Visual impairment : blind at twelve years
Born : September 22, 1958
Bocelli was born with an inherited form of glaucoma, which only got worse as he aged. When he was twelve years old, he was hit with a soccer ball and went completely blind. The traditions of the region, and the strong influence of his parents who taught their son never to simply accept defeat, rather to draw strength from it, have left indelible impressions on the man.
Andrea does not remember life without passion for music. He recalls his early fascination with the great Italian tenors, such talents as Del Monaco, Gigli and especially his idol Franco Corelli. Enflamed by the music of the opera, Andrea's lifelong dream and ambition was to become a great tenor. The gentle teasing by contemporaries, of Andrea's love for this seemingly antiquated music, never prevented them from pleading for performances. Approaching his teens, Andrea won a number of singing competitions. However as adult life approached, youthful ideals of a life devoted to music were to be undermined by doubt and reality.
Andrea travelled to Pisa to attend university, taking a degree in Law. Throughout, he enjoyed playing in local piano bars, performing the classic tunes of such vocal greats as Sinatra, Aznavour and Piaf. Occasionally, Andrea's deepest musical passions were revealed with the performance of a favourite aria.
Learning that childhood idol Franco Corelli was to take master classes in Turin, Andrea apprehensively approached the maestro. Corelli, recognising a natural beauty in the voice which recalled qualities of several legendary Tuscan tenors, took on the young man as a pupil. Encouraged, Andrea considered that with dedication a life of music might prevail. The legal career was suspended. Life was now to study music by day and perform in piano bars by night. Pisa's law courts were not to see the return of the young lawyer.
In 1992, Italian rock star Zucchero required a tenor to assist in the preparation of a demo of a unique duet, 'Miserere', to be sung with the great Luciano Pavarotti. After fruitless auditions, a young man performing in local piano bars appeared. Effortlessly, and somewhat inexplicably, the young man captured the very essence of the song. Italian music industry figure Michele Torpedine flew to Philadelphia to play 'Miserere' to Pavarotti. The great maestro was stunned by the way the tenor took to the song. A friendly impasse was reached, with the maestro steadfastly rejecting Michele Torpedine's assertions that the voice was of an unknown piano bar pianist, rather than a talented young tenor.
Back in Italy, Andrea was approached in 1993 by Caterina Caselli Sugar, president of Sugar label, one of the country's longest established music companies, when she heard him singing 'Nessum Dorma' at private party. Caterina was immediately touched by Andrea's voice. Determined that Andrea should take this unique talent to the public, Caterina invited Andrea to visit her office, to hear an unpublished composition entitled 'Il Mare Calmo Della Sera'. Andrea attended Sugar with his father Alessandro, where Caterina played the music, suggesting that the song must be recorded by this voice of power and beauty.
With such a unique voice to introduce, Caterina, Michele and others worked to have Andrea invited to take part in the annual 'San Remo Song Festival', given that the event demands almost universal attention from the Italian media and public. This idea was to win through, as Andrea won the preliminary contest with the highest score ever, progressing to then win the 'New Acts' competition in 1994. Chart success was immediate. Andrea's debut album on Sugar label, 'Il Mare Calmo Della Sera' and it's follow up soon began to attract the attention of Europe.
In 1996, the melody of Con Te Partirò (written by Francesco Sartori and Lucio Quarantotto) and in it's duet arrangement with Sarah Brightman, 'Time To Say Goodbye', beguiled the European public. Hinting at the beginning of an international Andrea Bocelli phenomenon, 'Time To Say Goodbye' spent fourteen weeks atop the German singles chart, to become the nation's best selling single of all time.
1996's debut international album 'Romanza', enchanted first Europe, then beyond. The passion of 'Romanza' inflamed the world; Andrea's voice touching hearts unfamiliar with Italian, but utterly fluent in the language of emotion. 'Romanza' became established as a fixture on international hit parades.
Alongside his career in popular music, Andrea has pursued his operatic passions with stunning success. With 1995's Sugar classical debut, 'Viaggio Italiano', Andrea paid his personal tribute to the musical tradition of the Italian tenor, not just the greats who inspired him, but to the Italian immigrants and local heroes who celebrated and popularised opera in their adopted homelands. 1998 debut international classical disc, 'Aria', became one of the most successful classical albums ever, dominating classical charts and sensationally scaling international pop album charts.
Clear, precise intonation, the almost fanatical search for perfection and exquisite taste give Bocelli the extremely rare ability to adopt an instrumentalist's rather than a singer's approach to a score. All this is combined with highly personal and persuasive vocal colour, and perfect diction, tinged with a subtle, barely-concealed melancholy that goes straight to the hearts of the listeners and is the reason for his spectacular success. It is the famous "something" that makes an artist unique.
The career of the tenor from Pisa can certainly be described as extraordinary. The world of opera has seen very few like him. Obviously, the great novelty Andrea Bocelli represents has given rise to opposing factions. Beyond the virtues and the defects that can be found in his, and every other artist's, vocal style, one thing is certain. For the first time, at a moment of deep crisis, we are seeing theatres packed like rock stadiums, television companies eager to broadcast events and young people turning up at the opera. Andrea Bocelli is a myth and so at the same time a natural advertisement for a genre that the majority of youngsters think is antiquated and obsolete and belongs in a museum. Andrea Bocelli, with his unmistakable timbre and enchanting diction, is prolonging the life and restoring the dignity of a genre that seemed to belong only to the past and whose death was already being mourned. Andrea Bocelli has, at his own risk, entered the operatic fray without the aid of a microphone and achieved a miracle – that of overcoming his blindness and performing on stage as well as, and even better, than many of his colleagues.
With even his wildest dreams materialising, what then are the simple realities of the man? Andrea is a man of passions, with an unquenchable lust for life and a thirst for all manner of insight and experience. One striking example of this tenacious attitude to life was illustrated when Andrea paid a visit to his local airfield, eliciting a playful invitation from a member of the resident parachuting club. With no prior engagements for the remainder of the afternoon, one of the world's foremost tenors shortly found himself experiencing a spectacular freefall of several thousand feet ! Back on solid ground, avid passions for music, literature (especially that of Russian and French writers) and sport are pursued. Relaxation in the company of friends is often accompanied by simple Tuscan fare, when the man himself may commandeer the family kitchen to create another type of Italian masterpiece!
Despite living in a world of frenetic change, Andrea approaches life with a serene outlook, enjoying life's simple pleasures and undertaking each challenge with a passion. Ever optimistic, Andrea has perfectly understood the essence of a quote by French novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupery; "One only sees clearly through the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes".