Today he is one of the most famous Italians in the world; everyone is delighted with his voice, a statement which is supported by the fact that more than 110 million of his CDs were sold. And he was not supposed to be born – doctors had recommended to his mother to have an abortion as there was a risk that the child would be born disabled. Mrs. Edi did not listen to the doctors and continued this difficult pregnancy, which was further complicated by problems with her health. Thanks to the courageous decision of this Italian woman, on September 22, 1958 Andrea was born. He was born with congenital glaucoma, which affected his eye sight – at the age of 12 he completely lost his sight as a result of a heavy blow to the head during soccer play. Young Tuscan lost his sight, but he did not lose the voice, thanks to which he made an outstanding career and became one of the most famous singers in the world.
Today, Andrea Bocelli has concerts all over the world; everywhere crowds of fans are waiting for him, but when he can, he returns to Lajatico, his home town in Tuscany, which he loves so much. Here is the house where he lives with his family; here he is preparing for each tour and concert, also here he is preparing for the concert scheduled to take place on January 23 of this year in Poland at the Ergo Arena in Gdańsk.
Before his departure to our country maestro Bocelli gave me a special interview in which he talked about his childhood, career, music, faith and relationships with the Popes and especially with John Paul II.
Włodzimierz Rędzioch – You were born in Lajatico, a small village on the hills, near Pisa, in the Valdera region. You spent your childhood among olive groves and fields in this wonderful land of Tuscany. Why today, when you become the “man of the world,” you are always coming back here, to your family home?
Andrea Bocelli - In the heart of Tuscany and among the purely peasant culture I have learned a hierarchy of values which have shaped my life, and which in a way I’m passing on when I sing. Therefore with Lajatico and Valdera region, I’m connected with very deep feeling. The more I travel due to my work, the more I want to go back to the countryside to find peace and recharge. Besides, in this part of Tuscany, I still have many friends and relatives, my mother also lives here. That’s why I’m coming back here whenever my work duties allow me.
- Maestro, you mentioned your mother Edi. When in 1958 she was pregnant doctors advised her to have an abortion, as there was a risk that the child she was carrying in her womb many be born disabled. The mother, however, said “no” to doctors and thanks to this you were born. What this story should tell the world where parents by all costs want to have “perfect” children and in which it is so easy to have an abortion?
- I revealed these details about my birth, to give a spark of hope and make a small contribution to the psychological support for all those women who for various reasons do not have the strength in themselves to defend life, which they carry in their wombs.
- How did you discover that you have a great voice and how did you become one of the most famous singers of the world?
- I was always told that I have a good and recognizable voice. But, I enrolled in the vocal studies when I was already an adult. In my life, two meeting turned out to decisive: the first – with maestro Luciano Bettarini, and the second one – with great Franco Corelli. I managed to get famous after a long period of internship and many “closed doors.” To accomplish my life plan, I worked a lot with a great dedication, imposed a strict discipline and tried to get as many good habits as it was possible. In the end, all went well. I wish that my story – told through the media – will be helpful to someone due to the message that it is carrying. Namely, that there are no dreams that are impossible to realize – it is important to believe that it will come true, pursue them with seriousness, honesty and humility.
- Today’s world is becoming more and more secularized, despite that you, Maestro, are dealing – creating a great interest in the audience - sacred music. How do you explain this phenomenon? Is man always in need of sacrum?
- How you can skip the sacred dimension? Without it, our existence would be empty. Lack of sacrum would be a cause of despair; it would be a tragedy that was announced. For me interpreting the sacred is a form of prayer. Music is the voice of the soul, moving along the paths that penetrate the most intimate sphere of our psyche. Potentially, music can be a mystical experience.
- For several centuries, the West is trying to separate reason from faith. What is worse, it is believed that faith is incompatible with reason. Maestro claims to be a believer. Where your faith is coming from?
