My baby is like my voice… a gift from God: Andrea Bocelli on singing and his new daughter
22:11 GMT, 12 July 2012
When Andrea Bocelli first held his baby daughter Virginia in his arms, he buried his face in the sweet smell of her and sang Ange Adorable from the opera Romeo And Juliette.
She is, he tells me now, ‘an angel’, ‘an innocent’ — the product of ‘a love story’ with his partner Veronica.
Andrea, 53, met Veronica, who at 29 is young enough to be his daughter, at a party ten years ago, shortly after his separation from his wife Enrica, with whom he has sons Amos, 17, and Matteo, 14. They spent the night together and Veronica never left.
Proud parents: Andrea Bocelli, right, with his partner Veronica and their baby daughter Virginia
But Andrea, a Roman Catholic, remains married, in the eyes of the God he believes in, to Enrica, who lives next door to his stunning villa home in the seaside town of Forte dei Marmi. He’d like to marry Veronica, but says it is ‘a legal matter’.
‘We will marry. I’d certainly have preferred to be married [when we had the baby], and I will do everything I can to be married soon,’ says Andrea.
‘But after ten years with Veronica, I think it was fair, especially for her. I think it is completely natural from a love story to have a child.
‘What strikes you with newborns is the special sweet smell all babies have.
'I already have two boys, so I knew the sensation of having a small baby in your hands. Every time, you feel such tenderness.
‘My sons were at the hospital, too, when Virginia was born. We were all emotional. We were all pretty moved by it.’
And he still looks pretty moved now, sitting cross-legged in an armchair in his high-ceilinged reception hall.
'So much so, you can’t help but feel how tough it must be for him not to be able to see his four-month-old little daughter.
Andrea Bocelli believes his voice is a gift from God, here he is pictured at a performance in Central Park's Great Lawn, in New York, last year
For that matter, he’s never seen his sons either. How many of his 75 million album sales would he give for the chance to, I want to ask.
But I can’t. Andrea, you see, only gives interviews ‘if you please don’t ask about his blindness’. In fact, he’s been known to leave the room when mention of it is made.
Given that I’ve flown to Pisa to meet the Italian tenor at his villa, it’s probably best to play along.
Still, it does seem a bit daft. Rather like interviewing the Pope and skipping around the subject of abortion.
Not that Andrea would. He is passionately pro-life and two years ago posted a video on the web expressing his views.
In it, he sits at a piano and recounts a ‘little story’ about a young pregnant woman who’s admitted to hospital mis-diagnosed with appendicitis.
After tests, ‘the doctors advised her
to abort the child. They told her that would be the best solution
because the child would doubtless be born with some kind of disability.
the courageous young wife decided not to terminate the pregnancy and
the child was born. The woman was my mother. I was the child.’
Andrea has invited me into his former artist colony home to promote his forthcoming UK arena tour.
To tell the truth, I don’t think he
much likes being interviewed, for he’s wagging his foot to and fro so
vigorously you fear it’ll fall off, and hiding behind a pair of
sunglasses which, given we’re sitting inside and, of course, that
please- don’t-ask-about thing, seems weird.
Leading ladies: Bocelli has performed with some of the greatest female voices including Sarah Brightman, left, at the Classical Brit Awards 2008 and Christina Aguilera, right, at an Italian music festival in 2006
But Andrea makes a habit of doing things that scare him half to death.
Take performing. ‘Stage fright is my worst problem,’ he says.
‘A voice is very intimate. It’s something of your own. So there’s always this fear, because you feel naked. There’s a fear of not reaching up to expectations.
'As you become more famous, people come and expect to hear something extraordinary, so you don’t want to disappoint them. I feel this sense of responsibility.’
But if it scares him that much, why do it
It’s not as if he’s short of a bob or two. Indeed, this is a man who has complained that he feels ‘contaminated’ by his estimated 30 million fortune. ‘Firstly, it’s the only thing I’m able to do,’ he says. ‘Secondly, you can’t kick fortune in the teeth.
