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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Bocelli on maintaining his voice, raising his daughter and loving horses

    Andrea Bocelli has established himself as arguably the best known living opera star in the world.

    His record label estimates he has sold more than 90 million albums on top of more than 5 billion streams. He has recorded duets with Celine Dion and Luciano Pavarotti. He recently sang for President Joe Biden and House Speaker Mike Johnson at the National Prayer Breakfast.

    The 65-year-old Italian tenor who skillfully melds classical and pop music is currently on tour. Bocelli was unavailable for a phone interview but answered emailed questions.

    Q: You had some issues late last year with your voice that required you to postpone a couple of dates (including a December date in Hartford that was rescheduled to last month), something you said rarely happens. What was the problem and how is your voice now?

    A: I’m doing well, thank you, I have completely recovered. Unfortunately, we have to learn to live with illnesses, and, although the usual precautions I take are enough to keep me in general good health and with good vocals, this year, the flu got the best of my throat and forced me to make a ‘pit stop’ for a few days. Of course, it was very disappointing for the inconvenience it caused my audience. I thank them wholeheartedly, and I will do my utmost to make it up to them by returning the extraordinary affection I received in those days, giving them everything I’ve got onstage.

    Q: How do you maintain that incredible voice of yours?

    A: Having a pleasant and recognizable voice is a gift from the heavens, a gift I have no merit for. What I did do was try not to waste the talent with which the good Lord entrusted me. As for my vocal technique, I worked, reflected and experimented; I studied hard every day for years. Today, I think I have a solidity that I hadn’t yet reached in my younger years. The passage of time brings with it both positive and not so positive changes. ... I don’t think I am able to reproduce the same quality of tight vibrato of my earlier years as a singer. Technically, however, as I’ve aged, I have gained facility in the high register, which is something I never thought I would do.

    Q: Yaffa Adar, 85, spent her 49 days in Hamas captivity in Gaza humming your songs. You wrote her a heartfelt letter and offered to fly to perform for her. What emotions did you feel when you heard about how your music helped her get through that ordeal?

    A: Her story affected me and moved me. The testimony of Yaffa Adar, beyond giving an account of a brave and sensitive woman, is a shining example of the power of music: an expression of beauty that inevitably translates into aspiration toward what is good; a privileged language with which to reach the deepest realms of our being. Her ordeal that ended well is a reason for optimism for all, as it shows how good is ultimately stronger than evil.

    Q: Why did you decide to bring your 11-year-old daughter Virginia along for your current tour? What is special about her performance skills and her voice?

    A: Virginia is a child about to take her first steps into adolescence; her first and most important activity remains her studies. Of course, when she joins us on tour, she loses a few days of school, but we make sure she keeps abreast, even in remote, of her classes, subjects and academic program. It goes perhaps without saying that, just like her brothers, Virginia has also been raised on ‘bread and music.’ Music for which she has shown a natural inclination, and pursues through her ongoing piano studies. She knows how to hold a tune, but loves not only singing. She has been taking acting classes and practices gymnastics at a competitive level. On tour, she is coddled by everyone. For now, her appearances during the concerts are just a little more than a game, albeit useful, I believe, in terms of her training, because they give her the opportunity to experience the necessary discipline and responsibility it takes for those performing onstage.

    Q: How do you shape your set list now?

    A: The structure is, in general, the same as 10 or 20 years ago, despite the fact that my repertory has gradually grown with new additions, even most recently. I am a lucky artist; my taste in music is aligned with that of the public. I try to put together for my concerts a sort of concentration of music that I love the most, that I believe is the most capable of sparking positive emotions. I pursue beauty, which is what I hope to transmit, beyond any genre. In fact, my lineup always includes operatic pieces as well as many pop ‘classics,’ some of which the audience associates to my voice and expects, rightfully, to hear from me live.

    Q: Are there any artists you have not duetted with that you’d love to work with?

    A: I would rather avoid giving one or two names to not offend anyone. As everyone knows, I love doing duets; blending different voices is a challenge, a wager. Singing with someone is always a gratifying experience. Throughout my 30-year career, I have had the honor to sing with extraordinary artists, from Tony Bennett to Stevie Wonder, from Barbra Streisand to Céline Dion, but the world is full of talent ... and I hope that there will be many opportunities for new, exciting collaborations in the future.

    Q: You were nominated for a Grammy for best new artist 25 years ago. How does the passage of time feel to you at this juncture in your career?

    A: I don’t fear the passing of time; I believe it is a privilege to be able to live the various seasons of life. I am still a curious person; I love my profession, and I have made this motto my own: ‘When you learn something new, you grow. When you don’t learn anymore, you grow old.’

    Q: Why are horses such an important part of your life? What is the background on that?

    A: It’s a relationship that started in my early childhood. I grew up in the countryside, and I was given my first horse when I was eight years old. I started taming horses myself since adolescence, so it’s safe to say that I have learned to understand, appreciate and love this trusted, reliable friend of man. I appreciate its intelligence, its ability to express affection, its headstrong nature, and the complicity it offers when you’re riding together. The horse is the ideal companion for what I consider a fun and exciting way to keep fit. Horseback riding is also a privileged way for me to make peace with life and the natural world around me.

    Q: How much longer do you think you will keep touring worldwide?

    A: Up until the good Lord will allow me. For the time being, my voice is responsive, but I too, like everyone else, am in the hands of God. When I am no longer able to offer an adequate performance, when I no longer have the vocal quality I tried to build and keep through the years, then I will draw the consequences with serenity.

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