The phenomenal stardom of Andrea Bocelli is striking from several angles. Whether you're considering its implications for the record industry, for the role of crossover artists, or even for such larger--and perennial--issues as the gulf between "highbrow" and "lowbrow" culture, the sudden rise of this young Italian tenor seems to have an almost paradigmatic quality. Despite consistently dubious critical reception of the "classical" side of Bocelli's career--including a very insightful critique by Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times
following the tenor's American operatic debut in November 1999--his fan base only continues to expand. And they are very loyal fans, indeed, who seem above all to respond to the naturalness of Bocelli's voice and approach to singing, whether of pop material (in Sogno
) or of the classical favorites that are dearest to Bocelli himself (Sacred Arias
or Aria: The Opera Album
Antonia Felix's book will certainly be of great appeal to those fans, with its attractively produced collage of text and photographs. While there aren't exactly any new revelations, Felix has culled together a number of sources to give us an intimate picture of Bocelli in his most important contexts. After a brief narrative of his childhood and the accident that accelerated his growing blindness, we learn of Bocelli's struggle between practical common sense (in the form of the law career he successfully began) and his dream of making a life centered on music. How the latter came to be--through Bocelli's beginnings as a casual lounge singer, his chance association with Italian pop artist Zucchero, and other similar encounters--has an almost fairy-tale aura in Felix's retelling. We also learn of the central importance of Bocelli's family life, his Catholic faith, and his philosophy of determined optimism.
Felix provides some background on Italian operatic tradition to help place Bocelli in cultural context. There are thumbnail sketches of such figures as Verdi and Puccini and discussions of their importance for Bocelli; readers unfamiliar with operatic history but attracted to this aspect of Bocelli's career will find them helpful. This isn't the kind of biography that gives all relevant perspectives: in her discussion of one pivotal moment of Bocelli's career--his performance in La Bohème in 1998--Felix blithely passes over the negative press accounts and the substance of their criticisms. The tone throughout is rather that of a glowing admiration for her subject. That said, Felix writes in lucid, unfussy journalistic prose, and though a more thorough consideration of the Bocelli phenomenon remains to be written, her portrayal will be of great interest to fans who know the singer only from his presence on disc. The book is beautifully produced and richly illustrated with black-and-white as well as color photos. --Thomas May
"'Dear Zucchero, sing your song "Miserere" with Andrea Bocelli since there is nobody better than him.'" - Luciano Pavarotti introducing Andrea Bocelli at the Pavarotti International, 1995.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.