Andrea Bocelli: Incredible moment he sang the aria that ‘changed my life as a young boy’

Andrea Bocelli’s son discusses love of opera in 2016

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Andrea has sung with some of the greatest voices in the world from Luciano Pavarotti to Celine Dion and Sarah Brightman. But one alone changed his life, inspiring his lifelong love of opera. As a boy, he heard Franco Corelli on a record. Years later he would study under the Italian legend and call him friend before finally performing that same opera that had “marked my destiny.” And last December, The Andrea Bocelli Foundation named an extraordinary new music school after Corelli.

Like many Italians, Andrea grew up with music in the house. Recognising the little boy’s precocious love for opera, his nanny Oriana gifted him with the LP of Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano. One aria in particular struck the child and has stayed with him ever since.

Andrea said: “All of a sudden the orchestra introduced the recitative of the improvviso, Un dì, all’azzurro 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.”

Andrea added: “It was a broad singing, free, spontaneous, sweet at times roaring at others, but always authoritative and dominating.

“Chénier, the poet [the main character] 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.

“I was just a child, but listening to that certainly marked my destiny.”

It made such a lifelong impact that Andrea recently said it would be his ‘desert island disk’ if he were only allowed to take one recording.

Corelli became the boy and then the man’s idol. And, eventually, his teacher.

Watch Franco Corelli sing l’improviso from Andrea Chenier below. Prepare to have your socks blown off.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZfmaXu6bxUE

After he finished school in 1980, Andrea began to study in Pisa to become a lawyer and supported himself by singing in local bars. He also took singing lessons, first with Luciano Bettarini who taught him “the discipline of singing.”

Corelli was one of the greatest opera stars of the 20th Century and retired in 1976 and shunned the spotlight, but took select students.

Andrae told Ability Magazine: “Franco Corelli 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.” 

Andrea added: “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.”

Andrea recorded the full opera in 2010. You can listen to Andrea Bocelli’s version of that famous l’improviso here. But he has only performed the entire work once on stage. You can see an excerpt from it below where he sings that famous aria.

The tenor has rarely performed full operas throughout his career. His La Bohéme in 1998, for example, was a made-for-TV movie.

Andrea finally staged his own production for one night only at Teatro del Silenzio in his home town of Lajatico in 2018.

The town built the outdoor theatre for him in 2006 and it remains silent the whole year, apart from one night hosted by the star every July when he invites superstar guests like Sarah Brightman, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras to perform with him.

2018 was a little different, presenting a full opera rather than a gala of individual pieces. Watch an amateur fan-made clip from the show below, although the camera work is a little shaky.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/i6gBS7glDLc

Andrea has spoken constantly of his appreciation for the inspiration and guidance he received from Corelli. In December 2020 he cemented (literally) his devotion when he opened the Franco Corelli Music Academy in Camerino.

Central Italy had been hit by a series of earthquakes in October 2016. Hundreds were killed and many towns devastated. The Andrea Bocelli Foundation funded a series of community regeneration projects, including the school in Camerino.

At the opening ceremony. Andrea said: “Franco Corelli… was my inspiration, maestro and great friend. If his voice had not touched my heart, perhaps I would have done something else, perhaps become a lawyer.”

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