Romantic leading man Stefano Dionisi began his career in his native Italy, appearing with Valerie Perrine in the TV-movie "Rose" (1986), followed by a starring turn in episode five of the immensely popular Mafia drama series "La Piova/The Octopus" in 1987. While his feature debut came opposite Nastassja Kinski in "Il Segretto/The Secret" (1990), the picture that really launched him to international prominence was Gerard Corbiau's Oscar-nominated "Farinelli" (1994), which cast him as 18th Century castrato singing sensation Carlo Broschi. Charming and compellingly handsome, Dionisi came across as a modern, narcissistic "superstar", and the actor's preparation for the role included several months' study with Belgian music coach Daniel Lipnick to master the lip-synching for the digitally-fused voices of counter-tenor Derek Lee Ragin and soprano Ewa Mallas Godlewska that approximated the famous castrato's beautiful tenor.
"Farinelli" proved he was not afraid of controversial roles and led to his first English-language part as Pharaoh in the TNT miniseries "Moses" (1995), starring Ben Kingsley. After acting with Marcello Mastroianni in "Pereira Declares" (also 1995; released in the USA in 1998), Dionisi bleached his hair blond to play Valeria Marini's gay brother in "Bambola" (1996) and lost weight and sported a buzz cut to play an Auschwitz survivor and friend to Primo Levi (John Turturro) for Francesco Rosi's "The Truce/La Truega" (1997). He reteamed with Antonio Tibaldi, who had previously directed him in "Running Against/Correre Contro" (1996), for "Claudine's Return" (1998), starring Christina Applegate as a bohemian laundress trying to escape her painful childhood memories. Dionisi then did some globe-trotting, appearing in Mike Figgis' British-made "The Loss of Sexual Innocence" and the German movie "Gloomy Sunday" (both 1999) and the French biopic "Les Enfants du siecle/Children of the Century" (lensed 1999), supporting Juliette Binoche as pioneering feminist writer George Sand.