Written by: Giorgio De Martino (2010)
Translation by: Consuelo Hackney
At last, a legend
At last, a legend for the new millennium. A legend in the Homeric sense of a myth, the“word that speaks” which has flowered here through song: like Caruso, Gigli, Del Monaco, Corelli…
A legend (of Andrea Bocelli’s stature) is not created by design: the most astute marketing would never be able to produce such a result. It is simply that people “recognized” him and voted for him. And so it happened, in an apparently equal context(a singing competition, the Sanremo festival in 2004) and yet a most perfect one, because the infancy of a legend follows a course which breaks traditions. From then on the tone of his voice has brought tenderness to the world and his fame has increased exponentially. Because “if God would have asinging voice, He would sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli”: even Celine Dion’s famous comment is a clear, unadorned testament to the artist’s mythical status as well as the perception of a gift…That voice, that simultaneously melancholic and radiant colour, unrivalled in the expression of the song of a lover or a father, a matchless expression of earthly desire or heavenly love, with over 70 million record sales in the first sixteen years of Bocellis’s career to testify to it.
The responsibility of talent
”I don’t think one decides to become a singer, It is decided for you by the reactions of the people around you.” Andrea Bocelli had to reckon with a double gift, both elements of which are completely absorbing. The first aspect is a timbre which is as recognisable as a signature, full and powerful, with a versatility ranging from the belcanto to the furore of verismo, from the sacred repertoire to the popular ballads. The second gift is a more delicate one: life’s journey led Andrea Bocelli in adolescence to a different ability which deprived him of sight. This was truly a privation which increased the flow of an extraordinary and unique sensibility which transforms and transcends boundaries, causing him to excel in his interpretation of the lyrics, in his perception of the subtleties of musical expression.
The empowerment of an unusual journey
Bocelli, the superb voice that the opera had been awaiting for years, “exploded” onto the world stage performing one song. An anomalous route offering extraordinary possibilities: a real breath of fresh air in a world – that of the opera – which risked forgetting its own popular origins.
It rang out all over the world in “Time to say goodbye”, while on stage it resonated in the operatic masterpieces: a voice which combines the power of the heroic tone with a youthful tenor’s grace strengthened by an unusually polished timbre.
An old fashioned training of a modern tenor
Tuscan, like Puccini and Mascagni, Andrea Bocelli was born on 22nd September 1958 and grew up at the family farm in Lajatico, nestling between the vines of the Pisan countryside. His parents must receive the credit for having encouraged young Andrea’s musical talent, allowing him to start studying the piano from the age of only six years old. Later his musical passion would extend to the flute and the saxophone but it was in his voice that Andrea discovered the ideal instrument
and this was the beginning of the formative process which would produce Bocelli, the star, “a modern but old fashioned tenor” (as he likes to describe himself). In 1970 he enjoyed his first success in a singing competition: performing ‘O sole mio’. After studying singing with Maestro Luciano Bettarini), Bocelli approached Franco Corelli, an artist whom he had always worshipped. In order to pay for singing lessons, Andrea would play the piano in the local bars and in the meantime he continued to develop his interest in the humanities and graduated in Law at the University of Pisa. Just in the same period that saw him take off in the world of pop, having been discovered by Caterina Caselli and signed to her record label “Sugar”, Andrea had an opportunity to make his debut on the operatic stage, in 1994 in Verdi’s Macbeth (in the role of Macduff) directed by Claudio Desderi. That Christmas he was invited to sing the Adeste Fideles in St Peters before the Pope. No more courtrooms or requests in piano bars: this was the start of a meteoric rise. Andrea Bocelli had found the stage. In fact the stage had found Andrea Bocelli and would never leave him.
Con te partirò...
There is something miraculous about the parallel track along which the tenor Andrea Bocelli’s career developed. In 1996 the melody of the song “Con te Partiro`” (and later its arrangement as a duet with Sarah Brightman with the title “Time to say Goodbye”) was heard in every corner of the world. The Bocelli phenomenon was being talked about everywhere: an artist whose explosion onto the recording world - with an album entitled Romanza – was breaking all records.
In Germany, for example, the duet became the best selling single of all time.
