1 Luglio 2009
Venezia Piazza San Marco
(2 reports)

Cielo, e Mare, e Andrea—the Concert in Venice, 2009

 We had left Venice much too early the morning after the enchanted evening with Andrea in Venice’s Piazza San Marco. Negotiating my way into the water taxi for the trip to the airport was a major challenge, but the reward was a farewell to the colorful sights and sounds of Venice through the network of small canals in the hidden byways of the city that had been nearly inaccessible to me by land. What an extraordinary way of life—an existence totally supported by boat! Now, we were departing for another island, this one off the coast of Maine—a world away from Venice. But it reminded me yet again of the way that Andrea has bridged the gap of so many cultures—indeed become the very bridge of friendship itself, and inspired in so many of us the desire to touch with him what forms the foundation of his world and all that is so precious to him in its culture.

 Somewhere high over the Atlantic now, I sit in the 767 jet aircraft and cradle the memory of yet another  incomparable experience that Andrea has led us to—the timeless melodies of some of the most precious jewels of the operatic canon echoing within Piazza San Marco in the shadow of the impossibly ornate Basilica of San Marco, the gracefully arched façade of the Doge’s Palazzo, and the soaring Campanile di San Marco whose bells have marked time for centuries in this once formidable seat of world power known as La Serenissima.

 Despite our nearly constant concerns about the possibility of rain, the evening of the concert was perfect, and the famed piazza was bustling with anticipation, as well as the ubiquitous pigeons! The predominantly Italian audience assembled slowly throughout the evening’s warm twilight, mostly in elegant evening attire and chatting animatedly. The 3,500 or so patrons were young and old alike, with a generous representation of nonnas and nonnos with their grandchildren. At 9:10, the orchestra was finally onstage and warming up, but many of the most expensive seats remained unfilled. It underscored the complex logistics of reaching this place, perched at the farthest end of the Grand Canal and accessible only by one or another of the available water transports—vaporetti, water taxis, sleek private launches, gondolas!

 Una serata incantevole

 Few opening moments of any concert could have been more perfectly wedded to a setting than Andrea’s choice of the dramatic chorus and then the superb “Esultate” from the first act of Verdi’s Othello. Andrea was debuting this brief but glorious aria in his repertoire. The precisely unified voices of the Coro Lyrico Veneto set the scene—a ship is spotted on the horizon, its ensign is the winged lion—proud symbol of Venice—the very one perched dramatically atop the tall pillar at the water’s edge just steps away from this square! The chorus continued the narrative of the storm-tossed vessel carrying the victorious general, the moor of Venice, to shore. At the height of the music’s cresting wave, Andrea appeared onstage to deliver Othello’s exultant “Esultate!”  (“Rejoice” in the victory!). Few lines of music have ever been written with more vocal power word for word than these. Andrea poured himself into the piece with every ounce of strength, but burnished it as well with his inimitable tonal beauty. It was a stunningly impressive beginning.

 Then, boldly, he launched into a powerful “Di quella pira,” a vocal challenge he has handled easily this year in concert after concert (at Madison Square Garden he even sang it twice!), each time seeming to bestow effortlessly the final, dramatic high C of “All’armi” in a breathtaking hold that unfailingly produces chills.

 At this point, Andrea was joined by his musical cohorts: Paoletta Marrocu (soprano) and Gianfranco Montresor (baritone) maintaining the vocally dramatic pace with the confrontational trio from Act 1 of Il Trovatore. Andrea, in fine form, seemed to relish the moments of forceful delivery and blended in close harmony with his comrades in the complex vocal interweaving, but all the while commanding his own high profile. 

 Maestro Eugene Kohn and the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese answered in kind with a stirring and electrically charged chorus and “Triumphal march” from Aida. Both orchestra and chorus flung themselves without reserve into Verdi’s familiar and spirited piece that thwarts any descriptive term other than “triumphal” in the most profound sense of that word!! It was a definite crowd pleaser. Andrea then returned to offer Mascagni’s “Brindisi” from Cavalleria Rusticana, his voice ringing strongly out to fill the storied piazza—now grown dark, but aglow with the translucent luster of a half moon.

