February 13, 2011
Notte Illuminata  
New York - Metropolitan Opera 
4 reports
Can I please share with you my life’s dream come true.  I’m getting tears in my eyes as I type this message—pure tears of joy.  Andrea’s recital on Sunday at the NYC Metropolitan Opera House was beyond fabulous.  You could see everyone’s backs raised forward in the attempt to take in every note as he sang.  He sang arias by Handel, classical songs by
Beethoven, Liszt, Richard Strauss and others.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this wonderful recital and have listened to his CD’s over and over again since being there.  My ipod plays him over and over again.  I never get tired of hearing him.  He transports me to a place where time stands still where only he and his voice reside.  One day I want to hear him in Tuscany.  That would truly be my dream come true and I’d never ask for anything again in my life.  I’d be complete.
You won’t believe what happened that night!  I don’t know how or why but he had a signing session after the recital and signed items for us.  Not only did I get him to sign a CD and this wonderful book of his but his manager told me to go over and put my arm around him and he’d take my picture with my camera.  At that point I thought I’d die of pure exhilaration.  This night will live on in my forever and ever.  

by Susan C. Foose

Signing at the Met, thanks to Susan C. Foose

Andrea’s Notte Illuminata Shines on His Met Debut
It Begins
How do you capture the birth of a dream come true on a blank page? Words can only do so much. You could measure the number of smiles on a certain tenor’s face, or those reflected in the faces of the few thousand who had come to share this extraordinary moment with him. You could count the “bravos” or the volume of the affectionate applause repeatedly released in waves of loving response to the gift of his music freely given. You could touch the tears of relief and joy at what had finally come to be, or describe the afterglow that warmed the venerable space of the Metropolitan Opera theater the night of February 13, 2011, when years of discipline, courage, and hope shaped this victory of a gallant heart fused in a singular voice. You could record the murmured exchanges, the faltering attempts to find some way to express in words how this voice somehow flows through our listening minds to swell our hearts with purest love and gratitude that we were there to accept the gift from this Maestro we have followed so long, whose hopes we have nurtured and shared, whose dream we came to witness.
There is a particular moment peculiar to performances at the Metropolitan Opera that signals the beginning of the evening’s entertainment. The exquisite crystal chandeliers that hang low in the theater—three to each side—rise slowly, as if by magic, to the ceiling high above, lest they interfere with the patrons’ line of sight. Those who are familiar with this ritual began to applaud, alerting the rest in the audience that the time had finally come. Within seconds, Maestro Andrea Bocelli stepped onto the storied stage of the Metropolitan Opera and claimed his moment in history. Perhaps the emphatic and instant wave of welcoming applause confirmed his immediately visible determination to be confident. Clearly he knew from the first instant where he intended to go, holding his handsome and unassuming self in a stance of solemn resolve and simple pride.
Months ago, when the official announcement was made that Andrea would sing in recital at the Met, a small voice of doubt began to erode the edges of my first excitement and happiness for him. The Met is notoriously huge! It can swallow voices whole. Andrea does not stand day after day, year after year testing his unamplified voice against such a challenge. Unlike his colleagues in the purely operatic realm, Andrea lives in two musical worlds—the popular music of amplified arenas as well as the bare-voiced vocal challenge of his beloved opera. Quite simply, I wondered, could he actually do this or would the Met claim him as its victim? The answer was, of course, to trust him. And yet, the morning of the long-awaited event found Jack and me praying our hearts out for him at the grand cathedral of St. Patrick’s on New York’s famous 5th Avenue.
Remember the opening scenes of the film It’s a Wonderful Life? The beloved hero of the movie, George Bailey, is in the depths of despair. Alarmed by his current peril, his family and neighbors, who have watched him grow and witnessed his consistent selfless acts of heroism and kindness, have been galvanized into action, sending heavenward a flood of fervent prayers on his behalf. Sunday morning, I imagined a similar scenario played out in the hours before the momentous debut of our Andrea. In my mind’s eye, I heard millions of his fans intervening for him—“Lord, give him courage,” “Help him reach within to his reservoir of strength and will,” “Don’t let him be nervous, Lord,” “Dear God, let him know we love him, we have always loved him, and believe in him” “Father in heaven, be at his side,” “Almighty God, he serves you well, please don’t fail him.”
When Andrea began the first song of the evening, “Ombra mai fu,” it was clear that all of these ardently offered prayers of our collective hearts and souls had been answered! Calm, clear, strong, unwavering—he confidently began what he had been born to do.
