My Andrea Bocelli and Veronica Berti Story. By William E. White
My Andrea Bocelli adventure starts 6 years ago while listening to a song called ‘The Prayer’ from a Celine Dion album. The song is a beautiful duet between Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. At the time, I had no idea who Andrea Bocelli was, but his voice compelled me to turn over the CD label and look for the name of this artist. His name was recorded in my mind forever, but at this point, I did not purchase any of his music simply because my mind was elsewhere. Life was so hectic that there was limited time for these things. During this phase of my life, it seemed like everything happening around me, from work to family, had a higher priority than me.
About a year after discovering the name Andrea Bocelli, I was on vacation visiting my mother and we were at a local mall. While the family was shopping, to kill some time, I drifted into a music store and browsed thru the music DVD’s. The DVD’s were not organized at all, so I reached into a section and randomly selected one. The title was ‘Cieli di Toscana’ and there was that name again, Andrea Bocelli. I thought to myself that this was the Italian tenor that sang that great duet with Celine Dion. I kept looking at the cover of the DVD and the price. The store wanted over thirty dollars for this DVD. At about this time, my family was done shopping and ready to go home. I thought to myself, ”Thirty dollars seems high”. I could have easily put the DVD back, thinking about looking into this at a latter time. But something made me complete the purchase.
A few weeks later, after our vacation was over and we were back home in Orlando Florida, I sat down and viewed ‘Cieli di Toscana’ for the first time and then replayed it many more times. This was a turning point in my life. Like most people, I have enjoyed musical rhythmus and voices from many popular artists and groups from the last 30 years. Some artists stood out more than others. But Andrea Bocelli in ‘Cieli di Toscana’, captured my heart, mind, and soul with a power that is difficult to describe with words. Needless to say, I now have a copy of every album and DVD Andrea Bocelli has ever produced. Many people characterize Andrea Bocelli by his voice. I can understand why. The physical attributes of his voice defy the limits of the human body. This is why he is referred to as the Voice of God. But after hearing him thru so many melodies, it became apparent to me that Andrea Bocelli had to have many other traits that also amplify the beauty of his voice. In my mind, his voice had to be a reflection of the humility, passion, wisdom, and strength embedded inside his persona. He had to be a person that has never forgotten his roots and is not corrupted by fame and fortune. His deep connection to the cultural and musical heritage of the great country of Italy was echoed in all of his work. Andrea Bocelli has drawn me to travel many times to Italy and attend his performances. If anyone had told me 6 years ago that I would be traveling to Italy every year to enjoy an Andrea Bocelli performance, I would not have believed it. But it is true. I tell people that if they give Andrea Bocelli a few minutes of their time and listen to the music, he will penetrate their heart forever.
About a year after discovering Andrea Bocelli thru Cieli di Toscana, I was on a plane to Italy for the first time. Prior to discovering Andrea Bocelli, as with most Americans, Italy was a country that I expected to visit some time in my life. But Andrea Bocelli accelerated that plan. Now, I go to Italy every year to hear Maestro Bocelli perform in his native land. In the process, I have developed a deep love for this country and its people. Maestro Bocelli has effectively changed the course of my life. My life has shifted from ‘living to work’ to ‘working to live’. I love my family, but I have learned that there are 365 days in a year and it is ok to set aside a few days for me. My priority list now includes ‘myself’ in addition to all the other responsibilities.
