AMMAN — Losing his sight at the age of 12 hasn't been a hindrance to success or adventure for Andrea Bocelli. Refusing to be defined by blindness, the passionate Tuscan opera singer sees all the beauty and suffering in the world – but in a different way, through his voice…
Andrea Bocelli', one of the most famous tenors and opera singers in the world refuses to be defined as the blind opera singer because his musical achievements are not limited by his lack of sight.
Bocelli has sold more than 60 million albums worldwide over the years.
His signature song, Time to Say Goodbye, was a worldwide number-one hit and his 1999 album, Sacred Arias, sold more than any other classical album by a solo artist.
He earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for claiming the first, second, and third places in the American classical charts and holding on to them for an astonishing three years.
Next Monday, Bocelli is due to make an appearance at the Oval Forum in Jarash; his first public performance in Jordan, aside from his the private event back in 2008, honouring Pavarotti.
The first section will feature some of his most renowned operatic arias, and the second part of Bocelli’s performance will feature his most popular hits.
Ahead of his visit, Bocelli gave AlGhad an exclusive interview, shedding light on various aspects of his career, life, and expectations in Jordan.
Beauty, above all else, is Bocelli’s inspiration, and he expects a lot of it here.
You will be performing in Jarash within a week’s time, one of the oldest historical sites in the world, in front of an audience who knows you well and loves your music. How does it feel to perform for an audience from a completely different culture and background? And what do you expect of this upcoming event?
I believe good music brings into play the essential emotions of life, with an intensity that can break all sorts of cultural and generational barriers.
Whether they are ‘classics’ of the popular repertoire, or the masterpieces of the Opera repertoire (Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni and many others), for over twenty years I have seen how art can transcend all barriers into shear captivation and beauty.
Art communicates beauty through all the filters of culture and society, piercing deep into everybody’s hearts.
Without fail, music —the language of the world— has always brought me closer to all my audiences; across culture and nationality.
After all, it is love that unites us all; it is the common denominator, and music is the sound of love.
Music is the language which brings us all together.
The concert in Jarash, is my chance to get in touch with the hearts of my brothers in Jordan, to be there, and communicate with each and every one of my audience.
Needless to say, when you’re as impassioned by art as I am, the first time is always an emotionally overwhelming experience.
More so, it is my chance to get introduced to this place that is so brimming with history that it gives testimony to itself.
It is one of the world’s most historically intense spots, where some of the ancient and the new collide.
The opportunity to learn about different cultures, to me, is a privilege in itself.
How does it feel getting back on stage, in front of a live audiences, after all these years?
I carry in my heart the warmth Jordanian people gave me when I first performed in Jordan, during the private Memorial Concert to Luciano Pavarotti at Little Petra. In truth, come back with joy, happy to find an audience that in the meantime has been so good as to follow me with perseverance and affection.
I have a very special relationship with your country: last year I had the pleasure and honour to host her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah in Italy during an event involving the Foundation bearing my name.
On that occasion, we gave her the Andrea Bocelli Humanitarian Award, as a symbolic recognition, that ideally united the whole of Italy in admiration and gratitude, for the extraordinary work that Her Majesty has been doing for many years in the social field.
In one word, describe your emotions right before performing on stage?
When I get on stage, being sentimental, I always feel a certain kind of tension. But I try to stay focused.
Contrary to common belief, it doesn’t easier with time.
The more the years pass the more your audience expects of you.
That said, the tension I feel is motivated by my will to live up to their expectations, to give my best.
Disappointment is not something I want my fans to remember me by.
I put so much effort, before getting on stage, to transform trepidation into positive energy.
You are known as a fan of movie soundtracks, how do you choose the content of your music?
All the songs I perform have a strong sentimental value, to choose the content of my pop album “Cinema” [featuring renditions of classic film soundtracks and scores], I have selected the pages I love most, the ones that have marked my life - that have moved and amused me, and made me fall in love.
I have always loved film music, and it is no secret that through “Cinema” I have realised a dream that has accompanied me for at least two decades. The heart of this adventure was my home at Forte dei Marmi, in Tuscany, where I gathered the same team that had created, years ago, for the album “Amore”.
Once again together, Tony Renis, Humberto Gatica, David Foster, and I have shared so many days, evaluating hundreds of songs, drawing on a vast repertoire, without limits of time and place.
I am happy with the end result: it is a sequence of masterpieces that the Seventh Art has given birth to, that wonderful voices – like Frank Sinatra, Mario Lanza and many others – have contributed to grow in our hearts and that today I have the pleasure to reproduce, renewed in orchestration and in recording quality, which, thanks to the most advanced techniques, makes listening smoother and more captivating.
