ITALIAN superstar tenor Andrea Bocelli is known for passion and spontaneity, which he demonstrated in an unannounced singing appearance during Easter mass in little old Miami Beach. To the delight of everyone, the 54-year-old opera legend, "crashed" mass at St Patrick's Catholic Church, where he stood up to sing "Panis Angelicus" during communion.
Bocelli had asked the diocese beforehand if he could sing the hymn written by Saint Tomas for the feast of Corpus Christi. Everyone took out the cell phones to record the man who is one of Italy's most famous living icons, and an old friend of former pope Benedict XVI.
Bocelli is expected to bring the same passion to his Shanghai concert on April 30. It will be his only concert on the Chinese mainland in 2013 and will feature a range of his most popular songs.
Reportedly the biggest-selling classical artist of all time, with hits including the charts behemoth "Time to Say Goodbye," Bocelli is famous for opera, operatic pop, Latin pop, sacred music, ballads, contemporary and other genres. He is also a songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist (piano, keyboards, flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, harmonica, guitar, and drums).
The Tuscan-born star is also famous because of his personal, triumphant story. He was born with glaucoma and went blind at the age of 12 after sustaining a head injury while playing football. He went on to university and law school before embarking on his musical career in his 30s. Luciano Pavarotti used to say, "You do not need me to sing it - let Andrew sing 'Miserere,' for there is no one finer."
Bocelli dismisses any comparisons with Pavarotti, saying "Every interpreter has a particular specificity. In the case of Pavarotti, a great tenor and a great friend, I do not dare make any comparison."
At seven years of age, he was able to recognize all the famous voices of the time, and he gave his first concert when he was a teenager.
In 2008 Bocelli's collaboration with Chinese singer Zhang Liangying in "Embrace the Dream" was a theme song for the Beijing Summer Olympic Games. He performed "Nessun Dorma" during the grand opening of the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.
In the upcoming concert in Shanghai, Bocelli will sing Verdi, including selections from "Rigoletto," "Il Trovatore" and "La Traviata." Of course, he will sing "Di Quella Pira" and "La conna è Mobile." The concert will include a page from "Romeo and Julliette" by Gounoud.
The second part of the concert will include pop classics from the Album "Passione," as well as moments from albums such as "Incanto," "Sentimento" and "Vivere." He will also sing pages from the traditional Neapolitan repertoire that he has been performing since he was young.
Bocelli answered questions from Shanghai Daily in a recent e-mail interview.
Q: Some attribute your success to a great voice, good looks, loss of eyesight, a smart combination of classical music, opera and pop. Your view?
A: I think I am very lucky; my career is a fairy tale with a happy ending. Not a day goes by that I do not think how generous life has been to me. Success follows mysterious paths. If this were not so, you could build a great career on a theoretical level. There are no sure recipes. In addition to voice it takes intelligence, will, spirit of sacrifice, perseverance, a little bit of narcissism. I am also convinced that singing is not simply modulating through the voice of a musical composition: we sing the work of art that is in us (which for a believer as I am, is the mirror of the wonder of creation). We celebrate the beauty that we can grow and live every day.
Q: Your new album "Passione" is a romantic collection with a Mediterranean feeling. You cooperate with Jeniifer Lopez, Nelly Furtado and others. How would you describe it?
A: For me, every song has a special meaning. It is an album that I feel looks very much like me. The realization of "Passione" has been a challenging but galvanizing adventure, from the moment when David Foster and I first started to select the songs (in the beginning there were around 80) to the moment in mid-January when I removed the cellophane from the first copy of the CD.
Q: What was it like working with famous singers Song Zuying and Zhang Liangying?
A: I have wonderful memories, both are fine interpreters, overflowing with talent, charm and grace. With Song I sang the duet "Time To Say Goodbye" on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall in an East-meets-West concert.
Q: Do you have a favorite musical genre?
A: For the past two decades I have followed both the lyrical and pop repertoires. I try to keep the two separate because every music has its depth ... I do not reject pop, but I prefer opera. My life is entirely permeated with this form of art, which I love calling "the paradise of music." It was invented more than four centuries ago in Tuscany where I was born and raised.
One of my greatest satisfactions is to bring the world the music and culture of my land, masterpieces by Puccini, Verdi, Mascagni and Giordano.
Q: Who influenced you most?
A: My parents, and in another way, my sons and my companion Veronica. But there is a person I always love to remember, and to whom I owe much of the little I know: his name is Amos Martellacci and he was an extraordinary man who mastered six languages, and who had become the director of a bank, despite having only an elementary school certificate. But he had received from heaven the gift of an extraordinary capacity for learning and understanding and an irrepressible desire to convey something of himself to the others. He found me on his way ... coming to my house morning and afternoon for many years, helping me in my studies at university, until I started my artistic career.
Q: Who was the greatest musical influence in your life?
A: The tenor Franco Corelli who represented the bolt from the blue that marked my destiny. When I was a boy I literally wore his records out. Years later I had the good fortune to study with him in a relationship of mutual respect and on my part true devotion.
Q: You were a singing teacher on "American Idol." What is your advice to the young aspiring singers?
A: I would recommend all young people to be humble but determined, to build on their potential, to be strict with themselves but always proceed with optimism, never stopping believing in their own passion.
I would tell them to take good habits because time will make them pleasant; also to be curious, to fall in love with life, and to believe always in love, which is the engine of the world.