by Marilena Lucci
His father had two dreams: seeing his son sing in America and watching him perform embraced by the lights of a New York City stage. So touring for Andrea Bocelli has special meaning to him, as he realizes his dreams and his father’s.
As Montreal prepares to welcome Bocelli to the Bell Centre on October 21, the internationally-acclaimed musician sat down with Panoram Italia to talk about his famous friends, bottomless hits and Tuscan roots.
What’s special to you about performing in Canada?
It’s an extraordinary country – a place where bustling big cities and modern societies exist alongside picturesque landscapes, where peace and dazzling nature still take precedence. Canada is a hospitable, generous and multicultural nation where you can have a high quality of life because of the culture and knowledge found here. I am particularly happy to be back in Montreal, after so many years, where there is also a strong Italian community.
What was it like working with Céline Dion?
Céline is an incredible artist and a dear friend. The love that a worldwide audience holds for this great Canadian artist – for both her personality and her voice – is the same that I feel having always been a committed fan. She is exceptionally professional, an uncomplicated person and passionate about her work. She is a refined musician who has taught me something each and every time we have had the pleasure of singing together. It’s not easy for us to line up our schedules, but every time we do manage to get together it’s always a great pleasure.
You’ve also worked with other pop artists like Ed Sheeran. Why is it important for you to mix musical genres?
More than just mixing genres, I try to combine them. For example, I will bring opera into a context that is usually dedicated to pop with the hope of sharing the genre with an audience that is less accustomed to the style. I am a tenor, however, I often and gladly use a “lighter” repertoire (exactly as I did recently in my duet with Ed Sheeran). This is a repertoire that encompasses great popular love songs, as well as lyrical opera, like Enrico Caruso or Beniamino Gigli did 100 years ago.
You used to suffer from stage fright. How did you overcome that? Do you still get nervous?
When the curtain is raised, you will always experience some level of fear. All you have to do is know how to manage it. I believe that there are two types of emotion: that which motivates you and leaves you in a state of almost happiness, and then the negative type that drains you of energy. It is essential to allow space for the first and neutralize the second. In essence, I believe its right to be emotional when one nurtures a great respect for the music and the audience. My personal remedy to counteract that tension is to have a clear conscience – to know that I have worked and studied hard – so that when I get to a concert I know I am in the best possible form.
What makes this tour special?
The structure will follow a formula unique to me. The first part will be dedicated solely to an operatic repertoire, and the second will feature some pop classics and those great love songs that the audience is expecting to hear me sing. To make the event special, I can confirm that there will be a lot of surprises! But a secret told ceases to be so.
When director Michael Radford was about to film The Music of Silence (a biopic about your life) you suggested he not have the actor “act blind”, why this distinction?
The human body is a prodigy without equal, and the channels of communication with the world are numerous and varied. There are people who look at everything and see nothing and there are those who don’t look but see everything.
You’ve said you’re a product of your native land, Tuscany. What is it about the region that defines you?
I think that there is a strong link between the peasant culture of my land and those values that I try to convey through my songs. In the Tuscan countryside, my parents (and the community within which I grew up) taught me honesty, sacrifice, a love of beauty and a respect for elders and nature. And, more than anything, they taught me optimism.