October 20, 2005
Newport News, VA, USA


Ferguson Center, Newport News, 20. 10. 2005, thanks to a fan!

Time and Tide
by Cami McNamee
The day after the Newport News concert, I awoke to look out on the dismal Virginia morning with the melodramatic thought that all the Italians had left and taken the sunshine with them. The faithful flow of followers who had flooded this tidewater town to hear the beloved tenore had ebbed again. The concert is now just a widening series of quietly expanding, enchanting ripples in the tidepools of memory.
But this concert in Ferguson Hall at Christopher Newport University marked a sea change for Andrea. Not since that very first time in the United States in 1998 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, had he stood on the concert stage without a microphone. But between the voice of 1998 and this voice of 2005 has been a viaggio italiano! We are riding the growing wave of a maturing voice and a confident and more relaxed performer. It was a sheer delight to watch Andrea’s physical being revel in the freedom of singing unmiked. For us, it was as if the natural voice pierced straight to the senses without need for the artificial translation of the amplifying apparatus—pure, unadulterated essence of Andrea! Beati noi!!
As always, after a concert we meditate internally on the memories: we recount the times Andrea registered his pleasure with a finished aria, the times that megawatt smile illumined his face, the times he held the audience silently spellbound in the grasp of his singularly crafted pianissimos, the times he gripped us in the helpless throes of terminal grins with the pleasure of jaw-droppingly high notes, and—oh dio—how he made our eyes widen at the thrillingly impossible final D-flat of Tu che m’hai preso il cuor (yes, I cried again at that achingly beautiful melody). Time after time, the audience simply couldn’t believe what they were hearing…the applause was deafening. And how many times have I heard O soave fanciulla? At least 12. But without a doubt, the stunning Eugenia Garza has nailed the top prize as the quintessential Mimi beside Andrea’s Rodolfo…such tender, perfectly timed caresses, such flirtations that fit his responses like a glove, such glances of an adoring soprano for the manly tenor, such sweetly coordinated partnership, and finally, the emotional climax of the electrifying high C that brought down the house…the first time I recall a standing ovation to end the first half of a concert. And if you think these precision, state-of-the art acoustics were good for Andrea’s voice, you can’t even imagine how they made Ferguson Hall reverberate with the unbridled enthusiastic adulation of that crowd unleashed in appreciative applause for Andrea and his lovely partner.
Eugenia Garza was a worthy and extraordinary colleague for this evening with Andrea. With vocal control, power, and dramatic tour de force, she performed the challenging Vissi d’arte from Tosca and Musetta’s waltz from La Boheme. Particularly in this last, she was breathtaking in her ability to take on the flirtatiously self-possessed presence of Musetta the instant the spotlight flashed on her and the first note emerged. What a gold-sequined, radiantly sparkling joy she was to behold and to hear!
Maestro Marcello Rota too deserves high praise. The Virginia Symphony, whose strength was clearly in the lush string section, responded to his disciplined and detailed touch with emotionally charged precision. Far from seeming a distraction, these orchestral interludes—the fiery Carmen Overture of Bizet, the reverent Nabucco Overture of Verdi, and Rossini’s Overture to The Barber of Seville—were an enjoyable treat, again showcasing the near magical acoustics of the hall.
This was my first (and probably the last, at these prices) experience with being in the front row at a concert. To say it is powerful is a pathetic understatement—words simply fail. The intimacy of it is untranslatable. It is almost as if you feel the responsibility on your shoulders of holding Andrea up and energizing him with the force of your front row encouragement. OK, yeah, I know, "as if"! But that front row position bestows all the intimacy and closeness you could ever have fantasized about. You revel in the details of Andrea’s every move…how his toes wiggle rhythmically to the marching cadence of O surdato ‘nammurato (god he loves to sing that funny little song); how he calls on the force of his "fist assist" to compel that high C out of his handsome six-foot-three body; how he whispered at least a million times into Eugenia’s ear before or after a song (damn, what IS he saying, still not close enough to hear); how he thoughtfully, but comically, avoided the intrusion of cold on her provocatively bare shoulder by clenching his hand instead of laying it palm open on her lovely skin; how the heartbreak of loss pierces so much more acutely in the final notes of E lucevan le stelle at such close range that you just want to enfold him in a comforting embrace; how the sheen and cut and tailoring of his cutaways, trim white vest and bowtie, and supple suede shoes suited him so regally that it was hard to resist the urge to reach out and touch him.
During the concert, as I looked at the enrapt, upturned faces to either side of me that were basking in the elegance of Andrea’s voice, it reminded me of why the Italians have named a certain sunny, typically Tuscan bloom girasole—"turn to the sun." In fact, the crowd leaned into his warm and golden O sole mio like so many entranced sunflowers. We simply open up, petal by emotional petal, in the warmth and light of his beautiful voice that coaxes the words and melodies into life. Watching and feeling Andrea perform conjures up words in your vocabulary that you haven’t thought of using very often…words like "glee," as in "you just wanted to laugh with glee as he reveled in the musical embellishments of Marechiare"; or "beguiling," as in "I was mesmerized by the simple, yet beguiling magic of ‘A vucchella and The Merry Widow; or "enthralling," as in "the poignant tenderness that Andrea spun from the beautiful Santa Lucia luntana was heartbreakingly enthralling." Sorry, it’s just so darned difficult to resist unabashed hyperbole when it comes to this man’s voice.
Throughout Andrea’s whirlwind stay in Newport News, The Daily Press had been full of stories of those who recounted what a thoughtful, kind, generous-hearted human being he is. As the university president’s wife described him, "one of the most gracious people I have ever met." Certainly the little story of Andrea seeking out and kissing the hand of the harpist who had played the background music for the luncheon he had attended at the famous Williamsburg Inn pretty much nailed that fact. For those who attended the concert, the image of the tenorino, Anthony Colosimo, and the seasoned veteran standing side by side onstage was proof of Andrea’s personal and professional generosity. To encourage young talent, Andrea willingly and supportively yielded the spotlight to the novice tenor, who had recently won the NIAF music scholarship. With Andrea looking on, a tentative Anthony tackled La serenata. In our front row seats, we could see what those in the hall undoubtedly would not…that the lad trembled ever so slightly all the way from his lips to the tips of his fingertips. When Anthony came to a challenging point in the Tosti song, you could see Andrea lean to him in unspoken support, our tenor’s lips almost imperceptibly mouthing the words in shared solidarity. When Anthony finished with the final high note, competent but clearly ended with relief, the beaming smile from Andrea surely echoed a memory of similar relief Andrea himself must have felt in some long-ago stage appearance.Ferguson Center, Newport News, 20. 10. 2005, thanks to Barb!
It would hardly be surprising to anyone that this first U.S. concert since we lost Mickie Morgan would bring introspective moments of sadness that she was not at our side to share the experience. But I wasn’t prepared for the surge of emotion when I realized with astonishment near the concert’s end that Andrea was singing the opening notes of Non t’amo piu’. This was by far a Mickie favorite, and although I have been to many, many concerts, I haven’t ever heard Andrea sing it. It wasn’t listed on this program either. I couldn’t help but smile through quiet tears to think that she would have assumed it was solely for her benefit.
Ciao Andrea! Grazie ancora per tanta bellezza. We wait again for your return. And, as the mariners of Newport News would say in farewell, "Fair winds and following seas" as you travel back to your own tidewater town.

