Finicky audience will tell whether they are going with Andrea Bocelli’s voices, whether it’s thin or raspy, whether he’s too heavy, or whether he’s stretches too far, whether he can’t quite fill the hall or the mind. Yet on Saturday it rose from the Milan Piazza del Duomo and was carried around the world.
The solo program “Music for Hope-Live From the Milano Cathedral” was broadcast live by Bocelli, 61, and was performed on Easter.
Nobody else was there apart from Emanuele Vianelli, a cathedral organist and the only accompaniment for Bocelli, but the show earned more than 22 million online viewers before the day had finished.
“I’m honored and glad to respond ‘Sì’ to inviting Milan and the Duomo on the day we celebrate the trust in a life that triumphs,” said Bocelli in an introductory voice-over with English subtitles.
The region of Lombardy-of which Milano is the capital-has been hit more heavily by covid 19 than anywhere in Italy with more than 57,000 novel coronavirus cases reported and more than 10,000 deaths, more than half of the nation’s deaths. “This year Milan and the whole of Italy will once again, very soon, be the winning model for a Revival that we all predict.”
If some cameras turned from Bocelli in the Duomo’s open rows or cut the drones of eerily clear roads in Milan, Brescia and Bergamo, the emptyness looked more like an inevitable presence – reflecting the chaos of the virus and the enduring endurance of those battling it.
Often, the empty cathedral felt like part of the music-the Bocelli skilfully sculpted as the program progressed.
It appeared hollow just beyond the Duomo’s walls and in the streets of the city of Paris, London, New York and in the rooms of my own apartment.
While millions of other people listened along, it was one of the loneliest services ever to attend, acoustically speaking. There were plenty of moments during the 20-minute performance that left Bocelli-challenged nitpickers, myself among them, as challenged and nitpicky as ever.
The output of Bocelli was ideal as a sign of the power of music to unite those divided by time, space or home orders.
In 2015, when Bocelli last sang in a Duomo accompanied by the pianist Lang Lang and the Orchestra del Teatro Alla Scala, I watched the footage of the 2015 World Expo in Milan.
The story of Bocelli was and is greater than life and so far away.
He was 4,000 miles away and yet felt closer than we’re allowed to be.