Andrea Bocelli in NYC

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Andrea Bocelli was in NYC for a press conference to lend his celebrity to a presentation by the Region of Tuscany.  The Region presented its new tourism guide, Voices of Tuscany, Exploring a Land Marked by Talent and Beauty by Giorgio De Martino.  It reads more like an engrossing book than a typical tourist guide.  The photographs are beautiul and quotes from famous Tuscans (like Bocelli) are interspersed throughout.

It’s safe to say that the world considers Andrea Bocelli to be the voice of Tuscany (Pavarotti was from Emilia-Romagna).  His first CD released in the US and Canada, Romanza, introduced this side of the Atlantic to his extraordinary talent.  Every time I hear his resonant, unmistakable voice I am transported, if only for the length of a song, to the rolling Tuscan hills.

The press conference was a rare opportunity to meet this enigmatic artist and learn about his emotional attachment to Tuscany.

Born on a farm in Lajatico in the countryside of Pisa, Bocelli’s life was always close to Nature and music.  His town was so small and unknown that in his first appearance at the famous San Remo Festival in 1994, he was introduced as “the singer from Lajatico”.

As an internationally acclaimed artist, Bocelli has contributed notoriety and fame to his town and his region, but his contributions are also more tangible.  In 2006 he built Il Teatro del Silenzio (The Theater of Silence) in Lajatico, much of it with his own funding.  It is an open-air amphitheater ideal for musical concerts held every July.  Bocelli performs there and invites his friends to share the stage with him, like Placido Domingo, Chris Botti, Laura Pausini, Sarah Brightman, David Foster and Carlo Bernini.  Sculptures contributed by various artists dot the landscape around Il Teatro, including a bronze of Bocelli created and donated by Gina Lollobrigida.  Other sculptures include the works of Mario Ceroli, Arnaldo Pomodoro and Igor Mitoraj.

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Il Teatro was designed to hold an international festival only one day per year.  The rest of the time it is bathed in the sounds of Nature alone.  “Instead of Theater of Silence, I think of it as Theater of Peace and Quiet because 364 days of the year, you hear only Nature.  If you climb to the top of the theater you can see the town of Volterra on one side and the sea on the other.”

It is clear that  Bocelli is most at home in Nature.  When discussing Voices of Tuscany, he focused on two islands: Capraia and Elba.  “In Capraia, 90% of the island is only accessible by foot.  It is rare to find an area where there are no sounds of cars or cycles, just the sounds of Nature.  As for Elba, I can’t fathom why Napoleon would have taken a boat and tried to escape from Paradise.”

He also discussed the artistic patrimony of Tuscany, naming Leonardo, Dante and Giotto as “some of the artists who made Tuscany great.  It is also a land of theaters: Verdi in Livorno, Giglio in Lucca, Accademia in Siena and Maggio in Florence.  And remember that opera was born in Florence, at the end of the 16th century.  The whole world loved it right away, to the point where we find its greatest expression in New York.  But I promise if you come to Tuscany, you will not miss New York.”

Learn more about Il Teatro Del Silenzio.

Learn more about Tuscany.

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