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13 October 2021

Andrea Bocelli Q&A: “A wise old philosopher once told me not to take advice from anyone”

The opera singer on Puccini, liberty and the law.

By New Statesman

Andrea Bocelli was born in Italy in 1958 and became blind at the age of 12. An opera and pop singer, he has sold more than 75 million records worldwide.

What’s your earliest memory?

I remember the religious processions in my village in Tuscany, the light of the candles and a feeling of domestic warmth that permeated the festivities, following the rhythm of long-established customs. 

Who are your heroes?

There are many: those in the first books  I read, such as Sandokan, the hero of Emilio Salgari’s adventure stories. And in sport, Cassius Clay, Pelé and Eusébio.

What book last changed your thinking?

The complete works of Maria Valtorta,  a mystic who lived during the first half of the 20th century: she represented an important stage on my pathway to faith and to artistic maturity (since that’s inseparable, for better or worse, from the pathway of the conscience).

Which political figure do you look up to?

I’m thinking of two statesmen and heads  of government: Giovanni Giolitti, and Alcide De Gasperi, one of the fathers of the Italian Republic.

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What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

I’ve studied opera and I’ve studied vocal technique and the opera repertoire in depth for more than three decades: Italian opera in particular, but others too. That’s my main area of expertise.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I’d be curious to visit all times and places, as long as I could come back afterwards to the here and now.

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What TV show could you not live without?

Football matches.

What’s your theme tune?

All the works of Giacomo Puccini. And following that, many great works by Giuseppe Verdi and Pietro Mascagni,  as well as French composers such as  Jules Massenet, George Bizet and  Charles Gounod.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve  ever received?

Something that a wise old philosopher once told me: not to take advice from anyone. I can confirm that I’ve followed that advice.

What’s currently bugging you?

A lot of things, because I disapprove of all types of despotism and anything that flirts with it, restricting personal liberties.

What single thing would make your life better?

A bit less envy and conceit in the world would be nice. And, of course, the possibility to take 30 years off my age so  I could be in my thirties again.

When were you happiest?

I’ve been happy many times, partly because I think I really savour the beauty of life. I was very happy each time I became a father, each time I’ve been loved, and when I’ve received good news.   

In another life, what job might you  have chosen?

Maybe a professor of law, since I studied law at university. Though I’m sure that even in an alternative life, music would be a constant presence for me: as a hobby,  of course, but with the same passion. 

Are we all doomed?

No, I don’t think so. I have faith in human beings, in their intelligence and their  ability to choose the path to goodness  at every crossroads. And as a believer,  I trust in the goodness of the creator, like being in the arms of a loving parent. I’m  an optimist, and I believe that the world will continue to improve, even if with  some difficulty.

“Concerto: One Night In Central Park, 10th Anniversary Edition” by Andrea Bocelli is out now on Sugar/Decca Records

This article appears in the 13 Oct 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Perfect Storm