The unique sound of Andrea Bocelli

By Sipho Mabaso Time of article published Apr 23, 2019

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Writing about all that operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli has achieved would simply be a case of regurgitation.

But, among other things, what he did last Thursday night when he performed at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg as part of his South African tour confirms that Andrea Bocelli is a unique tenor.

Though not aware of it, and with global crossover appeal into popular music, to boot, he is now as great as predecessors Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti, though very different from them, and therefore, unique.

The 61-year-old Tuscany-born tenor’s voice is uniquely his own. Not a clone of Pavarotti’s, in as much as Pavarotti was not a fake Caruso. All that Bocelli sings is Bocelli.

Perhaps his loss of sight when he was 12 years old - something he does not like to talk about - due to a soccer-related accident back in his hometown of Tuscany, Italy, helped him focus more on his own zen and become more of his own man, rather than a clone of anyone he admired while coming up to the apex of classical tenors, where he is at present, with sold-out concerts wherever he performs.

There are those music stars who remind us of a previous great: Michael Bublé reminds us of Frank Sinatra, Kathleen Battle of the great Leontyne Price. Felix Mendelssohn is referenced by many as the Mozart of his time - but, Andrea Bocelli reminds many of us of no one but himself.

That is a big feat in music, to be regarded as unique and like no one else.

Bocelli has, unsurprisingly, sold 85million records worldwide from 15 solo studio albums over a 49-year career which started in 1970 when he won a singing competition.

Last week, accompanied by the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra and the Symphony Choir of Johannesburg, with Carlo Bernini conducting, Bocelli, wore a black bow tie and royal blue jacket, held spellbound a capacity (20000) audience in the Ticketpro Dome, north of Johannesburg.

He stood and delivered superbly, if not wondrously, several arias including Eduardo di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi’s O Sole Mio, but especially Guiseppe Verdi’s La Donna e Mobile, which he clearly loves, and which he delivered with passionate finesse, refined gusto and courtly grace, much as it is a dancing song.

It was magical.

The audience of about 20 000 were held spellbound by the Italian tenor.

His fans, who had paid between R1140 for the indoor bleachers and R4995 for prime best-of-the-place seats per person, certainly got more than their money’s worth.

You could tell this from the appreciative eyes around you, the vibe, the feeling, the energy in the Dome, and the applause, which were not simply polite, or nice, but were actually genuine and appreciative, and intense.

Yes, the applause, even the applause was intense.

Bocelli‘s collaboration with mezzo-soprano Maria Aleida was nothing less than immaculate, the stuff of dreams, really. Singing in front of a montage of contextually appropriate background motion pictures, when they embraced on stage you’d have been excused for feeling you were at an actual opera performance.

Yet, besides Bocelli himself, the magnificent highlight was the violin solos of Anastasiya when she was given time and space on her own on stage which she honoured delightfully with her rendition of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and Vittorio Monti’s Czardas.

Soul and R&B British singer Beverley Knight, who performed with Bocelli before, gave a heart-warming performance which must have pleased Bocelli, who likes her pop music songs. She was soulful, passionate and gave it all she had, as with other performances with Bocelli.

Organised by Big Concerts and Dionne Domyan-Mudie’s Johannesburg-based PR Work, and supported by 702 and Channel 24 as media partners, the concert was a well-conceived, security was effective, the ushers knew what to do (and most importantly, what not to do) and were very helpful, seating was well-arranged, and there was very little, if anything, to complain about.

The only annoyance were the folks in the audience who kept flashing their mobile devices in the middle of the performance, which is most distracting and quite annoying, to say the very least.

Cellphones should be disallowed at classical music performances, even at the Dome. They distract one from the performers, which is what we all went there for, to hear and see Bocelli and his co-stars - not flashing cellphones.

Bocelli also performed in the Western Cape at the Val de Vie Estate in Paarl last week Friday.

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