Andrea Bocelli

Romanza

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This 1996 disc compiles music from the beginning of Andrea Bocelli's career, with tracks going back as far as 1992. At this point the blind Italian tenor, although trained in opera, was unabashedly a pop singer, just like the many other pop singers who have benefited from classical vocal training at one time or another. There is no controversy about whether Bocelli was a competent opera singer here, for there are no operatic arias, and not even any of the Neapolitan songs that he later essayed in American appearances -- all the music is contemporary, heavily string-enveloped (mostly) Italian pop. It was only later that Bocelli began to move into operatic territory -- a decision that brought down the wrath of much of the operatic community but also raised his international profile considerably. (The story of his reception would be worth some student's time to explore in depth.) It's worth remembering that Luciano Pavarotti's oft-cited endorsement of Bocelli referred to this stage of his career, not to his operatic ventures. Part of what appealed to Pavarotti may have been the consistent craftsmanship of the songs here; Pavarotti himself later recorded the evocative Caruso. These songs defined the Bocelli sound. He steered clear of his top register, using it only for occasional climactic effect, and mostly what he does here is all about the microphone -- he's a romantic crooner, and in that role he can stand with anybody else on the market today. There are a few clinkers. The concluding duet with Sarah Brightman -- Time to Say Goodbye (Con Ti Partirò) -- is forced. These two have some vocal traits in common and should blend well, but here Brightman has a tendency to sing the English lines with an affected Italian accent. Still, this is as good a place as any to start with the Italian tenor who has since become a worldwide phenomenon, and a sure-fire gift for someone who has experienced Bocelli's undoubted ability to snare listeners who get a taste of his voice in a chance encounter (as on a commercial for the Bellagio resort in Las Vegas). All Italian songs are translated into English in the booklet.

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