Andrea Bocelli is an Italian opera singer known for the gentle lyricism and warm tone in his voice that enchant his audiences.
“When it comes to classical music, and opera in particular, there is no one who is more of a purist than I am,” Bocelli told reporter David Ng in December 2009. “I have never mixed the two.” This statement may seem as crazy as the murderous Lucia de Lammermoor, but it helps explain the huge appeal of this definitive classical crossover music star.
Bocelli, born in 1958 in Lajatico, in Tuscany, is the top-selling solo recording artist in classical music history and a major bridge from pop to opera for many listeners. He was born with glaucoma and has been blind since the age of 12, when he was struck in the face by a soccer ball at school.
He practiced law for a brief time before he began to pursue his musical career.
After studying with the tenor Franco Corelli, he was discovered by the Italian pop star Zucchero in 1992. A splashy win at the Sanremo Song Festival in 1994 catapulted him to fame, and since then, he has released more than a dozen studio albums, eight full opera recordings, and several concert DVDs.
In 2002, he wrote an ingratiating memoir called "The Music of Silence" in which he frankly described his blindness, the pains and prejudices he confronted as a kid, and years he scraped by as a piano player in bars and clubs in his native Tuscany.
He acknowledged that his book was poorly translated from Italian into English, which may explain why it quickly disappeared in the U.S. after being published. Still, it lays bare a little hellion — his parents called him Terremoto (earthquake) — behind the international hits.
Bocelli has sung for popes and queens and at the memorial service at ground zero in New York after 9/11 and at Luciano Pavarotti’s funeral in 2007. He’s performed duets with Celine Dion and with "Sesame Street’s" Elmo. Critics may declare his voice weak and unpredictable, but as the embodiment of classical gravitas in a pop age, he’s broken through boundaries even as he maintains that air of purism that makes him so attractive to so many.