The Program
Obviously the night’s program was carefully chosen to provide a tour de force demonstration of vocal technique and range, across a survey of musical periods and styles, and in four languages. In the program notes, Andrea himself described the songs this way:
“The pieces chosen for this concert have been carefully selected from those which celebrate the joy, love, peace, and harmony provided by a strong and true relationship. Others celebrate nature and the amazement felt by those who contemplate it with a pure eye and a grateful heart.”
He referred to this musical realm as a world “we enter here on tiptoes.” But he more than met the challenge of the baroque intricacies of Händel; the long melodic lines of Fauré; the power of Strauss; the surprising yearning and delicacy of Beethoven’s love songs; the challenges of Wagner, Liszt, and Gounod. Although we weren’t going to leave humming many of them, each was a carefully polished gem formed by Andrea’s fine crafting and emotional infusion. With characteristic humility, Andrea had written his hopes for the evening:
“Some might quite rightly point out an excessive imbalance between the stature of the composers chosen and that of the artist, but he would maintain that his only intention was that of broadening his horizons and gladdening a soul—his own—always intent upon the search for new light to share with men, women, old and young people all over the world, who are happy to be taken by the hand along a journey of discovery of an illuminated night.”
Indeed, we eagerly took that extended hand to walk the musical journey with him. It was such a pleasure to see him immersed in the unique realm of each song, as if each had become a familiar refuge with the long hours of labor devoted to honing them. For this debut at the Met would come only once, one chance to entrust the waiting musical world with all the hopes and the dreams and monumental effort of every minute of his unique career. He was clearly in the world he had worked so hard to own. One thing was obvious—he was pleased with his handiwork. The completion of every song was punctuated with a satisfied smile from the tenor.
Händel’s works came first. “La speme ti consoli” was a showcase of dazzling vocal agility, amazingly controlled trills of the sort not often heard from Andrea, but the significant effort did not disturb his outward demeanor of ease. “Sound the alarm” was forthright and commanding, Andrea’s clarion notes aptly mimicking a silver trumpet, the little boy in the tenor playing soldier. A quartet of songs from Beethoven followed, revealing a surprisingly soft and amorous side of the supremely powerful composer of the Fifth Symphony. Of course, all these songs are available online now for download, but what a delight to actually see Andrea tickled by his own comically dramatic interpretation of the little story of the frustratingly tardy and coquettish true love (“L’amante impaziente”), or feel the intensity of his convincingly emotional praise for the beloved in “Dimmi ben mio, che m’ami” with its complex rhythms. And I couldn’t help but think that his  life companion, Veronica, would have no doubt that the compellingly tender lyric of “Ich liebe dich,” touchingly delivered by Andrea (whose face reflected his inner emotion) was meant for her devoted heart alone: “Therefore, may God’s blessing be upon you, You my life’s joy. God protect you, keep you for me, And protect and keep us both.”
Time after time Andrea enchanted us with his signature high notes—softly spun gossamer threads of astonishing duration. If you were in a vulnerable emotional state, these are the notes in his repertoire that would call forth quiet tears with their sweet yearning. I promptly dissolved in a puddle with their first appearance at the close of Liszt’s sweetly lyrical “O quand je dors,” and it hit me with full force just where we were and who was directly before us on the stage in the performance of a lifetime. An audience appreciative of the delicate artistry of Andrea’s magical filato capability applauded warmly, as with Faure’s “Le secret.” With “Mai,” another of the several Fauré offerings, his exquisite French flowed so wonderfully, the melody was like a caressing breeze as he described beckoning May with its “wide moonlight nights beside the dormant waters”; or “Chanson d’amour,” a vocal bouquet of love notes, each like a delicate blossom tumbling rapidly out. There were long-held power notes, like the one that ended Gounod’s “Hymn to the Night,” which evoked the kind of hearty cheers usually reserved for the critical winning score of a favorite soccer or hockey team. There were richly resonant low notes that confirmed Andrea’s five-octave range. Toward the end, an exquisitely moving rendition of “Invocation,” Valentin’s tender farewell aria from Gounod’s Faust, reminded us of Andrea’s impressive opera repertoire.
As always there were times when Andrea’s characteristic onstage restlessness took hold, sending him venturing forward onstage a step or two, then consistently retreating to the secure niche of the of the grand piano’s graceful curve. His capable and supportive accompanist, Vincenzo Scalera, took every care to lend his strength, both musically (as he watched vigilantly for the tenor’s cue to begin a song or that he wanted to linger on a note or speed it along) and physically, as the two came and went onstage and he energetically lifted Andrea’s hand in triumph on concluding each set.