At the same time Andrea embarked on his operatic adventure, with a careful management of his voice. In Torre del Lago, in the summer of 1997, Bocelli performed parts of Madame Butterfly and Tosca, and also the “aria dei 9 do” from La fille du regiment which received a standing ovation. In 1998 came a new debut, this time playing Rodolfo - alongside Daniela Dessi - in Puccini’s La Bohème in Cagliari. That same year he met M. Zubin Mehta and this led to the beginning of a successful collaboration between them. 1999 was a very intense year. Andrea performed at the Arena in Verona for the first time where he was applauded by an audience of eighteen thousand. In October, he made his debut in the United States in Massenet’s Werther. At the same time his album Sogno was released, which included Andrea’s duet with Céline Dion of “The Prayer”, which had already won the Golden Globe Award and was subsequently nominated for an Oscar. From this point on the Bocelli legend, supported by huge record sales, was unstoppable. His concerts would find the most celebrated directors on the podium such as Lorin Maazel, Seiji Ozawa, Valeri Gergev, Zubin Mehta and Myun Whun Chung.
In January 2001, Andrea made his debut on stage in Verona in Mascagni’s Amico Fritz. On 28th October, on the invitation of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, he sang Schubert’s Ave Maria at “Ground Zero” before the world as part of the memorial to the victims of 9/11. In the summer of 2002 he performed in the role of Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly at Torre del Lago. Following further successful pop recordings and international awards in 2004 Bocelli continued to develop his operatic stage career (playing Cavaradossi in Tosca and then the lead in Werther in Bologna) as well as performing at many large concert venues
The essential (is invisibile to the eye)
“You can only see properly with your heart. The essential is invisible to the eye” so wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupery… The essential thing, in the career of an opera singer, is to be found in his discography. In Bocelli’s case it is by his recordings that his voice can be guaranteed to be kept constantly up to the minute for generations to come. As Caruso did at the start of the last century, so Bocelli continues to do at the beginning of the millennium. His first “classical” recording dates back to 1997 and was entitled Viaggio Italiano. It was a Caterina Caselli Sugar project undertaken with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra: spanning Puccini to Schubert, Verdi to Donizzetti. 1998 saw the release of Aria – The Opera Album, with the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino directed by Gianandrea Noseda. The dawn of the new millennium, was marked by the release of a cd dedicated to Sacred Arias with the Orchestra and Choir of the National Academy of Saint Cecilia conducted by Myung-Whun Chung : an homage to Christianity which remains one of his most shining artistic productions becoming the best selling classical album ever released by a solo artist. Bocelli earned a place in the Guiness Book of World Records by occupying the first, second and third place in the American classical music charts.
A voice for the new millennium
The year 2000 marked a new milestone in Andrea Bocelli’s recording career: Puccini’s La Bohème, with Zubin Mehta conducting and Barbara Frittoli in the role of Mimì. Andrea had already played the role of Rodolfo in 1998 prompting praise from Corelli, who commented: “Andrea is an operatic tenor with a voice of rare beauty. His sense of romance and melody goes beyond the very essence of Rodolfo the bohemian”.
Still under the baton of M° Mehta, the start of the millennium also celebrated the release of the Verdi album which gave Andrea the opportunity to immerse himself in this national treasure’s works. In 2001 it was the turn of Verdi’s Requiem, a recording with a formidable cast, starting from the conductor Valere Gergiev. In the autumn of 2002 Andrea Bocelli combined his energies with those of Lorin Maazel, with whom he undertook a very special recording project: Sentimento, a collection of romantic pieces by composers such as Tosti, Denza and Gastaldon, arranged for the orchestra by M° Maazel, who also demonstrated his refined musical talents as a concert violinist, accompanying Bocelli’s voice. The project was an enormous success earning Andrea a double nomination at the 2003 “Classical Brit Awards”, where he won both “Album of the Year” and “Best Selling Classical Album of the Year”. In May 2003 Andrea sang the role of Mario in his album of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca under the direction of Zubin Mehta.
In spring 2004 Bocelli released Il Trovatore which had been recorded at the “Bellini” opera house in Catania in 2001. Bocelli was accompanied by , Veronica Villarroel, Carlo Guelfi, Carlo Colombara.
On the Opera stage: the great love
Accustomed to leaping over apparently insurmountable obstacles, the Tuscan tenor extended his repertoire (not disdaining an occasional carefully measured venture into melodic cross-over territory). Bocelli sang Werther which was released onto the market in spring. The following year his repertoire of operatic recordings was enriched by two great landmarks of realism: Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and Marcagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, both directed by Steven Mercurio.
