Asked why Charlotte was put on the very short list of cities for his Valentine’s Day-themed performances this year, Italian classical-crossover star Andrea Bocelli gives a somewhat cryptic answer.
“The choice of places where to hold a concert is determined by a series of factors,” he tells the Observer. “I can express my preferences, of course, but a live performance always puts in place different professional realities and economic forces.”
Then again, his rationale isn’t really what’s important.
Here’s what is: The 59-year-old tenor, perhaps the most famous opera singer in the world, will be performing in Charlotte for the first time in a career that spans a quarter of a century and boasts sales of more than 80 million albums. The concert is set for Friday, Feb. 9, at uptown’s Spectrum Center; it’s believed to be the first operatic tour the arena has ever hosted. (Bocelli will perform similar Valentine’s shows in Miami on Feb. 11 and Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 14.)
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Bocelli – who will be supported by the Opera Carolina Orchestra with the combined choruses of Opera Carolina, VOX, UNC Charlotte, Wingate University and Johnson C. Smith University – will populate the first half of the show with classical selections by Italian opera composers such as Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. After an intermission, he’ll focus on “very famous romanzas and songs from new and old albums, always dedicated to love.” (The show will open with performances by soprano Nadine Sierra and Emmy- and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristen Chenoweth.)
The Grammy-winning singer recently sent us answers to a series of questions via email, at his request, due to the language barrier and his international travel schedule. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q. Why are these Valentine’s Day performances so important to you?
A. For me, it is a special day. It is an occasion to celebrate love and express with even more force the affection we have for the people who are dear to us. For many years, I have had the pleasure of celebrating this feast in the United States. The public of this great country knows how to express feelings with generosity, knows how to be moved and share strong emotions. … I believe in honoring anniversaries – even those that risk a consumerist drift – provided that they are filled with meaning and values. On Valentine’s Day, we have a good opportunity to express our gratitude to those we love.
Q. Will there be any new twists for the 2018 version of the show?
A. A surprise, if revealed, is no more a surprise! The selection chosen includes many pages that the public from all over the world associates with my voice, and … I will certainly not disappoint. Moreover, along with me on stage, there will be important guests to enrich the concert. We hope that this first musical meeting with the city of Charlotte will remain in the hearts of those who want to be present, sharing a moment of joy, optimism and celebration.
Q. OK, so if YOU could see any living performer do a show full of nothing but love songs, who would that be and why?
A. There are many artists I admire and who have performed wonderful love songs, from Tony Bennett to Céline Dion, from Barbra Streisand to Elton John, up to the young and talented Ed Sheeran – whom I have recently had the pleasure of collaborating with (on an orchestral version of Sheeran’s “Perfect,” released last month).
Q. How did you get linked up with Ed?
A. Mutual trust and esteem are essential elements in every collaboration, both in music and not. Before this project, I did not know Ed Sheeran personally, but I had been pleasantly impressed by his creative streak. At first we worked from afar, then we met in Tuscany and continued in my recording room. I think he is a young talented artist, a trained musician and a very pleasant and polite person. I am very pleased therefore for accepting singing this duet.
Q. Does Ed have a career ahead of him as a classical singer?
A. Who knows? Never say never. Being a young and brilliant artist, I think he will have the time and the possibility of facing many challenges, including the study of opera singing and operatic repertoire. However, being Ed is a very serious artist, he sang the words in Italian with an excellent diction, without ever making any mistake.
Q. Any chance you’ll include “Perfect” as part of your Valentine’s Day show?
A. I will include it with pleasure not on this tour, but when Ed Sheeran’s commitments and mine will give us the pleasure of being on the same stage together.
Q. I read an interview in which you said that your goal is “to live as if every day were Valentine’s Day.” Can you explain that?
A. I have set my whole life to honor love through songs; in a sense, my goal is to live as if every day of the year were Valentine’s Day. … I believe in the beauty of goodness, and in the intrinsic goodness of real beauty. The search for beauty – and therefore of goodness and love – is and has always been my main inspiration; it’s an impulse that guides me and that is supported by my faith, be it in daily life and in interpersonal relationships, as well as in studying and in the choice of repertoire. All the talents of man are undoubtedly gifts of God. Heaven-sent gifts can bring only beauty and goodness, unless man decides to misuse what he has been given, having received – as the first and most precious among all gifts – freedom.
Q. And finally, when you’re up on the stage singing these powerful love songs, what do you think about?
A. In the operatic repertoire, as well as in pop, the studying phase – constant and daily – is necessary to overcome the technical and momentum difficulties, so as to perform the page on stage filling it with meaning, and without possible distractions deriving from possible execution problems. However, in front of an audience, it is necessary to measure always – and with wisdom – rationality and empathy. You must give emotions without getting too emotional, otherwise your throat risks closing and you will no longer sing.
With Emmy- and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristen Chenoweth; and soprano Nadine Sierra.
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9.
Where: Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St.
Tickets: $78 and up.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.