Q&A: Andrea Bocelli
Global superstar Andrea Bocelli’s Si, his first album of new, original material in 14 years, has made an impact that could not have been predicted: It has topped the U.S. Billboard 200 chart for the first time in the tenor’s illustrious career.
Released on Oct. 26, the album’s success could be partially attributed to Bocelli’s willingness to embrace new sounds and styles and eagerness to collaborate with younger artists. Of course, these methods are hallmarks of his long and singular career, just as regular performances in Las Vegas have been a staple. In advance of Bocelli’s return to the Strip at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Dec. 1, I had the honor of interviewing the exclusively for Las Vegas Magazine.
You’ve had many epic performances in Las Vegas through the years but you’re also inextricably tied to Vegas because your music has always been part of the fountain show at the Bellagio, which just turned 20 years old this fall.
You’re right, in a certain sense I’ve never really left Las Vegas, thanks to those marvelous jets of water that dance to my voice. I feel like a citizen of Las Vegas. I feel at home here and—just like the home I grew up in, in the Tuscan countryside—I regularly feel the need to return, to visit old friends, to sing in front of an audience that, as I always like to emphasize, does not merely express joie de vivre and enjoyment, but also generosity and sensitivity. That is also what Las Vegas is about: solidarity, philanthropy and a desire to share with those less fortunate. That is also why I love your city. It is a place that is by its very nature a challenge, which has always fascinated me, as it is a land of contrasts and of great modernity, yet it is surrounded by a natural landscape that makes itself felt with unbridled force.
You went back to basics in a way for the recording of your new album. Can you describe your approach to this project?
The project is the result of three years of work and the album is my first that is devoted to original songs, after a good 14 years. I needed to find something that was truly interesting to me, to embark on such a challenging adventure. Over the years, I've become more selective: I wanted the album to fully express my sensitivities, the values that I believe in and that I want to get across. I decided, on the threshold of my 60th birthday, to tackle a CD of original songs when I was listening to the melody of “If Only,” a song that I adore because of the message of love that it contains and also because it was written by the same artistic partnership that gave life to “Con te partirò,” namely Francesco Sartori and Lucio Quarantotto.
The album conveys the experience I have gained over the quarter of a century of my career and is a sort of tailored suit that fits my singing profile, both in terms of content and strictly musical idiosyncrasies, with songs that allow me to best emphasize the distinctive features of my voice. The common thread is love, yet perceived in a fuller way compared to when I was young: sensual love, but also a love for life, for beauty, for the fellowship that unites all of us who inhabit the world.
Do you feel there are any songs on this album that mark a drastic departure from your previous work?
I don't see any stylistic departures. However, there are daring songs. Some songs seem particularly modern to me, such as “Fall on Me,” or harmonically complex and anything but predictable, such as “Vertigo,” or impossible to categorize under a certain genre, such as “Ave Maria Pietas.” I think that the collaborations with artists of other generations, such as Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Josh Groban and Aida Garifullina, have helped to give Sì an extremely current feel.
Who would you like to work with that you haven’t been able to lock down yet?
My curiosity for music has never left me, and the day that it does, that will mean it is time to give up this profession. There are many artists that I would like to collaborate with, and not just big names that I have admired for many years but also emerging talents. Singing together, within a lyrical repertoire such as pop, is a gratifying experience that I have been enjoying for a quarter of a century. Out of the artists with whom I have not yet had the honor of sharing the stage, the first name that comes to mind would be Paul McCartney. But I would truly have too many to list.
It must have been special to sing with your son Matteo on the new album. Did you find that you are similar singers stylistically or was there compromise to be made?
Matteo will find his own way and his own style. He will develop his promising talents and aptitude, in his own time, as well as his artistic sensibilities and his personality. He seems keen to following in his father’s footsteps, even though an artistic career is made up of many elements, sometimes unfathomable ones, and it is definitely not something that can be calculated and planned.
I think that singing is made up of two components, both important. The first is talent. That is God-given and cannot be learned—you either have it or you don’t. And honestly, I believe that Matteo has it, because if that were not the case, I would have told him without hesitation and advised him to give it up. The other component is study, daily practice, determination and a sense of sacrifice. Matteo is just over 20 years old and he still has a lot to learn in front of him. However, I think that “Fall on Me” is a very promising beginning, as well as being an extremely emotional experience for both of us.