My friends and I saw Andrea Bocelli's Hollywood Bowl concert last Sunday. Wow. I mean it, WOW!!
I didn't know what to expect. I certainly was impressed with the Opera classics from Verdi, Puccini and Bizet selections that made up the bulk of the evening's first half, in which the Italian tenor was joined by baritone Luis Ledesma and soprano Ana Maria Martinez with Steven Mercurio conducting the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Cal State Fullerton choir. What a treat!! We were all tickled pink (or was the sangria?)
Anyway, it was quite a diverse audience: I saw a girl wearing a button with the rock band KISS' logo on her jacket as she accompanied her grandfather, Donald Trump and (I heard) Kirk Douglas in the front boxes, and the proud parents of "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee, who performed two duets with Bocelli later in the show. Sorry folks, not a fan of American Idol to begin with, now I am less of a fan.
There was a decidedly looser feel in the second half of his performance, both in the audience and on stage, where the music skewed to movie (they showed the classic American cinema kissing scenes that were part of the movie, "Cinema Paradisimo") and romance standards, Italian mixed a little with English. Damn, I really missed David then.
What was clear from the moment Bocelli returned to the stage for his first song after intermission and was greeted with whoops (mostly me) and wolf whistles — eliciting the cutest, most genuine sheepish grin from the Andrea, who had been fairly staid and somber in the first half. It was hard to take a picture of his elusive smile!
To Andrea's credit, although he didn't stray far from the tried-and-true in the operatic portions, he also didn't pander to the audience. The only everybody-knows-it piece in the first half was the Toreador song from "Carmen," performed by Ledesma, hamming it up thoroughly. (Remember the theme song to the original Bad News Bears?) The singers separately and together showed notable talent (if in limited settings, certainly not as demanding as sustaining a full opera performance). And Bocelli may not be the most artistic of singers, but he has fine control and the rich tone of a classic Italian tenor, besides, the man just plain rocks!!
Even Mercurio (the most handsome, athletic, energetic conductor I've ever witnessed) got in the act, nearly tripping on the podium and turning it into a little slapstick gag. Bocelli too became more of a showman as things wore on. Following a singer-less orchestra showcase of a tango, Bocelli returned, having changed from his black tails into a white dinner jacket. This, he explained, was the way he had to dress to perform songs from his recent "Amore" album which is a collection of classic love songs, and then sang "Besame Mucho" in crooner mode with a hand-held microphone. (swoooonnn!!)
The mood continued as McPhee slinked on stage to show off her crossover chops on "Somos Novios", taking the role sung by Christina Aguilera on Bocelli's recording. How do I say this... uhm... it was bad. It didn't get any better when she took on Celine Dion's role on an encore duet of "The Prayer," with composer-producer (and all-around-great-guy) David Foster joining at the piano. Her appearance in the show was disappointing and they should have just let the soprano Maria do those songs.
Can you imagine?? Even Donald Trump got into the act, coming on stage to present Bocelli with a platinum CD award for the million-plus sales of "Amore," it almost felt like an old-fashioned variety show. Almost. ;) Regardless of younger newbies Josh Groban and Michael Bublé, For me, Bocelli stands above the all crowd-pleasing romanticists.
...and yes, darkness cloaked the tears bringing in my eyes during the last half of the concert. This was such a fun, touching and memorable times of my life. I am glad to have shared it with my best friends and look forward to many more concerts at the bowl.Click here for pre-concert and Concert pics!!