Do you like his music?
No idea. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him sing anything.
So why are you here?
A fit of madness back in March coupled with a vague sense of recognition. I know the name Botticelli from somewhere.
mmmm… it’s Andrea Bocelli…
I’ve had that conversation or something similar many times in recent years. I’ve long since admitted to being musically illiterate. Oh I can name my country stars – a leftover from watching Country Music USA while living in Alaska – but to the rest of the post-1980s music world, I’m a stranger.
Last night, I stood in the cold as the crowds slowly filtered into Papp László Stadium. We have ISIS to thank for the new security measures that saw a 7pm concert kick off at 7.20 with people still taking their seats at 7.55. So be warned if you plan on going anytime soon. Go early. The searches were cursory at best – women simply unzipped their jackets – nothing like a little gender bias when the safety of the world is at stake. And while it was inconvenient and slapdash, considering what might be took the sting out of it. Have at it lads.
The place was packed. Fuller than I’ve ever seen it. And all for a 57-year-old blind tenor who spoke just six words all evening – He said ‘thank you’ three times. But man, can that chap sing.
Blessed is she who never expects anything, for she shall never be disappointed. It was like unwrapping the most amazing gift on a random Tuesday that wasn’t my birthday, or Christmas, or an anniversary. It’d been a busy week, and I was in dire need of some sort of spiritual resuscitation. Something to dispel the blues. And he delivered.
There is so much about the man that I hadn’t known. He’s been nominated for every award going and with his album, Sacred Arias [the biggest-selling classical crossover album by a solo artist of all time], he made the Guinness Book of Records for holding the top three positions on the US Classical Albums charts. But not one to be boxed neatly into just one category, Bocelli’s pop album Romanza is the best-selling album by an Italian artist of any genre in history.
He was born with poor eyesight and a football accident at the age of 12 robbed him of what little he could see. He remembers colours though, and flowers. It was strange seeing him on stage with his eyes closed but then if he can’t see, why would he open them? I was struck by how beautiful he is – not in a front-page of GQ sort of way, but almost angelic. I can see why he was once named one of People ’s 50 Most Beautiful People.
Accompanied by the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra and the Budapest Opera Chorus conducted by Marcello Rota, there must have been close to 150 musicians on stage. Cuban soprano Maria Aleida Rodriguez made an appearance as did Hungary’s Szekeres Adrien and a woman in a horrendous blue dress who murdered Somewhere over the Rainbow [the only downside of the evening]. The guitar duo CARisMA took me back to my NIHE days with their rendition of Cavatina (the theme from the Deerhunter).
The concert tour was to promote his latest album Cinema. As a backdrop, we saw video footage of Bocelli in various roles and it all added to the ambience. I was mega impressed.
He sang the classics: Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera; Nelle Tu Mani from Gladiator; and Brucia La Terra from the Godfather. We also had White Christmas, Cheek to Cheek, Turandot – Nessun Dorma, Maria from West Side Story, and a host of other classics. It seemed to get better and better before gradually tailing off towards the end (that woman in the blue dress again) and then resurrecting itself for a grand finale. I was particularly impressed with The Lord’s Prayer, which he sang for the Pope in Philadelphia a couple of months ago.