Exclusive Interview by Maria Bruno for the media of the Monegasque Group headed by Ilio Masprone, Knight of the Principality of Monaco for cultural merits: MonteCarloTimes, Il Foglio Italiano, Orizzonte Italia and Festivalnews.
FORTE DEI MARMI-TUSCANY. Andrea Bocelli’s voice is often described as the most beautiful in the world. More than anything, Andrea has something that is unique, in that he brings this light that is always around him. And this purity of heart and beauty of sound just touches the listener. Bocelli has made a large number of contributions throughout his career before launching the Andrea Bocelli Foundation in 2011. “Empowering people and communities” is his motto to fund medical research and fight poverty.
Born in Lajatico, in the province of Pisa in 1958, after graduating in law and in lyrical singing he followed his ultimate passion: music. Andrea showed a great passion for it as a young boy. His mother has said that music was the only thing that would comfort him, as he was born with poor eyesight and became completely blind at age 12. He started piano lessons at age 6 and later learned to play the flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar, and drums. Since the nineties, he has had success as a crossover performer, bringing classical music to the top of international pop charts. From “Mamma” to “Nessun dorma”, from the first album “Romanza” to “The best of Andrea Bocelli: Vivere”, his voice has made him an icon of lyric singing throughout the world. For him, working constantly to do good with a spirit of solidarity is a daily priority. Meeting and interviewing this generous soul was a privilege that will remain in the mind forever, like a dream that comes true. Listening to him and seeing the affection and admiration in the faces and eyes of the family around him, was moving. The result was a strong and indelible impression of noble and serene simplicity, mirror of that committed and supportive part of Italy, that everybody would like to see grow further.
Q. Maestro, you have completed law school and have spent one year as a court-appointed lawyer. Is it true that to earn money, you were performing evenings in piano bars before taking the decision to totally dedicate yourself to music?
A. “I chose the law on the advice of my parents, understanding and accepting their right concerns regarding my professional future. Until I was thirty-five years old, I was convinced that my greatest passion, the music I had been cultivating since my childhood, would not have given me a living. As an artist, I collected a lot of closed doors for years; my beginnings were painful because of several setbacks of fortune, which delayed my career. However, I do not deny it because it has been an exciting journey. And I am particularly grateful to those who have believed in me since the first steps of my career, like for example the director of your Editorial Group.”
Q. I can see that you recall your first concert abroad in 1995, at the Monte-Carlo Sporting Club, where your friendship with our director has just started … That same year 1995, your famous song “Io vivo per lei ” (I live for her) was published. As at that time, are its beautiful lyrics giving you the feeling that you “live for her, for the music”?
A. “Of course I remember my first meeting with your director, Ilio Masprone. I think it’s a great privilege to have the same passion for music. Music is an inexhaustible treasure of wonders; it is – as I like to call it – my medicine, a way of giving lightness to life. Music is an enormous source of inner wealth and consolation for everyone, precisely because it speaks a universal language “.
Q. If you had to retrace the early years and the global success that brought you to today, what steps would you consider fundamental? And why?
A. “I am convinced that every concert, every face, every experience has had its importance: as I often point out, a career is like a brick building. If just one is removed, the construction may collapse. Many highlights have marked my career, such as my lyric debut, in 1994 in Verdi’s “Macbeth.” Or the Metropolitan debut in New York, as well as the 2011 concert in Central Park. I also remember a Verdi’s “Requiem” performed under the direction of Lorin Maazel … in the Arena of Verona, where I be back on September 8, for an extraordinary charity musical evening on behalf of the ABF.”
Q. In 2011 you and your family have created the “ABF – Andrea Bocelli Foundation”, a noble mission and a great challenge as well. What is the reason for its foundation and what are the main objectives of this great initiative?
A. “It is for faith in love and in justice that we are called upon to build a better world than the one we have found, called upon to give back to the world all of the good that we have received. With this belief the ABF intends to work so that each individual and community can express itself to the utmost of its possibilities, exceeding its own limits. The objective is to become a laboratory full of life, a pillar of support made up of lots of small protagonists, all joined together by their passion for my music who meet together, in every corner of the world, working generously so that even the most unlucky people or the weakest have the chance to live a life full of opportunities and beauty and so that those who deserve can find energy and real possibilities to give their very best”.