When the end came, all too soon, we obviously hoped for the encores we had heard about from the tour in Germany, and we were not disappointed. How delightful to see the amused glances shared between Andrea and Vincenzo at the pleased audience recognition of the familiar introduction to “La donna è mobile.” The true challenge of this aria is masked by Andrea’s masterful ease in seemingly tossing it off with a flourish. The heart-melting favorite “A’ vucchella” paid tribute to the romantic Italian songs that course in Andrea’s veins and are so perfectly suited to his voice. When he finished this melody, he turned to leave and gave his typical farewell wave with a decisive and enthusiastically shouted “Thank you!!” to all. But the applause did not abate. He returned, declaring audibly, “The voice is finished.” However, apparently not so much that he couldn’t reach into his vocal reserves to offer at least a few of the famous nine high Cs of Donizetti’s “Pour mon âme,” a fittingly triumphant finale answered by a flood of joyfully exuberant applause that washed over a tired but obviously happy tenor.
A Reunion
So many were united in New York to celebrate this occasion. Barbara from Seattle, who had become an instant friend when we met in our hotel lobby in Detroit on the way to Andrea’s North American debut in his first staged opera Werther; our dear friend from Austria who is probably Andrea’s longest, most loyal fan; friends who have shared multiple journeys to Italy for the rare pleasure of Andrea’s operas or the enchantment of the concerts in Lajatico; friends from Colorado, Texas, California, and states up the entire East Coast; the couple we had commiserated with in Sicily where the cancellation of Faust was forced by the heartbreaking strike. Everyone in the Bocelli “family” of loyal fans has similar stories to tell. So many of us were determined, one way or another, to share this most momentous of all occasions—like the couple behind us who had come to New York all the way from Venezuela just for the weekend.
After the recital, we lingered in the lobby to watch these loyal fans exit the gift shop, one by one, each with their precious autograph in hand, still beaming from their personal encounter with the man who had drawn them to this mecca of operadom. It was exhilarating to experience so much concentrated happiness in one small space. Andrea’s own family members were no different—proud mamma Edi was helping fans to hand their Notte Illuminata books to her son for his signing; Alberto (with his son Alessio) couldn’t stop filming everything in sight; Veronica too had been visible filming offstage as Andrea made his exits and entries during the program; Andrea’s loyal friend Sergio was at his side, smiling happily at every fan who approached; Carlo Tomba grinned as he took it all in—each one beaming happiness and basking in the collective euphoria! Virginio Fideli, who as Andrea’s opera manager had played a strategic role in making it all happen, was ecstatic with the successful last-minute sale earlier in the day of an astonishing 500 standing-room tickets. The pleasure and love of all at this successful conclusion of the evening were evident and contagious.
Initially, the signing event had seemed destined to dissolve into pure pandemonium. An estimated crowd of 500 jockeyed for position to share their moment with Andrea Bocelli—to touch a dream and perhaps share a long-practiced thought with him. But soon order emerged, and the line moved efficiently. When I finally reached him at the very last and Andrea sat before me within touching distance, there was a perception, a strong impression, of his inward satisfaction, an aura of triumphant calm. Unsettlingly handsome in his evening tails, he patiently signed my book, probably at least the 499th item that had been placed before him. “Ti voglio bene, Andrea,” I said gently, then in English, “The concert was brilliant!” “Yes,” he responded softly in his own perfect English. “It was a dream come true.”
Actually dear Maestro, it was perhaps a million dreams come true. The hearts of your fans are overflowing with the pleasure of it and our unbounded happiness for you. Grazie, Andrea, for every song, every aria, every opera and concert, every note that has ever flowed from your great heart that have brought us on a long and joyful journey to celebrate with you this precious point in time.
—by Cami McNamee


Yesterday at the Metropolitan Opera, Andrea Bocelli gave the performance of his life so far.  His control, expression, phrasing, dynamics, pitch, and command were masterful.  And above all was the beauty of his voice itself.  If a human being can be perfect, he was perfect last evening.
