With Andrea: Berlin and Prague, May 2013
For us, as for so many, Andrea Bocelli has inspired
countless journeys over the years. Most recently, we traveled to
Germany and the Czech Republic for two very different kinds of
concert experiences that represented quite well the two musical
worlds Andrea inhabits so comfortably. In Berlin, one of the
finest concert halls of the world, he gave us a classical recital
that surveyed the best of opera; in the vast arena of Prague
before a sold-out audience, it was a vintage combination of
classical and pop music that is the unique signature of this
Any successful journey requires careful planning. For this
purpose, Jack and I have discovered a useful tool—a series of
tour books focused on individual cities called Top
Ten from DK Eyewitness Travel. Each one identifies the top ten
city highlights in many categories—for example, top ten major
sights, great walks, loveliest parks, markets, hidden treasures,
old courtyards, most exciting museums, things to avoid, and the
“best of the rest.” You get the idea. As I contemplated how to
review these two concerts of Andrea’s, I realized this type of
format would work well to convey the memories of this most recent
journey with our tenor!
Ten Concert Highlights
The crescendo of applause that greeted
Andrea’s first moments onstage in Berlin and the pure joy of
seeing his beaming response of pleasure. It isn’t often that we
get to see Andrea in the elegant, sartorial splendor of black tie
and tails, but this was his respectful tribute to the honor and
privilege of taking the stage in this hallowed home of the Berlin
Philarmoniker and Symphoniker.
We were enthralled from the first
captivating notes of “Viene la sera,” the heart-melting
yearning duet from Madama
Butterfly. The emphasis on each dramatic moment was perfect,
summoned by the emotional power of this music—the way Andrea
turned to his soprano, Paola Sanguinetti, with a sweet smile and
tender glances, the darling way he went on tiptoe when Butterfly
sings that she loved him from the first moment she saw him so
“tall and strong,” and the finale of an exquisite, tender
embrace. We have all made many musical journeys with Andrea. For
me, this familiar duet evokes the memory of a full moon magically
ascending over Lake Massaciuccoli behind the stage when we watched
Andrea perform this opera at Torre del Lago in 2002.
Andrea’s interpretation of Schubert’s
“Ave Maria,” sung in Italian, never fails to create an
intimate connection with his listeners. This time, Andrea offered
the benediction of an exceptionally long and prayerfully sweet
In Berlin, we had two selections from Manon
Lescaut, Andrea’s next opera recording. The captivating
solo, “Donna non vidi mai” was dramatically strong, followed
by the emotional fireworks of the duet “Tu, tu, amore tu” with
the soaring lyric lines that Puccini does so masterfully. There is
no resisting the stirring deep tones of Andrea’s low range when
he sings “O tentatrice” (“O, temptress”) over and over
during the ill-fated lovers’ confrontation.
When he gets to “nel occhio tuo profondo, io leggo il mio
destin” (“in the depths of your eyes, I read my destiny”)
well, I’d say we’re definitely conquered.
With Andrea’s two encores of the German
songs at the Philharmonie, “Ich liebe dich” (“I love you”)
by Beethoven and “Zueignung” (“Dedication”) by Richard
Strauss, he paid special tribute to his predominantly German
audience, and their beaming smiles of affection and appreciation
sprouted all over the great hall. With this gesture, he won them
over entirely, prompting a final standing ovation (a rarity for
Spectacular Il Trovatore selections
were a highlight in Prague. We were given nearly all of Scene 6
from Act III. In “Ah si ben mio,” with Andrea’s voice secure
and compellingly lovely, Manrico comforts Leonora as enemy
trumpets sound the call to battle in the distance. Then moving
directly into “L’onda de’ suoni mistici,” the lovers sing
hopefully, in thrilling close harmony, of a happy future. But
their dreams are immediately dashed as Manrico learns of his
mother’s capture and Andrea plunges into the musical fireworks
of “Di quella pira,” like sparks flung from the tip of his
vocal sorcerer’s wand!
Paola Sanguinetti gets my nomination for
most endearing soprano partner with winning gestures like her
little curtsy to Andrea after they waltzed to the La
Traviata “Brindisi” and the flirtatious flash of her eyes
at the moment in “O soave fanciulla” from La
Bohème when she sings the teasing word “curioso?” during
the musical dialogue when Andrea’s Rodolfo expectantly questions
what might transpire between them “al ritorno” to the casa!
Throughout both concerts she was considerate to him, animated, and
responsive, coaxing expressive gestures from him that brought life
to each duet.
