November 30, 2006
 MSG in New York
AB at MSG in a New York Frame of Mind
November 30, 2006
We were not going to go to the concert at Madison Square Garden. We had seen Andrea more than half a dozen times in the last twelve months. We had crossed the ocean and the continental U.S. twice. We would be sensible and mature this time, and stay home. We had so much to do with the holidays coming. There were important commitments at work. We would save our leave time for the trip to Catania in April for Andrea Chénier. Really, hadn’t we heard him enough? This is what Jack and I had repeatedly told ourselves. But, dopo tutto, when all was said and done and that unexpected business trip to New York popped up, there we were at the Madison Square Garden box office at 4:30, buying one of the remaining available seats on the floor (Jack settled for nosebleed level) for the 8:00 Bocelli concert.
As anyone who has heard this voice, even for an instant, knows, the pull to be in his presence is strong. What IS it about this man? I had time to mull it over as we took our seats in the cavernous arena…still fairly empty at this early point in the evening. I recalled Andrea’s words from a recent interview:
“The only thing I can say is that I try with all my forces to find inspiration from my life, from my love, from my experience of every day. In one word, from my heart. …And the people understand.”
We do understand. His heart touches ours through his voice. And right now in our world, we can use the balm of that heartfelt beauty. Though we may have heard some of these songs over and over—or perhaps precisely because we have heard them over and over—we can’t resist coming again to hear the smallest nuance of change, the newest shaping of his craft, the latest mastering of a vocal challenge, the masterful honing of already familiar notes, or the testing of new waters. And so we found ourselves at Madison Square Garden with 21,000 others, including the young couple form Lubbock, Texas who had left at 6:00 that morning just to be here with Andrea. They were relieved to learn that the concert was starting nearly 20 minutes late and so they had not missed more than the opening overture after all.
Andrea has always made a fearlessly bold statement with his opening arias. During last summer’s tour, it was the “Improvviso” from Andrea Chénier. This night it was “Vesti la giubba” from his just-released Pagliacci. The emphatic “Recitar…” set the tone for the evening—strongly confident and perfectly at ease, indicating that the maestro was in his element. He invested the broken-hearted Canio with all the intense emotional diversity required of the role: the cynical laugh, the wrenching sob, the despairingly bitter pain, the despondent outburst focused on the final word “il cor” He nailed it. The audience surrendered. It took less than four minutes.
Andrea gave us no time to catch our breath. We were instantly awash in emotion again as the baritone Luis Ledesma joined Andrea in the achingly lovely duet from The Pearlfishers “Au fond du temple saint.” Who could tire of hearing this? It is an aria to be lost in. The melody is unfailingly compelling, building to the passionate climax that puts these two classically trained voices to the test. Andrea passed with flying colors.
Ailyn Perez, the soprano, entertained next with the sparkling “Je veux vivre” from Romeo and Juliet. Then familiar musical strains announced the sacred aria “Panis Angelicus” Yes, yes, you think, we have heard this a million times. But vocally, Andrea has deepened and strengthened, and more than ever he has mastered in his heart, and soul, and voice the means to instill the reverence this prayerful aria merits. To one who does not know this man, the gesture of folded hands before he begins might seem affected, but to me and to any who have heard him share thoughts from the heart, it seems that even in the distracting midst of this secular space, Andrea has the discipline to silently retreat within himself for just one moment to make this a true prayer, and then continue. The New York Choral society amplified the sacred tone. It is really magnificent to hear the echoing notes of tenor and chorus playing off one another in intricate beauty. As a new touch, Andrea held the final note in a mood of veneration for a small eternity.
“O soave fanciulla”…a sure winner both for opera newbies and those among us who long ago followed our Tuscan pied piper into the operatic realm. He hit and held that final high C so easily. Where are all the denizens of the opera chatlists who endlessly discuss how hard it is to find a tenor with confident top notes among the newest crop. Our tenore throws them out with confident abandon!
“Di quella pira”…you’d think after the astonishing abondanza of four consecutive encores of this taxing aria that Andrea graced us with at each performance at Avery Fisher Hall, I might not have been all that anxious to hear it again for a while. But it never fails to amaze. Andrea makes it seem effortless—the much vaunted high C for him is all in a night’s work. Having the chorus was an extra treat, and the combined effect was an operatic gift.