Q. Do you think that music is strong enough to make people aware of the major themes of life, such as poverty, wars still in progress, lack of landmarks and significant ideals, diseases…?
A. “Beyond music, doing something good for others is a natural desire, inherent in the hearts of all men, because being a philanthropist does not only mean being generous and it is not just a moral duty: it is rather an act of intelligence, a process that everyone, within the limits of his own means, should perceive as crucial. Solidarity is the joy of sharing. With regard to art, and music in particular that is the voice of the soul, it can educate to beauty and fraternity. It can open the heart and the mind, and thus help to make people more responsive.”
Q. Your whole family actively supports the Foundation. Do you think that love and union among peoples will be enough to save the world?
A. “I believe very much in the family as the main” brick “of society, a source of affection and a privileged place to seek harmony. It is the right dimension where, all together and at all times, one learns to choose the best option, trying to put into practice the Christian values that our parents taught us and that we must transmit to our children”.
Q. On September 8, you will perform in a concert in the wonderful Arena of Verona, in favour of the Foundation. Why did you choose this place, instead of the symbol of the “Andrea Bocelli Foundation”, the Tuscan “Teatro del Silenzio” that is so dear to you?
A. “The Arena is one of the many Italian artistic masterpieces, a magical place, a monument two thousand years old that for more than a hundred years has contributed to the history of the music. Imagine that during its first opera season, in 1913, Giacomo Puccini and Pietro Mascagni were sitting on those same old stones, among the audience. I appreciated its perfect acoustics on several occasions, as for example a few years ago with my friend and colleague, the famous tenor Placido Domingo. I think that the Arena is the ideal place for great lyrical performances and immense emotional impact. As for the Teatro del Silenzio, it has reached its thirteenth edition. Together with extraordinary colleagues, this year we staged the “Andrea Chénier” by Umberto Giordano, one of the most exciting and moving titles in the history of opera. Imagine that we had to double the evenings, on July 28th and July 30th, as the first was sold out in a few days!”
Q. What outcome do you expect from your concert in Verona?
A. “Given the charitable objectives of the concert in Verona, I hope that the Arena will be packed. I hope that the evening will be a moment of joy and celebration for all participants, but also an important opportunity to raise funds for the philanthropic projects to be financed with. We have designed the show as a kind of journey to be made with a cast of international stars. Immortal pieces will form a kind of sound-track through a strong theatrical, astonishing and rich performance that will galvanize the public. A trip made of great music, effects of light, famous singers but also celebrities – the favourites of the international public – who will be actively involved in musical scenography, through unpublished and surprising cameos.”
Q. Maestro, you have cooperated with national and international artists, you have organized countless concerts and you are often on tour around the world. You could live in the most beautiful and big cities in the world, but you prefer the beautiful Tuscany countryside, and reside in the lovely coast of Viareggio: what is the reason of your choice?
A. “I answer you by quoting a motto that I heard from one of my friends: “we are lucky to be Europeans, very lucky to be Italians, and visibly lucky to live in Tuscany!” I love my place of birth and my roots. On the one hand, Tuscany is the cradle of artistic and landscape excellence, on the other it is a refuge of the spirit, where to find peace and harmony, because it is a land expressing a luxuriant nature. I can say to be, for better or for worse, a product of the country…”
Q. One last question before thanking you for this exhaustive interview and before leaving you at your many duties. I am pleased to inform you that our director Ilio Masprone will renovate the Naples Festival in mid-September at the Municipal Casino Theatre of Sanremo, where it was born in 1932. The event titled SanremocantaNapoli wants to give a new impulse to Neapolitan sounds and musical texts. What do you think of this initiative?
A. “Actually I think that this is a very good idea! The Neapolitan song expresses a remarkably precious artistic heritage, either nationally or internationally, and I am convinced that any activity aimed at safeguarding and reviving the Neapolitan musical culture is very well-founded.”