Andrea Bocelli’s 1997 pop album, Romanza, is reportedly the best-selling album by an Italian artist in history. Bigger than Sinatra. Bigger than Bennett.
Of course, Bocelli, 54, can straddle the worlds of opera and pop and sing in six languages. Since the release of his first album 19 years ago, the Pisa-born tenor has become the world ambassador of the love song — as exemplified on his new album, Passione, in which he records songs by Neil Diamond, Elvis Presley and Edith Piaf in Italian, Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and Neapolitan. Pasión, a Spanish version of the album, was simultaneously released last week.
On Friday, Bocelli brings his worlds together at BB&T Center in Sunrise. The Miami Herald caught up with Bocelli via email, for a trip through culture in song.
Passion e features duets with Jennifer Lopez and Nelly Furtado and you’ve collaborated with Celine Dion, Sarah Brightman and Katherine Jenkins. What do you look for when choosing a duet partner?
To mix the sound of two voices, to weave their vibrations, is like betting; it is an exciting experience. The voice is the mirror of the soul; singing tells about its inner world. To sing well you must have a lot of passions and passionately live. The artists you have named have an overwhelming personality, and each of them is capable of enriching a melody thanks to her talent and charisma. In the opera, as well, the duet is one of the cornerstones of the narration structure of the musical theater. You have to find a common ground, a common vibration. Personally, it is a gratifying experience, indeed.
You’re a crossover artist who can do opera and classical-pop; does one genre prove more challenging vocally?
Classical music and pop music are two different universes, each with its own difficulties, peculiarities and artistic dignity. I don’t like the term crossover, and I don’t particularly feel the need to label my activity. The study path is the one of an opera singer, even if it is through the pop that I first reached the great audience. My encounter with music in my childhood was the one with the voices of the heroes of the 20th-century opera — from Enrico Caruso to Beniamino Gigli, from Tito Schipa to Franco Corelli. All of them characters who have built the history of the operatic interpretation and who have, as well, sung many popular romanzas.
To sing a song, however, is like whispering to a child’s ear. Light music is born more by instinct, by that somewhat “gypsy” talent that the artist possesses: it is an art heavily relying on improvisation. Hazarding a culinary comparison, the song is like a sweet, easy to be made and to be savored, good at the moment, but to be eaten sparingly because it can easily become a bit too heavy.
You’ve performed at the foot of the pyramids in Egypt, before heads of state, and on the Dancing With the Stars stage. What venue is left to conquer?
I remember how the day after the concert I gave on the Great Lawn of Central Park a reporter jokingly asked me if at that point it was reasonable to expect a concert of mine to be in space or on the moon!
— HOWARD COHEN