When it comes to Valentine’s Day concerts, it doesn’t get any more romantic than Andrea Bocelli. The internationally celebrated Italian tenor, one of the world’s greatest singers in any genre, has performed for popes, presidents and British royalty, and at iconic locations including the Pyramids in Egypt, the Great Sphinx of Giza and New York’s Central Park and the Statue of Liberty.
Bocelli — who was discovered by Luciano Pavarotti and sang Ave Maria at his wedding and Ave verum corpus at his funeral — has performed at the World Cup, the Olympics, the Expo 2010 in Shanghai and on Sesame Street and American Idol. He has shared the stage with opera greats and pop stars alike, which has provided an unprecedented crossover bridge between the two genres, but also opened the door for sometimes scathing comments from critics.
But of all the exotic locales and important people he has touched with his voice, and after all the spectacular cities he has visited, it’s the Magic City that seems to hold the most allure and charm for Bocelli, after his homeland of Tuscany: His love affair with South Florida inspired him to recently buy a second home, in North Miami Beach.
Bocelli, 56, loves performing here as well. And he brings his soaring, tear-inducing tenor back to Miami for three shows at the Hard Rock Live over Valentine’s Day weekend, after taking over Sunrise’s BB&T Center last year during Cupid’s favorite holiday.
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Fittingly, Bocelli will perform love songs, his own classics and the breathtaking mix of romantic arias that has allowed him to sell more than 150 million records worldwide.
The singer — who lost his sight at age 12 — talked to the Miami Herald about the concerts, his love for Florida, how he feels about his critics and what he would be doing today if he hadn’t succeeded in music.
Q: Why do you love Miami so much?
A: Because I consider it my second home, my Tuscany overseas. It is a land kissed by the sun and by the sea, the ideal place where to spend the day celebrating love.
Florida has always been a meeting point of different cultures, which, here, have melded, thus giving to this place a sparkling atmosphere. In my language “florida” is an adjective that means prosperous, attractive, vigorous and exuberant. This is why I have bought a house here: It is one of the places I love most in the world. Here I can rest, enjoy the natural beauties and take long walks with my wife and my children.
Q: You’re performing three concerts — how similar will they be?
A: Although the base playlist is the same, there may be variations. And then every concert is always, inevitably different. On the occasion that celebrates lovers of all ages, I will try to convey the wonderful feeling of love in every song in every note. I hope that, once again, my music will get into the heart of those listening to me.
Q: What style of music can fans expect?
A: My concert is dedicated to the search of beauty, both in opera and in pop. The repertoire will be in large part the one I have always performed, the one of the Italian Tenor, for whom so many wonderful melodies have been composed. But there will be also popular romanzas and songs that my public expects to hear from my voice, and for sure I will not disappoint them.
Q: You’re a celebrated tenor who has performed with many legends — what inspired you to collaborate with pop stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion?
A: To mix voices, mix the vibrations, is for me a very exciting experience, sensual and spiritual at the same time. Something intimate and deep is established between the two voices that sing a duet. We singers are in constant search of colleagues able to give life to this alchemy. As for the names you mentioned, they remind me what a lucky man I am, because the prerogative of my job is being able to work together, side by side, with colleagues who, in addition to being great artists, are divas, and undoubtedly very beautiful women.
Q: As world-renowned as you are, you nonetheless have a few fairly vitriolic critics. Do negative reviews bother you much?
A: They do not bother me at all. I myself am the most traditional and uncompromising critic: I am never quite fully satisfied with my performances. I think an artist must willingly and gratefully accept criticism, even the negative one, on condition that criticism is constructive. And when it is generated by a destructive feeling, and not supported by the necessary expertise, you may as well ignore it, because it is part of the game. On the other hand, it is impossible to please everyone. Even the most famous artists (to whom I would not even dare to compare myself), like Enrico Caruso or Maria Callas, in the course of their careers have been, sometimes, the target of really fierce criticism.
Q: You’ve loved music since you were very young. When was the first time you realized you had a special gift as a singer?
A: I have always been told I have a pleasant and recognizable voice capable of giving positive emotions. When I was a child still wearing shorts, friends and relatives constantly asked me to sing for them, and it was just their insistence that led me to think, “Maybe singing will turn out to be my job.”
Q: Have you ever thought you might do something else for a career?
A: Up to 35 years of age I was almost unknown in the world of music. And the more the time passed, the more my hopes to succeed faded. I was ready to earn a living as a lawyer. If destiny had had in store for me that kind of life, it would have been fine all the same.
Q: Among many career highlights, what are a few that really stand out for you?
A: I remember that a few hours after singing in Central Park in 2012, a journalist jokingly asked me if at that point it was reasonable to expect a concert of mine may be in space or on the moon. I have given concerts in prestigious theaters and arenas in front of tens of thousands of people; I have often performed on stages surrounded by the beauty of spectacular sceneries, such as the Pyramids, the Coliseum or the Statue of Liberty. But for me, every concert is important, every stage gives me emotions. The more the years pass, the more the expectations of my audience grow, and the more I am pleased to sing, but at the same time I feel tense, an emotional shock motivated by the desire to give the best, and the fear not to succeed.
Q: You have performed at many benefit concerts, including ones for victims of 9/11, the Indian tsunami of 2004 and the Haitian earthquakes, and also started your Andrea Bocelli Foundation. Where did your philanthropic side come from?
A: I am a very lucky man, and life has been very generous toward me. So I have the duty to respond with equal generosity — I must multiply my efforts to leave a small positive sign along my life. I like to imagine life as a great banquet, where we are all well if there is a bare minimum for everyone — otherwise the banquet will fail. It is for this reason that I believe solidarity is not only a moral duty but also an act of intelligence. Each of us, according to their possibilities, must do their part, perfectly aware that goodness seldom makes news, but that it represents, for the whole of humanity, the only road really viable.
If you go
What: Andrea Bocelli
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Feb. 15
Where: Hard Rock Live Arena at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole Way, near Hollywood
Info: Ticketmaster; $200-$550