Although there are gifted entertainers in the world of music, it's truly difficult to find a musician who is timeless and cares about the music more than the fame.
Enter Andrea Bocelli, tenor opera singer straight from Tuscany, Italy. Afflicted with congenital glaucoma that was further worsened by a soccer head injury, Bocelli became one hundred percent blind at the age of 12. However, the disability didn't hinder him at all and instead furthered his career. In fact, aside from playing piano at the tender age of six, Bocelli also played the flute and the saxophone.
Since his first operatic performance in 1994 in Verdi's Macbeth as Macduff, Bocelli has recorded with big name musicians such as Sarah Brightman, Jennifer Lopez, and Nelly Furtado. Accolades for the gifted tenor include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the 2014 Billboard Latin Music Awards as well as a 1999 Grammy nomination and a Golden Globe award the same year. With his career spanning over 20 years, Bocelli has sold more than 80 million records and sang on numerous countless worldwide tours.
He's actually a new South Florida resident, having purchased a home in Miami last year. Bocelli will perform at Hollywood's Hard Rock Live for the fifth year in a row on Valentine's Day weekend. We spoke with Bocelli about his newest album, Manon Lescaut, his famous song "Time to Say Goodbye," the infamous scene from Stepbrothers, and he gave us some love advice.
New Times: Tell us about your latest album, Manon Lescaut, and how it's different than the others.
Andrea Bocelli: Manon Lescaut is a bitter tale, an operatic drama overflowing passion, focused on the eternal struggle between virtue and vice. I have waited long, before tackling this opera by Puccini which I fell in love with, many years ago listening to a wonderful recording by Mario Del Monaco and Renata Tebaldi.
I have carefully, almost maniacally studied it, and then finally came the time to record it. It was an unforgettable experience! And furthermore, a real privilege, to have next to me a dear friend and great artist like Ana Maria Martinez, performing under the baton of a giant of opera like Plácido Domingo.
I am seldom satisfied a hundred percent with my performances. This recording is no exception. Even here, there is a gap between the end result and what I had dreamed to be able of giving the role... That said, however, I am quite pleased with my contribution to this Manon Lescaut, whose exceptionality, I believe, lies in the interpretation of my colleagues and in the extraordinary musical work of Placido.
I have finished the recording sessions with my heart full of emotions and memories to cherish, with the sensation of having deepened this masterpiece, as I had never done before.
We saw that you started a diary blog. Does this give a creative outlet to your music? Can you tell us more about it?
This idea came from the need to have a frank and deeper relationship with the many people who around the world follow me with such affection and generosity. The diary was born because of a desire of sharing.
To think of it, it is the same impulse that leads me, even today, to travel around the world. When I am on stage, I sing for every listener, I always try to have a direct, true relation, centered on intellectual honesty and on the hope of being able to share this common élan towards beauty. Beauty of art that is also the beauty of values, and of feelings. With my very poor forces, but with the same enthusiasm, I approach the readers of my diary.
Your song "Time to Say Goodbye" was featured in the Will Ferrell movie Stepbrothers. What was your reaction to this?
It was fun. It is undeniably true that this song has become a classic, in its own way, in every corner of the world, able to move people and to enter their heart. I, for one, never get tired of singing it. It is interesting to see how it was used, in films, in contexts very different one from the other, from animated films to thrillers to comedies...
How has being blind helped shape your creativity and given perspective to things?
I do not think it has influenced my musical and creative activity. Even if in everyday's life, sometimes, I have had to pursue alternative routes to reach the same goal that those who do not have this problem, usually reach with a minor effort.
I think every person should approach the marvelous tools received by God, trying to capitalize their skills and talents and coming to terms with their own story. We can only, gratefully, accept the instruments that this earthly transit gives us, whatever they are. We must also learn how to make them express their full potential. The human body is a marvel with no equal, and the channels of communications with the world are many and articulated.
What is your favorite part about performing on Valentine's Day?
On a day like Valentine's Day, I can only say that I am a happy man every moment of my performance! The songs and arias that I prefer speak of love. I have set all of my professional and personal life to honor the beauty and strength of love.
On the day that celebrates lovers (a day that should return every day of the year), I will try to express this marvelous feeling in every song, in every note. Another thing is to really succeed in it, but this is anyway what I want: I hope my music will find its way to the heart of those who will listen to me, hoping to give a moment of serenity and to enliven the emotions of this celebration.
Is Valentine's Day your favorite holiday?
It is a special day; it is an opportunity to celebrate love, which is the engine of the world. I believe in the strength of anniversaries, provided that they are filled with meaning, that they are given their true value... On San Valentine's Day, everybody has the possibility to express their affection and gratitude.
Why do you think "Time to Say Goodbye" is one of your most famous songs?
It is difficult to focus in detail the alchemies of a famous song. In this case, there are very evocative and charming lyrics, with beautiful catchy music backed by a rhythm that pushes towards a strong elation. In short a song that works, even if, at the beginning not many had been aware of its potential. It is a song which I feel grateful to, because for me it was an extraordinary springboard toward international fame.
What is your best love advice?
Sometimes the complexity of adult life tends to slow down the channels that connect feelings among people, and in this case, the flow of love becomes slower or more difficult. It is up to us make room, "to keep the soul clean" so that feelings can circulate freely.
My wish is to be able not to lose intimacy and complicity with the people we love. Experience has taught me that if we pass on generosity and if we share the happiness and the goodness we have inside, we will get back everything multiplied: The more love we give, the more we will receive.
10. Any additional comments?
Talking of love, even friendship is an extraordinary form of love. It is a sweet responsibility, which calls for commitment and self sacrifice and it is an essential part of my life. I remember a beautiful definition of the poet Kahlil Gibran: "Friendship is the need satisfied; it is the field where you sow with love and you reap with gratitude". Everywhere I go around the world, I can perceive this affectionate feeling people have towards me. I would like to reiterate that every time I am amazed, touched and grateful, and every time I sing, I hope to be at the height of the expectations.
Andrea Bocelli. 8 p.m. Thursday, February 12, Saturday, February 14, and Sunday, February 15, at Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Visit andreabocelli.com.
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