It’s hard to think of music in the past 30 years without thinking of Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. Performing all around the world, Bocelli has become a household name for his ballads, his duets, his dedication to his family, and his presence on stage in any language — spanning English, French, Italian and more just to name a few.
Ahead of his show at the Wells Fargo Center on Feb. 21, Bocelli discussed what brings him back to the stage time after time, and ultimately where his passion for performing comes from.
What is it that always brings you back to performing, what emotions do you feel while on stage?
After 30 years in this career, what brings me to spend most of my time traveling abroad, off one flight and on to the next, is the very real feeling of gratitude. It is even more compelling considering that, by nature, I am actually a homebody, one who very reluctantly would leave his own immediate surroundings. I simply believe that the best way to give a concrete sign of gratitude to those kind and patient enough to follow my work with affection is precisely to meet them in person and reach them wherever they may be.
On stage, despite there being many people, I feel a sort of closeness with members of the audience. I feel towards them – I repeat – profound gratitude because they have allowed for my voice to be a part of the theme songs of their lives. It’s a sort of chemistry that is felt between the stage and the audience… Together we try to pursue beauty through art, and through the mysterious power of music we receive, in turn, a healthy burst of energy. Because of this intensity of emotions, live performances can never, not even remotely, be replaced by a computer.
For fans of your music, what will this tour hold for them? Is there anything specific that they should look out for?
The program is truly full of excitement. The structure is one I always follow: A first part dedicated to the most known and beloved operatic pieces and a second part with popular ballads. The succession, however, under the directorship of my friend, Steven Mercurio, is definitely broad and diversified. The tour is all made possible thanks to our wonderful guests who will enrich the concert experience.
I will have by my side a special guest – Zucchero, one of the most acclaimed Italian musicians throughout the world, a singer-songwriter who authored many pop masterpieces of the past thirty years. Our paths crossed in 1992, when he was already famous and I was an unknown tenor and piano-bar player. He was looking for a new voice to record a demo of his new song, “Miserere”, which he would then perform with Pavarotti. The great Luciano listened to the recording and had very generous words for me… My meeting Zucchero was a strong push in launching my career.
It will be a great joy to share the stage with him once again, and perform with the splendid voices of soprano Larisa Martinez and baritone Edward Parks, and with the formidable pop artist, Pia Toscano, and violinist Caroline Campbell. It will be a journey through time, with ageless operatic masterpieces from Verdi to Puccini, from Rossini to Bizet, pop, and many famous Italian and international songs.
As someone who sings in different languages, what is that experience like for you?
It’s something I am passionate about. Still today I find it very fascinating to be able to sing in different languages and explore the diverse musicality each language possesses. Of course, I love Italian, the language of opera, the language of my parents, that I grew up with and know best.
Many pop and theater musical classics are, however, interpreted in English, and I couldn’t imagine them in any other language, just as there are songs that have been in my repertoire for decades that are in the language of powerful sensuality and musicality – Spanish. And then there’s French that I learned at a deeper level so that I could sing some operatic pieces, and even Neapolitan, which is not a dialect but can be considered a separate language.
What are some moments from your career that stand out, and is there anything that you’re still hoping to do?
Throughout my 30-year career, I have performed all over the world, against the most breathtaking backdrops, like the Colosseum, the Pyramids, the Kremlin and the Forbidden City, New York’s Metropolitan and the Statue of Liberty. I have participated in events broadcast in world vision, at times before heads of state and monarchs. It was, no doubt, especially exciting for me to sing before our last reigning Popes—first John Paul II and Benedict XVI, then Pope Francis.
It was also a privilege for me to have performed on several occasions for Queen Elizabeth and most recently for King Charles III. As an artist, I hope to continue to make music and enter the hearts of those kind enough to listen to my voice. As an individual, I aspire to pursue what is good, without fail, offering my modest contribution to leave my children with a better world.
I read somewhere that your father said to you: “You need to make yourself known in America because over there they will truly appreciate you.” Do you feel like he was right?
Parents often have premonitions when it comes to the well-being of their children. This is what happened with my father, who, though never having set foot in the United States, firmly believed that America would be the only place to truly appreciate my talent.
He came to this notion by reading, in the news and from the stories told, as seen through the collective imagination of Italians. This nation has always looked across the ocean to this land as a wondrous land of democracy and opportunity. This certainty of my father, Sandro, has revealed itself a prophecy, born of the trust the United States has earned in the field. So much that I can say that I feel at home in the US.
You travel all over the world to bring your music to people. What do you hope audiences take away after seeing one of your shows?
Music is a universal language I consider therapeutic in all respects. Good music, especially, is a formidable instrument of peace. This is the way I hope my voice is perceived… Art softens the spirit and makes it productive. Every time I go on stage, what I want most is to reciprocate with those present with a moment of tenderness, joy, and trust. My hope has always been the same: if members of the audience return home after my concert a bit more serene, with a smile on their faces, then I feel that I accomplished my mission.
For tickets to see Andrea Bocelli, visit andreabocelli.com