When Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli burst onto the scene in the ’90s, hearts swooned to his arias and love songs. “Con Te Partiro,” later recorded as a duet with soprano Sarah Brightman titled “Time to Say Goodbye,” became a global hit shortly after its 1996 release. That year the single was added to Bocelli’s compilation album Romanza, which launched a career that’s still going strong two decades later. His appearance at MGM Grand Garden Arena December 3 will highlight new songs from his latest release, 2015’s Cinema, as well as celebrate Romanza’s 20th anniversary. Vegas Seven caught up with Bocelli to ask him about his life in music.
What are your thoughts about performing in Las Vegas?
Las Vegas is a city that I can say I know very well; it is a place that has been able to capture me. I perceive it as the tangible, intense expression of the power of man: It embodies the contrast between the most innovative modernity and a wild surrounding nature. Then, in your city, by now, I have many friends of long standing. And I have been able to experience, firsthand, how [Las Vegas] is not exclusively a place of entertainment and lightheartedness. It is a city that knows how to be generous and compassionate—solidarity and philanthropy are a powerful counterpoint to the clichés of Las Vegas, and this has surely contributed to make me particularly fond of this city.
Speaking of friends, one of your most well-known songs is “The Prayer,” a duet with Céline Dion, who is as beloved as any local can get. When you are here, do you visit with each other?
Céline is a great artist and a dear friend. The love that audiences around the world feel for her and for her marvelous voice forces her— just like me—to have a very complex life. So it is not easy to succeed in meeting, given that we are always around the world. But every time we manage to, it is always a great joy.
“Time to Say Goodbye,” which is so iconic at the Fountains of Bellagio, has been the soundtrack for many wedding proposals in that location. Did you have any idea that that song would be such a hit? How do you feel about being the romantic conduit for so many couples?
Of course I am happy because I have lived the whole of my existence paying tribute, through singing, to the power of love. When I was a student at university and I worked in the piano bars of my province, I saw many love stories bloom and many couples get together under the spell of great, fascinating melodies. As for “Time to Say Goodbye,” despite it having accompanied my career for more than 20 years, I have not yet got tired of singing it.
Do you have a favorite song that you love to perform?
In pop, there are lots of songs that I keep in my heart: “My Way,” “Voglio Vivere Così’,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Moon River,” “No Llores Por Mì Argentina [Don’t Cry for Me Argentina],” “Be My Love” and many others. To perform a piece, to render it at its best, I must fall in love with it. If this does not happen, most of the time I do not sing it, because it would not sound sincere. Therefore, the most honest answer is that every song I have performed is among my favorites. As for the operatic repertoire, I love all the operas of Puccini and most of Verdi[’s] and Mascagni’s repertoire. Had I to mention one [song], I would say “Nessun Dorma” from [Puccini’s] Turandot—a hymn of victory for all tenors, an aria loved everywhere that I often perform to finish a concert.
What kind of music do you listen to these days?
Mainly I listen to operatic music. And for this type of repertoire, I continue to love those performances that accompanied me when I was a child, [such as] the voices of Franco Corelli, Beniamino Gigli, Mario Del Monaco, Enrico Caruso, Giuseppe di Stefano, Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi. When I am in my car, I like to turn on the radio and get an update on pop novelties.
Do you have a favorite language in which to sing?
I admit I prefer to sing in Italian, because it is my language and I know its hidden nuances. But a large number of love songs that I like are in English, and I could not even imagine them in another idiom. Not to speak of Spanish, with its engaging and sensual musicality! Being a professional in the field of voice, I think it is normal to be attracted by all the languages, because I am interested in analyzing in full their rhythmic and expressive potential. Each of them brings strong expressive potential, its own specific musicality and difficulties. In my album Cinema, for instance, besides singing in English, I sing in Italian, French, Spanish and even in a Sicilian dialect.
In a parallel life, if you were not a musician, what do you imagine yourself doing?
Indeed I had already set a life different from that of a musician, graduating in law in the mid-’80s and then starting the practice [of law]. Until 35 years of age, I was sure that my greatest passion—music—would not [make] me a living. I think I would have been a conscientious professional, and I would have loved my job anyway. Although, not a day goes by that I do not consider, gratefully, what a privilege it is to have been able to turn music, my greatest passion, into a job.