Few artists speak the language of love like Andrea Bocelli, the renowned Italian tenor who returns to Amalie Arena on Thursday for his third Tampa concert in five years.
Unlike the last two, however, this one is tied not to Christmas, but Valentine's Day. Perfect, we say, because who out there has melted more hearts over the years than Bocelli? What's the over-under on the number of proposals that'll take place before, during or after this show? How many tissues will we all need by the end of Time To Say Goodbye?
To mark the occasion, we emailed Bocelli a few questions about love, Valentine's Day and his relationship with his wife, Veronica (he prefers to email because it gives him a better handle on the language). Here, edited slightly for clarity, is what he had to say.
This is your third Tampa concert in five years, but the last two came in December. This show is tied to Valentine's Day. Aside from an absence of holiday music, how will your Valentine's Day show feel different?
First let me say that, personally, I believe in the strength of anniversaries and celebrations, provided that they are filled with meaning. I believe therefore in Valentine's, a special occasion to celebrate love and reaffirm its strength to the people we love. My music choices are strongly linked to love — actually, I could say that I have set all of my life to honor, through songs, this feeling. The program of the concert will try to be, as much as possible, in tune with this sweet occasion. This year the repertoire has been enriched with several songs, many of them particularly romantic. I hope that also, this time my music will enter the heart of those who are listening to me, to amplify, if possible, everybody's emotions on such a special day.
What's your favorite lyric about love?
Not one in particular, but many too many to mention. But I can say what I, personally, expect from a love song. It must respect the canons of musical beauty, it must be able to enter the fibers of those who are listening, it must make you dream, and pleasantly introduce you in the universe of love. A great love song must spark emotions, must be an accomplice, must become the voice of many in the world, that in it are able to mirror their most genuine and precious feelings.
What's a favorite love song that you've never attempted to sing? Why haven't you sung it?
The opera repertoire is full of wonderful pages, music that I deeply love, declarations of love in music (for instance, by Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Verdi, Pietro Mascagni, Umberto Giordano) that have the power to make your soul vibrate up to tears, but they have been written for different vocal registers and are therefore precluded to me.
When did you realize that your voice had become an inextricable, and very personal, part of many people's love lives — first dates, marriage proposals, weddings, first dances?
For over 20 years I have had this great privilege: to be able to become part of the life of others, thus becoming the soundtrack of their lives, at least for a bit. This is for me a great joy, even more when people choose my songs to accompany important moments, such as a newly born love, or when love is enshrined in the holy matrimony. I am perfectly aware that I have no special merit in this sense; I have been gifted by Heaven with a voice that can communicate positive emotions, that's all. . For my part, I have only tried to honor this talent, trying not to squander what God, in His infinite goodness, has given me.
What's a memorable romantic gift you've received in the past?
Of course, I have received gifts I am fond of, by the women I have loved and in particular from the one with whom I have shared, for more than 13 years, the adventure of life. But here I would like to mention two gifts that, although very romantic, are not really related to sensual love.
The first is a record that I was given by my nanny Oriana, when I was a child. It was a piece from the opera Andrea Chénier, performed by Franco Corelli. That listening (experience) was for me a true revelation — I sensed the power of love that that extraordinary voice was evoking, and I fell desperately in love with opera and also with that artist, who later I had the good fortune to have as a teacher.
The other gift is a hand-crafted grand piano (of) unusually large size, and with a tonal quality and a power equally exceptional. It is the gift of a Chinese friend of ours; we received it for the birth of (3-year-old daughter) Virginia. What makes it particularly dear to me is that on the wood of this marvelous instrument are engraved the names of my three children.
How does becoming known the world over color your feelings about love and intimacy?
I love people, I love my job and I am happy to give a few moments of joy through my songs. I have always had a vital, direct, sincere relationship with my listeners. At every concert and tour, I am amazed and honored by the affection people show me, and surely this gives me the strength to go on, not to rest on my laurels. And my way to respond to such benevolence is to continue to do my job in the best way possible.
My privacy is not affected by all this; you just have to know how to manage. Sometimes, I will not deny it, it may happen that the lack of privacy can be tiring: when you are too tired everything can be disturbing, even media attention, or, maybe some admirers (are) a little bit too intrusive. However, I tend to live this aspect as a result of my profession, as a positive figure.
Your new album Cinema features love songs from several classic, romantic films. Do you still listen to or experience films in any way? If so, are any of them romantic in nature?
After making a very complex selection (given that the repertoire is really immense), in this album I have performed the songs that, besides particularly suiting my voice, have also marked my life — that have made me grow, have moved and amused me. Even before knowing of the films, or their plots, I already knew and loved these songs, I used to listen to them (for instance, from the voice of Frank Sinatra, Mario Lanza or Stevie Wonder), and I also happen to listen to them nowadays.
I believe Cinema is a very romantic album. For instance, Cheek to Cheek — a mild and smiling duet I sing with the person I love, Veronica, and that I discovered (was) the song that has accompanied my parents' love story. In fact, every time I sang it, a smile would brighten their faces.
How will you and your wife celebrate Valentine's Day?
When it is possible, we try to live it within the warmth and the intimacy of our family, at home. If, as it often happens, we are on a tour, we celebrate it trying to give each other more attention, one smile more, trying to remember how wonderful it is to live together the adventure of life. My goal is to live as if every day of the year were Valentine's Day. And this is also the wish I make to those who are reading.
-- Jay Cridlin