Andrea Bocelli periodically puts a full-court press on the U.S. market. Now is one of those times. The blind Italian tenor has a revised version of his autobiography, The Music of Silence, in bookstores. The broadcast of his September concert on a rainy night in Central Park premieres this week on PBS and was released last month on CD and DVD as Andrea Bocelli Concerto: One Night in Central Park. And he is on a six-concert tour this month, including Sunday's performance at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Recently, we asked Bocelli a few questions, submitted by email to his press agent. His answers came back … in Italian! Thankfully, there was also a translation. Here's the exchange, somewhat edited:
What goes into your thinking of what to include — operatic arias, Neapolitan folk music, crossover pop songs, sacred music — on your concert program?
My aim is to transmit throughout the world that eternally beautiful repertoire of an Italian tenor, ranging from operatic arias to great ballads and right through to Neapolitan melodies, as well as a few other pieces chosen among the ones that people have come to associate with my voice and, obviously, due to the season, some Christmas songs. In this tour I will (reprise) various arias among the ones selected for Central Park and several new pieces that I hope will be a nice surprise for the American public. I love music that transmits peace and tranquillity, that warms our senses.
You're 53 now and have been singing in concerts and operas about 20 years. It's often said that a tenor's sound grows darker, heavier with the years. Placido Domingo is now singing baritone roles. Has your voice changed?
The voice changes very slowly. I keep mine well under control and try with all my might to keep it exactly as it was at the very beginning. Who knows what will happen in the future … we are in the hands of God.
Classical music critics tend to be, well, critical of your opera performances, though they also have good things to say. Does this bother you? The issue of amplified singing (your concerts, for the most part) versus nonamplified singing (opera) is often a point of discussion. What is the difference for you to sing with or without amplification?
Who could reasonably hope to be beyond criticism? The secret is succeeding in distinguishing constructive criticism from the rest, as it helps us to grow and to improve. The rest is simply useless.
As far as amplified or nonamplified singing is concerned, I truly believe that they are two completely different things, especially for the person listening. The technique and emission are the same, but listening to a voice as mother nature made it is completely different. The advantage of amplification lies in the fact that music can be made for lots of people who enjoy taking part in a much freer and less formal performance.
Your revised autobiography, The Music of Silence, is unorthodox, with a protagonist named Amos who seems to be you. Why did you take this approach?
I chose to write this book in the third person because the objective was for it to be a story but not my past: The intention was and is the complete truth about my life and that of my relations. But read over and over again in between the lines it goes beyond a simple and crude chronology of events.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716.