Andrea Bocelli: Keeping Christmas all in the family
"Soulful" ... "soaring" … "transcendent" ... any number of adjectives cannot quite describe the voice of Andrea Bocelli. There's a reason the tenor has sold more than 80 million albums. And there's not just one Bocelli who sings. There's his daughter, Virginia, and his son, Matteo. And now, for the first time, they've recorded an album together for Christmas.
Andrea Bocelli, Matteo Bocelli and Virginia Bocelli perform "The Greatest Gift":
Correspondent Seth Doane met the Bocellis at home as they were doing a photo shoot for the cover.
Doane asked, "Why did you want to do a Christmas album together?"
"I think it's an amazing opportunity," Andrea replied, "because we can spend time together. It's a privilege, I think."
It's a privilege the kids have grown up with. Not every budding musician gets to accompany a world-famous tenor on the piano. Matteo said, "As you can imagine, since I was in my mom's belly, I was listening to music. You just think, I mean, I got to do it as well if I love it, but maybe I have to express myself to everyone when I feel more secure of myself."
Virginia added, "That's the same for me. Because sometimes I'm shy, like, singing with my dad."
"Not now?" Andrea smiled. "It's finished?"
"You're still a little nervous even now?" asked Doane.
"Yeah," she said. "Because, you know, like, he's pretty good!"
He is pretty good – one of the bestselling classical music artists of all time.
At lunch, we met the rest of his family: eldest son, Amos, an aerospace engineer; and Andrea's wife, Veronica Berti, who manages much of his career, and their charity efforts: a foundation in Italy, and music program in Haiti.
They toasted: "Merry Christmas in July!"
Yes, we met in July. Outside, it was a beach day in this ritzy town on the Tuscan coast where the Bocellis have a home. It was dressed up for Christmas for the cover shoot, and in-between takes we kept seeing Andrea Bocelli gravitate toward his instruments. "Because music is part of my life," he said. "I knew that my destiny was music because, since when I was a child, when arrived in my house the relatives, friends, everyone asked me to sing. 'Sing something for us!'"
And it's still that way, but now he's singing for presidents, popes and queens. And during Italy's COVID lockdown, he sang for the world at Milan's empty cathedral.
But singing was not his original career path. Bocelli, who lost his sight as a boy, had been studying to be a lawyer, putting himself through school by playing in piano bars.
"I began also to play the piano bar just to get some money, because it was important for me to buy my instruments, and also, above all, to meet some beautiful girl," Andrea laughed.
Virginia covered her eyes. "I should cover my ears from now on," she said.
The Italian tenor is so often seen on the world's grand stages, so it was special to see him in this much smaller venue, at home, playfully teased by his ten-year-old.
"He listens to opera a lot," Virginia said. "So sometimes, like, I wake up in the morning to, like, Caruso! I'm like, 'It's 7 in the morning, go back to bed!' Sometimes my dad gets frustrated because I listen to, like, pop music, and Dad's like, 'What is this noise?'"
But Andrea himself has embraced pop music, teaming up with some of the industry's biggest stars, such as Ed Sheeran …
… while bringing opera to new audiences.
Doane asked, "How do you learn new music?"
"I study a lot," Andrea replied.
"What are the mechanics of learning? Is there a Braille for learning music?"
"Like everyone, it's another language. But the result is the same."
Matteo said, "The technique of the Braille is a little bit different compared to the classical, you know."
"It's like to say something in English and in Italian," said Andrea. "At the end, the concept is the same."
Bocelli will be touring the world with Virginia and Matteo, performing in the U.S. starting next month. He's eager to share his spotlight. While it provides clear advantages for his kids, there is that added pressure, according to Matteo: "Part of this being the son of, is that you cannot really make mistakes. I was quite shy when I was little, so I was singing more in front of my mom and less in front of my father. And then I had at 18 this beautiful chance to make a duet with my father. And that's where I realized that this passion was something bigger."
They recorded "Fall On Me" together in 2018.
Doane asked Andrea, "You've sung a lot of duets with very famous musicians, singers. How different is it for you to sing with your kids?"
"You can lie!" Virginia interrupted.
"No, it's a completely different experience," Bocelli laughed.
Matteo said, "I answer for him, and say that from us there's nothing to learn. But for sure there's a good connection."
We got to see that connection this summer … a passion for music and performing that's been passed down to a new generation.
For more info:
- Album: "A Family Christmas" by Andrea Bocelli, Matteo Bocelli and Virginia Bocelli
- U.S. tour info
Story produced by Mikaela Bufano. Editor: Brian Robbins.
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