The Act 1 trio from Il Trovatore is, again, a terrific taste of opera for any new fans at the concert who had been enticed by Andrea’s latest Amore CD but have not yet ventured into his beloved world of opera. It was an energetic and exciting moment in the concert that made me dream of how great it would be if Andrea were to attempt more concert operas. It definitely sent the crowd out for the intermission all abuzz, judging by the positive comments I heard in passing —“He’s just amazing,” “…incredible,” “….sensational.” Just fill in the blank with any given superlative; I heard them all.
The conductor Steven Mercurio’s own inventive and lushly beautiful composition Mercurial Overture opened the second half of the concert. Mercurial, “having qualities of eloquence, ingenuity, or thievishness attributed to the god Mercury … characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood.” Watching the tireless acrobatics of Steven throughout the concert on that podium (it’s a wonder he remains on it), I would say these qualities from the dictionary definition capture his personality. Even “thievishness,” you ask? Well, he steals our hearts with the devoted attention and obvious friendship he bestows on Andrea—professional comrades who together forge a memorable performance. I have said it before and repeat, it always seems to me that Steven is thrusting the notes INTO the orchestra, not coaxing them out of it. And maybe they got the gods mixed up. Maestro Mercurio is more like a young Thor thrusting his thunderbolts of powerful musical direction at the musicians left and right, and doing it in all directions nearly simultaneously because he is such an athletic conductor. This was most apparent in the William Tell overture. I love how the dawn of recognition suddenly hits the audience when the piece reaches the familiar passage of cartoon and Lone Ranger legend. This time they even granted themselves a congratulatory round of applause for their recognition. It was also nice to be challenged by the less familiar overture from Luisa Miller that opened this concert. There is little that Verdi wrote that fails to thrill.
This audience, like most others I have been part of, quickly fell in love with Steven’s comic and tender touches that I am sure both relax and reassure Andrea. The clasped hands between arias, the solicitous straightening of the white tie to make that tenor presentable, the hand gesture—extraneous though it is—to milk the applause for all it’s worth or to comment that the last song was really HOT, the generous and unfailing sharing of spotlighted moments with key members of the orchestra, the unmistakable investment and surrender of his whole body and soul into the music…they are clearly kindred spirits, tenor and conductor. Their partnership is a joy to watch.
Never was it more evident than in the little repartee between the two that introduced the pop half of the concert. Steven commented that for him New York was home, but he asked Andrea what it was like for him to perform at the world-renowned Madison Square Garden in the equally famous city. The self-described “lazy” Andrea made the initial request that he be allowed to talk about it in Italian, with Steven doing the translation. Nice try, but Steven wasn’t buying it, and he made the tenor work at his English skills. It went well, to a point. Andrea began easily enough by stating that when he first came to New York it was overwhelming. It was noisy, and crowded, and there was so much traffic, and …here he trailed into Italian, with Steven translating that “he lost himself in the city.” But then, Andrea noted (now entrenched in the safety of his Italian) that there is no city on earth that has given him a warmer welcome, thinking of when he first performed at Madison Square Garden. This statement elicited a thunderous affirmation from the audience that it was true this time as well. This newfound ease of Andrea’s in communicating with his audience is so endearing and welcome.
“Granada”! Andrea took to this song like a duck to water. It swept us off our feet at the Hollywood Bowl when he debuted it last summer. It is evident from this performance that he is still refining and sculpting each note of it. “Granada” is its own little musical universe for Andrea. You can see him responding with a smile to the sheer force of the grandeur and drama of this music, keeping time with his hand to the prominent beat. He has firm command of the song’s vocal power when the orchestra is in full sway, and he holds the final note for all it’s worth, stunning the audience with its emotional force. Credit is due to Maestro Mercurio for the compelling arrangement of this song; indeed, this and the next four songs of the program were all his arrangements. Yet another aspect of Steven’s talent.