                Andrea’s integrity and commitment to his art are reflected in the Notte Illuminata project—not only new material for many fans but also a creative and content-choice departure from the music generally available from other opera singers.  Some of the qualities and aspects of his performance that most struck me were these:
·         The lightness and ease of his running notes in the Handel selections
·         Andrea’s ability to sing as though he is intently focusing on and desiring to convey the meaning of the words and music—never letting himself drift away from that focus, never singing by rote or habit
·         The thrill of his high notes, which are lovelier and stronger than ever, from the soft last note of “O, quand je dors” to the exuberant high Cs of “Pour mon âme,” the last encore
·         The confidence he showed right from the start, suggesting that he was able to channel the importance and stress of the occasion to reach even greater mastery of his art than in the incredible achievements of his career to that point
Having heard all of the music ahead of time (thanks, iTunes) enhanced my ability to recognize the expressiveness and mastery with which each selection was presented.  I didn’t have to use part of my attention to become grounded in the music, to figure out its nature and style.  Vincenzo Scalera’s piano playing would have made a magnificent concert in itself, and he and Andrea were in ideal balance, each complementary to the whole.  Andrea was slim and elegant in his white tie and tails, and he stood in front of the curve in the grand piano to sing.  The audience gave him a warm reception from the beginning.  Sometimes the applause was even a little too eager, coming in before the end of “Ombra mai fu” and, in some other cases, before Andrea’s lovely last note—soft or strong—was over.
After the concert, Andrea signed autographs in the Met store, which sold the weighty and beautiful Notte Illuminata book, many Bocelli recordings, and the English translation of the original edition of La musica del silenzio.  The line for autographs doubled back on itself several times, extended down the stairs, and continued onto the concourse underneath the Met.  Andrea must have been absolutely exhausted—and Veronica, too.  I was one of the last in line, and she was still smiling graciously as she took each person’s book or other item to be autographed and gave it to Andrea.  By the time I reached them, I was so fatigued from the drive up and the intensity of the day that I can’t even say what Veronica was wearing.  I remember her lovely smile and the impossible-to-grasp-fully realization that the man a foot away from me for a few moments was Andrea himself.
Among the great joys of the occasion was meeting some long-admired members of the online world of Andrea Bocelli, fans whose dedication, insight, perceptions, and information have greatly enhanced my pleasure and knowledge.  The other great joy of the occasion was experiencing it with my 93-year-old mother—this was our fourth Bocelli concert together.  Everywhere we went yesterday, from the parking garage to the steps to and from our seats, people were kind and helpful to us—parking attendants, strangers (including a man who turned out to be the police commissioner), Met ushers and officials, and a long-admired Bocelli fan’s daughter, who talked with my mother while she waited for me to go through the long autograph line.
My life will always be richer for having had February 13, 2011—richer because of Andrea and those close to him and richer because of sharing his stupendously successful Met debut with my mother and so many other wonderful and appreciative people.
by Winnie Hayek

“Notte Illuminata” at the Metropolitan Opera House, NYC, Feb. 13, 2011
Just some thoughts, particularly on Andrea’s singing technique, to add to the beautiful reports by Winnie and Cami on this concert.
Andrea said in an interview before the concert: "Ho avvicinato brani di bellezza sconfinata in cui la musica sostiene poesie che parlano di pace, di silenzio, di natura, di sensualità: un connubio perfetto tra la campagna e l'amore. È stato faticoso perché canto brani in quattro lingue, ed ognuna ha le sue sfumature. Voglio però offrire il mio contributo, nella speranza che tanta bellezza arrivi alle nuove generazioni"./“I have approached [here] songs of unlimited beauty in which the music supports poetry that speaks of peace, of silence, of nature, of sensuality: a perfect marriage between the countryside and love. It was hard because I sing songs in four languages and each one has it own tonality. However I want to offer my contribution, in the hope that so much beauty will reach a new generation [of listeners].” (http://www.tmnews.it/news/primopiano/20110211_125604_2174c2e_4246.shtml)
“Notte Illuminata” shows off Andrea’s fine technique and long vocal range, and his vocal agility, as well as the singular beauty of his voice. It is a stunning achievement—to sing songs in four different languages, pronouncing each language beautifully, and giving each song its own coloring, so that each miniature world comes alive for the listener, and then to move on to creating the next. Not only is each composer different but the songs of each composer differ in tone and feeling from one another. Throughout the concert, he and the piano music were one, and the deft and beautiful playing by Vincenzo Scalera perfectly complemented his voice, as together they brought out the emotional expression of each song in all its shadings.
Andrea has wonderful “fioritura”—the ornamentation of the songs which we also call “trills.” To be able to sing trills in English is a considerable accomplishment because, unlike Italian, the English language is not well adapted to them. So it is technically exciting as well as beautiful to hear him do this in Handel’s “Where e’er You Walk” and “Sound an Alarm” without ever blurring the pronunciation of the words and always expressing the full meaning of the words. No one now can say that Andrea cannot sing in English after listening to his beautiful pronunciation in “Where e’er You Walk” and “Sound an Alarm.”