Last year (2008) I
returned to Rome to watch Andrea Bocelli in the ‘Opera di Carmen’ at
the Teatro di la Opera. My ticket was for the second performance. After
touring the sacred sites of Rome and the beautiful gardens of Villa del
Este and Villa Lante my first week, I decided in the afternoon of the
first performance to walk over to the Teatro di la Opera just to make
sure I knew how best to get there from my hotel. Upon arrival, I happen
to be standing within a group of people close to one of the side
entrances of the theater. There
was a group of ladies speaking in Italian and I overheard one of them
say, “Andrea siempre tan casuale”. Spanish and English are my native
languages, but I can also somewhat understand the Italian language. So I
walked over and asked them about the comment. They told me that Andrea
was getting ready for the show and was very relaxed and casual. Most of
them were members of the choir and in the typical Italian fashion,
treated me as if we had all known each other our whole life. I also had
an opportunity to meet the choreographer of the show and she gave me
some excellent insight into her trade. Thanks to all these people, after
the first performance of ‘Opera di Carmen’ was over, I would have my
chance to meet Andrea Bocelli for the first time. After the show, I was in a side section of the theater and
there was almost nobody there except for some performers passing by. I
did not truly believe that there would be an opportunity to meet the
Great Tenor. At some point,
it occurred to me that maybe there would be a chance for a picture and
who was going to take the picture. I was alone. So I started to look
around and there was one American in sight. I walked over to him and
simply gave him my camera and told him that he was about to take one of
the most important pictures of my life and to just shoot away. We did
not have a chance to formally meet at this point. Shortly thereafter,
Andrea Bocelli walked out holding hands with Veronica Berti.
I walked up to him and shook his hand, but even though I had
rehearsed the words I wanted to tell him, the only thing that came out
was, “Andrea, your music has reached my heart and changed my life”.
I was caught completely off guard when my heart was all of a sudden
beating so hard that it felt like it was going to come out of my chest.
Veronica Berti was observing and smiling. She knew what was
happening to me. The American with my camera captured the moment
perfectly in one of the pictures below where I am shaking Andrea
Before Andrea Bocelli and Veronica Berti depart the theater, I looked over to Veronica and told her that if I could get another picture with Andrea, I would hold it close to my heart for the rest of my life. By now the American that took the initial pictures had given me back the camera. Veronica Berti took my camera and I walked over to Andrea, put my arm on his shoulder and told him that this was one of the most special moments of my life and that I would hold the picture close to my heart forever. At that point Andrea smiled and Veronica took a great picture also shown above.
Veronica handed back the camera to me and departed the theater with Andrea. As they walked away, I told Andrea in Spanish, “Andrea, que Dios te bendiga siempre y te proteja” which means “Andrea, may God Bless you and protect you always”. With a beautiful smile, Veronica looked back and said Thank You. While walking back to the hotel, this whole event seemed like a dream to me. It was completely unexpected. I had simply walked to the theater to find out where it was in relation to my hotel. It occurred to me that here we have the most famous tenor in the world, Andrea Bocelli with his beautiful companion Veronica Berti, and they could give a complete stranger from Orlando Florida, a few minutes of their time and all of their attention. At that moment, I confirmed that these are very humble and graceful people who have never forgotten their roots. They were just as I had imagined.
Well, another year goes by and I start preparing for the next trip to Italy (2009). This time I would go to the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily to watch Andrea Bocelli in the Opera Faust. My visit to Sicily would last two weeks, centered on the Opera. I would spend half my time in Palermo and the other half in Taoramina. Although I intended to see as much of Sicily as possible, my main reason for even being there was Andrea Bocelli and his performance. While on the plane flying to Rome from Newark New Jersey, I was wondering if there would be an opportunity to at least shake his hand and exchange a few words as with the trip last year. I though to myself that this would be highly unlikely and in any case, lighting does not strike twice in the same way.
