As the most famous living opera singer on earth, Andrea Bocelli is a global superstar whose decades-long career has garnered the Italian tenor international acclaim and crossover appeal, earning nine top 10 albums on the Billboard 200 and an international hit with his signature song, “Con te partirò.”
Over the years, the singer has also become synonymous with the holiday season. His first album in the genre, 2009’s My Christmas, was produced by David Foster and became one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time. In addition, his tour timed to the holiday season has become an annual tradition, with an upcoming date in Washington D.C.’s Capital One Arena on Dec. 12, a two-night stint at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 15-16 and shows at the FTX Arena in Miami and Orlando’s Amway Center on Dec. 18 and Dec. 19, respectively.
This year, the show features his son 24-year-old son Matteo, a rising singer in his own right who is prepping his debut album via Capitol Records, due out in 2022. In addition, an on-demand livestream of his 2020 Christmas special Believe In Christmas — Encore, originally filmed live from Parma, Italy, will be available once again to stream on Friday (Dec. 10) courtesy the platform Dreamstage.
Through an English translator, Billboard caught up with both Andrea and Matteo to talk about the holiday season, Andrea’s legendary career and what it’s like for Matteo to join the ranks of the family business.
The holidays are coming up and as a result you’re in the midst of your Believe World Tour and the rebroadcast of your Christmas special. How did this holiday-themed concert come about?
Andrea Bocelli: The Believe in Christmas tour was the result of my wish to share, with as many people as possible, the powerful message of hope and renewal that is inherent in this Christian holiday, with a repertory of songs that are good for the heart.
Can you tell me a little about the concert special?
Andrea: The show was filmed live inside the absolute lyrical jewel that is the Regio di Parma Theater. We chose the homeland of Giuseppe Verdi and Arturo Toscanini, and the theater that is, in and of itself, a spectacle of extraordinary beauty. We all believed in it, together: musicians, hosts, dancers, the technicians. Thanks to all of us, we were able to win this unprecedented challenge and virtually embrace so many people, wishing them a Merry Christmas and offering them an evening of serenity, which is invaluable to restoring faith and hope.
What keeps you coming back to the States year after year for the tour?
Andrea: Part of my heart has remained here for more than two decades. I have a great many friends here — every year more and more. I truly feel at home.
Matteo, you’re also performing with your father during the tour. How did that come about and what can audiences expect from you?
Matteo Bocelli: Yes, I am, and I am always very excited by the opportunity of sharing the stage with my father. But it’s his show. I will have the pleasure of standing next to him to sing a duet that marked my debut, “Fall on Me,” a song — whose lyrics I myself collaborated on — [that] talks about a son who is entering into adulthood, and a parent who supports and reassures him. I will then have the honor and responsibility to have the stage all to myself, for the duration of a song, as I perform my first single, “Solo.”
Matteo, can you tell me about the first time you performed with your father?
Matteo Bocelli: Precisely because he is, first and foremost, my father, he was very careful with measuring my exposure to the public. At first, I sang during charity events; initially small, private settings, until performing at a concert in the Colosseum in 2017, where there were special guests, such as Elton John. Sometimes my father accompanied me on the piano, sometimes we sang together. In the end, my fears were overcome. Still today, however, as soon as I leave the stage, I anxiously wait to hear his critique about my performance, where I made a mistake, and where I could improve.
Andrea, you’ve performed for popes and presidents, and during situations celebratory, mournful and hopeful. What’s the most profound set you ever performed?
Andrea: Probably twenty years ago, it seems like yesterday, when I was invited to sing Schubert’s “Ave Maria” at Ground Zero, praying to music, together with the entire world, for the victims of 9/11.
Matteo, same question for you when it comes to a memorable and powerful performance from your father.
Matteo: I was too little to fully understand the intensity of the (performance at Ground Zero). Nevertheless, there are quite a few of my Dad’s concerts that I remember. Staying on the topic of New York, I can think of One Night in Central Park in 2011 as an incredible experience. I remember the crowds on the street, lining up many hours earlier, then the rain that threatened to ruin the evening; but also my father’s strength of spirit, his serenity, and that extraordinary concert, his duets with Tony Bennett, Celine Dion… and the enthusiasm of the people.
I’ve seen you live and I couldn’t help but get emotional. Do you yourself ever get emotional while performing?
Andrea: I don’t believe to have any merit in that respect. Music is a privileged language used to reach the deepest recesses of our souls. I believe that good music is intimately tied to beauty, and true beauty is intimately tied to good. And good, we all know, is something that always moves us. When I experience music as a listener, I, too, get emotional and am captured by the magic of an art that can touch the heart and make us better. When I sing, however, I have to be careful in measuring my emotions, because emotions close the throat; then it’s like putting your instrument back into its case. In those conditions, you simply can’t play it.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as the world shut down, you performed Music for Hope at the Duomo di Milano. I think that really brought people together during such a frightening time. How did that come about, and did you have any hesitancy beforehand?
Andrea: I said, “Yes!” immediately and with joy to the invitation of the mayor and Archdiocese of Milan. It was an emotional and spiritually intense experience. My intention was to sing a prayer, for my family and the world. It was incredible – to be able to raise our hands to the sky, and testify, through music, to how millions of people all longed for the same thing, that is, to join in on this prayer, confirming their hunger for spirituality and their will to listen to the message of Holy Easter: (a message) of love, redemption and renewal.
You could just sit back and enjoy your fame, but it seems like you’re always trying to do good with it — whether the aforementioned concert or the charity you launched after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Can you talk to me about why that’s important for you?
Andrea: At the risk of sounding naive, I firmly believe in the fact that beauty will save the world. There is an ethical commitment that each of us should make, a commitment that translates into everyday reality. There’s bad, and its profitable banality; and there’s good, which, with its silent energy, always contributes to improving the quality of our planet, and, without fail, places its signature on this masterpiece called life — and this applies to everyone’s. The history of humanity lies on the shoulders of those on the side of good, producing beauty. I believe it fundamental and advantageous for all to be, always and in any case, on the side of good, offering one’s contribution, no matter how big or small, to make the world a better place.
Can you talk to me about your relationship with a fellow music icon, Pavarotti. I know you have a story about performing with him for the first time. Can you tell me that?
Andrea: Meeting Pavarotti meant a great deal to me. Besides being a sublime performer and one of the most beautiful voices of the century, his open affection and esteem toward me contributed to the launch of my career. He was a friend and a maestro. My voice reached his ears on the occasion of an audition that I did for the operatic insert to the song, “Miserere,” composed by Zucchero, in 1992. The first time on stage, however, came two years later, in 1994, for the second edition of Pavarotti & Friends in Modena. I will never forget singing the Neapolitan song “Notte ‘e Piscatore” standing next to him. It was almost surreal… A dream, like those that exalt the purest hopes and ambitions of an adolescent, was coming true in that moment, beyond any sense of logic.
Matteo, along with helping Andrea on this tour I know you also have your own album coming out next year. What can you tell me about that?
Matteo: The truth is that I am excited and can’t wait to talk about it, because I really poured my heart and soul into this project. I worked long and hard and found extraordinary collaborators. The songs we are working on truly reflect who I am. Songs that I very much hope can touch those who listen – even if just a smidgeon, of how much they have impassioned and touched me. I can’t say much more, but the wait is almost over, so stay tuned – I’m looking forward to sharing the details soon.
We all have our holiday traditions. I’m wondering what your personal Christmas traditions at home are.
Andrea: Christmas is a time of joy and spiritual contemplation: it’s a day I love spending with my family, with the intent of recalling the profound religious meaning this festivity holds. So first, the holiday spirit is evoked with a sunny and serene disposition. Then we have our traditions that I am very tied to, because they warm the heart: from the Nativity scene to the Christmas tree to the decorations. I always say that at Christmas we can all regain the innocence we had in our hearts when we were children. Innocence in the most authentic, native sense of the word: the antidote to cynicism, openness to believing, an inclination toward honesty and goodness.