The concert started with “Ombra mai fu.” Before he started singing, Andrea briefly clasped his hands in the prayer position in front of him, as he did again before singing Gounod’s “A la Madone.” I believe that he does this not only to put himself in the mood for singing a sacred aria but to signal to the audience, which may not understand the words, that it is indeed a sacred aria that he will now sing. We usually think of “Ombra mai fu” as a sacred aria and not as an opera aria but in fact it is both. The first part of the aria is actually the recitative that precedes the melody and is therefore sometimes omitted by singers, as can be properly done. Andrea’s singing of the recitative is powerful, as it should be. But when he sang the first “ombra” his voice changed with the change in the music—it became deep and sonorous and he held the first syllable for a long time on a deep note like the tolling of a large church bell. It was the best that I have ever heard him sing this aria.
Andrea’s beautiful and agile trills in the three following Handel songs, particularly used in “La speme ti consoli,”  were lovely to hear. Even more amazing was his delicate ornamentation of the songs to which trills were not basic by adding, for example,  a half-trilling note to the “du” each time he sang “O, Balkis, reine du matin” in Gounod’s “La Reine du Matin.” Also in Fauré’s “Mandoline,” he made the last word sing when he gave us “Sous les ramures chanteuses”/”Under the singing branches.” But I think his most perfect expression of the ornamentation came  in Beethoven’s “Dimmi ben mio che m’ami.” Here the trills were fragile and delicate like filigree, not resounding, but light and high to match the silver cascade of notes from the piano, and voice and piano were one in creating a world of such fragile evanescent beauty that one could hardly breathe while he sang—it was as if a breath would blow it all away.
Andrea also gave us another gift of beauty in the “filato” which he added to several songs. This is the high pure spinning out of a note that becomes higher and softer until it dies away as you strain to capture that perfect sound which you wish would never end. He did this first in “Ich liebe dich” which would not seem to be made for it, but it added and gave full expression to the word “Klagen”/“laments” at the end of the second verse--a touch of genius that lifted a beautiful song to a still higher level of beauty while perfectly expressing the meaning of the word. Andrea’s emotional expressiveness in whatever he sings has always been very high—it is one of the things that arouses an emotional response in the listener, who may not understand the words, but can fully feel the emotion through the music of his voice. Andrea’s most beautiful filato was on the last word of “O quand je dors,” where on “Laura,” he held it and spun it out higher and higher and finer and finer for a long time until it finally died away into the collective hushed silence of thousands of people holding their breath and straining to hear the last echo of the sound. And then, of course, the silence was broken by the resounding applause and ‘bravos” of the crowd that came from every part of the theatre. A triumph of breath control, as well as of the creation of beauty, demonstrating that Andrea has the “long breath” for which his maestro Franco Corelli is so justly famous.
Andrea also showed himself a master of the “diminuendo”—the long spinning downward of a note into a fine thread that becomes lower and lower until it fades away. He did this for us at the end of Fauré’s “Mai” on the last word “coeur” which he seemed to hold forever and more and more softly until it could no longer be heard—a beautiful sound just slowly fading away. Again we heard it on the last word of Fauré’s “Le Secret”, “palis”/“pale”—and pale became more than a color shading, it became a musical tone dying away as the pale robe of sunset dies away in the poem.
Andrea also showed us the power of his voice. Not only in the recitative of “Ombra mai fu” which then contrasted with the beauty and sweetness of the verses—particularly his sweet caressing of the word “soave”/“delightful” (a word of many meanings but that is the meaning in this context of this song). He gave an operatic ending to “La Reine du Matin,” going straight from the ornamentation of “du” to a powerful full-voiced rendering of “matin.” We also heard the power in his voice which became a silver trumpet, as did the piano, in “Sound an Alarm”—a call to battle, to a just war for freedom from an oppressor.
The encores were not chosen at random, but continued the musical theme of the concert. In the first one, “La donna è mobile,” Andrea demonstrated for us the very difficult virtuosity of the ornamentation as used by Verdi in the tradition of bel canto opera, which requires full fioritura, very strong and very high, combined with a resounding high final note on the chorus each time. Then he illustrated for us how a “filato” could be added to the last line of “A Vuchella” to enhance that song. Andrea has added the filato in different places in singing the end of this song—this time he used it on the word “rosella”/“little rose.” Finally he wanted to leave the stage, but we would not let him go. He came back out and said to us “The voice is finished.” But still the audience did not want to part from him, did not want this wonderful evening to be over. So finally he sang for us the very last part of Donizetti’s “Pour mon ame,” the famous tenor tour de force of bel canto—not fioritura this time, but 9 high Cs in a short space of words with the last one having to be held like a trumpet call. The man whose voice was finished did them all for us.
by Iris Greidinger

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