Madison Square Garden, 11/30/06
Guests: Soprano Ailyn Perez, Baritone Luis Ledesma, and Nita Whitaker
With: The New York City Opera Orchestra & New York Choral Society
Conductor: Maestro Steven Mercurio
The 2006 holiday season has been a particularly good one in live music. There have been options for everyone, from the traditional, to the elegant, to the kooky. There have even been a surprising number of choices for the non-Christian revelers among us, with a great showing of Hanukkah shows for our Hebraic brothers and sisters.
I was fortunate enough to catch a healthy share of phenomenal shows, and for that I give thanks in the spirit of the season. Just after Thanksgiving, the famed Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli, brought his class act to NY's Madison Square Garden. Who can top free tix for 10th row seats to see the most richly sonorous voice of his generation in opera?! If any were concerned that we'd be lacking any Super-Tenors to take up the mantle after Pavarotti's retirement and Domingo deigns to decline future recordings and roles, never fear. Bocelli is poised and ready for world conquest.
Not Ti Scordar Di Me
As I learned on 11/30, Bocelli is already a superstar. Not just a superstar, but a megastar. The adoration with which he was met by the crowd at MSG was truly something to behold. And even if Bocelli himself is not physically able to behold the rapturous adoration in the faces and the standing ovations he received, there is no way he could miss the waves of love from the screaming crowd. It was easy to see the shared joy playing across his face as he nodded his thanks. Truly, I've never really seen anything quite like it.
Bocelli is met with such adulation for good reason. One of the most gifted vocalists in imbuing already beautiful music with depth of emotion, he knows how to bring the romance. He takes classical standards to the next level, reducing the audience to tears of awe. Whether we were overcomewith thebittersweet sadness of a piece from Il Trovatore, buoyed by the lighthearted fun of Danza's Funiculi, Funicula, or the famous "Torreador" refrain from Bizet's Carmen, it was with the romantic selections that Bocelli soared. He has taken old chestnuts and made them new again with the sheer beauty of his delivery. Of all of his selections, Con Te Partiro, the final song of the evening, for which he shared the spotlight with diminutive soprano Ailyn Perez, left me weepy at the sheer beauty of the melody, which builds to great heights. This man understands romance, or "romanza," as he titled on of his bestselling albums. Even ailyn Perez's heart was set a-flutter. Watch and believe:
Con Te Partiro
As a way to kick off the Christmas season, Bocelli's concedrt was an elegant evening, perfect for patrons of the arts, the older set, or anyone looking for a particularly classy date night. Believe me, anybody on a date that night got lucky, without a doubt.
But it wasn't all smoochy stuff, a la Besame Mucho. He also incorporated more traditional, seasonally evocative pieces, like the latin Panis Angelicus.
Surprisingly (to me at least), there seemed to be more selections en Espanol than in his native Italian. Take the festive Granada, one of Placido Domingo's trademark tunes, and Canche's Somos Novios, for which he was joined by Nita Whitaker. It's unfortunate that her R&B tinged vocal stylings were such a mismatch with the purity of Bocelli's delivery. If she added one more flourish, I thought I'd scream. But hers was truly the only false note of the whole evening. And it was crystal clear to me why every date on his US tours sell out completely, and whystanding o's last so long, even though the maestro isn't able to see his fans standing for him. Don't worry, however. He can feel them.