 Vicino a te, Andrea

 At this halfway point in the program (which had no intermission), Andrea and Paoletta reappeared for one of the evening’s definite highlights, the stirring, climactic duet from Andrea Chenier, “Vicino a te.” If ever there was a masterpiece that exemplifies the distinct signature of Andrea’s timbre, it is this one—he surrendered himself heart and soul to its sadly triumphant, glorious beauty, his powerful voice animating this soul-wrenching and timeless exchange between two lovers in their last moments on earth together. He drew us close with the yearning in his voice that pierced the very core of emotion within the music, compelling our response. Yes, Andrea. You sang this as if it recalled for you (as you have written) the one still moment in your young universe when a life-changing world opened before you and you lost yourself to it forever. Here again in this place, you yielded to the powerful flood of the music of Andrea Chenier. Surely mine were not the only tears that the resulting emotion in your voice called forth in those who were gathered before you.

 Immediately after an orchestral interlude of “Dance of the Hours” from la Gioconda, Andrea  departed from the program to offer “Cielo e mar,” a perfect tribute to this serenely timeless city wedded to both. Up to this moment, we had only experienced Ponchielli’s challenging and scintillating masterpiece, also from La Gioconda, on Andrea’s earliest opera recording Aria, the Opera Album. As compellingly beautiful as he sang it then, he infuses it now with a mature richness and confident force, yet still spins out an enchanting gossamer thread of melodic gold…“o sogni, o sogni d’or”…sweetly, sweetly holding that high concluding note.

 By now, we were enwrapped in the velvet darkness of the sea-tinged night and wrung out with the emotion of this incomparable music. Just when we were thinking it couldn’t get much better than this, Andrea brought out the Puccini, that fragile yet incisive beauty of the third act finale of La Boheme, when Mimi and Rodolfo lament their inevitable separation, but cannot summon the will to part and agree to remain together until the sun-warmed “stagion dei fior.”  No one captures the achingly sweet yearning of this moment—“Addio sogni d’amor”—the way Andrea does. No one.

 The second soprano who participated in the evening, Inva Mula, was the spirited Musetta in this scene, and immediately after it she joined Marrocu in a beautifully harmonized “Barcarolle” from the Tales of Hoffmann. With dismay at that point, I realized there were only the three canzone from Incanto remaining on the program. How could this evening have slipped away so quickly?! In rapid succession Andrea sang “Voglio vivere cosi,” “Vieni sul mar,” and “Funiculi’ funicula’.” There is a sunny sense of well-being in these Neapolitan tunes, and happiness seemed to flow naturally from within a very relaxed Andrea at this point. There is so much life in “Voglio vivere cosi,” and Andrea let himself yield to it and match its melodic warmth with that of the naturally rich timbre of his voice. Being married to a former “sailor” of the U.S. Navy, I admit to a particular soft spot for “Vieni sul mar.” It is easy to pretend that Andrea sings it only for me and “mio marinar”! Visions of our previous day’s island-hopping to Murano and Burano in the sun-dazzled waters of the Venetian lagoon played through my mind while Andrea’s mellow tones coaxed with the lyric “come to the sea”! Finally, all too soon, “Funiculi’ funicula’” closed the evening. There are some tenors who would find it impossible to let anything as ridiculous as “Jammo, jammo 'ncoppa jammo jà” escape their classically trained throats, but Andrea flings himself into it with playful abandon. It was a delightfully light-hearted way to bring the concert to a close. Before he left the stage, Andrea bestowed his usual thanks to the orchestra, chorus, and all of his singing compatriots, and acknowledged with delight the privilege of singing in this “piazza incredibile” set in this “grande citta’ singolare”!!!

 Time to say…

 Concert encores are inevitable since no one ever willingly wants to let Andrea go. First there was the familiar “Libiamo ne lieti calici” from La Traviata with the whole company joining, and Montresor encouraging the usual audience hand-clapping participation. Then for a second encore, the strains of “Con te partiro” began, which the Italians seemed surprisingly slower to recognize at first than American audiences. Once they realized what was coming, however, they responded with the appreciative burst of applause, and the sea of telefoninos went airborne to record this precious oldie but goodie for posterity or send it home “live” to the waiting ear of mamma! When it concluded, the applause and shouts would not diminish, and the Italians tried with all the forza they could muster to coax a third encore from their maestro, but without success. Although Andrea acknowledged the extended and energetic response with two returns to the stage, on both occasions he had his three companions in tow, and neither return yielded the coveted third encore. Repeated bows were taken, Andrea smiles beamed out across the crowd, and then the familiar farewell handwave above his head announced, sadly, the evening’s end.

