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1999: Werther - Michigan Opera Theater, Detroit
Cologne (Germany)
November 7, 1999
Now we've heard them all, the opinions of the experts about Andrea's operatic debut in the United States in Werther at the Detroit Michigan Opera Theater last week. Mr. Berberger (Financial Times), Mr. Johnson (Detroit News), Mr.  Stearns (USA Today), Mr. Tommasini (New  York Times), and other colleagues not mentioned, managed to make me feel criticized as part of the audience.  So I part, for the first time, from our  principle of not using our site for personal opinion. You can also look at this as a  criticism of the critics. Maybe you will be interested to hear the voice of the public for once.
Here we stand now, all we ignorant people, with our enthusiasm, we so-called fans of a singer who should not be allowed, in your eyes, to step on an opera stage because for purely technical reasons he has not (yet) fully developed to meet the demands of a tenor. We, who give standing ovations, get dismissed like a bunch of dumb chickens who don't know anything about these matters, and therefore have no business in an upper crust opera house. It was always the privilege of the "upper class" to  meet there. Whether they always entirely understood what was presented to them is doubtful, but at least they gained some knowledge over time, which perhaps the opera novice doesn't possess yet. What they would never do is to start to applaud, full of admiration, in the middle of an aria - which is what happened on Sunday in Detroit. Oh this case criticism is appropriate. Point well taken. Next time we'll know better.
However, all these people are here at the opera now, a place at which many never even dreamt to find themselves.
Why are they here? Not to hear a tenor with 25 years of experience who routinely sings Werther, about whom here will never be any doubt that he will interpret it exactly as Massenet (or perhaps even Goethe) had imagined.
No. The ones, and I belong to them, are here to let a man open the portals of an until now closed world of opera music, an ambitious artist who, with his own enthusiasm, succeeds where no one else could. He transmits with his voice - trained, strong, technically mature enough or not - exactly the feelings, when listening to this "old-fashioned" music, what many other tenors before him could not. There are people present who have listened their entire life to pop and rock, and now suffer along with a Werther from a previous century, and who, instead of laughing about the old-fashioned story of the suicide of this unstable young man, feel for and with him.
And the other ones, one of which is our friend Astrid Eywo from Vienna, a passionate opera fan for decades, who did hear the opera many times in other opera houses like the Vienna Staatsoper or London Covent Garden, sung by so-called celebrities, who landed in Detroit to hear Werther finally sung by this voice that the critics would love to dismiss. Andrea Bocelli's voice gives them the feeling that a dozen other tenor voices, even oh-so-beautifully skilled, cannot transmit.
That's why they were all here - for the feeling, not for the technique, and not for sensationalism or voyeurism. Nobody stood around concerned during the first intermission, as one of the above-mentioned believed he saw. We were touched, not can be silent, even as a fan. We were overwhelmed by the wonderful achievement of a man who would not, thank God, let any boulders who were thrown in his way during his lifetime stop him from doing this.
We should also mention those who just went to the MOT to see an opera as they usually do, those who never heard of someone named Bocelli, and were simply astonished that the house was packed that day. I asked some of them, "What do you think of the tenor?" And they thought he was just fine.
So what makes you criticize him so harshly?
Does he earn too much for you, who earn good money for your criticism? Can you, in a land where basketball players earn millions, and other singers get 13 million dollars just to appear for one evening, say a word? They earn good what? Not to mention that Andrea Bocelli gave his fee to charity.
Does it bother you, experts of the high "C" and the breathing technique, that it's a latebloomer from Italy who doesn't do it so perfectly in your eyes, who brings new people to the stale world of opera, and that these new people are not always people who belong to the elite and intellectual circles who frequent the opera houses until now? Why can't you be happy with that? The world changes, and we with it.
Is it eerie to you, Mr. Critic, this person with all his enormous inner strength, which is expressed by his incomparable voice? For us he widens the horizon, gives us indefinable happiness, true pleasure, and new friends. Jump over your own shadow and see with your heart; because as we know, one only sees well with the heart, and maybe you'll understand a little of what Andrea Bocelli gives us, and why we fly thousands of miles to experience his Werther. I don't regret any of these miles from Cologne to Detroit, nor one dollar that this craziness cost me, because what I received in return cannot be weighed in money - two wonderful, unforgettable performances of Werther with an incomparable Andrea Bocelli and the realization that still, in this day and age, one can follow his dream if he doesn't become discouraged.
Renate Bausch-Hochscheid
(translation help: Margret Valladares, Michelle Morgan, Astrid Eywo)
clic here to read a letter to the editor of the USA Today (in Nov 1999)