May 31, 2006
June 1, 2006
Petite Messe Solennelle,
 Gioacchino Rossini  

La Prima Volta 


There was one suspended instant in Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle when all else seemed to fade…when only Andrea seemed to stand before us on the stage of Teatro di San Carlo, and only his voice—firm and proud—intoned a single line in the Credo that soared in the perfect acoustics of that glorious space. In that moment, the thought was clear and indisputable: "You were born for this—to sing in this way, secure and beautifully, in this storied place. This belongs to you." Then the enchanted moment dissolved as the other soloists, chorus, and orchestra broke the spell and swept the music along in its course.
Neapel, Teatro San Carlo, 31. 5., 1. 6. 2006, thanks to Jack!  At the beginning, in the slight interim between taking the stage and the sounding of the first notes of the piece, Andrea seemed to exhibit a bit of tension, noticeable with a repeated testing of his voice with somewhat startling little bursts of odd sound. The bass actually did the same…a kind of vocal warm-up. Their faces were intently serious, and the bass, Mirco Palazzo, looked even a bit pale. It is easy to disregard the enormity of Andrea’s task up there, because he takes his place so unassumingly. But seeing him stand with the other soloists—all but Andrea with musical score in hand and he alone the one who must commit all to memory and find his way on his own without visual aid—evoked an emotional twinge. But he was in good company. Mariella Devia, the soprano, seemed to be the veteran of the group having sung at most of the renowned opera houses worldwide. Like Andrea, the mezzo, Marie-Ange Todorovich, was making her debut at San Carlo. The "Agnus Dei" that ends the Petite Messe was her solo, and she sang it with intensely stirring emotion that touched the audience. We had the opportunity to talk for a while with Mirco Palazzi, the young bass from Rimini, and his beautiful wife Rafaella (another couple who met singing opera together). Mirco was not new to Teatro di San Carlo, but he said it always inspired a special emotion to take the stage there. He also acknowledged that this piece of Rossini’s was the most difficult thing he had attempted to sing and that the roles for both the tenor and the bass seemed to him to be more challenging than those of the soprano and mezzo because of the wide range for them between the highest and the lowest notes. On stage, Mirco, at probably no more than 5’5", stood in contrast to Andrea’s 6’3" frame, but what he lacked in size was more than compensated for by his booming bass voice! He was responsive and attentive to Andrea throughout both evenings in a very gentle and endearing way.
Andrea’s one solo, "Domine Deus," comes early in the work. The program described it as the most operatic moment in the piece because of its slancio, or musical thrust. It definitely claims the spotlight. I found myself becoming increasingly nervous for Andrea as the moment drew close. Fortunately, for him, there was the vocal security blanket of singing his first notes of the evening in quartet to ease into his highlighted moment. But when the time came, he was perfect. His voice at once powerful and humbly reverent… conveying both magisterial triumph and awed deference to his "Lord and God" in this glorious solo. In fact, glorious is a word that you want to repeat again and again regarding this music.
The chorus is a real star of the evening and the one at Teatro di San Carlo was one of the best I have ever heard. Traditionally, there is no applause granted to any single musical element throughout a classical piece, but when this chorus finished a particularly rousing section of the "Cum Sancto Spiritu," the compulsion to acknowledge it with applause was simply irresistible. Both nights the crowd gave in to the instinctive urge to break the rule. Rossini was generous to all the performers in the Petite Messe. All four soloists have wonderful parts to sing alone, and there are duets for the soprano and mezzo and for the tenor and the bass, and also some trios. The close harmonies are quite beautiful and engaging. The orchestra has many moments to shine with graceful curlicues of the violins and violas echoing and answering one another; emphatic, careful punctuation of notes at several key, dramatic moments; and full throttle waves of sound the program dubbed "Handelesque grandiosity." The young German conductor, Michael Guttler, could have been a Steven Mercurio clone. One of his mentors was Valery Gergiev. I didn’t think it was possible to duplicate such overwhelming energy as we have seen from Steven, but Guttler conjured every ounce of emotion and brilliance that was humanly possible from the participants with his intensity and command. Overall, the sum total of this musical tour de force was—you have to say it again—GLORIOUS—and, by turns, joyful, reverent, penitential, meditative, and absolutely memorable and emotionally compelling.

Neapel, Teatro San Carlo, 31. 5., 1. 6. 2006, thanks to Jack!

It certainly had its effect on Andrea who was in constant movement—knee jiggling, right hand conducting at what he must have assumed was a discreetly low place at his side (but was in fact completely visible to all), interacting sympathetically with the basso with smiles of encouragement, anticipating the signal of Mirco’s hand on his shoulder for the four of them to stand in unison (once Andrea seemed concerned that no signal was forthcoming and he must have felt the moment was imminent, so he took the lead himself and stood first). I had to smile that both nights Andrea felt compelled, at almost the same point midway through the evening, to check the straightness of his formal white tie. For the first night debut, Andrea was in the elegant formal tails, and for the second night just a tux. From our first row vantage point, all of his movements and reactions were easily observed. A cute moment came toward the end of the second night, when someone in the audience misjudged the end of the concert and began to clap enthusiastically out of place, there were the inevitably stern disciplinary shushes from the crowd, but Andrea instead smiled broadly and benevolently in response.
Andrea may not have been singing every moment but his body and soul were engaged completely during the entire hour and twenty minutes of the performance. He was one with the music throughout—silently mouthing words with the chorus, smiling at favored passages. The rhythm of one section of the work—I think the "Sanctus"—was exactly that of a gallop and it was easy, watching Andrea, to imagine his mind’s eye figuratively saddling up, his body shifting instinctively into a steady rocking movement as if astride his beautiful Arabian stallion. In fact, it was often hard for anyone in the audience to be still. This music of Rossini is very accessible. It was clear that Andrea knew the work intimately from start to finish. Even when singing in quartet or in duet with the bass, he imposed his own subtle nuances…graceful pianissimos, lovely legatos, or emphatic intonation of a word here or there. When he called on his voice for fortissimo, it filled the hall, loud and clear.
Just a discrete black dot inserted next to Andrea’s name in the program indicated that this was his debut at Teatro di San Carlo, but these two concerts marked one more landmark step for him into the classical world. It must have been a moment of great satisfaction to stand with his colleagues at the end of each night and accept the waves of steady applause that seemed to go on forever and brought them all back to the stage three times. Many in the audience were on their feet, a true homage in a country not given to the gesture of a standing ovation.
The crazy juxtaposition of Andrea’s two worlds, lyric and pop, was never more evident than the second night. Teatro di San Carlo is quite literally the proverbial "stone’s throw" away from Piazza del Plebiscito. The first, with a proud history of classical music spanning nearly 300 years, is all red velvet and gold gilt, chandeliered and frescoed, its elaborately painted domed ceiling rising six tiers, and its gloriously embellished and copiously curtained royal box is literally fit for a king. Walking into it is awesome. The second, the Piazza del Plebiscito, is a gathering place of the people, crossroad of everyday community life, bordered by historic edifices representing faith, law, and governance, and with a dramatic glimpse of the natural backdrop of the Bay of Naples and the distant and distinct silhouette of Vesuvius. This night the piazza was host to the annual pop concert known as Festivalbar. Who but Andrea could finish a landmark concert at Teatro di San Carlo, change from white tie and tux into blazer and jeans, and rush next door in a 2-minute, madcap dash with police escort to highlight a line-up of international pop singers for an estimated crowd of 80,000. Jack and I, miserably underestimating the time it would take our multitalented tenore to accomplish this feat, had lingered at the theater, but were galvanized by his first loudly amplified note into setting a kind of Olympic land speed record for wheelchair transport to reach a viewpoint in the piazza where we could hear his "unannounced" duet with popular Italian singer Gianna Nannini. It seems that "Ama, Credi, e Vai" might now become the anthem, or l’inno, of the Italian World Cup soccer team. The crowd that filled every available space of the Piazza del Plebiscito was one with Andrea as his voice soared and echoed with the now familiar inspirational notes. Yet, always the essential gentleman, his innate gentility would not allow him to overlook the proper cortesia even in this crazy moment.
Neapel, Festivalbar, 1. 6. 2006, thanks to Jack!
 The story in the Corriere del Mezzogiorno described it this way:
"When Andrea Bocelli first thought of going to sing at the Festivalbar, he had a moment of hesitation. It would have been improper to abandon ‘il Massimmo napoletano’ [a reference to the greatest stage of Naples] to catapult himself into the Piazza del Plebiscito. So he notified the superintendent of San Carlo to ask his permission. It was a courteous gesture that Gioacchini Lanza Tomasi appreciated, knowing full well the dual "pop and operatic" nature of the singer. It was in this way that Bocelli decided to perform in an unannounced duet with Gianna Nannini, and present the piece "Ama, Credi, e Vai," a shout of encouragement for the national soccer team, about to confront the challenge of the World Cup in Germany."
So, once again Andrea had brought us to Italy and presented us with a gift of "firsts." The first trip to Napoli—ancient crossroad of cultures, birthplace of well-loved Neapolitan melodies; gateway to the brilliant, sun-soaked Amalfi Coast; creator of pizza Marguerita; and unparalleled producer of pastry delights like the scallop-shaped, multilayered sfogliatelle we had enjoyed ogni mattina. The first experience of Teatro di San Carlo—the awesome feeling of stepping into the almost sacred space celebrated for its acoustics and beauty, scene of famous operatic debuts. The pleasure of hearing for the first time Rossini’s capolavoro of his final years, Petite Messe Solenelle. And, of course, the final crowning excitement of sharing with Andrea his first appearance at Teatro di San Carlo. We ardently hope it will not be the last.
A postscript from Tuscany
We left Naples for Tuscany the day after the final performance at Teatro di San Carlo. It is a long haul, but any drive in Italy has its rewards and Jack relishes the opportunity to drive fast. Too much time had passed since our last glimpse of this impossibly beautiful countryside, and we had friends to visit. My thirsty eyes drank in visual gulps of the beautiful landscape the moment we left the autostrada for the quieter roads. We also had a mission—a pilgrimage to Lajatico to check on the progress of Teatro del Silenzio. The little town where Andrea was born and raised has become familiar to many now. It is in a quintessential Tuscan setting with vistas of rolling hills punctuated by the familiar dark-green tall pines, olive groves, and vineyards. The Teatro site nestles unobtrusively in their midst on the outskirts of Lajatico, just off the road going out toward Oriatico. We were able to drive carefully down the crude construction road to get a feel for what it will be like to sit there in the midst of the gentle hills and drink in the serene panorama. Senza dubbio, it was easy to imagine that a concert there under the stars would be an enchanting experience. I think if you go, it will not disappoint you!!
Cami McNamee
June 8, 2006
Back to concert page


 zurück nach oben