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Andrea Bocelli returns to Southern California in time for the holidays

December 12, 2009 |  7:00 am

Bocelli Opera purists often turn their noses up at Andrea Bocelli. But for a great many people, he is opera. For better or for worse, Bocelli -- who has made a career out of moving between classical and pop -- represents the closest thing to opera that most people will ever experience.

No stranger to Southern California, Bocelli is in town this weekend to appear at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Sunday evening. The Italian tenor will perform a set of holiday music from his latest album, "My Christmas," which was released in November. He is also expected to perform operatic arias and duets.

Bocelli, 51, agreed to an interview via e-mail. His representatives explained that he was trying to conserve his vocal power for his tour, which in addition to Southern California has taken him to Toronto, northern New Jersey, Las Vegas and Fresno.

What is your favorite Christmas carol?

In reality I have no favorite songs but there are some pieces that evoke unforgettable moments from my family life: For example, “Tu scendi dalle stelle” (a traditional Italian Christmas song) is the song which more than any other brings back memories of Christmas, the Christmas of my early childhood, but in recording this album, there are songs I have discovered which do not belong to our tradition but have really blown me away like “The Lord’s Prayer” or “Santa Claus [Is Coming to Town]” or “The Christmas Song” ... and many others too.

Christmas concerts can seem awfully repetitive for musicians. How do you keep it fresh?

My concerts are not entirely dedicated to Christmas songs, which I do however find extraordinarily gentle and soothing.  There are always some very fine operatic pieces, unforgettable duets, in order to add variety and in accordance with the principles I adopted from the very start of my career.

What is the most tedious part of touring?

There are undoubtedly many aspects which do not make the life of the concert performer exactly a holiday: One of the worst aspects of my artistic life is that it involves so many long journeys by air during which, aside from the underlying feelings of anxiety flying still causes me, mean many long hours of unremitting boredom.

Then there are the hours spent waiting in theater dressing rooms or in the green room of TV studios, the makeup and the journalists’ questions, which are frequently always the same.... But then there is the music and at that point all the rest fades into the background.

You've performed with many of the world's great opera and pop stars. Are there any artists/musicians whom you haven't had the chance to work with yet and would like to?

The world is full of great artists and extraordinary voices and I love to share the stage with other artists from whom there is always something to learn or at least to receive some positive stimulus.

Are there any pieces / songs that are not in your repertoire and would like to perform one day?
Whoever loves music is hungry for music every day.  This is why I am always on the lookout for pieces which I have never sung, always hunting for new emotions with which to move my audiences.

Classical music purists tend to look down on artists who blend opera and pop. What do you have to say to them? 

What do I have to say to them?  That they are right.  When it comes to classical music, and opera in particular, there is no one who is more of a purist than I am.  I have never mixed the two.  I have instead drawn out a precise dividing line so that the two languages in question might never have to suffer cross-contamination through any cause of my making.

Where will you be spending your holiday vacation?
I will be celebrating Christmas Day at home with all my family as I do every year.  We will all go to church together and then have Christmas lunch.  I will then be leaving for Brazil for a big concert in Florianopolis and eventually, after that, I will have a few days holiday on a nearby island.

-- David Ng

Photo: Andrea Bocelli. Credit: Peter Kramer / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (28)

I truly feel bad for you..you are the blind one and you've lost your hearing as well. What Bocelli does for the public when he opens his mouth to sing is extraordinary!!!His voice transcends the every day problems of the world. The joy of his music surrounds and captures your heart and mind. To hear the Maestro sing in any venue..pop or opera is a privilege for me. You,sir need lessons in humanity. Do they pay you for each BAD word you write when reviewing? You certainly made your quota in this review. Don't say anything if you can't or won't say something good.

Well, Mark, you have fallen into the classic logical fallacy that I learned to beware of when I was a freshman in high school. If a then b, does not necessarily follow—certainly not in this case. There could be myriad reasons that Bocelli has performed in these theaters and not in others. By the way, I’m sure the management, staff, and host cities of all will appreciate your judgment of them as “second-rate.” As will these accomplished (Met quality) singers (to name just a few that come to mind quickly), all of whom have performed in these theaters in the recent seasons: Juan Diego Flores, Lawrence Brownlee, Daniela Dessi, Jose’ Cura, Leo Nucci, Salvatore Licitra, Juan Pons, Denyce Graves, Stephen Costello, and Ildico Maria Komlosi. In any case you have shifted the basic premise of the argument, which was that Bocelli is legitimately labeled an opera singer because he does indeed sing unmiked and in staged operas at legitimate theaters.

By the way, I share your admiration for the voice of Thomas Quasthoff and have heard him in concert. But acknowledging one man’s talent does not mean I must denigrate the talent of another, something Andrea has never done, to his credit. Come to think of it, if it weren’t for Bocelli, I would never have had the pleasure of hearing live performances of singers such as your favorite, because I would not have had the interest kindled in this repertoire.

Cami M.

While I wouldnt exactly say Bocelli is a true classical/opera singer, he certainly isnt a terrible and shallow wannabe, like a Kenny G is to jazz. None of his fans would listen to real bebop or modal jazz musicians like Charlie Parker or Miles Davis, let alone an outside player like Ornette Coleman or Eric Dolphy. And true jazz musicians from Branford Marsalis to Pat Metheny have called him either irrelevant or a horrible, incompetent leech.