 We lingered in the piazza as the crowd dispersed, mostly to the cafes that lined the huge square and adjacent streets, to relive the memories of this singular experience. Going round to the “stage door,” the erector-set metal stairway leading up to the main stage, we witnessed a phenomenon that I have not seen before in Italy. A large crowd of well over 200 had gathered behind the barriers protecting the area. They were patiently anticipating one last glimpse of Andrea, and when he finally appeared at the top of the stairs, Veronica staunchly at his side, they burst into immediate applause and heartfelt shouts of “Bravo”! Andrea grinned broadly in obvious pleased response, but below him the guards were intent on the effort they knew would be needed to clear the pathway through this throng for Andrea’s quick departure to his nearby hotel. In the end, the crowd yielded with polite deference to their clearly well-loved tenore. 

 Nostro Leone

 In this first decade and a half of his career, Andrea has sung in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty; filled the Coliseum of Rome, Arena di Verona, London’s Hyde Park,  and now this venerable piazza of Venice with his distinctive voice; serenaded crowds at the foot of the ancient pyramids and before the ruins of the city of Petra, not to mention appearances in the more modern icons like the Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, Avery Fisher Hall, as well as the private domains of presidents, kings, queens, popes, and countless celebrities.

There seems to be no limit to the beauty the world yearns to absorb from Andrea’s voice. His is a rare gift of nature, to be sure, but it represents so much more—the careful crafting of his sensitive art through the disciplined strength of a noble will, inspired and tempered in the heart and soul of his unique life experience, and bestowed to us with humility, yes, but also, senza dubbio, with the pride of a lion worthy of the Venetian tradition!

    by Cami McNamee


Martedì sera 1° luglio 2009, Venezia – Piazza San Marco
Una serata davvero splendida ed indimenticabile con la meravigliosa, limpida, dolce e carezzevole voce di Andrea a riscaldare una delle città più belle al mondo! E’ stata la realizzazione di un sogno: il connubio di questi due unici e singolari elementi era davvero perfetto!

Piazza San Marco era veramente gremita di persone; il pubblico era davvero numerosissimo, credo che i posti a sedere fossero al completo e in più c'erano tantissime persone all'esterno delle transenne: i giornali parlano di 3.000 persone, io so solo che si vedeva gente ovunque, la Piazza era super affollata.

Il concerto è iniziato puntuale e si è articolato secondo il seguente programma:
- “Una vela …. è l’alato leone” da Otello - Verdi
- “Esultate” da Otello – Verdi
- “Di quella pira” da Il Trovatore – Verdi
- “Non m’inganno ….. di geloso amor” da Il Trovatore – Verdi
- “Coro e marcia trionfale” da Aida – Verdi
- “Brindisi” da Cavalleria rusticana – Mascagni
- “Vicino a Te ….” Da Andrea Chenier – Giordano
- “La danza delle ore” da La Gioconda – Pomchielli
- “Dunque è proprio finita …” da La Boheme – Puccini
- “Barcarola” da I racconti di Hoffmann
- “Voglio vivere così” da Incanto – D’Anzi
- “Vieni sul mar” da Incanto - Aniello
- “Funiculì funiculà” da Incanto - Denza
Direttore d'orchestra: Eugene KOHN
Soprani: Inva MULA e Paoletta MARROCU
Baritono: Gianfranco MONTRESOR
Orchestra sinfonica abruzzese e coro lirico veneto.

E’ da qualche mese che cerco di imparare a conoscere un po' l'opera, ascoltando anche le grandi voci dei tenori del passato, come ad esempio Caruso, Gigli, Del Monaco, Di Stefano, Lanza ….. e quindi, questa volta, mi sono trovata molto meglio della precedente in cui ho ascoltato Andrea cantare dal vivo arie d’opera in Piazza del Duomo a Milano, lo scorso anno in occasione della Festa della Repubblica. Quella volta mi sembrava tutto così strano perchè non avevo assolutamente idea di cosa fosse in realtà l'opera, a Venezia invece mi sono orientata un po' meglio, anche se devo dire che alcune arie non le conoscevo, come le due tratte da Otello e quelle tratte da Andrea Chenier e da La Gioconda: comunque anche queste sono state una piacevolissima sorpresa!

