The most famous living tenor, Andrea Bocelli, has sold over 65 million recordings, singing pop as well as opera. Now he’s taking on one of the biggest steps a superstar singer can take — a Christmas album.
This 15-track disc is produced and arranged by Canadian David Foster, who will perform with Bocelli at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday.
The album, Andrea Bocelli: My Christmas, is a collection of English-sung tunes ranging from Jingle Bells to Silent Night. But do these songs reflect the great Tuscan Tenor’s own upbringing?
“Some of these songs were also part of our (Italian) Christmas tradition,” says Bocelli by phone. “White Christmas and Silent Night are songs from my childhood. Other songs I didn’t know, but David (Fostre) introduced me to them. “
Pop Christmas albums are important aspects of a singer’s output, and for our culture generally. Superfamous recording artists tend to make holiday records as a show of strength: The Jackson 5, Elvis Presley, Celine Dion and many other huge acts have all made Christmas recordings, and the competition just gets bigger, with Josh Groban’s Noël charting as the best-selling disc of 2007.
“I’m used to the competition,” Bocelli says, “because in opera everyone in the audience can compare my performance with all the other singers. I know this is a challenge, and I accept it.”
He takes challenges seriously — although he’s been blind since age 12, he has performed in many operas, including one performance where he arrived on stage on horseback.
Bocelli is completely comfortable in both the worlds of opera and popular music. He started out as a lounge singer, and got his big break with pop single. He came to prominence in 1992 at the age of 34, when he recorded a demo of the song Miserere for Italian rock musician Zucchero, who wanted to sell Luciano Pavarotti on the idea of recording the tune with Bono. But Pavarotti insisted that Bocelli, who had never met Pavarotti, was perfect for the song. Since then, Bocelli has sung for the Pope, many heads of state, and is generally regarded as the Fourth Tenor, after The Pav, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras.
So confidence isn’t a problem. Still, Bocelli is as gracious as he is beautifully spoken, even if his warm Tuscan blood finds our weather challenging.
“Toronto is a very beautiful city, so clean! But it can be so cold…”
• Andrea Bocelli performs at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday.