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Andrea Bocelli exclusive interview

Words by Rob Chilton

Ahead of his performance at Du Arena on April 26, we caught up with the legendary tenor, Andrea Bocelli for a one-on-one

With such a stunning career, we were intrigued: what is the hardest piece of music he sings?

Andrea, what's the most challenging piece you perform?

In the opera world, every song carries its own difficulties that have to be overcome. There are a multitude of obstacles that can be technical or interpretative. They might be related to holding a note, to virtuosity, to the dynamics the piece demands, or even to a possibly thankless kind of writing, focused on the so-called transition zone. I am choosing a very well-known piece, of which I am particularly fond of. It is a sheet that contains several asperities: Nessun Dorma is an aria of a marvellous opera, Turandot, by Giacomo Puccini.

Why is it so tough?

With its vigorous 'vincerò' repeated three times and closed on the acute 'si naturale', I would define it the victory anthem for all tenors. Its peculiar beauty comes not only from the frequency of the higher pitch, but from the expressive intensity it requires. Characteristics that reflect the state of mind of the protagonist, Calaf, who often shows a fiery passion and unbridled willpower.

When did you first hear it?

I was a child, about seven years old. Turandot and, particularly, Nessun Dorma, was my third encounter with Puccini’s art after La Bohème and Tosca. Before knowing its history, my young mind would often fantasise on this character. Especially on the notes of Nessun Dorma, identifying with him and time after time inventing new scenarios and ever-changing contexts. I was inevitably the fearless warrior, the prince, the good knight. But it was just as thrilling when I had the chance to know the original plot of this spectacular musical fairytale. It's magical and mysterious and features a beautiful princess Turandot, who would only agree to be married to whoever could solve three enigmas, or would conversely send to his death whoever could not.

Andrea and his son, Matteo performing in Italy

What was it like the first time you attempted it?

With the audacity of an uneducated voice, I remember that I tried to sing it quite soon, as a child. I would listen to the great lyrical protagonists of the time and then, enthusiastically, I would try to sing their pieces out loud, competing with the record player in the living room.

What vocal complexities does it contain?

When I interpreted it at the age of 30, youth compensated for my partial inexperience and for my struggle to reach the higher register. But carrying on, without a solid technique, it’s the voice itself, and with it one’s career, that is jeopardised. Nowadays I perform this aria, which at the beginning of my career I faced with a fair degree of apprehension, with confidence and no particular fear. Exactly because with time (and with a lot of studying) I achieved an ease on the acute notes, that I did not have at a younger age.

How important is Nessun Dorma to you?

There’s basically no concert of mine, in every theatre, in every arena, that does not end with this piece – by popular demand, I might add. I also had the honour to record the opera in its entirety. A title that requires a slow development, a role that demands certain transitions, in terms of vocal management. Before recording Turandot, I wanted and had to develop a vocality that would be perfectly capable to sustain every possible roughness of the score. I really wanted to face such an endeavour in perfect shape, and I was doubly blessed: ultimately the opportunity arose, with the bonus of being directed by Maestro Zubin Mehta.

Andrea Bocelli performs at Du Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on April 26; ticketmaster.ae

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