E' stata un'esperienza davvero bellissima, di cui conserverò sempre il prezioso ricordo nel mio cuore.

Andrea è stato meraviglioso, sensazionale, straordinario: la sua voce è davvero unica, chiara, completa per estensione, il suo fraseggio così chiaro: sembra essere nato per comunicare attraverso il canto! Ancora una volta è riuscito a regalare emozioni forti ed intense al pubblico, grazie alla sua capacità di calarsi nel personaggio, cantando con molto trasporto, coinvolgimento e passione.

Sono state quasi due ore di ottima musica, con un repertorio che sono sicura abbia accontentato un po’ tutti i gusti, spaziando dalle arie d’opera al classico bel canto.
Credo che Andrea svolga l'importantissima funzione di avvicinare le persone all'opera, facendosi in un certo qual modo "ambasciatore" di questo meraviglioso genere di musica - un'autentica fabbrica di emozioni - con il portarla anche fuori dalla classiche mura di un teatro!

Personalmente, anche se mi piacciono tantissimo le canzoni del cd Incanto, adesso l'amore per l'opera pare proprio ed irreversibilmente avuto la meglio: ieri sera mi hanno completamente conquistato "Di quella pira", "Brindisi" e "Dunque è proprio finita"!
I colleghi di Andrea sono stati davvero molti bravi: trovo che le voci si accompagnassero molto bene e ne scaturisse un risultato stupefacente, con una perfetta unione e commistione di musica e suoni! Se dipendesse da me, però, organizzerei un concerto tutto di arie d'opera, in cui Andrea canti quasi sempre da solo, e poi per tanto, tantissimo tempo: quando lo sento cantare, soprattuto dal vivo, vorrei che il tempo si fermasse lì per sempre, con la voce del mio tenore preferito!

Il pubblico ha applaudito tantissimo, si sentivano tanti "bravo Andrea!"; abbiamo richiamato Andrea sul palco con applausi lunghissimi e scroscianti e lui è tornato due volte, reglandoci l'aria più conosciuta della Traviata e Con te partirò, ma noi non lo avremmo mai lasciato andare via, dico sul serio!

Credevo che la mia piccola fotocamera si sarebbe fusa: ho scattato tantissime fotografie, stile “servizio fotografico” e ho anche girato tre brevissimi video: purtroppo però ero seduta oltre la metà della piazza e quindi l’immagine di Andrea, nella maggior parte delle foto è davvero piccolissima, quando addirittura non è mossa …..! Un gran peccato, egoisticamente parlando, che non ci fossero dei maxi schermi per poter anche vedere Andrea, oltre ad ascoltare la sua magica voce: lo zoom della mia macchinetta ha dato davvero il massimo ma purtroppo i risultati sono piuttosto deludenti!

Al termine del concerto mi sono messa ad ascoltare, o meglio quasi spiare, i commenti dei miei vicini; in realtà mi sono anche spostata per curiosare un po' tra il pubblico: c'erano tantissimi stranieri, molti turisti che hanno colto l'occasione per ascoltare live la voce italiana più famosa al mondo e tanti altri stranieri che sono venuti a Venezia appositamente per il concerto di Andrea! Commenti bellissimi sulla sua voce e capacità artistiche, apprezzamenti sulla sua carriera e fama mondiale, complimenti per il fatto che è una persona molto gentile, disponibile, che non si dà arie .... Quante persone poi che si sono affollate all'uscita dal palco per potergli scattare una fotografia e magari stringergli la mano: tutti a urlargli ancora "bravo" e fargli mille complimenti e lui sempre gentilissimo, sorridente, disponibile!

Che altro dire? Potrei continuare all’infinito, tessendo lodi ad Andrea e inondandolo di complimenti: adoro la sua voce e lo stimo davvero tantissimo come artista e come uomo! Sono molto felice del fatto che senta in modo concreto e tangibile tutto l’affetto del pubblico e dei fans!

Ad Andrea dico: è stata una delle serate più belle e ricche di emozioni della mia vita e non vedo l’ora di poterTi riascoltare dal vivo; Ti ringrazio dal più pronfondo del cuore per questa bellissima ed indimenticabile esperienza: sei unico, eccezionale, il migliore, il numero uno .... io sono così fiera ed orgogliosa di Te! In altre parole, sono una Bocelliana sempre più convinta, militante ed affezionata!
by Claudia'70 (forum italiano)
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