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Music is love, according to Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli

Bocelli plans Friday concert at Frank Erwin Center

Pam LeBlanc
pleblanc@statesman.com
Andrea Bocelli will perform operatic arias as well as ballads and Neapolitan melodies.

Call it cheesy, but thousands of Austin fans are happily prepared to collapse into a romantic, pre-Valentine's Day coma Friday, when Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli hits town with a selection of soaring arias and pop love songs.

Bocelli, 53, grew up on a family farm in Tuscany, Italy. Born with congenital glaucoma, he lost his sight completely at age 12, when he was hit on the head and suffered a brain hemorrhage during a soccer game.

As a child, he took piano lessons, then later added everything from flute and trumpet to harp, guitar and drums to his repertoire. Oh, and he sings.

He paid his way through law school by performing in piano bars and spent a year as a court-appointed lawyer in Italy before making a career out of music.

His fans adore him, but some classical music critics have criticized him for poor phrasing and a thin tone.

In advance of his show, he answered questions by email.

Austin American-Statesman: You're known for performing both opera and pop music. Which do you prefer and why?

Bocelli: My real passion is for opera. It was born and developed by listening to records. My dream as a child was to record entire operas when I grew up, and this dream came true. But what credibility would a singer have if he only recorded opera music, without trying out the stages of the theaters? This is why I plunged entirely into those kind of realities, where it is difficult for everybody. But experience has turned out to be extremely important and formative for me.

What's in store on Friday?

My aim is to take that eternally beautiful repertoire which is traditional of the Italian tenor around the world. It spans from operatic arias to great ballads and Neapolitan melodies as well as a few other selected pieces which people associate with my voice. The rest is a surprise!

What's your idea of the perfect romantic evening and how big a role does music play?

Love is the driving force of the world. Without love there is no life and, I would hazard to say, there is no music either, because also music is love; whether one gives it or whether one receives it as a gift. It is always and only an act of love.

We've been hearing a lot about artists suffering from strained vocal cords lately. How do you recover?

The voice is an instrument like the others, with the difference of being made of flesh and blood. This means that it requires application and daily practice. A couple of hours of vocalization every day is absolutely essential. Then you have to spend the time it takes to study the repertoire. And you must not forget to take care of the way you live every day, basically in the same way as is required of any athlete in any field. There is plenty to do, but it is always a pleasure if it is fueled by passion. Days when I have a concert are spent in total silence — an essential prerequisite to preserve my voice in order to perform at its best.

Who's a better duet partner, Elmo, Kermit or Celine Dion? You've performed with each.

I love to sing with other singers, to share the pleasure and the responsibility of a performance. I have had the good fortune of singing with some of the finest voices in the world, but one's love for singing and fascination with the voice is never exhausted and the world is full of artists with wonderful voices. Me and Celine are very good friends; she's a great artist, and anytime she would call me to re-collaborate I would be pleased to accept.

You and your girlfriend are expecting a baby. Have you been singing to him or her?

When I'm at home I always sing and I'm sure she hears me all the time. We can't wait to keep her in our arms, and this will be around the end of March.

pleblanc@statesman.com; 445-3994