I had just seen Andrea Bocelli perform in Chicago in June,
and I have a sort of unofficial rule for myself--one concert
per year. But when I found out he would be coming to my home
state of Michigan I knew I would be making an exception. The
last time he sang in Michigan was his 1999 performance of
Werther at the Detroit Opera House, about one month
before I discovered him. I would not miss him this time!
The weather in Michigan can also be a significant obstacle
this time of year, and with a winter storm warning in my
hometown, I made the four hour drive downstate on Friday,
two days before the concert, just missing the worst
snowstorm of the season.
The weather in the Auburn Hills area wasnít perfect but at
least I was there! One by one, my friends arrived on
Saturday, a group of ten "veterans" gathering for the
pre-concert vigil. Saturday night was spent eating, drinking
Bocelli wine, watching Bocelli videos, and what
else--talking, talking, talking about Bocelli! As the
weather outside went from bad to worse, we tried to put
aside thoughts of Andrea being snowed in, in Buffalo!
Concert day arrived with decent weather and we breathed a
sigh of relief. It was going to happen! We met for an early
dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant nearby, but for
many of us, eating was the last thing on our minds.
Remembering long lines outside other arenas, we planned to
get to The Palace early and sit in the warm car until the
arena doors opened, but to our surprise, we were able to get
My first stop was at the souvenir stand to check out the
latest Bocelli memorabilia--Sentimento CDs of course, new
coffee mugs, key rings, and a T shirt with a picture of
Andrea that is to die for! Then into the arena to find my
seat. I was expecting to be seated in the fourth row, but an
additional VIP row had been set up so my row 4 became row 5.
I was not about to complain however, because I was very
close to the center--just about perfect!
My anticipation continued to build as concert time
approached. My mood went from giddy to quiet and reflective,
thinking how fortunate I was to be there--feeling like the
luckiest person on the planet!
Since 9-11, Conductor Steven Mercurio has begun each concert
with the National Anthem. An American flag was projected
onto a large screen directly behind the orchestra and
everyone stood and sang. The opening orchestral piece was
the Overture from La Forza del Destino by Verdi.
Steven was his usual energetic self, and I particularly
loved his "Mercurial Overture" which opened the second half
of the concert.
Andrea was escorted to center stage by violinist Lidia Baich
and together they performed "Aranjuez," which Andrea has
said is one of his favorite arias from the "Sentimento" CD.
His passion for this song came through in every note, and
even though I had heard him sing it in Chicago, this time
the violin added even more depth and drama. Ms. Baich was
very serious and intense, and her skill on the violin was
Throughout the concert, Andrea seemed relaxed and at ease.
His hands were loose--no sign of the clenched fist. He
frequently moved about on the stage, turning toward the
violinist or the conductor, then back to center. I think the
wireless headset has given him some real freedom, and since
he continues to use it, it must be to his liking. Even more
than that however, I sensed an inner freedom. He looked
wonderful--greying hair combed back, trim, mature,
confident, smiling often. There was a sense of serenity
about him, a quiet confidence and energy. He just seemed
very comfortable on stage, very much at ease with himself
and his voice.
His voice! What can I say about his voice that hasnít
already been said! His deep, low notes as at the beginning
of "E lucevan le stelle," his beautiful, sweet, soft high
notes as at the end of "Occhi di fata," and those powerful,
explosive sounds when he goes for the big ending as in
"Because." He can do it all, and he does it more beautifully
I loved his duets with soprano Maria Luigia Borsi. It is
always interesting to see Andrea interact with different
singers, and he seemed to have an excellent rapport with Ms.
Borsi, their voices blending beautifully. The duet from
Otello was wonderful. I love to hear Andrea perform new
arias. "Gia nella notte densa," while not as sweet as a
Puccini aria, was very dramatic and intense, and ended with
the two in each others arms. But we also got the sweetness
of Puccini. "O soave fanciulla" from La BohŤme
was thrilling and the last note seemed to hang in the air
forever. The audience could not hold back and began to
"ooooh" before they had even finished. It was truly
Large billowing fabric sheets hung over the stage in three
giant panels, giving me the impression of a sailing ship,
carrying me along on an exciting journey. Colorful lights
flashed and sparkled and the giant screen projected
close-ups of the performers throughout the concert, as well
as announcing each song in elegant script.
As a flute lover, I have always wanted to hear Andrea play
his flute. Although he played at several concerts during the
June tour, he didnít in Chicago. When it came time for the
first encore, I saw him say something to Steven. When Steven
stepped off the podium and walked into the orchestra, I knew
he was getting a flute! What a lovely sound Andrea
has--almost as pure and sweet as his voice--as he played the
little interludes for "Melodramma." When the keyboard was
wheeled out I knew I would be experiencing another first.
When Andrea played and sang "My Way" it brought the house
Particularly moving for me was the obligatory "Con te partirÚ."
I have been amused at Andreaís diplomatic answers when asked
about that song. "What can I say?" he says. Or "It is a gift
to the audience." This song was my introduction to his
voice, and even though I have probably heard it more than
enough, and Andrea has probably sung it more than enough,
the reaction of the audience never ceases to amaze me.
People just love this song! What was so touching for me this
time however, was not the audience reaction, but the
reaction of the young soprano, Ms. Borsi. With the big
screen projecting every expression, about halfway through
the song there was no doubt that tears were streaming down
her face. This extraordinarily gifted artist was obviously
touched by Andrea's singing of this song in the same way
that thousands of ordinary fans have been. If she had not
already won me over with her voice, she certainly did with
her tender heart.
I can think of few experiences in my lifetime that bring me
as much joy as listening to Andrea Bocelli sing. Time stands
still for me when I am experiencing Bocelli live and in
person. Basketball arena or concert hall--it doesnít matter.
I forget about everything and everyone except the man on the
stage and the beautiful sounds coming from his mouth. It
is as if there is nothing else--I forget about any personal
problems, the world situation--I forget that Iím thirsty, or
that the chair is uncomfortable. Nothing else exists. No one
else exists. For two hours Andrea Bocelli sings for me! And
in those two hours there is only beauty and love.
The weather in Michigan turned bitter and cold, and the
storms moved in again. It was comforting to know that Andrea
had flown on to the warmer climate of Miami. As we headed
for our homes, our hearts were filled with song and warmed
by the memories of our weekend together. Already we were
planning and dreaming of the next time.
On this Thanksgiving weekend I am filled with gratitude for
this incredible gift. My message to Andrea would be simple
this time--Thank you for singing!