Andrea Bocelli: “Taking the beauty and values of Tuscany around the world”
A meeting with Italy’s ambassador for bel canto: a universal star, with strong ties to his roots. As for the Vespa he says …
We met Andrea Bocelli at the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera, Tuscany. The world’s most famous Italian tenor, a true ambassador for the bel canto tradition, was at the museum for the press presentation of the 2013 program of the Teatro del Silenzio, or Theatre of Silence. This is the eighth edition of the event created by Bocelli in his hometown, which brings together world names from the performing arts. Actor Giorgio Albertazzi, singer-composers Riccardo Cocciante and Pino Daniele, pianist Peter Cincotti, jazz singer Simona Molinari, baritone Alessandro Luongo, accordionist Mario Stefano Pietrodarchi, soprano Paoletta Marrocu, violinist Anastasiya Petrushak and performer Lindsay Kemp are some of the artistes who have performed at the festival in Lajatico, the town in the heart of Tuscany where Bocelli was born, in a spectacular natural amphitheatre set among the hills.
A world ambassador for the Italian arts and style since he began his career, Bocelli is at home in the Museum, which illustrates the history of the Vespa, a prominent example of Italian design, and is located just a short distance from the factory where the world’s most famous scooter has been produced without interruption since 1946. Bocelli knows these places, so close to his own origins, they have associations for him. And the cover of his “Incanto” album (with his versions of famous traditional Italian songs) shows him with the Vespa. But our chat begins with the Teatro del Silenzio.
The Teatro del Silenzio project stems from your close ties with your home town.
“That’s right. But first of all, it’s a fantastic project conceived by the architect Alberto Bartalini, supported and then in part realised by my brother Alberto, who is also an architect. At first, when we started talking about it years ago, I thought it was a bit crazy; but then I embraced it and gave it my full active support, which you should do when you’re involved in a project. I realised that this initiative could enhance the area, make it known to the rest of the world, so I’ve been doing everything I can to support it.”
An area universally appreciated not just for its beautiful scenery, but also for its cultural values.
“The talents the area has produced and exported around the world have won universal admiration. Imagination, inventiveness, a capacity – including a physical capacity – for creation are values everyone appreciates. You might call it “creative panache”. As a nation, Italians have a great virtue: everyone wants to think for himself, which can sometimes be a shortcoming, but it’s certainly the primary driver for what we have created in this area and in Tuscany as a whole, an extraordinary region.”
Starting from here, you have become a world star; today can you identify some secret behind your success?
“Enormous passion, enthusiasm and – why not – good health. There aren’t any real secrets. St Augustine said “What do you have, that you have not received?”. So if talent has been given to us, why boast about it? I know I have received a gift which is my voice, and I try to make the best possible use of it. For myself, and, above all, for the people who follow me.”
Today new scenarios are opening up in the world, new countries are emerging as leaders. Look at Asia, at South America, whose societies are bringing new cultures and perhaps new values too. How do our cultural values, the West’s values, relate to these new protagonists?
“Relations are excellent, our values are truly global. The history of the world shows that ever since our navigators crossed the oceans, the values of our culture have always spread round the world. And the reason is that they are universal, values recognised by every nation, every culture. Starting with music, which of course is the cultural area of greatest relevance to me personally. Men can be distinguished by their abilities, but we are all the same when it comes to our failings.”
We’re at the Piaggio Museum, so we might say that the Vespa too, which originated in the area where you yourself were born, can be regarded as a symbol of these cultural values.
“Sure. The Vespa is an authentic symbol of this culture and these values. It’s a great product of ingenuity, inventiveness, of man’s technical capabilities. Today everyone is familiar with the Vespa story: wanting to develop a simple yet stylish means of transport, engineer Corradino D’Ascanio invented an extraordinary object that has become a symbol around the world, and this is associated with Tuscany too.”
Your career is a story of exceptional achievement, you’ve sung with the most celebrated artistes, for the Pope, at Ground Zero, in Central Park before tens of thousands of fans at a concert that has already gone down in history. Do you ever worry, as some athletes do, that you might lose your motivation?
“Well, there’s always that risk, it’s always lying in wait. I think the answer is to look inside ourselves, to be aware that we’ve had a gift from Heaven and so, perhaps, a sort of task, a mission. It’s what the parable of the talents tells us, we have to use what has been given to us. In the parable, at the end, the servants who are rewarded are the two who, when they received their talents (money in this instance), put them to work, while the servant who buried his talent, making it unfruitful, is sent away.”
Your repertoire includes great opera classics as well as light music and a number of decidedly pop interpretations, making you something of a rarity.
“Well, nowadays very few people do this, perhaps because classical music and more popular music have moved away from one another. But this wasn’t always the case. What I do today used to be standard practice. When artistes like Enrico Caruso or Beniamino Gigli sang, and were at the height of their fame, it was quite normal for them to go from singing opera in the theatre to popular songs in films or on records. The distinction between the two genres remained intact, but the great singers gave their voices to great melody, irrespective of whether it was opera or a popular song. It’s wonderful to remember the interpretations and the many songs written specially for the unforgettable Enrico Caruso.”
Aranjuez : Andrea Bocelli / CARisMA
A VOICE, A LEGEND
Andrea Bocelli was born on 22 September 1958 at his family’s farm in Lajatico, among the vineyards of the countryside around Pisa. His parents encouraged his talent, introducing him to the piano at the age of six. His love of music extended to the flute and the saxophone, but he found his ideal instrument in his voice. This was the start of the rise of Bocelli the star, an “old-style modern” tenor (as he likes to describe himself). His first triumph in a singing contest came in 1970, when he sang “O sole mio”. After studying with Luciano Bettarini, Bocelli approached Franco Corelli, an artiste for whom he has a real veneration. Andrea paid for his lessons by singing in bars, while continuing his studies and graduating in Law. As he began making his name in pop music, after being discovered by Caterina Caselli and signed up by her “Sugar” label, in 1994 Bocelli made his opera debut in Verdi’s Macbeth (in the role of Macduff) directed by Claudio Desderi. That same year, at Christmas he was invited to sing “Adeste Fideles” in St Peter’s Basilica, in front of the Pope. From there his career took off, Bocelli found his stage. Indeed, the stage found Bocelli, and has kept him close ever since. The world public adores him: in his 20-year career he has sold 80 million records.
In 1988 Bocelli entered the Guinness Book of Records, when he simultaneously held the top three positions in the US classical albums charts. At the “2012 Classic Brit Awards” he was named “International Artist of The Year”, receiving his award from composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Bocelli is honorary president of the “Il Teatro del Silenzio” project and co-designer of the concert held once a year in the spectacular open-air amphitheatre in Lajatico, Tuscany. Guest artistes who have performed there with Bocelli include Placido Domingo, José Carreras, Lang Lang, Laura Pausini, David Foster, Sara Brightman, Zucchero Fornaciari, Heather Headley, Noa, Roberto Bolle, Nicola Piovani.
(From: Giorgio De Martino, andreabocelli.com).