He’s the biggest-selling solo artist in classical music and beloved around the world, so being able to see him on your doorstep – on a night where the traffic is stopped so they can film Fast and Furious 6 in the tunnels, no less – feels like quite the event. The biggest shame was it all taking place in a concrete barn rather than some lavish Italian opera house.
I had ended up among Andrea Bocelli’s crowd more by accident than design after inheriting a ticket from my granddad, who never usually misses the tenor when he’s in the North West but was stuck at home with a broken hip. Well, me and my granddad are great pals, so he decided he wanted me to experience the singer in concert rather than attempt to recoup the frankly eye-watering ticket price. So, ever-curious, and intrigued by what you might get for that ludicrous amount of money, I took him up on what would hopefully be a finely crafted once-in-a-lifetime concert.
From a few gents in tuxes to plenty dressed down in jeans, you’d have been hard pressed to identify a typical Bocelli fan. And despite the merchandise stall flogging everything from overpriced CDs to branded Prosecco, programmes had sold out almost immediately. This, for once, was an incredible disappointment – although obviously there would be few in my situation sitting in a pricey seat that didn’t know their La Triviata from their Turandot, it would have been nice to have some reference, and to be able to read up on who Bocelli’s co-performers were without resorting to Google.
The sense of occasion, that the concert was much more than an everyday occurrence, a real treat to savour, was palpable as it should have been, as we stepped into another world of Italian passions, classically beautiful melodies and sultry sopranos.
A full 60-piece orchestra under the conductor Marcello Rota accompanied Bocelli throughout the concert, and male and female choirs joined in as required. As is the custom with his concerts, after an instrumental by the orchestra he appeared straight away rather than keeping us waiting through a warm up act, leaving the stage after each number to rest his voice, leaving guest stars to hold the fort.
These included the frankly Amazonian Div4s (pictured above, not at the Liverpool concert though), a group of four near-identical statuesque sopranos in painted-on frocks. The glamour stakes were also raised by the uber-elegant Svelta Vassileva, who dueted with Bocelli on pieces from Romeo et Juliet, with scenes from the production in which he starred filling up three giant screens. Finally, male-female classical guitar duo Carisma took the music in another direction yet again. A slight echo (ironically) around the venue sometimes marred the sound.
Ending the concert with a roaring Canto della Terra, naturally, he saved the ‘hits’ for his many encores, even acknowledging Liverpool with a solo version of Yesterday, strumming on guitar himself. Having barely acknowledged the crowd during the concert, he turned on the charm and had the audience eating out of his hand.
Standing ovation followed standing ovation, before Con te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye) with Div4s –it would have been better to hand this duty over to the much more competent performer Vassileva, surely — and finally, a deceptively simple wish to share a melody with the audience before he went – an understated way of introducing Nessun Dorma, performed by a tenor and orchestra determined to go out on a high. Stunning.