Andrea Bocelli enchants at the opening ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai
Music, sensitivity, talent. Our exclusive interview with the world-famous tenor
The finale of the Expo 2020 Dubai opening ceremony was entrusted to the voice of world famous Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli. The glittering event, staged by Italian-Belgian artistic director, Franco Dragone, took place on the rotating stage with the world’s largest immersive audio-visual installation in Al Wasl Plaza, the beating heart of Expo 2020. As Bocelli performed the closing number, The Prayer, in Italian and English, while a choreography of illuminated floating clouds formed a Ghaf tree, the UAE’s national tree and Expo symbol, a roar of applause greeted the voice of the celebrated tenor whose long, international career has been driven by a desire to share emotions, music, and talent with a wide audience. The same spirit with which ten years ago he set up the AB Foundation, now based in Florence, to make a great philanthropic dream a reality.
How did you feel when you were asked to open Expo 2020 Dubai, and then during the event?
Expo represents an important showcase, an opportunity to take stock of the status of humanity, of progress made, and the ethical, scientific and humanistic strategies and paths to follow to make the world a better place. I was also very excited because it gave me a tangible sense of a world-wide reopening. I consider it a privilege to have taken part in this great artistic show created by Franco Dragone for the occasion: a triumph of beauty and poetry, of sounds, colors and nature. I believe music can be a perfect metaphor for the theme of this Expo: it is a universal language, it opens the heart and the mind, connects, brings together and helps us be better people. Mine was a contribution in line with those values represented by the image of the Ghaf tree, a riot of colors and blooming flowers. I sang The Prayer, a song very close to my heart, a sort of universal prayer that not coincidently evokes the possible connection that unites the whole of humanity in an embrace, in the name of goodness.
Dubai is one of the world’s great cities, what impressions did this latest visit leave you with?
It’s a city I know well, a fascinating, high-energy country where, as I always say, you can feel the future in the air (and where, furthermore, they appreciate and understand the sensitivity and timeless beauty of Italian song and operatic repertoire). I think it’s the perfect venue for the universal expo, even more so since it perfectly embodies the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. I love Dubai and always enjoy returning to this culturally vibrant, stimulating country. New ideas and the most ambitious architectural challenges germinate here. It’s always fascinating to experience first-hand the power of nature on one hand, and man’s ingenuity in harnessing it on the other. Also during my latest trip, I had the distinct feeling of a very strong connection with this great people, whose culture, including music, is so very rich and refined.
Your name is on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, you’ve sung in top opera houses, from Carnegie Hall to the Metropolitan – how do you see the story of your artistic career?
A bit like a fairytale. In a few years I’ve had the most exciting, incredible experiences an artist can imagine or hope for. I’ve sung in the world’s most beautiful places, and above all, had the privilege of listening up close to some its greatest voices. For a voice aficionado like me, it has been one the greatest gifts of my life.
The AB Foundation promotes concrete musical, humanitarian and training projects. How do you feel about this dream come true?
It is a source of great satisfaction. ABF has grown a lot in these ten years, beyond even the rosiest forecast, yet is still firmly anchored to its founding principles and mission, “Empowering People and Communities”. It is a big extended family that promotes projects around the world designed to offer opportunities - especially to young people – to develop their talents. Our faith in love and justice calls upon us to build a better world than the one we have found. It calls upon us to give back to the world all the good things that we have received, so that the less fortunate or the most vulnerable members of our society will have a chance to achieve a life full of opportunities and beauty, so that those who are worthy will find real opportunities and the energy required to thrive in their lives.
What are your most important engagements in 2022?
The diary is packed as always - more so than ever, because many of the commitments planned for 2020 onwards had to be postponed due to the health emergency. Next year’s schedule is full of tours and recordings. A date I want to mention here is July 28, the day of the 17th Teatro del Silenzio, an annual artistic event held in my home town Lajatico, in the Tuscan hills. 2022 will be a year marked by new beginnings, with an event that will again express the full potential of one the world’s most unique locations. Our aim is to revive the magic of a special performance, aided by many famous artist friends and the Teatro del Silenzio Orchestra. A joyful experience that, as is traditional at Lajatico, will offer a parallel score of colours and mesmerising scenography and messages of trust and positivity. We should all remember that art (and the music that is the voice of art, and life celebrated by art) always triumphs. Teatro del Silenzio is a project that has marked more than half of my career, and which is once again launching its own challenge, with a commitment to live up to expectations and, if possible, exceed them.