The excellent Prague Chamber Choir is
probably the best I have ever heard, and their “Va, pensiero,”
from Verdi’s Nabucco
was exceptional. Having just spent time touring and exploring the
history of Cologne, Berlin, and the Old Jewish Quarter of Prague,
and having seen the frequent plaques that mark the places where
Jewish citizens had once lived and were then taken away to
oblivion, this aria, sung by the enslaved Hebrews in exile in
Egypt, took on an entirely new poignancy that I had never
experienced before. The sudden tears in my eyes took me completely
All of us who come to a concert with
Andrea love him already. But we long for a way to touch him more
closely, to feel that human connection more deeply. It sometimes
happens with the smallest things—the little waltzing turn with
Paola, the little wave of the hand over his head, a few words of
thanks into the microphone, the particular smile of gratitude or
amusement. In Prague, the impact of “Era già tutto previsto”
from the CD Passione was
impressive. The minute Andrea sat at the piano, he seemed to forge
a closer bond with the audience, and they responded. You could
feel the emotion raised to a new level as his voice expressed an
emotional urgency singularly inspired by this song.
Lately, the final encore of “Nessun
dorma” from Turandot
has become a familiar conclusion for ABs concerts. Where does that
energy come from at the end of an evening’s worth of exhaustive
vocal giving? Proud and victorious, Andrea reaches deep within for
the final glory of that triumphant “vincerò”! Prague was no
exception. The applause must have lasted several minutes. How we
yearned to have him back on stage. You could feel the pleading.
But, he had given all he had for this night. Still, the splendor
of his “vincerò” echoes in our memories as we leave.
Ten Loveliest Moments
The heady feeling as we sat in the third
row center of Philharmonie Berlin, in the historic German capital,
knowing that in a few moments the “world’s most beloved tenor”
would step on stage to be greeted by an eagerly expectant audience
in one of the premier concert halls of the world.
Andrea’s most yearning and softest sung
“sei mia” (“be mine”) ever in the “Viene la sera” Madama Butterfly duet in Berlin.
“La donna è mobile” is always
beloved by the crowd. But this night we had the gift of a
particularly sweet and long-held note on the phrase
“d’accento” and a beautifully ornamented coda that always
makes Andrea smile with the satisfaction of this vocal
accomplishment when he takes his bow at the end. If possible, it
seemed he crafted this aria even more masterfully in Prague!
The audience reaction of pure joy just to
see his face when Andrea finally
turned to the crowd sitting behind him in the strange Berlin “theater-in-the-round.”
The sweet little waltzing twirl Andrea
shared with Paola for the “Brindisi” from La
Traviata touched the fans, who responded gratefully with warm
Just to hear Andrea sing “farfalle”
(“butterfly”) from the Madama
Butterfly duet makes me collapse with pleasure every time.
Would it make him smile to think one could conquer women with the
singing of only one little word from an entire Puccini duet?!
Perfectly blended harmony between Andrea
and Paola of “Ange adorable” from Roméo
et Juliette in Prague, both so remarkably relaxed for such a
The easy warmth and beauty of ABs voice
singing the haunting “La vie en rose”…the graceful way his
voice seems to launch the first notes of the iconic voice of Edith
Piaf. Magic. (By the way, this song was released as a single the
year I was born, 1947, and sold 1 million copies in the U.S. In
1948, it was the biggest selling single in Italy.)
I sometimes think it is the final,
climactic concert moment—when the last note of “Nessun
Dorma” is flung into the air—that is the loveliest of all,
because I cherish the privilege of being there to see and to feel
the force of how much Andrea is loved! The affection washes
over everyone in wave after wave, and you just hope that he
absorbs this amazing energy to recharge his spirit and soul.
Seeing Andrea's brother Alberto emerge
from backstage to bask in the love poured out for his brother
during the long, long standing ovation at end of the concert at O2
Ten Familiar Sights
AB nearly always searches out a small
anchor amid the vastness of the stage, sometimes the microphone
stand, sometimes a small raised marker on the floor. Throughout
the challenge of the unmiked Berlin performance, it was the sturdy
iron-pipe guardrail behind the conductor that became the tenor’s
Andrea vigilantly keeping the downbeat
with his right hand for nearly every piece.
Andrea finding it impossible to resist
silently mouthing the soprano’s part of the duets.
Those secret whispers in his partner’s
ear…what IS he saying to her?! How we long to know, and how we
wish (well, some of us anyway) we were feeling the soft caress of
that intimate whisper ourselves!
The standard little tenor-conductor
handshake of solidarity and encouragement after most of Andrea's
arias and songs that says, “we did it!” Guaranteed to recharge
the tenorial battery for that next high C.
· Have you ever noticed in all the walking on and off stage that Andrea does in the course of his concerts that there is an extraordinary easy grace in his stride? For some reason, during this concert in Prague, I was particularly transfixed by the relaxed, rhythmic beauty of it.
