Do you remember
the moments in your life that shaped the person you are today? Where
is your drive derived from? Andrea Bocelli has felt a connection to
music for as long as he can remember. Singing lessons werent
handed to Bocelli, he paid for them by making money playing the piano
at local bars. Luckily, his parents allowed him to study piano at
the ripe old age of 6. He admits technical confidence isnt something
easily gained over night, rather, something that requires time and
determination. ABILITYs Lia Limón Martirosyan reached out to Bocelli with the hopes of getting to know a bit more
about his journey.
Lia Limón Martirosyan: Before entering the world of opera,
an acquired taste, I sang a variety of genres, like the blues and
oldies. But once I began training, I was hooked. How did singing enter
your life? And why the classical genre?
Andrea Bocelli: Music has always been for me an unavoidable need,
it is something that I have in my genes, a medicine, a way to give
lightness to life. My mother said that even when I was a baby, when
I listened to classical music and especially vocal music, I used to
Martirosyan: Theres a sign.
Bocelli: A key moment in my personal training that led me eventually
to pursue the career of a tenor was the impact I had as a child with
the extraordinary voice of the famous tenor Franco Corelli. It was
my nanny Oriana, to give me the first record of the famous singer,
who, in that case, was performing the most famous aria from Andrea
Chénier by Umberto Giordano. I still remember how I ran to
the old record player, I was excited while starting the record and
moving to the outside of the needle. Then all of a sudden the orchestra
introduced the recitative of the improvviso, Un dì, allazzurro
spazio, and finally a voice filled the pauses of the orchestra. A
large and extremely vibrant voice, brimming with feelings, filled
with an indescribable pain that went straight to the heart. It was
a broad singing, free, spontaneous, sweet at times roaring at others,
but always authoritative and dominating. Chénier, the poet
[the main character of the realist work by Giordano] was addressing
the theme of love in a general sense. Franco Corelli in that record
seemed to deal with the subject of love for his art: the art of singing,
that art capable of involving, of touching. As I said before I was
just a child, but listening to that certainly marked my destiny.
Martirosyan: Beautiful. What did you start as?
Bocelli: I started as a lyrical singer; my studies process is
the rigorous one of tenors. But when I was about twenty years of age
I started to approach pop; a genre of music I did not know before,
in order to face those international masterpieces that I would eventually
perform in the venues where, to pay for my singing lessons, I used
to play as a pianist.
Martirosyan: Do you remember the moment you felt technique was
within your grasp?
Bocelli: Technical confidence was a long and difficult conquest, which
I acquired with maturity in recent years. However, I have always been
singing. At seven years of age I was already able to recognize the
famous voices of the time. I used to listen, to learn the great arias
and then I tried to emulate the great interpreters; I almost tried
to compete with them. A teenager, self taught, driven by family and
friends, I gave my first concert in a small village not far from Lajatico,
where I was born. There was a feast and I was asked to sing. I sang
with great worry. With a trepidation that has never failed, since
by nature, I am emotional. In the years of my training I used to go
where my heart would take me, with a youthful enthusiasm and with
a bit of unconsciousness, I sang what I loved most; the great arias
by Puccini, Verdi, Mascagni, Giordano, and sometimes those popular
romanzas of the twentieth century that the great tenors had in their
Martirosyan: For someone with great worry, you took on powerful
composers. Who were your vocal maestros?
Bocelli: I remember with great affection my first teacher, Luciano
Bettarini who had already been the teacher of famous artists such
as Fedora Barbieri, Mirto Picchi, Giuseppe Taddei, Ettore Bastianini
and Ferruccio Tagliavini. Thanks to Mr. Bettarini I have learned first
of all the discipline of singing. A discipline that I had never imagined
could be so strict, like the one an athlete must follow to get good
results. But it was Franco Corelli who was the coup de foudre that
marked my destiny. I have loved this great tenor, as I said before,
since the very first time I listened to him. He was a legendary singer,
a charismatic presence, a fantastic voice. When I was a boy, I literally
used up his records. Years later I was so lucky to study with him
and eventually establish a relationship of mutual esteem which on
my side was of true devotion. In the field of singing a teacher is
like a doctor, if you find the right one you make great progress,
if you find the wrong one, you run the risk to be ruined forever.
Martirosyan: This is true.
Bocelli: I think there are two kinds of teachers. The one offering
precise technical knowledge on vocalization and who helps in making
the exercises useful for all kinds of sport disciplines; because the
voice is always the result of the activity of a muscle, like the unforgettable
Bettarini. Then there is the teacher who is also a kind of muse who
will guide you on the path of emulation. Like the great Franco Corelli.