Bocelli is more like Frank Sinatra was to jazz. Never really was, made a couple of nice albums with Count Basie, though Tony Bennet more of a true jazz singer. Which is mostly female, most men sing the blues, but Sinatra bought fans to great singers like Ella Fitzgerald or one who could blow pretty much any opera singer away, Sarah Vaughn. None had her range or creative power, phrasing and passion. Not in our lifetime anyway, probably did back when opera was fresh, relevant and vital, a hundred years ago.

But Sinatra could sing, he was a pop singer, with jazz overtones and could hang, he gets respect. I think Bocelli may fit the same mold. Not my thing, women mostly like hiim, but he isnt like this weird blond guy going around promoting himelf as a jazz trumpeter on TV commercials, i can see why people would like him. There are many who probably are technically better than Bocelli who dont get pub, I know great singer named Tricia Tahara who is classically trained and put a CD out with Wallace Roney and wife Geri Allen a decade ago who simply couldnt get the gigs together, she can sing them as well as Sondheim with the best of them. It is a tough life, sounds like Bocellis isnt really too bad, if that is all he can be grumpy about. Most true musicians in jazz, blues, salsa die from a tough life on the road,

But Bocelli makes people happy, is talented, and can sing, just not focused on the absolute "perfection" that classical and opera demands, but also sings probalby three times as much. Perfection is a power and control fetish anyway, not about creative art and passion. A myth and lie that always sucks the life out of life, and art. Wee Dizzy Gillespie or Miles anywhere near as good "technically" as Wynton Marsalis? Of course not, but who were the greater musicians. Not even close, Miles, then Dizzy, Wynton excellent, but never in the top ten of jazz trumpeters, but is in classical easily.

Go hear Bocelli, but also others, he probably is great this time of year especially, when we have feelings of family, life, death, love, and faith.

art collegia e musica delenda est

Slight shifts in the subject of the discussion are natural and happen all the time. For example, Cami McNamee shifted the subject of this discussion from Bocelli's singing to the content of my comment. There is nothing wrong with that if and when it is done in a reasonable and intelligent way.
There may possibly be different reasons why this or that singer has never appeared in any major opera theater but nobody here has mentioned any as far as Bocelli is concerned, so the one that i named earlier still remains the only plausible explanation - as an opera singer he is quite mediocre.
The difference between Bocelli and other singers you have named is that they have indeed performed in many of the great opera houses of the world while Bocelli has not. And Juan Diego Florez is a really good example in more ways than one. Just last month, i saw him in the role of Almaviva in the LA Opera's production of Rossini's Barber of Seville. What a fantastic voice! Not only did he sing magnificently, but he showed himself to be a darn good comic actor too. How can anyone hear him and then say that Bocelli is the best is not clear to me.
It is wonderful that millions of people enjoy operatic music as performed by Bocelli, but it is frustrating to see that most of them limit themselves to just this one singer and deprive themselves of far greater pleasures of listening to much better performers.

Never a good idea to jump to conclusions, Mark. You have jumped to two. Fans of Andrea don't claim that he is "the best," just that he has a beautiful voice and does not deserve many of the cruelly harsh criticisms heaped on him. Second, whatever made you think Andrea is the only singer we listen to? I happen to love Juan Diego Flores (one of many operatic voices I appreciate and patronize). In the years since Andrea initially inspired our interest in opera, my husband and I have subscribed to our local opera company, have attended many of the concerts offered locally featuring Renee Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Bryn Terfel, again just to name a few, and make a point to travel yearly to the Met for an opera weekend, not to mention the many CDs we have purchased to enjoy the many outstanding voices performing today and from the past.

By the way, Bocelli has performed in the Wiener Staatsoper and Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, as well as Carnegie Hall. World class all, by most reasonable standards.


When you compare Bocelli's popularity (i.e. name recognition and interest in hearing him) with that of world's leading opera singers, it is clear that there are millions of people who know of him but have never heard of others. And the reason i used the word 'best' is that i heard it repeatedly from many Bocelli fans. By the way, i said 'most' in my earlier comment, not 'all'. So, i do stand by those statements.
All those other singers you have named here (Florez, Fleming, Bartoli, Terfel, Hvorostovsky) are truly outstanding and if after hearing them you still consider Bocelli to be anywhere near their league, then i simply disagree with you very strongly, as do thousands of true and serious opera fans worldwide.

My reason for posting here was not to state that Bocelli is the "best" although I happen to love his voice. What I intended to do was to correct the statement by Maria Nockin that "He does some music FROM opera, but because he is blind there is no way he can act out a part on the opera stage. He also uses a microphone." I think my list of opera houses and performances accomplished that objective. I have also heard him unmiked in concert several times. People can draw their own conclusions about the theatres where he has performed, as you have done.

Bocelli says: "When it comes to classical music, and opera in particular, there is no one who is more of a purist than I am. I have never mixed the two. I have instead drawn out a precise dividing line so that the two languages in question might never have to suffer cross-contamination through any cause of my making."

He seems to be saying that popular culture, the vast majority of whom have never heard a true opera singer, are the ones responsible for "cross contamination." If Bocelli truly wants to *teach* people the difference between opera and pop, maybe he should be more vocal about the difference between the two. This interview is a start.

I like his voice, but now I would like to hear the others that have been mentioned in the comments.

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