At the 2017 BookExpo America conference, we had a chance to sit down with author James Patterson and narrator Edoardo Ballerini and talk audiobooks. Hear the full interview on YouTube, and the AudioFile blog.
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Edoardo Ballerini, who has been acting professionally for many years, came to audiobook narration only about two years ago. Since then, he’s won four AudioFile Earphones Awards. The silky-voiced Ballerini has a literary background and does mostly character work on stage. “Audiobooks seemed like a natural fit for me,” he says. When he recorded his first audiobook, he says he felt an awesome responsibility. “I had to create an entire world for the listener and had only one tool at my disposal--my voice. Getting listeners to believe in the story, getting them to see the scene and know the characters, and doing it with just my voice and their imagination--it’s magical. It’s the art of entertainment distilled into one of its purest forms.”
After attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Ballerini got a scholarship to study Latin in Rome. At first, he was content to pursue his academic studies but soon found it too solitary. “I wanted to leave the isolation of academia and do something different, something more collaborative.” Boredom led him to an American theater company in Rome, and by the time he returned to the States, he was committed to acting. After studying his craft and working successfully in the profession, Ballerini, who is fluent in Italian, recorded a language audio program for producer Paul Ruben. Years later, he met Ruben again and mentioned his interest in audiobooks--he auditioned and was hired.”
Ballerini enjoys recording books of different styles. “I selfishly enjoy nonfiction because I feel as if I’m getting an education at the same time.” Last year, he received an Earphones Award for his recording of Stephen Greenblatt’s THE SWERVE: HOW THE WORLD BECAME MODERN, and he just finished recording VENICE: A NEW HISTORY by Thomas F. Madden. About recording nonfiction he says, “It’s my job to animate the material in as much of a storytelling way as possible.” He tries to make his delivery as conversational as the text allows.
Ballerini finds recording fiction especially satisfying because he can create a variety of characters and make use of his wide range of accents. Jess Walter’s BEAUTIFUL RUINS posed his greatest single recording challenge to date. “Richard Burton, the man himself, has a cameo appearance in the book. This is a larger-than-life figure, a person everybody knows, and suddenly I have to play him!” Knowing he couldn’t imitate the famous voice perfectly, he tried to find the essence of the man. “I did a little Welsh accent for him, and I got that little low growl going.” Clearly, it worked, since he earned another Earphones Award for the book. His most recent recordings include Giuseppe Di Lampedusa’s THE LEOPARD and James Patterson’s NYPD RED.
These days, Ballerini and his partner, Genevieve, find that tending Lorenzo, their 6-month-old son, keeps them pretty busy. With a smile in that charming voice, Ballerini tells us, “He’s just reaching that age where he’s starting to be fun.” Lucky Lorenzo. He doesn’t realize yet what treat he has in store when his award-winning dad starts reading those bedtime stories just for him! --S.J. Henschel
Photo courtesy of narrator
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