calling when she auditioned for a musical about a saint. Although she won a recording contract from the show, she said that she will most likely not pursue a full-time music career, preferring her life in the church.

‘Mysterious and special force’

Fame has brought media scrutiny, including interviews with an ex-boyfriend, and Claudia Koll, the director of the musical academy where she trained — herself an ex-starlet who is now a lay sister. ”Cristina’s personal journey has brought her to maturity and artistic fullness thanks to a mysterious and special force. By giving herself to the Lord, she has enriched her art,” Koll said earlier.

Suor Cristina has said she was once distant from religion but was inspired to be a nun when she auditioned for a part in a musical about the founder of the Ursuline Order, Saint Angela Merici. She became a novice in 2009 and worked for two years with poor children in Brazil before formally joining the order although she still has to take her final vows.

Although she may have won audience hearts, her popularity is not universal, even in Italy, where some of her critics have ascribed her success more to novelty value than talent. Singer Emma Marrone, who represented Italy in this year’s Eurovision song contest, complained that the sensation surrounding the nun was “an insult to showbusiness”. — AFP/RelaxNews

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Entertainment , Lifestyle , Entertainment , Music , News , Italy , The Voice of Italy 2014 , The Voice , Suor Cristina , nun , singing nun , talent show


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