You’ve been called a crossover artist, through pop and classical music, where do you find yourself more?
Crossover is a rather ambiguous term that I do not particularly like nor identify with.
In fact, I am convinced that classical music and pop are two different worlds, each with its own difficulties, depth and artistic dignity.
Of course, I often happen to perform in front of an audience devoted to pop, even operatic music, in the hope of spreading my predilections. But I try, as much as I can, to keep the two genres totally apart.
As it is well known, I was borne as an Opera singer, but it is through the pop universe that I initially achieved international fame. As a child, my preference, my greatest passion, has always been oriented towards the opera repertoire.
This may be an outdated question, but in your book, published in 1999, the Music of Silence, you called yourself Amos, is it related to your philosophy in life?
The name ‘Amos’ is related to an extraordinary person I had the privilege of meeting along my way: Amos Martellacci.
He was an extraordinary man who mastered six languages and who had become a bank manager despite having just studied up to primary school level!
He received from Heaven the gift of an extraordinary ability to learn and understand, in addition to the uncontainable desire to convey something of him to others. He found me on his way and "sentenced" himself to come to my home, morning and afternoon, for many years, helping me in my university studies, until my artistic career started.
In his honour, I gave the name "Amos" to my eldest son.
When I was around forty, I felt the need to retrace my existential adventure to understand better its meaning and perhaps also to learn something from it, and it became spontaneous for me not to speak in first person. This ruse has allowed me greater clarity in narration.
Your book has been made into a movie; how does it feel to have your life journey on the big screen?
Sometimes it seems to me somewhat paradoxical to think that my life can be considered so interesting as to make a film of it!
I was intrigued, first through the collaboration on the script, then on the set (I have been asked, in fact, to make a small cameo in the film), by such a direct approach to the world of cinema.
However I am feeling confident about the quality of the result given the esteem I have for the team this movie has brought together, from the actors, including Antonio Banderas, to the director, Michael Radford, the author of great masterpieces like ‘Il postino – The postman’.
You have had a remarkable relationship with the late Luciano Pavarotti, as you both performed together, and magically connected on stage. Could you tell us more about your friendship?
He was an exceptional artist and a dear friend.
I remember that his death, even though we were all expecting it, was something that deeply upset me.
Luciano Pavarotti has been very kind to me and for this I am deeply grateful to him.
Even though he left us ten years ago, his voice is always alive in everyone’s heart including mine.
I have had the privilege of knowing him and sharing many memories with him, and each one of them is just as strong and alive today.
Pavarotti remains one of the century’s most beautiful voices; a beacon to follow in his trace, for anyone who wants to approach the repertoire Big Luciano had sung.
What does music do for you?
Music is my daily bread, it's a need, it's a passion, a healthy elation; a burst of beauty, it's a way to give lightness to life.
Good music is fatally connected to goodness because it has the ability to affect our conscience, contributing to our spiritual evolution, thus making us better people.
Tuscany, what it means to you?
I have a great love for the place where I was born and where I have my roots.
I can say I feel as though I am a product of my land... Tuscany is a place of spirit and beauty; art and spirituality.
On the one hand, there is an abundance architectural wonders, paintings, sculptures, and beautiful landscapes, and on the other, it offers a shelter for the spirit.
Its landscapes offer an ideal retreat to find silence, solace, and recollection.
The land is blessed with lush vegetation, and more so with art.
Its fertility is remarkable.
Tuscany gave birth to many great artists and, among them, many musicians, both composers and performers.
Fortunately, my view on Tuscany is shared by anyone who visits it.
Is it true that you prefer singing to playing the piano?
I have studied music first as a self-taught person, then following some maestros, both for singing and piano. I have a certain predisposition that allows me to reach a fair level using many instruments, from the flute, to the saxophone, the horn, the accordion, and the drums.
The piano, however, has always been and still is my most loyal friend.
I play it every day, by myself and with friends. I have loads of fun playing with classical scores which can be somewhat complex and challenging.
Sometimes, I play opera and pop music.
You see, singing is an art (and a practice) that has no comparison. Because, in this case, it is your own body that is the instrument.
Therefore the level of involvement and engagement is higher.
Singing has always been for me a sweet privilege. It is a way to share my heaven-sent gift, for which I have no merit, with others.
It is also the easiest and most straight forward way to build a long-lasting personal relationship with the world around you, people mainly.
Singing allows you to appeal to their affection, and gives you a chance to give back as much as possible.
Edited By Abdul Rahman Bazian (firstname.lastname@example.org, @a_bazian)