It’s been 22 years since Con Te Partiro was re-recorded as Time To Say Goodbye with Sarah Brightman. The global smash made an international superstar of the Tuscan tenor and he hasn’t slowed down since.
With sales of over 90million albums and his latest, Si, Bocelli’s first ever UK Number One this weekend, it’s no surprise that Bocelli says: “Life never ceases to amaze.”
In front of an adoring crowd, he hit London this weekend to wrap up his latest UK tour. For anyone who missed it, and the many thousands who will already be keen to see him again, Bocelli has already announced a 2019 UK Tour, kicking off next October in Birmingham.
It was definitely a night of two halves, with a rather self-indulgent first act flattened by lesser known (and less catchy) arias, before he brought it home in regal style in the triumphant second act.
Thanking UK fans for their extraordinary support over the years when he was presented with his Number One album award before the show, Bocelli said: “I would never have imagined achieving this, even in a country that welcomed me from the very beginning. Yet beyond the numbers and the charts, what really counts is the affection of an audience – the handshakes, the smiles, the applause. My heartfelt thanks to all those people who wanted to reward my latest effort.”
Unfortunately, he is not quite so chatty on stage.
This may sound churlish, after all we are there for his glorious voice not his banter, but the O2 is a huge empty space and a little personal connection goes a long way to warming the house.
Especially when much of the opening 45 minutes was devoted to arias like Massenet’s O Souverain and an extended passage from Gounod’s Rome et Juliette. Finely sung all, with adequate support from South Korean soprano Sumi Jo, but lacking much impact or connection without context, staging or extensive knowledge of the respective works.
Better known pieces like La Donna e Mobile, O Soave Fanciulla and Brindisi brought the crowd alive, but these arias, interspersed with solos from Sumi Jo and talented Ukranian violinist Anastasiya Petryshak started to feel like a succession of unconnected recital turns.
One constant during both halves was the remarkable power and control dispalyed by Bocelli himself. He has never sounded better and revelled in holding the big high notes at virtually every opportunity, making the orchestra wait until he was good and ready to bring it home. What a divo. But undeniably fabulous stuff.
Despite all the talent on display and constantly strong support from the Crouch End Festioval Chorus and the Royal Philharmonic, the first half felt a little sluggish and disappointing sound quality and an unforgivable echo did not help.
Luckily, all was forgiven by the end of the second half.
A spectacular Act Two centred on the potent popera which has made Bocelli a global superstar and also introduced British soul legend Beverly Knight.
Her ravishing solo of Shoulda Woulda Coulda was a delight and her duet with Bocelli on Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love blended their voices like velvet and silk. However, I don’t think anyone was quite prepared for her range on the epic poperatic Canto Della Terra where she matched Bocelli note for note. Spines were tingled across a spellbound stadium. Why she hasn’t had a bigger career continues to bemuse me.
Andrea’s dashing son Matteo also made a big spash with his new UK fanbase on a lovely rendition of Fall Into You from the current Disney blockbuster The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.
But Bocelli himself truly soared in the second half. Crowd-pleasing barn-stormers like O Sole Mio, Funiculi Funicula, Granada and a beautiful Aranjuez with Petryshak filled the biggest barn in the land with virtuoso displays of vocal va va voom.
This was what we had all come to see and it did not disappoint.
Of course, the best was saved for a series of encores. Con Te Partiro was worth the wait and had twenty thousand enraptured fans humming along before a majestic Nessum Dorma emphatically reminded the cheering crowd why Bocelli is up there with the best of them.
It looks like it won’t be Time To Say Goodbye for many more years to come.
Andrea Bocelli’s new album Si is out now.