When it comes to contemporary artists within the realm of orchestral and operatic music, Italian born tenor Andrea Bocelli's talent and work has been so widely appreciated and lauded on an international level that he stands literally without peers at this point in his career.
Since the passing of famed tenor (and champion of Bocelli's talent), Luciano Pavarotti in 2007, Bocelli and his gifts have served as the opera world's sole torchbearer and ambassador to the mainstream.
As a testament to Bocelli's massive crossover appeal, the man brought his genre-blurring take on opera to a massive audience at Sunrise's BB&T Center -- a venue better known as the home of the Florida Panthers and as the only place fit to house the highest capacity concerts that come to Broward County.
Fans filed into the arena in droves to enjoy a rather rare performance from the globetrotting Italian. Many donned lavish gowns and sharp suits, others came as they were, plenty sucked on super-sized sodas and other arena fare, and all came in the hopes of bearing witness to a dazzling display of Bocelli's vocal anomalies. As expected, the man did not disappoint, and brought with him a touch of worldly elegance and class.
Bocelli's infallible voice was bolstered by the massive Bella Music Orchestra of Florida and the Master Chorale of South Florida, which were laced together by conductor Eugene Kohn's deft baton. Though Bocelli's own talents were, of course, the focal point of the evening, the man brought to the stage several other world-class performers and collaborators to make for a dynamic show that rarely dragged, despite its lengthy duration.
Following a warm-up romp through a jaunty overture, Bocelli was helped to the foot of the warmly lit stage by Kohn. In front of the sea of various instruments and performers, Bocelli stood and conjured forth a vocal performance that struck with such a commanding beauty that time seemed to slow briefly. Despite the bustling crowd, many of whom were still finding seating -- even a half hour after the concert was set to begin -- Bocelli's voice provided a revelation in sound that could not be wounded by any amount of distraction.
The first half of the performance paid tribute to the works of famed Romantic era composer, Giuseppe Verdi, with Bocelli performing selections from Verdi's Rigoletto and La Traviata, among other favorites from the composer's massive body of work. Bathed in an constantly coalescing glow of colored lights, the Italian gave an astonishing display of control and emotion via Verdi's work.
Also included in the first half of the evening were pieces taken from Romeo and Juliet, duets and solo features by soprano, Maria Aleida, a Miami resident that also showed just how far one can push the human voice when natural talent combines with years of training. The young woman appeared to absolutely relish the opportunity to perform with Bocelli, and her solo performance was almost the highlight of the first half of the show. However, the duet between Bocelli and the young Cuban woman truly brought the arena to a special place -- a place where the concept of reality television that pits "singers" in competition against one another for a recording contract and a twenty minute stint in the limelight is possibly more inane that it already was.
Though the first part of the event was certainly awe-inspiring in its own right, the second half proved to be what audience members had come out in such numbers see. It featured Bocelli's contemporary offerings, some selections from his new release of Mediterranean love songs, Passione, and performances by and featuring Welsh born mezzo-soprano and former Dancing With the Stars cast member, Katherine Jenkins, violinist Catherine Campbell, and a latin guitar duo.
Bocelli, having now swapped his black tuxedo for a dark red velour jacket, interacted with these guests impeccably well, and the more modern stylings of Passione were received with absolute elation by the large audience. A unique highlight of the second half was Bocelli's virtual duet with recordings and footage of Edith Piaf during his performance of Piaf's signature song, "La Vie en Rose."
The night ended with Bocelli doing several encores, despite his being "a little bit tired." As is usually the case, the final sweeping crescendos of "Nessun Dorma - Tourandot" brought the evening back to its roots in traditional opera.
It is worth mentioning that there was a massive rigging of screens behind the performers, which has become a necessity in this day and age for people to feel as though they're getting what they pay for in a performance. However, from our perspective, images of quaint Italian villas and footage of Bocelli's other performances betrayed the performance and proved distracting from the point of the performance itself.
Luckily, the natural, sonic gifts Andrea Bocelli and his guests displayed on Friday transcended any distractions running on the massive screen, and were an affirmation that things like Auto-Tune, and the now industry standard of lip-syncing performances sold as "live" are truly as despicable as they are unnecessary for "real" talents.
Personal Bias: Fan of orchestral music, proud former member of the JP Taravella High School band program. Still prefers Danzig to Verdi.
Random Observation: Watching someone eat popcorn during an opera performance is a mindfuck.
My Date: Was my Grandpa, and we had a blast.