A modern, yet old-fashioned tenor, this is how Andrea Bocelli likes to call himself. Born in Tuscany in 1958, Bocelli was not yet 12 when he won his first singing competition, in Viareggio, performing “O sole mio”. His musical studies continued with Maestro Luciano Bettarini and then with renowned tenor Franco Corelli. In order to pay for his lessons, Andrea played the piano in bars, all the while pursuing a Law degree. His “double career” as a tenor and a pop singer started shortly thereafter, when an encounter with Caterina Sugar led him to be “enlisted” in the Sugar team.
Bocelli’s meteoric rise to fame was supported by the worldwide success of his song ‘Con te partirò’, arranged as a duet with Sarah Brightman; his debut album Romanza soon became a record-breaker, and Bocelli’s legend was born. In October 1999 the singer flew to the US to perform Massenet’s Werther. His follow-up album Sogno was released around the same time; it included “The Prayer” a duet with Celine Dion which was awarded a Golden Globe and nominated for an Oscar. From then on Bocelli’s rise, supported by huge record sales, was unstoppable. His albums became international bestsellers, and his live performances were conducted by the likes of Lorin Maazel, Seiji Ozawa, Valerij Gergev, Zubin Mehta and MyunWhun Chung.
At the start of the millennium Bocelli released “Arie Sacre”, a church music album recorded with the orchestra and choir of the “Santa Cecilia” National Academy and conducted by Myung-Whun Chung: this homage to Christianity stands as one of Bocelli’s most glowing efforts and went on to become the best-selling classical album ever released by a solo artist. Thanks to “Arie Sacre”, Bocelli entered the Guinness World Book of Records by occupying the first, second and third position in the American classical music chart. Its success was followed by numerous accolades and sold-out performances, culminating in a triumphant three-night acoustic show at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2009.
Shortly afterwards the singer tried his hand at Christmas music, following in the legendary footsteps of Caruso and Sinatra. Bocelli’s ‘My Christmas’ was a smashing success, quickly rising to the top of charts where it remained for six consecutive weeks: ‘My Christmas’ became the world’s fifth best selling album of 2009, with over 4 million copies sold.
In February 2010 Bocelli performed a cover of Bridge over troubled water with Mary J. Blige for a Haiti fund-raising segment at the 52nd group of Italian artists honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In September 2010 “Carmen: Duets & Arias”, a collection of the most famous arias from Bizet’s masterpiece, rose to the top of the charts in both the U.S. and Canada. In December 2010, in his native Tuscany, the singer headlined an international sold-out concert called “Notte Illuminata”; the show’s proceeds benefited the “Viva Federico” charity as well as the ARPA Foundation, of which Bocelli was made honorary President.
On February 13, 2011, a 20-minute standing ovation saluted the tenor’s triumphant debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. Bocelli returned to the city the following September, for an exceptional concert on Central Park’s “Great Lawn” with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, performing with the likes of Bryn Terfel, Celine Dion and Tony Bennett: this unforgettable event was broadcast by WNET and immortalized in a live CD and DVD (“Concerto: One Night in Central Park”), which was released in over 70 countries.
Grammy Awards. In March 2010 the Tuscan tenor joined the select In February 2012, the singer made yet another operatic debut, this time as the lead in Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, performed at the Carlo Felice theatre in Genoa and conducted by Fabio Luisi. 2012 was also the year of Opera, an anthology of some of the most dazzling moments in the history of melodrama, as well as Bocelli’s Complete Opera Edition, an 18-disc collection of the Tuscan tenor’s complete operatic recordings. In October of the same year Bocelli was in London for the prestigious “Classic Brit Awards 2012”, where composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webb presented him with the award for “International Artist of the Year”.
In addition to his classical career, for twenty years now Andrea Bocelli has been one of the most beloved pop artists in the world. His new, highly anticipated album Passione, – including some of the most romantic songs in history and featuring duets with Jennifer Lopez and Nelly Furtado – was released in January 2013 and quickly rose to the top of the charts in seventy-five countries, spending over two months in the Billboard 200 and bringing Bocelli’s worldwide sales total to over eighty million copies. In October 2013 Bocelli released “Love in Portofino”, an international project featuring covers of Ennio Morricone, Elvis Presley and Fred Buscaglione, as well as some exceptional duets: the CD and DVD set included both studio and live performances, as well as footage from a private concert the singer held in August 2012 in Portofino, before an audience of friends, colleagues and admirers such as Michael Caine, Paul Anka and Ornella Muti.
Bocelli’s dazzling classical career continues: under the direction of Lorin Maazel, Seiji Ozawa and Zubin Mehta, the singer has tackled operatic repertoires ranging from Macbeth and Il Trovatore to Madame Butterfly, La Bohème, Tosca and French masterpieces such as Werther, Carmen and Roméo et Juliette. In recent years Bocelli has recorded arias from La Bohème, Tosca, Il Trovatore, Werther, Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, Carmen and Andrea Chénier. Before the end of 2014 he is expected to record a version of the Manon Lescaut under the direction of Fabio Luisi.
A firm believer in solidarity as the only logical response to inequality, since the 1990s Andrea Bocelli has spearheaded several worldwide philanthropic initiatives in support of the less fortunate. The “Andrea Bocelli Foundation” (ABF) is currently involved in a number of global intervention programs aimed at overcoming the barriers generated by poverty, disability and social exclusion. ABF initiatives have been supported by illustrious names such as Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Junus, and the foundation joined forces with international universities and advanced research facilities such as the MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. The ABF solidarity and philanthropic projects were the main topic of a moving and affectionate meeting between the tenor and his family and Pope Francis, which took place on June 26, 2013.