Andrea Bocelli: keeping Christmas with the family
“Soulful”… “hovering”… “transcendent”… a number of adjectives can’t quite describe Andrea Bocelli’s voice. There’s a reason the tenor has sold over 80 million albums. And there is not only one Bocelli who sings. There is his daughter, Virginia, and his son, Matteo. And now, for the first time, they have recorded an album together for Christmas.
Andrea Bocelli, Matteo Bocelli and Virginia Bocelli perform “The Greatest Gift”:
Correspondent Seth Doane caught up with the Bocellis at home while they were doing a photo shoot for the cover.
Doane asked, “Why did you want to do a Christmas album together?”
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity,” Andrea replied, “because we can spend time together. It’s a privilege, I think.”
It is a privilege with which the children have grown up. Not every budding musician can accompany a world-famous tenor on the piano. Matteo said: “As you can imagine, since I was in my mother’s womb, I was listening to music. You just think, I mean, I have to do it too if I like it, but maybe I need to speak up for everyone when I feel more confident.”
Virginia added, “It’s the same for me. Because sometimes I’m shy, like singing with my dad.”
“Not now?” Andrea smiles. “It’s finish?”
“Are you still a little nervous even now?” Doane asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “Because, you know, like, he’s pretty good!”
He is pretty good – one of the best-selling classical music artists of all time.
At lunch, we met the rest of his family: eldest son, Amos, an aerospace engineer; and Andrea’s wife, Veronica Berti, who manages much of her career and their charitable endeavors: a foundation in Italy and a music program in Haiti.
They toasted: “Merry Christmas in July!”
Yes, we met in July. Outside, it was a day at the beach in this posh town on the Tuscan coast where the Bocellis have a home. He was dressed for Christmas for the cover shoot, and between takes we saw Andrea Bocelli gravitating around his instruments. “Because music is part of my life,” he said. “I knew that my destiny was music because, since I was a child, when arriving at my house parents, friends, everyone asked me to sing. ‘Sing us something!'”
And it’s always like that, but now he sings for presidents, popes and queens. And during Italy’s COVID lockdown, he sang for the world in Milan’s empty cathedral.
But singing was not her original career. Bocelli, who lost his sight as a child, had studied to be a lawyer, honing his skills in school playing in piano bars.
“I also started playing at the piano bar just to earn money, because it was important for me to buy my instruments, and also, above all, to meet a beautiful girl”, laughs Andrea.
Virginie covered her eyes. “I should cover my ears from now on,” she said.
The Italian tenor is so often seen on the big stages of the world, so it was special to see him in this much smaller room, at home, being playfully teased by his ten-year-old.
“He listens to a lot of opera,” Virginia said. “So sometimes, like, I wake up in the morning to, like, Caruso! I’m like, ‘It’s 7 o’clock in the morning, go back to bed!’ Sometimes my dad gets frustrated because I listen to, like, pop music, and dad asks me, ‘What’s that noise?
But Andrea himself embraced pop music, teaming up with some of the biggest stars in the industry, like Ed Sheeran…
… while introducing opera to new audiences.
Doane asked, “How do you learn new music?”
“I study a lot,” Andrea replied.
“What is the mechanics of learning? Is there a braille for learning music?”
“Like everyone else, it’s another language. But the result is the same.”
Matteo said, “The braille technique is a bit different from the classic, you know.”
“It’s like saying something in English and Italian,” Andrea said. “In the end, the concept is the same.”
Bocelli will tour the world with Virginia and Matteo, performing in the United States starting next month. He is eager to share his spotlight. While this offers obvious benefits to his children, there is that added pressure, according to Matteo: “Part of it is being the son of, it’s that you can’t really make mistakes. I was quite shy when I was little, so I sang more in front of my mother and less in front of my father. And then at 18 I had this great chance to do a duet with my father. And that’s where that I realized that this passion was something bigger.”
They recorded “Fall On Me” together in 2018.
Doane asked Andrea, “You’ve sung a lot of duets with musicians, very famous singers. How is it different for you to sing with your kids?”
“You can lie! Virginia interrupted her.
“No, it’s a completely different experience,” laughed Bocelli.
Matteo said: “I answer for him and say that from us there is nothing to learn. But for sure there is a good connection.”
We got to see that connection this summer…a passion for music and performing that was passed on to a new generation.
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Story produced by Mikaela Bufano. Publisher: Brian Robbins.