My faith was born in adulthood, when some existential questions become urgent. I realized that making any choice, we stand at a crossroad going in opposite directions – one is leading toward the good, the second – in the direction of evil. To live in belief that a fate directs it is not only not appropriate, but also not very logical and reasonable. This is elementary reasoning which allows to make the right decision, and the first fundamental choice that we must make is: to believe or not to believe. I chose the path that seemed more logical, which my intelligence, though limited, identified as a path without alternative. Faith is truly a priceless gift that I try to maintain and deepen, and it supports me day after day. I don’t think that the faith is contrary to reason.
- As an artist and as a believer, you are very devoted to Our Lady. Why this predilection for Mary?
- Mary is the road that leads to the Father, our Heavenly Mother, Comforter and Mediatrix. It is no coincidence that over the centuries music was able to sing, to pray and call Her through the extraordinary work.
- In your long career, you were singing in front of millions of people – including four US presidents and three popes – not to mention the millions of albums sold. As a Pole, I’m especially interested what memories you retained about John Paul II?
- Pope John Paul II is “an extraordinary spirit,” who for us believers, already during His lifetime, as pope, represented shining bond between the earthly existence and Transcendence. Enlightened by a special grace was a charismatic figure. He was a saint, who knew how in a simple way talk to people, who attracted to Catholicism new generations. Pope who changed history, He was the driving force and the hero of the epoch-making changes, also geopolitical. I had several times the honor and pleasure of singing in front of John Paul II – I carry within the memories of those moments. For me, His canonization was a great joy and provided a lot of emotions.
- Benedict XVI, who is a great lover and connoisseur of music, once said that real music is born from the experience of love, sadness, and encounters with the Divine. Maestro, do you agree with this statement?
- It seems to me that this is a very beautiful reflection about music, deep and subtle, reflecting the sensitivity of the person who said it.
- Pope Francis is less sensitive to music, but eager to hear singing. He recently said to the young singers form “Pueri Cantores” choir: “If I would sing, then I will resemble a donkey, as I cannot sing.” But there is something that connects you: sensitivity to the poor and needy. You, Maestro, even founded a foundation which bears your name. What exactly the Andrea Bocelli Foundation (ABF) do?
- ABF’s mission is to help individuals or groups which are in difficult situation due to illness, poverty, social exclusion as well as on supporting national and international projects which contribute to the overthrow of such barriers and help to extract human potentials. The balance of the first four years is very good. I will quote some figures: conversion of 3 street schools into functional and safe school facilities, which are used for free by 1.6 thousand children and where they also receive meals (these are schools in St. Augustin, Notre Dame du Rosaire and St. Philomene in Haiti); more than 20 million liters of water is delivered to the slums of Cité Soleil (Haiti); providing basic support to 360 families in refugee camps (Iraq); showers in Rome, which are used daily by 80 homeless people; financing 15 scientists who are working on a prototype device which would increase autonomy of the blind.
- Together, with the pontifical Council for the Family you organized a series of concerts. This initiative is accompanied by the slogan: “The great mystery: the Gospel of the family as a school of humanity for our times.” Why it is so important to protect family in the world in which attitudes of individualism and selfishness are promoted?
- I think that the family is the basic element of society – where we shape our emotions. This is a privileged place where we seek harmony and mutual respect. The family is the space where we learn – and teach others – to choose the good in every action; trying to implement in our lives these Christian values which our parents pass on us and which we have a duty to pass to our children. The sense of family ties is what each of us experienced as a child, living in the family, if we were very lucky to have one. Those who think that they can live without family, that they can destroy it according to they own whim, apparently are putting their own “I” on the place of God and they lost the memory of what he/she received as a child – a treasure of boundless and unconditional love. Thus, a family should be defended with a pure heart of the child and I’m also trying to do this will all my strength.
- From time to time you have concerts in Poland. With what feelings you visit the country of John Paul II?
- I love the country of John Paul II; I love its people, their sensitivity. I love great artists, which Poland has, extraordinary historic places and stately churches adoring Polish cities. I appreciate the way you are experiencing music, the warmth with which you are always welcoming me. Whenever I come back from Poland, I’m full of positive energy and I bring back home fond memories. Thus, every time when I go on stage, I try to give everything, in a way, to express my gratitude and reciprocate love and kindness which I experience.