How Andrea Bocelli preserves his voice: No drink, no sex
LOS ANGELES—“I would have no difficulty going around with two different shoes on my feet,” cracked Andrea Bocelli, always good-humored in interviews, including this recent one.
“That would be a problem though for the people who are with me,” he added through a translator seated beside him. “So I’m grateful to those who help me with this (fashion). From what I hear, [they] do it pretty well.”
Indeed the top-selling classical artist in recording history looked dapper in a three-piece blue suit, tie and white shirt.
“I’m grateful to the fashion designers who were so kind to help me,” said the singer who has been totally blind since he was 12 years old. “And specifically, right now, Stefano Ricci. Because my relationship with clothing is the most casual that can be on the face of the earth. Whatever is on my chair next to my bed in the morning, I put on. I don’t ask questions.”
Add a biopic to the long list of Andrea’s projects. Michael Radford directed “The Music of Silence,” based on the popular tenor’s 1999 memoir of the same name.
The story chronicles Andrea’s rise from a Tuscan childhood to his early successes (Toby Sebastian plays the singer as an adult).
Antonio Banderas shows up as the Maestro, the voice coach who helps train the fledgling artist who would go on to sell more than 75 million records worldwide.
“I want to make this clear to everybody that the most important part that I played in this movie was writing the book from which the movie has been taken,” the Italian music star, 59, clarified. “I have no wish to be an actor or director.”
He continued, “The film was a discovery of a new world for me. I had the opportunity to be there while they were shooting some of the scenes. That was extremely interesting for me. And to work with Anna Pavignano, who wrote the screenplay. She had a very important role, because she had to translate into a screenplay all the emotions that were in my book.”
Excerpts from our interview:
What do you do to preserve your voice? You can preserve your voice by having a lifestyle that is close to that of an athlete. Not much food, no drink, no sex. I joke (laughs).
How would sex affect your voice? You have to do things in the right amount. In any event, the night before an important performance, it would be best to just sleep.
And the name of your family wine? The most typical is a Sangiovese. It’s called Terre di Sandro, or Earth of Sandro. Sandro was my father (he died in 2000).
Even as a young boy, you impressed people with your singing voice. What was it like when your voice changed as you grew up? I grew up with the idea that I was a singer simply because everybody was asking me to sing. This would happen everywhere—at home, school and church.
When my voice changed, there was a period of time when I was no longer able to sing anything. That was extremely frustrating for me and created a lot of difficulties.
For you, which concert was the most memorable? To choose one concert is difficult. Because in more than 20 years of my career, I’ve had many memorable ones. But I must admit that New York holds a special place in my life and career. It’s enough to remember that in New York, I sang in Central Park, Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan (Opera House) and the Madison Square Garden. It’s incredible. I love it.
Who is the personality that you met that remains special to you today? I’m lucky. I worked with Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Myung-Whun Chung, Valery Gergiev and all the best conductors of the world. So it’s difficult to choose. But I can say that I learned a lot of things from them.
Is it the same to you—singing at a wedding or in front of thousands? To sing before someone or many people is always the same for two reasons. The first reason is that the person before you is giving you his own time, attention and respect, so morally, you are obligated to give him the best of yourself.
Then, there’s a second reason that’s more practical. When you sing at a wedding, you have no idea who’s there.
A few times, it happened to me that among the people invited to a wedding, there would be the director of a theater, for instance. Or somebody from a record company, or experts in music. So, you always have to sing at your best.
What or who were your early music influences? My musical education took place mostly in my first 15 years of life. I’d listen to opera almost exclusively. And classical music, because I was studying piano.
Was there one artist who you listened to who did not sing opera? For me, the best pop singer of the world was Frank Sinatra. I like his voice very much.
What does music ultimately mean to you? Art in general is something mysterious. Through art, you can say everything that you can’t say with words. There is a beautiful definition by a philosopher and mathematician, (Gottfried Wilhelm) Leibniz. He said that “music is a hidden arithmetic exercise of the soul which does not know that it is counting.”
You also sing religious songs. What part does religion play in your life? In religion is the meaning of life. We could consider ourselves as children of Somebody who wanted this, an intelligent entity that wanted us to exist.
If you choose to follow that road, you start on a path that you cannot abandon any longer. That will give you many pleasant surprises. This is probably the reason why I started to write the book that then generated the movie. My book is a refusal of the idea of things happening by chance.
What are your plans in 2018 and beyond? My own programs are never beyond 48 hours. My mentor always told me that making plans for more than 24 hours in advance isn’t wise. But luckily, there are not-so-wise people who make plans for me. (smiles). You should ask them, instead.
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