“Vieni sul mar” and “Funiculi, Funicula” again illustrated how beautifully the chorus worked with Andrea to round out the romantic sound of these songs, underscoring the old-fashioned romance of the first and the lively energy of the second. Andrea seemed to enjoy both the choral company and the relaxed pace of the songs, and his voice is so winning in this mode—full, and warm, and velvet-toned! The only change in the program came at this point, the reversal of the order of “Non ti scordar di me” and “Funiculi, Funicula” The dreamy, lilting loveliness of “Non ti scordar di me” lives up to it name, for the word nontiscordardime is the Italian name for the darling little flowers of deep indigo that we call in English “forget-me-nots”! Indeed, Andrea provided an unforgettable bouquet of notes, sweetly enchanting but deceptive in their beauty. Hidden in their midst is a challenging high note that he delivered impressively…again.
After the interlude of Tango Sentimental y Apasionado came what is fast becoming a quintessential Bocelli concert moment…the changing of the coat. To the fans who have followed the tours of 2006, this moment is no longer a surprise. But even though I knew it was coming, it was a little like when you were a toddler and experienced the jack-in-the-box popping out at you. Every time, that familiar “surprise” would make you giggle with delight!! It is an equal enchantment when Andrea comes out in that stunning white jacket and the inevitable little gasp of admiration filters through the audience, causing an irresistible answering grin from the tenor. With comic aplomb and perfect timing, he announces the evident, “I have changed the jacket.” The slightly impish delight in his voice at this little proclamation just tickles us. The first time this took place last summer, it was groundbreaking news. Now it seems so natural that he stands with the mike in hand, so at ease, and begins a relaxed conversation about how now he will also change the mood of the evening, that he is happy with his new CD Amore, and will sing a few songs from it for us. This announcement alone brought the house down. Clearly there were many there who had been drawn to the Garden by this wildly popular CD, and they had been waiting for this moment. The first notes of “Besame Mucho” brought more appreciative applause of recognition, as did the opening notes of “Somos Novios” and the first encore “The Prayer.” These latter two were sung with the accompaniment of Nita Whitaker. Finally came the last song on the program, “Because We Believe.” This is a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of song sung by a man who often wears his there. The song was dramatically punctuated by the synchronized lights that had provided a precise and effective backdrop all evening for each piece. Though it is hard to lure my attention from Andrea in these concerts, while he was singing I found myself drawn to the face of an older, white-haired gentleman seated in the row in front of me. He was transfixed by Andrea, the emotion of the words and song reflected in the man’s rapt expression of earnest faith and sheer admiration. We all know how he felt.
Of course, by now the audience wanted it all to go on forever, and the standing ovation was desperately pleading with Andrea not to leave. We had already been granted “The Prayer.” When Steven led Andrea off-stage, he gave a secret little hand signal indicating that if we kept it up, we might coax yet another encore from Andrea. The volume was already incredible, but when Andrea actually did return, and the unmistakable notes of “Con te partiro” commenced, it impossibly increased! When he finished, the tumultuous 21,000 around me—young and old, men and women, dressed to kill and clad in jeans—were whistling, applauding, calling, whooping, and shouting their wild approval at a decibal level that I suspect might only be possible at Madison Square Garden. I was silently screaming in my mind, “Ti vogliamo bene, Andrea.” He never would have heard it if I unleashed it in that sea of ecstatic noise.
By then, we were preparing to leave, knowing that “Time to Say Good-bye” normally meant just that. Andrea gave his signature departing wave from the front of the stage and again at the side as he walked off. But the crowd had more faith and was unrelenting in their effort to bring him out again. To my astonishment, he came. To my greater astonishment, the notes from the orchestra made it clear he was going to sing “Nessun Dorma.” Oh dio, how glorious could it get!!! I don’t know where the energy came from, but Andrea flung that aria out as if it was the first offering of the evening, ant it was simply awesome. Repeat of the incredible response from the audience. They were tireless. The wild applause flowed on and on. But finally, as if to bring them back to reality and to save them from collectively clapping their limbs off, the house lights came up.
