Recording opera and pop selections since the mid-’90s, his voice has moved many — from celebrities to regular folks — to tears, making him a worldwide superstar.
Tenor Andrea Bocelli steps onto a stage at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center Dec. 8 as part of his annual tour.
Because of a slight language barrier, we emailed him some questions about different aspects of his life and career. Here’s what we got back:
What are you performing in concert these days?
The structure of my concerts is marked by a first part that draws mainly from the opera repertoire (usually Italian and French), and a second one dedicated to pop classics and to those songs that my audience expects to hear from my voice, and that I am very happy to please. Within this, anyway, the playlist is never the same. In this case, given that it will be next to Christmas Holidays, for me the U.S. tour will be an even more exciting and joyful occasion to celebrate together, with pages that warm hearts, mine and, I hope, the ones of those who will listen to me.
What’s the next recording project for you, and how do you choose your songs/classical selections?
As far as pop is concerned, there is already a well defined program which I have been working at for some months, and where I have precise instructions: top secret at the moment! As for opera, in this season of life I would like to leave a trace of my voice in the repertoire I love most, opera. I have recently recorded Verdi’s “La forza del destino” and next spring I will be Edgardo in “Lucia di Lammermoor,” an opera that, besides recording, I will also perform on stage. In 2018 is planned also “Andrea Chénier” by Umberto Giordano, an opera that I love particularly and that I recorded a few years ago.
What are your favorite countries to perform in, and why?
I have the great privilege of being welcomed with great benevolence wherever I go, wherever I get on stage. In such sense, I feel I am a citizen of the world, and in the world I feel that those values I want to divulge (and that good music always brings with itself) are recognized, understood and appreciated. That said, I would like to reiterate that the United States is, in fact, my second home. I owe much to your great country and I have been here for over 20 years. When I get on stage in the United States I feel the same joy, the same emotion I feel when I meet dear friends.
Has there ever been a performance where you were nervous because of a VIP that was in attendance?
Regardless of those who are in the audience, I am always a bit nervous before singing. And at the same time, when I get on stage, and music lends me a hand, that tension turns into positive energy, into the desire to give my best. This happens, both if I sing live on television, or in front of powerful men and gigantic arenas, but also if I sing in a school or in a hospital.
You were named a Grande Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Republica in your home country of Italy. How big of a deal is that?
It is an honor I was awarded more than 10 years ago, and today like yesterday I am really proud of it. I am a patriot, I am proud of my roots and I think it is my duty — besides being a privilege — to spread that beauty civilization, as I like to define it, that my country is able to express.
Is there an opera role out there, that you haven’t already done, that you want to perform?
Not one, but many. As I was saying earlier, in my plans related to opera there is the will to expand my repertoire, deepening, performing and, when possible, recording those operas conceived in the 19th and early 20th century that provide a suitable part for my voice. Thank God there are many, and extraordinarily beautiful.
I read that singing made an impact on your faith. Tell me more about that.
Singing –— and music generally — can be an instrument of faith as any fruit of human mind can be. Leibniz, over 300 years ago, described music as “a hidden arithmetic exercise of the soul which does not know that it is counting.” And long before the German philosopher, Aristotle had remarked its potential to “change the moral character of the soul.” Well I think that good music carries a strong message of peace and brotherhood. Music can educate us to beauty, and open our heart and mind. Performing the sacred repertoire, in my opinion, is a form of prayer. Music is the voice of our soul; it moves on paths that penetrate the most intimate spheres of our psyche, without being affected by any conditioning. Potentially music can be a mystical experience.
What is the Andrea Bocelli Foundation working on right now?
The Andrea Bocelli Foundation is active on many fronts. In my country, along with the foundation of my friend Renzo Rosso, we are rebuilding a school that was destroyed by the earthquake that hit central Italy a year ago. In Haiti, where we have already built five schools in the poorest and most remote areas of the country, we provide daily access to education, medical care (in addition to the development of projects to enhance talents) to more than 2,550 students and to their families. We will also continue to follow closely the Voices of Haiti project, that we have created together with our local partner, St. Luke Foundation, and whose model is our intention to replicate in other disadvantaged situations in the world.
What music do you listen to for fun?
Having the great privilege of deeply loving the music that I study, that I record and that I perform in concert, I find it difficult to create a real distinction between what I am listening to for fun and what regards my profession. I’m never tired of listening to the opera repertoire, especially when performed by the great interpreters of the past — those I loved when I was still a boy. But I happen to listen with great pleasure to pop on the radio, especially when traveling by car, or songs of young artists who are reported to me by friends and colleagues.
Are you a fan of Josh Groban or Il Divo? Do you think they owe any of their success to you?
Those you have mentioned are serious and prepared artists, for whom I have great respect. I remember with pleasure that I sang together with Groban, less than some 10 years ago. I do not think they owe anything to my person. We all try, each and every one in his/her own way, and with one’s own story, to honor beauty through art.
What was your reaction in 1998 when “People” named you one of its “Most Beautiful People?”
At first it seemed like a joke. I still pretend to believe that someone got confused or, good humoredly, wanted to tease me! What I can say is that the female universe has always attracted me and that the favor of my female audience flatters me and gives me strength today as then.
What’s the best advice you gave the contestants when you were a guest coach on “American Idol” in 2006?
Never give up! This is the first tip I gave them, and go on giving to my very young colleagues. Because even if it is true that in an artistic career success follows inscrutable paths, I am also fairly convinced that a genuine talent has, sooner or later in the course of life, the opportunity to emerge. I believe also it is important to recommend humility, determination and honesty of purpose. Finally I would urge them to have many interests — to have love for life — because if we want to sing and move those who are listening to us, we must have something to say through our singing.
What’s the concept behind the Teatro del Silenzio in Lajatico (Bocelli’s hometown)?
The idea that gave birth to the Theater of Silence was to use a natural valley of extraordinary beauty in the hills of my homeland, Lajatico, transforming it into theatrical space, provided that it would be then immediately return to its rural aspect. The challenge since the very beginning was to make a great party for the public and for the artists involved, a midnight summer rite in search of emotion and, precisely, of beauty. The success in these years has gone far beyond the brightest expectations. People reach Lajatico from all over the world, and then return the following year because they create an emotional bond with the territory and don’t want to miss this particular appointment.
How are your kids doing?The eldest, Amos, attends the Aerospace Engineering Faculty. Little Virginia started her school adventure a few weeks ago; while Matteo, who is 20, after studying — like his brother — the piano, in these months is beginning to deepen the study of lyrical singing, in the will to follow his father’s footsteps.