Billboard Latin Music Awards

Andrea Bocelli: I was destined to sing

Michael Buckner / Getty Images for Fight Night

Talk about an OMG moment for anyone who didn’t know that global superstar Andrea Bocelli kept a lair in South Florida. The famed Italian tenor showed up on Sunday for a solo hymn at Easter services at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Miami Beach.

Later, Bocelli, along with his wife of one month/manager Veronica Berti visited Cavalli Restaurant and Lounge for a dinner of truffle risotto with the clothing designer-owner himself. Just so happens the “popera” singer (who was born with glaucoma and blinded in a soccer accident at the age of 12), and Cavalli are old friends. No spontaneous singing was reported.

We’ll get to see and hear more of Bocelli, 55, when he performs at the 25th annual Billboard Latin Music Awards, and picks up a lifetime achievement trophy. The always caliente ceremony will be broadcast live by Telemundo and mun2 at 7 p.m. Thursday from the BankUnited Center at University of Miami.

We caught up with Bocelli, through a translator:

When did you first realize you wanted to go into music?

When I was still in my cradle. My mother says that as soon as I heard music I stopped crying. At the age of 7, I could recognize famous voices almost instantly. My first hero was [opera great] Beniamino Gigli; an elderly uncle of mine who deeply admired him told me about him. A key moment in my personal training that led me to pursue a career as a tenor was the extraordinary voice of [famed tenor] Franco Corelli, who would later become my teacher. My nanny Oriana gave me my first record. I used to listen so I could learn the great arias then try to emulate the way they sounded, singing in a loud voice in the living room. Relatives and friends of my family used to ask me to sing for them on special occasions. As a child I knew that music would be a true friend for life. But the constant demands made me understand that it could become a profession.

How did you start out?

As a self-taught teenager, I gave my first concert at a small village feast not far from Lajatico, where I was born. I sang with great hesitation, but for the first time I could perceive the affection of a real audience. Music started to become my career when I was around 18. To pay for lessons I started to work in piano bars in Pisa. It was also around this time when I added pop to my repertoire, something I had never thought of doing before. It was through pop how I found a wider audience — and spread my wings.

If you weren’t a singer what else would you be doing?

After high school, I studied law. After I got my degree, I was convinced that I would earn a living as a lawyer. I don’t know whether I would have been a good lawyer, but certainly I would have been a conscientious professional and loved my job. If that were my fate, it would have been fine all the same. There are a thousand ways to be a valuable person without being famous.

Madeleine Marr

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