What a night Andrea had given us. I don't think there will ever be a concert now that doesn't show off both his musical languages. He is the master of both, and this is his strength and uniqueness. It brings to mind this quote from an interview that was prompted by a question about crossover and the relationship between the realms of opera and pop music:
“I believe these are two totally separate languages, which must remain separate in order to keep their purity. The only thing they have in common is the heart. In order for someone to sing, [it] has to go through the heart, and that's the only way. Any kind of singing.”
Never stop touching our hearts with your singing, Andrea. It would be a world that was colder and bleaker without you.
by Cami McNamee



December 9, 2006
Denver, Colorado - Pepsi Center
When tickets went on sale for the US December concert tour, I was still high from the Avery Fisher concert--and also short of cash.  Four days in New York City had pretty much depleted my Bocelli fund and I did not plan to attend any more concerts this year. I tried to put it out of my mind, but in my heart, I felt a bit of sadness.  How could I miss getting together with my Bocelli friends?  And how could I miss hearing that voice?  When Carolyn managed to obtain second row center tickets, and offered an invitation to stay in her Rocky Mountain home, Denver looked too good to resist.  That voice was beckoning!  My daily companion for 6 years now in the form of CDs--but as everyone knows, there is nothing like hearing Andrea Bocelli live and in person.  I knew I would be going to Denver!
It was a 24-hour journey to Colorado from northern Michigan and with the new "Pagliacci" recording in my CD player, my anticipation built as the train chugged west.  I looked forward to three wonderful days with Bocelli and friends!
Denver proved to be all that I had expected and more.  The mountain views were breathtaking--or was it the altitude that took my breath away?  As I struggled to carry my suitcase up a flight of stairs, I couldn't help but wonder how the singers would be affected by the lower oxygen levels and with little time to acclimate.
On Saturday night our group gathered at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver.  Our second row center seats were close to perfection and so was Andrea!  I am one of those fans who loves to hear Bocelli sing opera.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the “Amore” CD and all of the great promo, but I was hungry for opera!  The first half of the concert was filled with Andrea singing opera arias.  Among the highlights for me was his opening "Vesti la giubba," even more touching than on the CD recorded over four years ago.  This was followed by "Au fond du temple saint" with baritone Luis Ledesma, who was greeted warmly by Andrea as he joined him on stage.  This is a particular favorite of mine--I love the two voices with the interplay of a lovely flute.  I had tears in my eyes listening to these two men sing of friendship. 
Ailyn Perez was Andrea's duet partner for "O soave fanciulla," an aria I've heard many times.  There was an interesting ending this time. I remember reading that Puccini's score does not have the tenor singing the high C with the soprano -- but somewhere along the line it began to be customary for the tenor do so and that custom took precedence over the score.  I have always heard Andrea sing this note with the soprano, but on this evening he chose the lower notes, presumably as Puccini had written them.  Although it was a surprise, I thought it was quite lovely.  If we had any doubts about his ability to hit the high notes, they were quickly dispelled by a rousing "Di quella pira," one of the most thrilling renditions I've heard from him.   
It is obvious that Andrea dedicates himself to the operatic repertoire and the sojourn into pop has not detracted a bit from his classical skills.  His voice was powerful and compelling.  When listening to him I tend to forget everything—I forget that I’m thirsty, forget that the seat is uncomfortable, forget that there are 15,000 other people in the arena—the only thing that matters is listening to Andrea Bocelli sing!  Oh, that voice!
Steven Mercurio is always a wonderful asset.  Our little cheering section in row 2 made sure he knew we were there, and he seemed pleased with our hooting and hollering--and of course Carole's signature "Yo! Steven!"
The second half of the concert consisted of lighter fare--"Vieni Sul Mar," "Granada," and others, all beautifully sung.  At a certain point Andrea changed into a white jacket, signifying the mood change as he treated us with some songs from "Amore."  It was obvious that many in the crowd had come just for that and there were shouts of pleasure as they began to recognize the pop songs.  Andrea gave further evidence of his amazing breath control with a long held note at the end of "Besame Mucho."  I think it must have set a new record and had all of us squealing in delight!  After a stirring "Mi Manchi," Steven said, "I can't believe he sings that good, even at this altitude!"  Again the crowd roared!
