Bocelli

The following e-mail comes from Iris Greidinger of New York, who corrects me about some things I said about Andrea Bocelli earlier. I said, for instance, that the Metropolitan Opera should book him for a pop concert, unaware that (as Ms. Greidlinger lets me know) he now sings pop songs only as encores. Whatever one thinks about Bocelli’s singing, I should have known more before I ventured my comments.

I’ll only add that Ms. Greidinger and I have now exchanged more friendly messages, and that I hope it’s clear that I’m serious about posting dissenting views.

Here’s Ms. Greidinger’s e-mail to me:

Dear Mr. Sandow,

I am really tired of reading from critics such as yourself, who should know better, that Andrea Bocelli is not an opera singer. Isn’t it time for you to stop hiding your head in the sand and face up to the facts? Andrea Bocelli has performed the lead tenor role onstage in four operas so far: “La Boheme,” “Werther, ” “L’Amico Fritz” and “Madama Butterfly” and is scheduled to perform next year again in “Werther” and in “Tosca.” I think that makes him an opera singer in anybody’s book. The directors of five opera houses certainly think so. You may not care for his voice, but that is a different question entirely. I would remind you, however, that your opinion is disputed by some formidable music authorities who regard Bocelli as having a fine operatic voice–including the late Franco Corelli, Bryn Terfel, and maestros Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, and Seiji Ozawa. I would also guess that you have not listened to Bocelli sing opera lately–if at all. He has developed significantly in power of projection and technique, through use of Corelli’s lowered larynx method. Having formed your opinion, you are not interested in how he has developed as a singer.

When you talk of him giving a concert at the Met, you presumably are thinking in terms of pop, which shows your lack of knowledge of his concert formats. He does not sing pop at a concert until the encores–his concerts are always composed strictly of operatic arias, sacred arias, classical art songs and Neapolitan songs. He has brought hundreds of thousands of people into his concerts to hear this music and has thus done more to introduce people of all ages to classical music than any other tenor singing today–certainly far more than the Met itself is doing.

Considering the mediocre quality of some of the tenors currently singing at the Met, it would be in no way a lowering of their present standards to have Bocelli perform opera there. He has what many of us consider a uniquely beautiful voice with long breath, wonderful phrasing and diminuendos, a dark baritonal register, and sustained high top notes. He has a beautiful, still developing tenor voice with heart in it, whose unusual range, emotionality, and tenderness has moved and enchanted a great variety of listeners, including some very seasoned opera goers, some aspiring opera singers, some neophytes, and some relatively new listeners. He is not Corelli, Pavarotti, or Domingo, but the Met is not offering any singers who can equal the great singers of the past or present either–which is one reason why they have empty seats.

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