After finally arriving in Palermo, I settled into my hotel, which was the Centrale Palace Hotel. There are many nice hotels in Palermo and this one was halfway between the train station and the Teatro Massimo. During my first few days, I saw some of the most impressive artistic treasures in the world. Starting with the Palatine Chapel, which was the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily in the Pallazo Reale. Also, the cathedral in Monreale was breathtaking with so many beautiful Byzantine mosaics. Every day prior to starting my adventures, I would have breakfast at the hotel. Well, I was having breakfast one day and saw a recognizable face. There was the American with his wife, that I had given my camera to at the Teatro di la Opera in Rome the previous year. He had taken the first picture of me and Andrea. I walked over to him and asked him if he remembered me. He looked at me somewhat confused, but then recognized me from the previous year. We did not have much of a chance to meet the previous year, but I remembered him as a very selfless person willing to do a favor without expecting anything in return. He had given me his business card and somehow I could not find it by the time I got home to call him and thank him for the pictures. So now, I wasted no time in thanking him. We sat down for breakfast and it became obvious very quickly that we were all in Palermo to watch and hear Andrea Bocelli in the Opera Faust. I was in the company of two people that love Andrea Bocelli as much as I do and I know there are millions more worldwide. Their names were Jack and Cami. It turns out that Cami writes great reports on the many Andrea Bocelli events that she and her husband have attended. I have read some of her reports at Andrea Bocelli’s official web site and enjoyed them very much. While we had breakfast, Jack informed me that the first performance of the Opera Faust had already been cancelled due to a general strike. But, we all had tickets for both shows so there was still a chance for the second performance. We completed breakfast and went on our way to tour Sicily. I though to myself throughout the day that it was incredible to have crossed paths with the same person that took that first picture of me and Andrea Bocelli the previous year in Rome. What are the odds that we both would have selected the same hotel in a city like Palermo which has many great hotels?
The next morning I went down for breakfast again. There was Jack and Cami again. Jack walked over to me and gave me the bad news. It turns out that the effects of the strike had spilled over into the second performance. It was also cancelled. There was nothing more than a glimmer of hope that the show might go on. I would later walk down to the theater to confirm the bad news. When I got there, a small group of people were requesting refunds for their tickets. I was not there to request a refund. I simply wanted to know if there was a remote possibility that the show may happen. I returned to my hotel thru very cold rain with fragments of ice in it. Hail was falling out of the sky in Palermo. Needless to say, this was the low point of my trip to Sicily. But I decided to stay in the city and tour the botanical gardens once the rain stopped. Around three o’clock in the afternoon, I arrived back at the hotel and found that Jack had left a message telling me to meet him at the Teatro Massimo around five o’clock. The show was definitely cancelled by now, but I thought that many people may be showing up as one final check. The cancellation of Faust at the Teatro Massimo had absolutely nothing to do with Andrea Bocelli and was driven by events outside of his control. An enormous amount of work went into preparing for this event for all performers and it was a huge heartbreak to have it cancelled.
At five o’clock I found myself standing in front of the Teatro Massimo all by myself. I was extremely surprised. There was nobody there except me for the first few minutes. Soon afterwards, I saw Jack approaching. He introduced me to Renate’s husband and three other ladies that showed up. One of these ladies was from Germany and had been to over 120 of Andrea’s performances. I joked around with her saying that she loved him almost as much as I did. One of the other ladies was from New Orleans and she told me she was terrified of airplanes, but at age 75 flew to New York to see one of Andrea’s performances. Now at age 80 she flew from New Orleans to Palermo Sicily to enjoy Andrea once again in the Opera Faust. Within a minute, I saw Veronica Berti walking towards us. I clearly remembered her from the previous year in Rome. Veronica Berti has a very special kind of beauty that radiates from her heart. We all walked with Veronica back to the hotel where they were all staying. While walking back to the hotel, Veronica told us that Andrea was following a soccer game. I simply could not believe what was transpiring. After arriving at the hotel, all of us waited in the lobby while Veronica went to get Andrea. A few minutes later they both walked down the grand stair case. Initially, we were all somewhat stunned and quiet while we applauded. Veronica asked if we would like to take some pictures as if to shake us all up a bit. Then, I remembered that the previous year in Rome, I had a hard time getting my words out because of emotions that overwhelmed me. This time, my words would come out clearly. I approached Andrea and put my hand on his shoulder. I gathered my thoughts and told him, “Andrea, God designed this beautiful voice, but then had to select one very special person to give it to. A person with all the qualities required to make this voice shine…, qualities like humility, wisdom, strength, and love. Out of all the people on this planet, he selected you. You are that special person. “ I felt like my heart was speaking to him. I truly meant every word I said. I have always thought that to characterize Andrea Bocelli simply as a beautiful voice is to miss all the other characteristics of his persona that are so very important and reflected in his voice. Jack took the following pictures during this exchange.
