A FEW days have passed since Andrea Bocelli’s concert in Manila, and I am still listening to his double CD-DVD album “Cinema.” It was a magical night at the Mall of Asia Arena last April 26, where, for once in a very long time, taking videos and photos were not allowed.
For a good two hours, the entire arena was silenced and focused on the voice of the 57-year-old tenor. He was accompanied by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra and Ateneo Chamber Orchestra conducted by Carlo Bernini.
The concert was divided into two parts. The first was composed of Italian arias, with “La Dona e Mobile” from Rigoletto as the most well-known song in the set.
In the 12 years since I last saw him perform in Manila, Bocelli appeared older but still distinguished, with his silver hair and lean physique.
His duet with soprano Maria Katzarava of Verdi’s “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” was a delight.
The second set focused on his current album, “Cinema,” which features Academy Award-winning scores from the movies “Doctor Zhivago,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Evita,” “Cinema Paradiso.”
The second part opened with a more familiar “Maria” from “West Side Story.”
A big surprise was the evening’s pop guest, Christine Allado, a Filipino performer in London’s West End. She won the audience’s heart with that cute duet “Cheek to Cheek” with Bocelli. The “Canto della terra” duet with Allado was very powerful that even Bocelli seemed overwhelmed; he literally swept Allado off her feet.
As wonderful as those two hours were, I couldn’t wait for the concert to end because I knew I was going to meet Bocelli backstage.
My invitation to meet him came from MCA Music’s MJ Juco. She told me I would be given some time to meet him either before or after the concert.
A few meters away
After the show, I was whisked backstage. I waited outside Bocelli’s dressing room while the MCA Music execs presented him with a combined 10x platinum awards, in recognition of the outstanding sales of “Cinema.”
I entered the dressing room by myself. I expected an empty anteroom or reception lounge, but when the door opened, he was actually standing a few meters away. I was greeted by a very beautiful and friendly woman, Veronica Berti, Bocelli’s wife and manager. She introduced me to Bocelli and asked me about my blog, daphne.ph. Then she led me to my stand beside Bocelli while the official photographer took the shots.
It happened quite fast.
And it may have been a language issue, but no one told me it was over. So I said, “Thank you.” Veronica asked me if I liked the concert, to which I answered in superlatives. Bocelli smiled.
Your new album “Cinema” features a collection of songs from some of the greatest movies. What is your favorite movie and why?
In my youth, I was very fond of musicals with Frank Sinatra. I was fascinated by the heroes that my parents liked, for instance, the couple Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. For a long time, I happened to listen and sing some songs without even knowing that they were taken from famous films. As I have pointed out, if movies are a “dream factory,” the music that supports them contains all their magic and sentimental vitality.
I am pleased I have achieved this musical project that I have had in my heart for many years. Finally I have selected and “fixed” the songs linked to cinema that I love most, that have marked my life.
Is there a difference between songs that are created specifically to score a movie and those that are released on their own?
I think that the scores conceived for films are a step ahead: they are potentially freer, more creative. We are speaking of “utility music,” because it gives a sound to images, but it can also represent an exciting challenge for composers, turning into masterpieces, songs that live independently and go beyond generational barriers, becoming immortal classics.
The films represented in “Cinema” are from different times and places. If you could choose a certain time and place to live in, when and where would it be, and why?
I am pleased with the historical period I am living in, and I am particularly happy I was born in Italy. I must say that I am particularly fascinated by the last decade of the 19th century, when Giuseppe Verdi was still alive, and Puccini was writing his first masterpieces along with his fellow composers like Pietro Mascagni and Umberto Giordano.
What goes through your mind when you are singing?
I try to concentrate, to live fully what I am proposing, in order to succeed in making the listener share the emotions that every repertoire can convey. When I sing, I always try to have a direct relation with each individual listener, hoping to convey positive emotions. In fact, when I am on stage, my goal is to be able to enter the hearts of those who are listening.
What are your pre-performance rituals?
Before a show, I have no good luck rituals, nor superstitious routines, and I do not pursue any particular escamotage to maintain self-control. I try to spend my time in isolation, trying to maintain maximum concentration, and I observe, when possible, strict silence in the 24 hours preceding the concert. No need to say how happy I am, when I have the possibility to have next to me in the dressing room, first, my wife—something that happens almost always, because Veronica, besides being the woman of my life, also takes care of my management—and then the audience, and my beloved children.
A few hours before the show, I have to provide for my body a sufficient amount of energy for the effort on stage, such as proteins, sugar, but also carbohydrates (I prefer rice with oil). A bottle of mineral water must always be at hand.
I was at your last concert in Manila about 12 years ago, and the experience of watching you live is forever etched in my memory. What were your fondest memories about that trip to the Philippines?
It was a very intense and positive experience. The warmth of the Filipino audience really struck me and I received moving demonstrations of love. This is one more reason to be excited about being back in Manila again, trying to give my best on stage.
Your philanthropic efforts (focusing on poverty alleviation, disability and social exclusion) are noteworthy. What role do you see art and music playing in making a difference in our world?
Let me say, first of all, that at the base of the creation of the foundation bearing my name, there is this consideration: Life is like a great banquet, where we are all well if there is a bare minimum for everyone. But if, for whatever reason, there is someone who is not well, the banquet will fail. For this reason, I am convinced that solidarity is not only a moral duty, but an act of intelligence. I believe that goodness is the only viable path for the whole of humanity.
As for art, I think that it can educate us on beauty; it can open our hearts and minds. Music is the voice of the soul. I think that good music carries a strong message of peace and brotherhood.
Cato Uticensis, a politician and intellectual of ancient Rome, suggested that rulers of the time prevent soldiers from listening to music, because in his opinion this was likely to soften their mood, thus making the warriors unable to fight! Artists, I believe, should be fully aware of the great importance they play in society, because art and culture improve development and peace in the world.