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Andrea Bocelli on Teatro del Silenzio, Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" and His Foundation

by Logan K. Young   Jul 30, 2015 00:50 AM EDT

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Wagner had Bayreuth in northern Bavaria. Years later, Pierre Boulez would get his IRCAM under the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. And on Thursday, July 27, 2006, on the outskirts of a frazione in the province of Pisa, finally, a lawyer-cum-tenor from nearby Lajatico christened his own grand edificio d'arte: Andrea Bocelli's Teatro del Silenzio.

The opening number that balmy evening? Apropos of a singer more wont for pop than Puccini--after all, Bocelli, OMRI remains the last proper tenor nominated for a Best New Artist GRAMMY--he sang-spake his way through "A Mio Padre," the last track from 1999's twice-platinum Sogno.

Back then, the Mauro Malavasi co-write was a song of paternal reconciliation. His father, Edi, having passed away six years prior, that night under the Tuscan moon, it had become all about Andrea.

In translation: "Nothing in the world / Will make me forget that / I can win." Or, Osare l'impossibile...lo so.

That is, "Dare the impossible...I know."

Since opening night at his "Theater of Silence," not unlike a certain man from La Mancha, Andrea Bocelli has gone on to realize a number of seemingly impossible dreams. He's concertized the globe, everywhere from the Nippon Budokan to Central Park's Great Lawn to the rebel fortress at Masada. He's performed with and for everyone, be it Corelli and Pope Benedict XVI or Mary J. Blige and the Obamas.

True, I haven't cross-referenced each source exhaustively, but Andrea Bocelli's probably the only blind, classical tenor to have made both the Guinness Book of Records and People's "50 Most Beautiful" issue. Without question, though, he is indeed the only singer worthy of a venue that's open just one, singular night each year.

CLASSICALITE: By now, we all know your origin story. So, let's talk the beginnings of Teatro del Silenzio, itself. It's early this century. You wish to build an en plein air amphitheater in your hometown that is silent 364 days a year. Why?

ANDREA BOCELLI: The Teatro del Silenzio was born of an idea from an architect friend of ours. This project was immediately supported and made partially by my brother Alberto, who is an architect, too. At first, I considered the idea a little crazy. After some hesitations, I strongly supported it, as I believe you must do when you embrace any project. As for silence, I think there are hidden treasures in it--just like in music, where the greatest energy is often hidden in the breaks. I think it is poetic and appropriate to dedicate a theater to silence, a place where, for almost the whole year, the characters on stage are peace and nature.

CL: Soon enough, the mayor of Lajatico signs on, as does the heir to the Fabbri amusement park fortune. Is that all it took: local politics and a lot of cash?

AB: Teatro del Silenzio has helped in raising awareness of our territory in the world. One more reason to celebrate and verify the validity of the project. Besides, through this event, I have been able to receive, in a place that I consider as my own home, many fellow artists. I celebrate with them the beauty of music and nature in a place that, as a landscape, has no equal.

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