I was pleased to see the positive reviews in the newspapers the following day.  It was nice to realize that the writers had been touched, and weren't afraid to say so.   Everyone in our group of ten, consisting of men and women, teenagers and senior citizens, was moved by Andrea's performance.   Carolyn's grandson, Weston, sent this email to her the following day:
The seats at the Bocelli concert last night were incredible. I have never experienced anything where I was so close to the person on stage at a big event. It blew me away, almost as Bocelli's voice did. It was very different from hearing him on the CD in your car. You could hear him sing over the microphone. I had a wonderful time and am very glad to have experienced something like this.
The Denver experience ended all too soon for me.  As my train slowly made its way back east, I pondered a question that I am often asked  --  "Was it worth it?"  I feel fortunate that I have been able to hear Andrea Bocelli in person many times.  How can you place a value on an experience like this?  What is the value of travel to new and different places?  Charming places, exciting places, places that I probably would not have visited without the "excuse" of hearing him in person. 
And how can a value be placed on friendship?  Friends as precious as the voice that brought us together!  At the Bocelli Birthday Bash this September, organizer Judy said, "I used to call them my Bocelli friends--but now they're just my friends!"  So true!  What a blessing they have been in my life, both in cyberspace and in real space!
And what is the value of that voice--and the man who works so hard to perfect it?  A voice that comes along once in a lifetime.  A voice that touches, caresses, excites.  A very special voice that beckons across the miles--come listen!  And more than just hearing Andrea, is the pleasure of watching him.  To see the camaraderie between him and Steven, the affection between him and his duet partners, to watch him craft a song, the energy in those high notes, the tenderness in the sweet notes, to see that smile light up the arena...Yes, it is worth it.  It is priceless!
by Gloria Morkin



December 10, 2006 
Anaheim, CA – Arrowhead Pond
Maureen was unable to go see Andrea this time, so my daughter in-law, Caroline, went with me.  This was the first time she has been to a Bocelli concert and I will add that she was truly impressed and whooped and hollered as loud as everyone else.   It was a bit drizzly walking from the hotel to the Honda Center but our umbrellas kept us dry.  Settled in our seats I looked for anyone I might know, but saw no one.   Em was unable to make it as she was ill. 
The concert began with the Overture from Luisa Miller.  Mr. Mercurio left the stage and returned with Andrea Bocelli, elegantly dressed in his tux and white tie.  After singing “Vesti la Giubba” from Pagliacci, he and Luis Ledesma sang “Au Fond Du Temple Saint” from The Pearlfishers.   Although I enjoyed it I’ve been spoiled hearing Bocelli and Terfel sing it, but Caroline and I did like his voice.   The program continued with Ms. Perez singing “Je veux vivre” from Romeo and Juliet.   Not sung was “ Panis Angelicus”.    Mr. Bocelli and Ms. Perez (wearing a lovely red gown) sang the duet “O Soave Fanciulla” from La Boheme.  Then came the Overture from William Tell, and the lady next to me said she loved watching Maestro Mercurio.   Mr. Ledesma and the choir (Val Voce Singers) sang “Votre Toast” from Carmen.  Next came “Di Quella Pira from Il Trovatore with Bocelli and the choir.  The three singers closed the first part with the Act 1 Trio from Il Trovatore, and to a standing ovation and thunderous applause.
Apparently not everyone was happy with the sound system as someone yelled out early in the program to do “turn down the sound”, and this was just as Andrea was about to sing.   He and Steven just looked at each other.  From where we sat in section 103 (floor) it sounded just fine.  After intermission, it took several selections before everyone finally (!) traipsed back to their seats.  Personally, I’m for a no intermission program, like Gigi d’Alessio did earlier this year.  Actually, people were trying to locate their seats up to and including intermission!!!!!  And you wouldn’t believe the popcorn and other items consumed!  Some people didn’t reach their seats until the end or after the first half either.  I could see several ushers leading people to their seats. 