I did not want to come across as a critic because in my mind, Andrea Bocelli’s legacy has already been written in stone and no critic or critics can ever change that no matter what they write. I am simply a person from Orlando Florida that loves Andrea Bocelli. The small group of people at that hotel in Palermo traveled from all over the world because they simply love him. Andrea explained how his music is enriched by the way he lives his life and that there are many things in life that are important, in addition to the music. In his opinion, the music cannot succeed without living life to the fullest. Cami took the opportunity to explain that for that very reason, we travel half way around the world to experience him, to enrich our life. I also took the opportunity to tell him that we hear his heart when he sings. It seemed like the correct moment to say this. Andrea paused for a moment and said, “My heart”, as if he was somewhat surprised to hear that. I think that at that moment, Andrea realized just how high our esteem was for him.
The second time I approached Andrea to speak to him, I explained that he has completely changed my life and thanked him for that. I live a much richer life now with a better focus on the positive elements of life. I don’t get caught up to much any more on things that are just not that important. I am a true believer that God acts thru us. When one human being reaches out and helps another from the heart, this could be God acting thru that person. There is no doubt that Andrea Bocelli has had a positive effect on thousands of people all over the world and God had a hand in this.
Just when we thought that the evening was over, Andrea and Veronica signaled for us to come with them to the next room. There was a beautiful grand piano there. Andrea sat down and proceeded to play my favorite song, Ave Maria. I tried to take video, but my hand trembled. Jack took a great picture shown below, where I am attempting to videotape the moment. He was looking out for us. This song always stirs up some very deep emotions.
After Andrea was done he stood
up and all I could say was, “Bravo Andrea” many times. At this
point, I could not even remember my own name. He reminded us with a
smile, as if to tease us, that this may only happen ‘Once in a
Lifetime’. Cami managed
to make a request for ‘A
Vucchella’ which Andrea proceeded to sing for us. The song was so
beautiful that words cannot describe how I felt.
The picture’s taken on that beautiful evening
will remain forever close to my heart as one of the highlights of my
life. I had a chance to approach Veronica Berti and thank her for
inviting us over to the hotel. I was able to convey to her that she is
so gracious and has an inner beauty that is very striking and powerful.
Her dedication to Andrea is so complete, “Un Amore Cosi Grande”. I
also had an opportunity to meet Veronica’s mother and she told me how
special her daughter was and how big her heart is. Jack took the picture
below of Veronica Berti and me. Veronica Berti was very graceful and
took the picture below of Andrea Bocelli and me side by side.
Although I remember every detail of that evening, this
small report is already eleven pages long. So I will close this by
telling everyone out there who truly loves Andrea Bocelli, that he is
the person you have imagined he is. I say this because in my travels
throughout the United State’s and the world, when the topic of Andrea
Bocelli and Veronica Berti comes up, the first thing I hear is a
beautiful description of the image the particular person has of them.
Then they will ask me in different ways if their perception is correct.
It is a privilege for me to be able to tell them that their perceptions
For my part, I will continue to travel to
Italy every year to enjoy Maestro Bocelli’s performances in his native
land. He is everything I imagined and have described in this report. He
has had a very positive effect on my life and surely, on thousands of
other’s. Along the way, I have met many great people. Special thanks
to Jack and Cami.
The British soprano, Sarah Brightman, has a simple
way of describing Andrea Bocelli. To use her own words, “Andrea
Bocelli is the real deal”.
Bye from William E. White