Andrea Bocelli on starting his singing career, lockdown and the role of faith in his life

Andrea Bocelli on starting his singing career, lockdown and the role of faith in his life

Andrea Bocelli performing in Milan (Image: Daniele Venturelli/Getty)

“I remember in all the euphoria of the following day, a journalist asked me jokingly if, at that point, they could expect one of my concerts to take place in space, perhaps, or on the moon!” Andrea, 63 next Wednesday, tells me from his Italian seaside villa home.

Bocelli is a serious man, powered by a strong religious faith, but he laughs easily, not least when he recalls the day that he thought he’d have to mime to a packed Wembley Stadium at the 2007 Princess Diana memorial concert.

“It was the first time I’d sung The Music Of The Night and unfortunately, I hadn’t managed to learn all the words ‑ my diary was very busy at the time ‑ so I asked my wife Veronica to prompt me over the headphones. 

During the performance she was hurrying towards the control room but was stopped by the security guards who became suspicious and didn’t believe her very agitated explanations.

“In the end it was all cleared up, but I was in a cold sweat, thinking that I’d have to mime, in front of the cameras of half the world and with the composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, just a few metres away from me, in the wings!”

Blinded at 12 in a freak football accident, Bocelli doesn’t like to talk about his disability. “I cried, but only for a short while,” he said. “I then set aside self-pity and decided I needed to be optimistic about life.” He learnt braille and to read music and play the piano. 

Driven by sheer talent, Andrea has sold more than 150million records and replaced “Big Lucy” (Pavarotti) as ‘The Voice of Italy’.

Celine Dion once said, “If God had a singing voice he would sound like Andrea Bocelli”.

Bocelli performing onstage with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (Image: Jeff Kravitz/Getty)

The star’s love of opera began in his childhood in Lajatico where his father Sandro sold agricultural machinery. “I used to listen and learn by heart all the great arias from gramophone records.

“I remember that at school, as an adolescent, I was looked at as a kind of Martian because my contemporaries were all listening to the singer-songwriters in vogue at the time, while I was only excited by operas like La Bohème, Tosca and Andrea Chénier.”

He first performed in public “about half a century ago; I was on holiday with my family and my uncle entered me in a competition, without asking me first, at the Caffè Margherita in Viareggio.

That was the first time I performed in front of a real audience, not just an audience made up of relatives and friends. I sang O Campagnola Bella first, and then O Sole Mio. I won the competition and gained my first ovation.”

It wasn’t until he was eighteen that Bocelli got into pop and started playing piano in clubs and piano-bars to support himself while he studied law. There he met first wife, Enrica, the mother of his two grown-up sons.

He has a nine-year-old daughter Virginia with his second wife Veronica, also his manager. The couple met in 2002 and “from that evening, we’ve never been apart”.

Is he a good husband? “Ask her!” he laughs. “I have a lot of faults, and perhaps the worst of them is that I don’t know what they are.”

Bocelli’s big break came in 1992 when Italian rock star Zucchero Fornaciari held auditions for tenors. Pavarotti heard Andrea’s tape and declared “there is no finer voice than Bocelli”.  

Pavarotti asked him to sing at his wedding and his widow asked him to sing at funeral.

Bocelli performing as part of the One World Together At Home concert during the coronavirus pandemic (Image: ABACA/PA)

The Bocellis spent lockdown in their home on the Tuscan coast. “I found it a very anxious and frustrating period. But I spent more time with my children, and studied, listened to music and read.”

The enforced pause inspired him to record his 2020 religious album Believe.

“There are pieces linked to my childhood, pieces with a pure and genuine religiosity, rooted in popular tradition. Believe also includes two prayers that I set to music myself. The first is an Our Father that I wrote years ago, and the second is an ‘Ave Maria’ that just gushed from my soul in the middle of lockdown.”

He sang duets with Cecilia Bartoli, “the greatest mezzo-soprano active today”, and Alison Krauss.

“I like to think of the album as a medicine for the soul, a sequence made up of sung prayers that can give comfort and spark optimism.”    

Did the pandemic dampen his positivity? “Not at all. I have faith in human beings, in their intelligence and their ability to choose the path to goodness at every crossroads. And as a believer, I trust in the goodness of the Creator, like being in the arms of a loving parent.

“History teaches us that even the most difficult obstacles can be overcome. Being an optimist is a moral duty, and all the more so in this situation.”

Veronica Berti and Andrea Bocelli (Image: Daniele Venturelli/Getty)

Andrea rides horses to unwind, and says “I try to spend as much time as possible on my boat: it’s a means to freedom and genuine contact with nature, and the ideal place to spend carefree moments with my family.”  

As well as the Tuscan villa, he owns a home in the countryside in Lajatico, and a house in Miami “my second home”.

He loves Italian culture ‑ “that ‘civilization of beauty’ that our country has been able to express through many art forms over the centuries” ‑ and his fans.   

“Not a day goes by without me thinking about the privilege that I have of being followed everywhere with such goodwill and by so many people. I always have encounters on my tours that move me and touch me.

“I remember people confiding in me that thanks to my music they have rediscovered their faith or their belief in life…It’s this kind of appreciation that gives me the energy to continue singing, restoring meaning to a career and perhaps even to a life.”

He’s just released a new celebratory tenth anniversary remastered album of that 2011 Central Park concert with a bonus version of O Sole Mio.

“Every note was recorded live, without a safety net,” he says. “I’m delighted by it. It was a remarkable event, it took sixteen months of work and was definitely one of the peaks of my career.”

It’s dedicated to his father, who ironically hated opera, but had always longed to visit America.

Bocelli doesn’t like planning ahead. “If it were up to me, I’d avoid making any plans beyond twenty-four hours,” he says. “But my diary is always very packed…I’m leaving for a tour of the United States which includes twenty-two concerts.”

His Sacred Arias album, recorded over twenty years ago, was the biggest selling album by a classical soloist of all time.

Faith continues to play a large part in his life. “I believe that the Christian message is the only philosophy that is perpetually relevant, and I think it’s the greatest mine of wisdom. You just need to take two concepts from the Gospel  ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ and ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’  to understand how it is still today the heart of wisdom, that we should all seek to draw on.”

Concerto, One Night in Central Park, is out now as a remastered CD, Fan Edition CD/DVD, Limited Edition Fan Edition CD/DVD + Poster, 180g gold vinyl, DVD & Blu-ray.

Published at Sat, 18 Sep 2021 23:01:00 +0000

This story originally posted here

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