Very rarely does a voice touch the heart of people so intimately that it seems to arch over stringently trained vocal chords and transfigures itself into an emotional experience that defies the capacity for verbalization. Even when singing in Italian to an English speaking audience, no translation is necessary. There is a firmly disciplined and cultivated power, and a natural beauty in his voice diffused with an honesty and a sweetness that has drawn the admiration of men and the faithful dedication of women worldwide. More than that – whatever genre of music he grasps and molds into his own artful signature, he imbues the notes, obediently waiting to be commanded, yet with an independent vibrancy on the pulsing edge of artistic revelation, with a life force that impels the audience to draw closer. It is an experience of emotional and spiritual convergence.
For Andrea Bocelli, radiating the swelling energy of any given song through powerful lungs trained to hold a note even when all others on stage have lost their wind, singing is a true passion – hence his Passione Tour, packed with romantic Mediterranean songs, a tour he tied up on June 13, 2013 at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY. Arias by Verdi, Puccini and Gounod were showcased and celebrated, taking up most of the first half of the concert. The second half was dedicated to popular favorites including “Time To Say Goodbye,” “New York, New York,” and “O soave fanciulla,” from La Boheme. Taking the stage in between Andrea Bocelli’s sets or singing duets with him were Fantasia Barrino, Albany Pro Musica, Maria Aleida and Caroline Campbell. Accompanying Bocelli was The New York City Opera Orchestra conducted by Eugene Kohn.
Andrea Bocelli did not command the stage so much as gently light it up – he exuded a fragile humanity which the audience immediately identified with on an emotional level. This, indeed, may be the true genius of Bocelli’s popularity.
According to Bocelli’s website, he has sold more than 80 million albums worldwide and “is credited with enabling the core classical repertoire to cross over and find a home atop the international pop charts, creating a new genre of music along the way.” He has certainly brought the magic of opera and made the old masters accessible, even agreeable, to a new generation.
Born in Tuscany, Italy, one would understand that passion is his birthright. Still, the 54-year-old singer gives another meaning to passion. With his Andrea Bocelli Foundation, he has found a way to turn passion into a life-enhancing vitality that makes a difference for good in the world.
Bocelli, who says he would like to be considered ‘just a voice,’ quotes Roman statesman Cato the Younger, “’There'll be trouble if you teach the soldiers how to read or if you teach them to appreciate music, because they'll forget the art of warfare.”
Bocelli concludes, “That says a lot about the ability of art and culture in general to make our society less violent and more aware.”
This is the core thrust of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation – it takes up where his music takes a respite.
Feeling that everyone has a purpose in life and seeking his own, even after he exploded onto the world stage, Bocelli was compelled to start a foundation that would touch the hearts, minds and creative spirits of the people of the world through love. Wrote Bocelli, “The soul needs love as much as the body needs air… I strongly believe that love does justice. And it is for this simple reason that we are all responsible for building a better world.”
Building a better world, for the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, means empowering people and communities caught under the oppressive burden of poverty, illiteracy, and distress due to illness and social exclusion. The Syrian Emergency Project, which helps aid Syrian refugees, is one recent involvement. Attempting to help minimize poverty in various parts of the world is another. Still another; workshops for the underprivileged in areas of music and the arts.
But humanitarian projects, like operatic arias, run a wide swath. One project funded in part by the foundation is “Fifth Sense – Assisted Vision,” a project by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that is working on a computer device that will enable the blind to see in much the same way people see graphics on a video game. They will be able to tell where the door is in a room, how many people are in the room and where hallways turn. Though ambitious, it is already a functioning reality; a reality made possible by a network of people, like Bocelli, who looked past the obstacles and saw only what could be.
Bocelli likes to quote French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “You can only see properly with your heart. The essential is invisible to the eye.”
Very fitting for a man who lost his sight at an early age, but who honed his vision to see possibilities in an often impossible world.
“When one loves,” said Bocelli, “and when we let ourselves be loved, the fear becomes boldness and the emptiness becomes fulfillment; as Saint Paul reminds us: ‘love is patient, love is good; it does not envy, it does not boast … Love always protects, it always trusts, it always hopes, it always perseveres.’”
“The more I immerse myself in singing, the less I understand. I only know that God has given me a voice which allows me to express what I feel…” and, apparently, what he feels is multifaceted. Evidently, the hundreds of fans who drove long hours in a hard rain just to hear him sing, understood.