WIth his latest album, “Passione,” Andrea Bocelli has put together a collection of love songs from the Mediterranean, most of which he sang in piano bars during his formative (read: not yet famous) years in Italy. We chatted with the maestro right after his performance on “The View” last week.
METRO: How did you enjoy “The View” today?
BOCELLI: I enjoyed it. It’s not the job for me, but it’s nice to meet my audience because they’re always so warm. And I feel their affection, and I like for this.
Is it early to be singing for you?
Yes, but when I have to sing only a song it’s never too early.
The songs on this album seem easier to sing, too. You’re not belting it out quite as much. It’s more relaxed. Is that true?
Yes. Luckily, it’s easy for me, but the difficulty is in the expression that you have to put in these kinds of songs, because the original interpreters of these songs are the best singers of the world. So I have to be very careful to put all my heart into the interpretations.
You used to play these songs a lot in piano bars. How old are we talking about?
I began to sing pop music when I was 18 years old, more or less.
So that’s the 1970s, right?
Yes. Before, I sang and listened to only opera, because my passion is for that. But when I began to play in the piano bars, I discovered wonderful pages of music – of pop music. In a few months, I learned many songs, and I began to learn the most important and famous songs of the world like “Strangers in the Night,” or a Latin repetoire like “Corcovado” or “Garota de Ipanema” – all the songs that I put now in these albums, because every song on this album is a beautiful memory of my youth. … These are the first songs that I sang in my life and I remember many, many beautiful moments when I sang these songs of many people falling in love. There was a time with somebody crying as I sung. I was very young and I have many memories, beautiful memories of that period.
When you were recording the songs, did you find yourself remembering things you’d thought you’d forgotten?
It was like plunging back into the past. It was very romantic.
While we're on the topic of romance, the album is very passionate. Even the title, it’s called “Passione.” When you happen to get passionate in your life, and romantic, what kind of music do you put on? Do you ever put on your own music?
Most often, I listen to opera music. But this kind of music – within the pop music world – is definitely what I prefer, within pop.
Who’s the girl on the cover?
It’s Veronica. It’s my significant other.
It’s just such a beautiful shot of the two of you by the water, and she is holding you and holding a rose. Tell me about the photo shoot.
It was actually a long time ago, and I’ve taken a lot of photo sessions. So I don’t remember that particular photo shoot, when that happened.
You do a duet of sorts with Edith Piaf. She died when you were about 8 years old. Tell me about your connection with her.
When I was a boy, I didn’t know anything about Edith Piaf, and I didn’t see the movie, “La Vie en Rose.” But I did hear her voice, and I was really hit – it hit me deeply from the very first time that I heard it. The vibrato of her voice is really unique, and the expressivity – the expression she’s able to convey with her voice is quite peculiar – very singular. And then of course, years later I actually learned more about her life and more about her. But the first impression was her voice. And I realized that since she had some varied and very deep experiences in her life, this definitely must have helped her in becoming so expressive with her music.
Do you also find yourself pulling from experiences to be more expressive?
Absolutely, yes, I try to do that. Each one of us sings what we are. And therefore we express through our voice what cannot be expressed through words alone.
When you’re touring to promote an album like this, which is such a specific style, do you also add material from your operatic repertoire?
Yes – the first one will be in Fort Lauderdale on the 8th of February. I will be singing the first time live in front of a large audience from this album. My concerts are always the concerts of an Italian tenor, and therefore I sing also romanzas from operas, duets, and in this case, also some of the pieces from my records and mainly the last record.
I’m interested in how the collaborations came about with Jennifer Lopez and Nelly Furtado.
Those were mostly ideas that David Foster suggested. And for me, they were both beautiful surprises. Because they both have really beautiful voices, and they really are very expressive when they sing.
Not just because of those guest stars, but there seems to be a real Latin flair on this album.
The Latin world is rich of great masterpieces. And after the great success that my previous album, “Amore,” had in the Latin world that was basically a collection of Latin songs, we thought it would be right to try to connect with that vibe. Therefore, I recorded also songs such as “Perfidia,” “Contigo en la Distancia,” songs that are famous in the Latin world.
OK, so not all of these are songs you played in the piano bars?
Well I was already singing, though at that time, “Tristeza,” “Corcovado,” or “The Girl from Impanema,” yes of course, I was singing Latin songs.
Have you ever thought about going into a piano bar unannounced as sort of a secret show or anything?
Yeah, sometimes I’ve done that. And I have to say – the audience had a lot of fun.
Were they shocked?
I wouldn’t say shocked – but they were happy.
Where was this that you’ve done this?
It didn’t happen just once. Because every time I see a piano, I can’t stop myself from going there and playing and singing.
Can people in each city that there’s a show expect that there’s a chance you’ll stop into some piano bar?
It’s not impossible. Let’s put it that way.