One of the most beautiful voices in the world is coming to Abu Dhabi this month. Opera star Andrea Bocelli has crossed over into popular culture, becoming a household name for songs such as Time To Say Goodbye and duets with megastars including Céline Dion and Ed Sheeran. The Italian is set to play a very special gig on Yas Island and we caught up with him for a chat about his plans, new music and thoughts on performing in the UAE.
How does your album Sì compare to your previous records?
It’s been 14 years since I last recorded an original track album, so this is major news itself, as far as my career goes. Similarly to many previous artistic experiences of mine, Sì is another tribute to love; but in this record the word is meant in a broader, 360-degree sense – love for life, for beauty, for the sense of fraternity that unites all of us inhabitants of Earth. I wanted the record to fully express my sensitivity, the values in which I believe and which I want to communicate. And it is probably for this reason, that we ended up working for three years on the project. From a purely musical perspective, I believe it to be a rather ambitious endeavour, as it presents a complex tracklist [of songs], some of which feature a very modern sound, and some others that are very difficult to label. Finally, I believe the chance to join forces with artists from other generations, such as Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa or Josh Groban, contributed to the record’s distinctly modern appeal.
What are your favourite tracks on the album?
It’s sort of like asking which one of your children you love the most… In order to interpret a song, to make it mine and sing it to the best of my abilities, I first need to fall in love with it. Thus, every track in Sì holds a special place in my heart, each song expresses a part of myself. But if I really need to pick out a few titles, I can cite Fall on Me, because in that song I have the pleasure to sing with my son, Matteo. I am also very fond of Vivo, written by my friend Riccardo Del Turco as a tribute to the love story between my wife Veronica and me. Furthermore, I would like to mention Ave Maria Pietas, which I sing with the incredibly talented Aida Garifullina… I should stop now, although I would have enough reasons to mention each and every track on the record.
What can people expect from your show here in Abu Dhabi?
I picture it as a festive moment, a chance to experience the beauty of music together, amid the same atmosphere of a meeting of old friends. I believe I have been enjoying your marvellous city for about a decade now. Those who will honour me with their presence will then probably be familiar with the structure of my shows, with a first part dedicated to the best-known and most-celebrated masterpieces of opera, and a second, more pop-orientated part, featuring the songs the audience expects me to sing… And that naturally includes a few pages out of my latest record.
You’re an opera star but have also been in the pop charts. How would you describe your style?
There is a quote by the greatest Italian opera composer of the 20th century, Giuseppe Verdi. It goes like this: “Let’s go back to the past and it will be a step forward”. I have always tried to pursue beauty, both in the classical realm as well as in my pop repertoire, without making compromises in favour of fads or novelties. I did not build a style of mine mechanically, but I can say there are a few words more than others – honesty, simplicity, intellectual integrity – that evoke my way of existing and of operating, in music just like in life.
You have previously collaborated with stars such as Céline Dion, Tony Bennett, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Lopez. What’s good about working with that kind of artist?
A duet, artistically speaking, is a gamble that has always intrigued me, a musical form I have been including in my repertoire since the ’90s. Even in my previous records, collaborations represent a moment of personal and artistic growth. Every encounter is different and unique, and is often a chance to broaden my knowledge, to question myself, to learn something new. Every voice is a world in itself, and the same goes for instrumentalists. Making music together is almost always a cause for joy and a challenge, a bet that can easily turn into a happy alchemy, in a conversation between souls.
Who is your dream collaborator?
In my career, I have already had the honour to collaborate with a few artists I have worshipped, such as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, José Carreras or Zubin Mehta. If only I could make him come back to life, it would be extraordinary to sing a duet with Franco Corelli, my beloved teacher.
What is it like to work and perform with your son, Matteo?
It is an experience filled with strong emotions for both of us, since the song – the lyrics of which were written in collaboration with Matteo – can be interpreted as the voice of a son who is growing up and approaching life, and of a parent who supports and reassures him. I would have never thought that someday I would have the pleasure to be on the stage with my son.
Are you proud of him?
I am, regardless of this experience. I am because Matteo is a good person, just like his brother Amos [an aerospace engineer] and our little Virginia [Bocelli’s daughter]. At the moment, Matteo is still a music school student who is perfecting himself. He will develop his – promising – gifts and his inclinations, according to his own timing, his musical sensibility, his personality.
Will you be spending any time in Abu Dhabi when you’re here? Will you visit any of the local landmarks?
I wish! Unfortunately, I am at the mercy of my professional calendar. My schedules are such that, often, I risk visiting only the airport, the hotel or the dressing rooms of a given place. This is obviously not just the case for Abu Dhabi, especially considering I have a special relationship with the local audience and, as I was mentioning, I had the chance to perform in your city on many occasions.
Do you like visiting Abu Dhabi? What are the crowds like here in the UAE?
I sure do. I am always glad to come back to such a stunning land, where one can experience both the force of nature and man’s genius. I have never been secretive about my admiration for a place where one can truly feel the future, in the arts as well as in the realms of architecture and innovation. There’s a special place in my heart for the warmth I regularly receive from the people of UAE.
It is a joy to come back, to once again meet an audience that has always been kind enough to follow me with love and consistency.
From Dhs395. Fri Apr 26, 7.30pm. du Arena, Yas Island, www.ticketmaster.ae.