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November 23, 2003

Providence, November 23, 2003 - thanks to Carole!

Where is Providence? Well actually it is the capitol of the smallest state
of the Union and no one was more surprised than me to hear that Andrea Bocelli was playing Providence. Not the more likely Boston in MA. Must have been a bit much for the local paper the Providence Journal because clearly the Pro-Jo reviewer didn't think much of him and even preferred the supporting soprano.

The problem - as with all concrete civic venues - is that something designed for the intimacy of an opera theatre doesn't always translate well to the cavernous space of an ice hockey style arena!

Poised in block 229 high above stage right before the concert even started it was hard to see the far side obscured by the hot oil haze of pop-corn concession stands. Let's face it - opera and mass market burger and pop-corn stands do NOT mix.

But the sound system was decent, the lighting atmospheric without being overpowering and the TV big screen gave a good well produced view of the concert.

As to the music (that was why we were there - right?): Maestro Steven Mercurio made the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (Hartford has a symphony orchestra? Yep - in their 60th season!) rise above themselves. Clearly they thought so too - the small brass section who patiently sat out many quiet passages marked their big night out with an impromptu photo shoot on the stage during the intermission. The orchestra's accompaniments were light, delicate and underscored the singers well. Their second half outing with the William Tell Overture was played with a suspense and understated accuracy that brought new life to the piece for me.

Soprano Kallen Esperian did not - perhaps - have her best night and her first half was a little strained. But by the second half she had warmed up
and had some beautiful duets with Andrea. The only real mistake being allowing her "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in more populist second half. It was just a shade too pop for the half and didn't really fit.

As for Andrea - Providence was hosting too many items that night ("The Moody Blues" and a big theatre night at Trinity Rep both within blocks of the Civic Center), parking was an overpriced nightmare and many in the audience were late. Andrea's voice was not strained but it was having a fight with the pop-corn oil haze and the discrete but distinct rustle of late arrivals. The signature Ave Maria (Bach) was good but not his best. But damn! In these days of perfect recording - we expect so much perfection live. There was nothing wrong with it either.

The price of a near perfect second half was the subterranean rumble of the HVAC which cleared the oily air and perhaps voices had had a chance to warm up and if there had been any first song nerves they had been driven away by a sympathetic and now settled crowd. The to and fro between Andrea and Lisa Rautenberg the first violin in Occhi di Fata was beautiful - and if there was a slight hair of a bowing error - betrayed on the screen by a look of mortification from Lisa - Andrea's encouraging and forgiving smile kept the piece together to a triumphant conclusion. No mega-star tantrum here! The soaring, sustained and powerful conclusions of Torna a Surriento and O'Surdato 'Nnammurato gave lie to the Pro-Jo reporter and the final programmed duet of Brindisi had Kallen Espiran relaxed and in confident support.

Providence, November 23, 2003 - thanks to Carole!

The three carefully staged encores were rapturously received - though personally - while I think it is brave to re-interpret "My Way" - it was perhaps a bit of a leap with the Providence American Italian audience for
whom Old Blue Eyes probably always will have the definitive interpretation.  The Prayer was carefully re-arranged to give Andrea the lead and Con Te Partiro was wildly but sadly received by the crowd to round the evening off.

Worth the price of admission? - Absolutely - He IS world class and it was a world class staging that transformed a rather average concrete box for the night.

Concert event of my life? - Not quite but nearly - there is always the great possibility of disappointment after eagerly awaiting something so momentous and I was NOT disappointed.

Worth the 40 min wait in the parking garage afterwards to get out? - Yes

Did my girlfriend love it? Well she had never heard of Andrea till I played
her some of his CD's last month as a trial to see if I should invest in the
tickets. She didn't know most of the pieces but left in love with the whole thing.

It was a GREAT night out.

Graeme J.W.Smith MRIN

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