The second part began with the Denver Sinfonietta playing the “Mercurial Overture”.   Mr. Bocelli returned to sing “Vieni sul Mar” with the choir.  Next he sang “Granada” and it was glorious.  The orchestra played “Cinema Paradiso”, and then we were treated to a wonderful “Funiculi, Funicula” with Bocelli and the choir.   I was all a-twitter for the next selection, “Non ti scordar di me” with the choir and I wasn’t disappointed.  Hope he puts this on a CD soon.  The orchestra then played “Tango Sentimental y Apasionado” with tango dancers dancing on the overhead screens.  Beautiful... 
Now, for the big moment when Bocelli changed to his white jacket.  From where we sat I could see him sitting inside the little enclosure at the side of the stage and I could see this flash of white, before he returned to center stage to sing “Besame Mucho”.    Andrea  also sang  “Mi Manchi” one song I love to listen to.   Next listed on the program was “Somos Novios” to be sung as a duet with Ms. Whitaker, but it was skipped over.   I think it was here that Andrea rewarded us with “Mi Manchi”.   Andrea then came to the microphone, and with his dazzling smile announced  he had a big surprise for us – and out came David Foster.  Mr. Foster, Steven and Andrea bantered a bit and David went over to the piano that was out of sight of the audience, and he played along with the orchestra as Andrea sang “Because We Believe”, the last selection on the program.  The audience showed their pleasure with bravo’s, clapping, whoops and hollers, and a standing ovation.    Andrea returned to the stage for his encores and our next surprise was “Can’t Help Falling In Love”.   The surprises weren’t over yet!  He announced another guest (I couldn’t hear him due to the noise) and everyone just went nuts.  Out came Paul Anka!!  Caroline was beside herself with this turn of events.   Andrea and Paul  sang “My Way” and seemed to have fun doing it together.    Next to be introduced was Heather Headley  (at least I thought it was her) and she and Bocelli sang “The Prayer”, and beautifully, I might add.   It could have been Ms Whitaker as she was shown on the program as singing  “Somos Novios” with and it wasn’t sung at all, so I figured she wasn’t there and Ms. Headley filled in.  Whatever, she was wearing a gorgeous gown for the occasion.  After each encore they all left the stage to thunderous applause and ovations.  Then Andrea returned to the stage for the last time with Ms. Perez to sing “Con Te Partiro” or “Time To Say Goodbye”.  They ended the song to yet another standing ovation and applause and left the stage that we thought was “the end”, but that was not to be, and Andrea returned to center stage with his dazzling smile one final time.  The orchestra was ready, and we were treated to a wonderful rendition of “Nessun Dorma”.   The orchestra and choir, Steven Mercurio,  Mr. Bocelli, Ms. Perez, Ms. Headley/Ms. Whitaker, took their final bows and our Christmas treat had ended:  It had begun shortly after 8:00pm and ended around 10:45 pm.  
The only problems I had were the 24 standing lights throughout the orchestra that possible should have had some kind of cover to keep the light downwards onto the orchestra and out of our eyes, and the “smoky” background.  At times it was like watching through fog.  It was almost impossible to see the choir in the background.  As always, Mr. Bocelli was fantastic and it’s a joy to watch Mr. Mercurio conduct.   I hope I have remembered everything correctly, but it’s difficult to remember perfectly.  I might add that at dinner before the concert there was an uncovered candle on the table and the handle on my purse fell into it and caught fire.  The restaurant was most kind though and gave me a VIP discount and a little thanks for not burning down their establishment. 
It was almost intermission before the audience finally warmed up before standing ovations were given, but by the end of the concert everyone was on their feet (well, almost everyone) clapping, yelling Bravo’s,  that brought a big grin from Andrea.  After each bow to the audience he stopped at the left side of the stage and bowed once more.  I wondered if there was someone special there.  He didn’t go to the right side of the stage.  It took a long time before I could settle down to sleep – and all I could think about was this wonderful music.  Caroline was amazed at Andrea’s breath control and the fact that here she was, seeing this wonderful singer in person.   I think we’ve all felt that way.   This concert was a fantastic way to end his tour and I’m sure he, his guest singers, the orchestra, choir and Mr. Mercurio went home very happy, knowing they did well.
by Dorris



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