‘Thirdly, and most importantly, music is part of my life and it’s something I could never give up.’
doesn’t really explain why he puts himself through hell to sing on
stage, but we are using an interpreter, so, maybe, some of it is being
lost in translation.
music ‘had a hypnotic power’ over him from an early age. ‘Now, it
doesn’t have that power any more because I’ve listened to so much music.
It can move me, but it doesn’t have this extraordinary whirlwind power
that it had when I was a child.’
big break came in 1992 when Pavarotti heard a recording of him singing
and declared: ‘There is no finer voice than Bocelli.’
Giants united: Bocelli takes the hand of Luciano Pavarotti, left, before performing during the “Pavarotti and Friends 2002” charity concert
Andrea believes his voice is a ‘gift from God’. ‘And not only the voice — everything is,’ he says. ‘My life experience has taught me nothing happens by chance. Even the idea of the ball in a roulette game: it’s not chance it ends up in a certain place. It’s forces that are at play.’
Although it was, in truth, a stroke of bad luck that robbed him of his sight in the first place. Born with poor eyesight and eventually diagnosed with congenital glaucoma, he went completely blind when he was 12 and playing football.
The ball was a weighted one for partially sighted people, so you can hear it. It was whacked in his one good eye, causing a haemorrhage.
‘It took a good hour or so to spill all his tears of fear and dismay,’ he says in his autobiography, The Music Of Silence. ‘And a full week to get used to his new circumstances.’
After that, he adds, he ‘put it all behind him’. Andrea was, you see, ‘a country boy’ raised by loving, affluent parents in rural Tuscany. ‘I don’t like crying,’ he says.
‘I’m a country boy and we’re the product of our upbringing. As a boy, I was told that men don’t cry.’
They also, it seems, refuse to be defined by their disability. He is, he says, a ‘risk taker — anywhere there was a risk, I’d be there,’ he says.
‘Riding a horse that was rather lively, or parachute jumping, or, if I was skiing, going down the most dangerous run.’
He also ran with the girls — lots of girls.
‘The female universe always struck me,’ he says. ‘I’ve always been in love, all through my life. I’ve been engaged, so to speak, a few times. I was quite naughty from this point of view.
‘Even when I was somebody’s boyfriend, I had these moments of distraction.’
Royal performance: The Queen shakes Andrea Bocelli's hand at a Royal National Institute of the Blind reception in 2003
Andrea is warming to the theme. In fact, his foot has stopped wagging and he’s ditched the translator. It seems he can speak the language of love in many tongues.
Whether or not these ‘distractions’ led to the end of his marriage to Enrica, he doesn’t say. But, in 2002, he was served with a court order at his Tuscany home while his wife was on holiday with their sons in the mountains. She wanted a separation.
Within days, in accordance with Italian law, the locks on the house were changed and he was only able to see his sons on dates agreed by a judge.
He says he felt ‘rage and desperation which accompanied a feeling of impotence and insecurity’.
He didn’t cry, but bought a small property a few yards from his house and ‘became quiet, pensive and sad’.
Then, as he writes in his autobiography, one morning in May he woke up and thought: ‘No, I will not put up with this. It cannot be like this. This is not how one should give up . . .
‘I have to face life with a newly found passion. I must rediscover the irresistible will to learn, to live and to love.’
A few days later, he went to a party, met Veronica and asked her: ‘Do you have to go home tonight’ And, well, let’s just say their love story began.
Have there been any ‘distractions’ since then ‘No,’ he says, then turns to me and adds: ‘Any case, it’s a question one could not answer.’
So that’s a perhaps/perhaps not, then Finally, Bocelli smiles. Things are looking up.
Right, time to cross this daft please-don’t-ask-about-his-blindness line.
After all, some of us are so tone deaf we’d scare the living daylights out of a baby if we were to belt out Ange Adorable. He can ask me any question he wants about that.
But, I’m too late . . . ‘Well, thank you very much,’ he says. And he’s off out the room.
Andrea Bocelli tours the UK and Ireland November 6-15. For more information and tickets, visit kililive.com