Cami McNamee


My experience of a lifetime 
by Barb Parker
 I consider myself a "recycled Bocelli Concertette" I saw my first and only prior concert, in Las Vegas 2001. I had to try and watch on the big screen—was mostly there for our daughter, and my seats in Las Vegas would have put me in the parking lot in NN.
First, I met so many people with whom I've corresponded for such a long time and have gained such friendship, respect and admiration for the contributions they share to make this man so real to me.  What an awesome and inspiring group. I hope I get to meet the rest of this "elite" group at other events.
As far as the concert itself, many others have described it beautifully, and I won't try to elaborate on such fine writing. I didn't walk into the concert hall right away, since I wanted to take it all in and try to capture each moment and make it last forever. When I did go in, I went in from the door above where we were to sit, as I wanted to feel the wave of excitement grow even stronger as I made my way to the first row. As I found my seat and noticed the piece of wood on the stage that indicated where Andrea would be standing, the emotions overwhelmed me. I couldn't sit long as my eyes welled up and I bounded out of my seat to find Carolyn [Parsons] and give her a big hug and thank her once again. As Andrea walked out, I was sure he knew we were all there as we, (enthusiastically but politely), made our presence known. This NN audience was so receptive, and the ovation for his arrival was surpassed by none. I recall at the beginning of an encore number "O Sole Mio"—we in the first two rows knew by the first measure what he would be singing—it was about 5-6 seconds later that I felt and heard the power of the rest of the audience as they became aware of this popular number. It felt as though I had been hit by a 50 foot wave from behind. The other moment that really impacted me was when Anthony Colosimo was singing "La serenata." Andrea was turned toward this lucky young man and we had a clear view of Andrea's face and body. Andrea was the mentor. I could only think Andrea was reminiscing about his first times on stage or singing for Corelli. He indeed subtly sang every word and his brow gave the support of each note.  His right hand hit every powerful entry and cut off each phrase with the same force. This was not obvious to all, but evident to his "37" ardent supporters who were there to encourage, absorb, and even be protective of this wonderful experience with this magnificent musician. My eyes were glued to Andrea and I felt we were all bestowed with a special insight as to how he listens to music and to other performers. Many others of you may have already experienced this, but that night he made me feel as though I was allowed permission to share a special part of HIS music world and how much of his being exists for this expression of his own personal passion.
I felt Eugenia Garza was the perfect match for him at this performance and I'd love to see her return to his side to meld so beautifully with his voice and movements. We met her after the concert as she checked into our hotel, with her proud mother. She was gracious to stop and chat a little with us and made it known that she would love the opportunity to sing with Andrea again. During the duets, when there were instrumental interludes, even as small as a couple of measures, Andrea never missed the opportunity to turn, with a smile, to Eugenia to whisper something in her ear.  s he would smile and she would smile or respond, we would giggle and he would respond to us with a smile...he knew we were there. Andrea always turned with great attention to the first chair, when the concertmaster would play a beautiful violin solo, which was more than once, and never missed the turn, back to the audience for his perfect entrance to the next note he was to bestow on this receptive audience. He could do no wrong this night. He was down the middle of every note. When there was a choice of going for the high note, HE DID, and with perfection, which distributed an abundance of chills throughout the audience. I don't smoke, but at the conclusion of his program, I was looking for a breadstick to light. 
His words at the end, "Tonight, I go ‘in’ Italy, but I promise, I will never forget you," were spoken with such genuine sincerity and so well deserved by the warm & appreciative audience. I did hear someone yell out something during the program, but could not decipher the words as everyone else, to me, was muted except this incredible tenor. I will never forget it and I will never hear Andrea's music the same way ever again. I want to go to more concerts, but as for now I just need to take all of this in. I was spoiled with this experience, and I know that.
 As Carolyn said so profoundly at the end, with her arms resting on the stage where Andrea had just departed, "It doesn't get any better than this," or something close to that. Going back to the hotel and staying up till 2AM, talking and sharing with everyone, brought the perfect nightcap to my experience of a lifetime. 
Barb Parker
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