The instant, magical metamorphosis from
classical tenor to piano man that takes place the moment Andrea
sits down at a piano.
Both in Berlin and in Prague, so many—single
men, women, and couples young and old—were taking photos of
themselves in the concert hall to capture the magic of attending a
concert by the “world’s most beloved tenor.” It has become a
tradition. And they know if they applaud like mad at the
concert’s end, if Andrea has the energy, the reward will be
“Con te partirò,” a quintessential
element of Bocelli concert encores. It is the song that launched
the journey! We may hear it over and over, but the groundswell of
applause at its recognition and the tide of appreciation when it
is completed, never fails.
The charmingly familiar final wave of
Andrea’s hand high above his head that tells us it really is
time to say good-bye…until the next journey together.
of the Rest
The excited energy generated by the
initial rush of the crowd into the sold-out hall of the
Philharmonie Berlin. The theater has a bewildering configuration
of zig-zagging, seemingly randomly positioned levels. It was a bit
disorienting to look around the grand room during the performance
and see faces looking down from so many unexpected angles.
Paola’s beautiful “O mio babbino caro”
from Puccini’s Gianni
Schicchi was tender and winning, particularly with her
gracious acknowledgment of the audience behind her as she slowly
turned to them and they responded to her gesture with appreciative
applause. Later in the program, when she and Andrea sang the
intimate and gently romantic duet “Ange Adorable” from Roméo
et Juliette, she artfully directed Andrea, with admirable
subtlety, to do the same, thus again winning the hearts of the
grateful fans who had clearly been yearning for even the tiniest
glimpse of that handsomely sun-burnished Tuscan face.
Stirring orchestral solos of both the
Berliner Symphoniker and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra:
the clarity and power of La
Forza del Destino “Sinfonia,” an energetically spirited Carmen
“Preludio,” and the peaceful grace and reverence of the
“Intermezzo” from Cavalleria rusticana.
For the Prague concert, Andrea was joined
by the Div4s. These four beautiful young women achieve an
amazingly close vocal harmony that is lovely and powerful. I could
see as I watched the reactions on the faces of the crowd that
their unique sound was captivating. They soloed with the themes
from the movie Romeo and
Juliet and The Godfather
and accompanied Andrea for a potent “Canto della terra,” a
very playful “Funiculi, funiculà, and a sexy encore “Quizàs,
A quintessential projected camera moment…the
close-up of Conductor Marcello Rota’s hand—thumb and fingers
held apart as the chorus held the final note of “Va, pensiero,”
and the breathtaking precision with which their voices stopped
when he rapidly closed those fingers together. It brought goose
The playful Big Band sound of the
orchestral interlude in Prague at the O2. Maestro
Marcello and crew were really swinging and swaying!
The sweeping beauty of the airborne video
images for “Con te partirò,” as if we were flying over ocean
and mountain, noticeably created a romantic, hand-holding moment
for many young couples in the audience.
I had forgotten how rewarding the songs
from Andrea’s Incanto
CD are. The Prague concert included five of them. The sunny
optimism in Andrea’s interpretation of “Voglio vivere così,”
“Mamma,” and “Funiculi, Funiculà” is infectious. And
because I married a sailor boy, his charming “Vieni sul mar”
is irresistible. These songs incorporate a cultural heritage that
Andrea is proud to share with us.
On the way home from the concert in Prague, our driver had
a special surprise for us. Suddenly on his CD player I was hearing
the very earliest version of Andrea singing “Con te partirò,”
and I was surprised by the contrast between this version and the
one we had just heard live as an encore. This “boy” on the CD
seemed a world away from Andrea’s mature and controlled voice of
the concert. Now there is a richness and secure confidence that
has mellowed the urgent searching of that earlier voice. Without
question, both had their charm, but Andrea’s journey has brought
him to a place in life now that is reflected in his current voice—father
of two fine young men, master of two musical worlds, founder of a
significant charitable foundation, beloved in the world, cherished
in the heart of an extraordinary young woman, tender parent to a
little princess whose heart and soul respond already to the
singular tone of her babbo’s treasured voice.
As our plane took off from Prague airport, I was relieved
to begin the journey home. But then I thought that for Andrea, the
journeying is never really over. He is compelled by our eagerness,
seemingly insatiable, to hear and to see him over and over,
everywhere in the world. It is a life of constant journeying.
Journeying encompasses so many worlds—journeys of the
heart, of the spirit; journeys in friendship, in learning, beyond
new horizons. For many of these journeys, Andrea has led the way:
to opera, a new language, new places, new friendships. We all
follow our own paths, grateful for his inspiration and the riches
we have gathered along the way…and ready for the next departure.
Buon viaggi, Maestro! Ci vediamo presto…
Cami McNamee, Leesburg, Virginia