Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli is no stranger to pressure. He's performed for two popes, four U.S. presidents and a queen -- but that doesn't mean you don't make him nervous, too.
"The tension I feel since I am an emotional person when I get on the stage is exactly the same whoever I may have in front of me," he said. "Be it an audience of a hundred thousand people or a small theater, the anxiety is the same."
On Sunday, Bocelli will be catering to thousands packed into Rosemont's Allstate Arena for his stateside fall tour featuring mezzo-soprano and "Dancing With the Stars" contestant Katherine Jenkins. It's one of just six concerts on Bocelli's current tour, which the celebrated blind artist recently discussed by email with the Daily Herald.
Q. This tour sort of kicks off the holiday season for you. What can fans expect?
A. I hope it will be a day of joy and celebration. My staff and I have really tried hard to make of it an unforgettable evening as it is expected to be. What I usually propose to my public is to share unforgettable pages through a repertoire, which is the typical one of an Italian tenor. But there will be some surprises too, and some pieces which are particularly loved by the public. Moreover, we will also have the opportunity to exchange season's wishes through music, being Christmastime (is) very close.
Q. What music do you listen to at the holidays when you're not performing your own selections?
A. I must admit I adore silence. I think that there are hidden treasures, just like in music, where often the major energy is shown during breaks. Nevertheless, when I am on vacation (and for me the only real vacation is to stay at home with my family), I happen to listen to classical music and sometimes to pop.
Q. You started out singing in piano bars and went on to sell more than 70 million records. Did you ever dream you'd be so celebrated, and how have you adjusted to fame?
A. In my case, reality has gone far beyond any expectation, any bright dream. It was difficult to think seriously of a worldwide success for a boy coming from the countryside, without any contact in the world of entertainment, and with a problem that made every target even more difficult to achieve. But neither at the beginning of my career, nor later I have ever thought that fame could be considered a value. On the contrary, it may often be an obstacle. It can make you lose contact with reality, and if you do not keep your feet firmly on the ground you can run the risk to get lost. Popularity in itself does not lead anywhere. I have received from heaven a gift that allows me to express my feelings. It is a gift of which I have no merit and that could abandon me any time. I try to take everything that comes with life every day with gratitude.
Q. You studied law and briefly worked as a court-appointed lawyer before finding your chosen field. Do you ever wonder what kind of lawyer you would have become if things went the other way?
A. Who knows if I would have been a good lawyer. Certainly I would have been conscientious, and I would have loved my job. Law is not at all lacking sensitivity, because in it are the rules of our cohabitation. In its lines you can feel the pulse of life. Music has always been a fundamental need for me. But I consider my career and its importance as "something that happened." A pleasant accident on my way. I had got ready to do another job, I had studied law, I had got my degree, and I was sure that I would have earned a living working as a lawyer. If my destiny had had that job in store, for me, it would have been a good thing all the same. There are (a) thousand ways to be valuable people without being famous. This is what I never get tired to repeat to my children.
Q. Despite your accomplishments, some critics still take issue with your voice and artistic decisions. How much attention do you pay to what people say about you?
A. I fully respect everyone's opinions. When I was young I happened to be grieved by some critics full of uncalled-for malevolence and preconceptions. I must say that through the last years the critics' attitude toward me has become softer. Probably a small minority of the classical music critics did neither understand nor welcome the unusual path of my career as well as a response from the public so sensational. For my part, I always try to be as careful as possible in my artistic choices, and when criticism is constructive I pick it up with gratitude. I am told to be the fiercest critic of my performances and I always try to learn something from my imperfections.
Q. You've performed for Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Queen Elizabeth II and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, among countless other global dignitaries. How does it feel climbing onstage with an audience like that? Does it ever make you nervous?
A. Several times in my career I have had this privilege, and every time it has been a great honor. But the respect I feel for my audience, whoever is there listening to me, has made me enjoy every concert I have performed in these 20 years. Every performance has had its importance. A career is like a house made of bricks. You cannot throw away not even one single brick, otherwise your house might run the risk to collapse. The tension I feel since I am an emotional person when I get on the stage is exactly the same whoever I may have in front of me. Be it an audience of a hundred thousand people or a small theater, the anxiety is the same.