Even though Andrea Bocelli is not scheduled to appear in concert at the famed Hollywood Bowl until June of next year, a full page ad in the Los Angeles Times announces the sale of reserved tickets. Here is one superstar with zero awareness of how famous he is.
In New York to promote an Italian language film The Music Of Silence, which is based on his 2004 autobiography, the 59-year-old is handsome as ever, his hair more grey, but relaxed and good-humoured.
Why was an Englishman hired to direct the film, and how involved were you in the production?
The success of anything depends on the freedom given to the people that carry it out. Michael Radford had that. And he was chosen because of the joy he showed when he accepted the assignment. And because he made it with his heart, and with a lot of passion; he did well.
He also chose the right actors, which is something I could not have done. The only contribution I made was writing the book, I had no wish to be an actor or a director on this film.
What did you learn from making the film?
For me, the film was a discovery of a new world. I had the opportunity to be there while they were shooting some of the scenes. I’ve always been very interested in everything that is technical, recording, and so on. So, that part of the filming was extremely interesting for me.
And it was also interesting to work together with the screenwriter Anna Pavignano. She had to translate all the emotions that were in my book into a screenplay, which worried me a little, but she did a beautiful job.
How about the section when your voice was changing, did that actually happen?
That scene in the movie is actually a summary of things that actually happened. There’s a time during the life of everyone, especially males, in which your voice changes totally.
In my case when my voice did not allow me to sing, it really changed my identity. Ever since I was young, I grew up with the idea that I was a singer simply because everybody was asking me to sing. This would happen everywhere, at home and at school, in church.
When my voice changed, it was extremely frustrating for me and created a lot of difficulties.
What do you do to preserve your voice?
My family makes wine, as you probably know. In Italian there is an expression that says wine makes you sing, but the problem is it makes you sing badly. So, my singing voice is not due to the wine.
You can preserve your voice by following a lifestyle that is very close to that of an athlete. Not much food, no drink, no sex. I joke.
Were there any pop singers that inspired you as a young man?
My musical education for the first 15 years of my life was exclusively opera and classical music. At that time I was studying piano, but I always felt a particular closeness to operatic voices.
Even when I was a kid, I was always extremist in my view of music. Everything that was not opera was B-rated. Of course my schoolmates were not listening to opera, none of them. They were all listening to pop or to the current success. So we were constantly fighting over this.
They would make fun of me and say that I was listening to people that were just yelling at each other. And I would respond by telling them they were listening to music sung by people who had no voice.
And then I grew up, and I realised that in this world there isn’t just black and white; there are a lot of different shades in between. I learned that there is some very interesting music that is not opera, and I learned that there is some opera that is quite boring.
Is there any artiste outside of opera you respect?
For me the best singer in the world has been Frank Sinatra. I like his voice very much.
Did you ever feel your blindness impeded your success as a singer?
No I never did.
Could it have heightened your senses?
I don’t know. Frankly, I never thought about it. But had it been an advantage, people would not call it a handicap.
What does music mean to you?
There is a beautiful definition by Leibniz, a philosopher and mathematician – he said that music is an unconscious arithmetic that does not know how to count itself.
What are your plans for 2018?
My own plans are never beyond 48 hours. My mentor always told me people that make plans for more than 24 hours in advance are not wise. But luckily there are people that are not wise who make plans for me and which allows me to move on.
Is there anything else in life you desire?
Nothing really because what I have already surpassed my dreams, and it would be too much to ask for more. I am a lucky man and I thank the heavens every day.
You always look so elegant. Are you fashion conscious?
I am very, very grateful to all of the fashion designers who have been so kind to dress me.
But the truth is my relationship to clothing is the most casual of anyone on the face of the earth. Whatever is on my chair next to my bed in the morning is what I put on. I don’t ask questions.
And I would have no difficulty going around with two different shoes on my feet. But that would be a problem for the people who I work with, so I’m very grateful to all those who help me with this.
After having two boys (aged 22 and 20) and now a daughter (five years old), has your second marriage made you a better father?
No, it’s the same thing, it’s no different. My daughter Virginia is like my boys when they were the same age. I think it will be very different in 12 years, when she discovers boys.
Do you still miss Pavarotti (who died in 2007)?
Maestro Pavarotti was always a very important person in my life. Wherever I was around the world, sometimes I would call him on the phone and we talked for an hour about singing.
So, I have very sweet memories of him. I liked who he was, I still like his singing, I have all his recordings on my iPod. And an artiste like him, they don’t die, they continue to be in our life through their recordings.