Martirosyan: Before gaining international fame, did you experience
adversity in your schooling? In traveling?
Bocelli: I can say that since I was a boy I had to double my efforts,
to reach the same results as my school mates. I think it has been
a preparation that has strengthened me, that has made my will grow
stronger and trained my spirit of sacrifice. I hope, thinking of this,
that the adventure of my life, which fame has revealed to everybody,
may represent a positive example, showing how, in life, there is no
difficulty that cannot be overcome. This is what I try to do every
day, falling and getting up, a thousand times.
Perhaps about fame, I can say I reached it very late in my life, when
I was more than thirty five. Before this, I have lived many years
punctuated by disappointments and by doors shut on me. In those years
all the many attempts made, to get noticed in the world of entertainment,
had not given any result. With a degree in law, at the age of thirty
I thought that a legal career would have been a logical outcome and
as time passed, the possibility of a future career related to music
was getting weaker and weaker.
Martirosyan: Many of us are glad you didnt take the logical
route. Do you read Braille?
Bocelli: Of course I do, since I was a child. It was thanks to my
parents who, though suffering from our separation, decided to send
me to a boarding school far from home, so that with learning how to
read, write and count, I would be able to cope with life in the best
way possible. Even my grandmother and my brother learned how to encode
Braille just to write to each other and keep in touch during the long
months when school kept us apart.
Martirosyan: Excellent idea.
Bocelli: Yes, today technology has made great strides, thanks to the
latest models of Braille bar, I am always connected. I can go through
my mail, easily search the internet and specifically, thanks to text
to speech, I can read or listen to the books I love. In each Braille
bar I keep a collection of about six thousand volumes. If in my childhood
and school apprenticeship I had the possibility of such support, bettering
my education would have been easier and potentially wider.
Martirosyan: Do you ever think of what you might be doing if you
Bocelli: I am convinced that life offers an incredible number of other
amazing things to do and that even music which is a fundamental part
of my life, can be lived in many different ways. If I had not received
from Heaven a pleasant and recognizable voice, a gift I have received
and of which I have no merit, a talent that I have tried to honor
with much study and self-sacrifice, probably today I would earn a
living working as a lawyer. I do not know whether I would have reached
success, but I would have surely been a serious professional and I
would have loved my work.
Martirosyan: On that note, lets talk about the politics in Italy.
Bocelli: I suppose it is not easy to govern a country like Italy,
just because Italians have the remarkable quality of thinking each
with his/her own head and this corresponds also to their worst fault,
because they do not know how to think together, be together, play
together as a team. The political class, however is nothing but the
reflection of what we are. If in my country we do not all endeavor
to operate a deep inner change towards morality, it will be very difficult
to get an example from those who are today the mirror of what we are.
Martirosyan: Great point. Did you go through the school system in
Bocelli: Except for the boarding school which I attended as a child,
my studies have been fairly regular, linear. After humanities high
school, I went to University of Pisa where I got my degree in Law.
At the same time I studied music privately. Actually, however, a singer
never stops studying. And in this regard I must confess that this
year at the tender age of almost fifty-five I am going to achieve
the diploma of the top biennial course of opera singing at the Conservatory
of La Spezia, where my son Amos studies piano and where I have signed
up too in order to have a little more time to spend with him.
Martirosyan: Thats very sweet of you. I admire old school
technique and bel canto voices of Luisa Tetrazzini, Maria Caniglia,
Montserrat Caballe and Anna Nshanian, just to name a few. I know Corelli
had a big impact on your life. Any other voices you like?
Bocelli: Voices like the ones of Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza, Beniamino
Gigli, Mario Del Monaco, Aureliano Pertile, Ferruccio Tagliavini,
Giuseppe Di Stefano and many others, have been precious companions
of my childhood and still are today. Through the recordings of these
great artists I have come to learn and love Opera.
Finally, I cannot help mentioning my great friend and interpreter
Luciano Pavarotti. The most important lesson I drew from his advice
is about technique. He taught me how to pursue the goal to sing effortlessly,
so as to use voice like an instrument capable of giving the best,
without ever encountering troubles. A fundamental point, because if
you do not acquire it, at my age you may run the risk to damage your
voice beyond any hope.
Martirosyan: Any words of wisdom for opera singers in training?
Bocelli: I tend not to give any advice to my colleagues, because I
believe that every life follows its own path, that mistakes cannot
be avoided, I too have committed many. What can really be of help,
in general, are advice, affection and if anything, the example of
someone who is close....
in ABILITY Magazine
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