His more recent projects include the demanding role of Andrea Chénier by Giordano and finally the most audacious and bewitching love story of all time, Bizet’s Carmen, directed by Myung Whun Chung. For his concerts Bocelli conquered the most lauded strongholds of the classical music world such as the Wiener Staatsoper. In 2008, while his new album Incanto was a sell-out success, Andrea performed in Carmen at the Rome Opera, followed by Puccini’s Messa di Gloria in Padova, and then La Petite Messe Solennelle in the United States, directed by Placido Domingo. He appeared as Turiddu in the Cavalleria Rusticana on the prestigious stage of the Deutsche Opera in Berlin and then flew to South America where he performed to an audience of more than 110,000 in San Paolo, Brazil.
Having always been sensitive to the call for solidarity, Bocelli’s name is frequently to be found heading the list of artists appearing at concerts to support causes such as aid for the earthquake victims of the Abruzzo, alongside stars such as Angela Gheorghiu and in evocative venues such as the Colosseum in Rome. And it is to promote the image of the Eternal City that Franco Zeffirelli, the film director, asked him to play Mario Cavadarossi from Puccini’s Tosca, protagonist of his film Promo di Roma with actress Monica Bellucci.
In September 2009 Bocelli made his triumphant debut at Carnegie Hall in New York in a triple concert where he performed sacred arias and lieder. In November he was awarded another prestigious token of recognition – the Vittorio de Sica Prize –conferred by the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano.
As many of the legendary voices of the past such as Caruso and Sinatra have done before him, Andrea Bocelli too celebrates the Christmas tradition. His new album My Christmas shot to success in no time. Released on 3rd November 2009 in the USA, it went straight into the charts at number three and reached second place where it remained for six consecutive weeks. Achieving sales of more than 4 million, this makes it the 5th top selling album in the world in 2009. And these can be added to the 65 million records already sold to date.
From March 2010 there will be another star shining on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame dedicated to our Tuscan tenor, one of a very few Italians to figure in this prestigious firmament.
While the Andrea Bocelli website www.andreabocelli.com has achieved over a million hits in one year.
In the meantime the annual appointment at the Teatro del Silenzio (Theatre of Silence) in his home village of Lajatico in Tuscany has celebrated its fifth year. Andrea Bocelli himself is honorary president and co-founder of the project. Among the guests who have appeared with him on the stage of that stunning open-air amphitheatre are Placido Domingo, Josè Carreras,Lang Lang, Laura Pausini, David Foster, Sarah Brightman, Zucchero Fornaciari, Heather Headley, Noa, Roberto Bolle and Nicola Piovani.
A lover of beauty and art beyond the traditional ideological standards, Andrea Bocelli today is a world famous pop star, a refined and versatile opera singer and a passionate, committed humanist. In autumn 2010 the updated and expanded edition of his autobiographical novel “La Musica del Silenzio” (“The Music of Silence”) was met with great acclaim. At the same time Bocelli achieved yet another huge success with the release of his recording of Carmen: Duets & Arias, a collection of the most famous arias from Georges Bizet’s Carmen which shot to the top of the charts in the United States and Canada.
Andrea Bocelli faces the new decade intent on pursuing his tireless concert and opera activities, continuing to expand his repertoire and venturing into uncharted musical territory such as that of the baroque repertoire and the lieder. It was precisely with a performance of a highly complex programme of lieder – the international “Notte Illuminata” project –in February 2011, which was met with a standing ovation and more than twenty minutes of applause, that Bocelli sealed his debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. A city to which he will return for an extraordinary concert at the “Great Lawn” in Central Park on 15th September this year, singing with artists such asAnna Netrebko, Bryn Terfel and Celine Dion, and accompanied by the New York Philarmonic Orchestra conducted by Alan Gilbert: an exceptional event which will be broadcast by the WNET TV channel and immortalized in a cd and a dvd which will be distributed in more than 70 countries.
February 2012 will bring another opera debut: Bocelli will perform on stage at the Carlo Felice opera house in Genoa, singing a leading role in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet directed by Fabio Luisi. This production will also soon be available on DVD.
“The more I immerse myself in singing the less I understand, I only know that God has given me a voice which allows me to express what I feel, and in this sense I believe I can describe it as a recognizable voice”… The true greatness of an artist is measured by his humility, in spite of the world fame and awareness of the cultural and social function which his name represents. Finally we have a legend who is worthy of the cumbersome title. Finally we have a voice for the new millennium.
(AB short bio gdm – 11/2010)