While scientifically speaking I may only be one-fifth Italian, in my heart, I feel as though I’m one hundred percent Italian-American. In my earliest film-going memory that isn’t comprised of singing, animated animals, I vividly recall accompanying my Italian mother and grandmother to see Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck. And while admittedly it didn’t make a major impression on me as a first-grader, as I grew I realized that I felt an unparalleled kinship with all things Italian.
Family and loyalty were what mattered most although filmmaker Martin Scorsese once said in an interview that we’re unwaveringly pessimistic by nature. And while this may be the case at times (as illustrated in some of the great Italian Neorealism films), on the other hand, we’re also incredibly romantic. Needless to say, this is evidenced most of all through the music of Italy, or more specifically as highlighted on Andrea Bocelli’s Incanto– via the sun-drenched seaside of Naples. Just like one doesn’t have to speak French to feel as though even when characters argue onscreen, it sounds quite ooh la la, one doesn’t need to understand Italian to get swept away by the passionate sounds of tarantellas, arias, and songs of amore.
While I can count the number of operas I’ve seen live and in person on a single finger, for the last decade, my life has been filled with the sounds of Italian music as my mother became a self-taught opera buff. Of course, certainly, there were times that I wanted to block out the noise of Puccini and Pavarotti with Radiohead or Bob Dylan, but there was one voice in particular that stood out above the rest—namely Andrea Bocelli.
Upon hearing the first few tracks of his breakthrough album Romanza, most notably the mesmerizing “Con te Partiro” which I still count as a personal favorite, there was just something in his unique delivery that drew you nearer to the sound, making you hit “repeat” to play Bocelli again and again. Like Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” amazingly, “Con te Partiro” never grew old nor did I ever grow insensitive to the way it builds towards that powerful crescendo; like most listeners worldwide, I was hooked.
Following astronomical sales of more than sixty-million albums to date as the Decca press release notes, “Bocelli continues to defy categorization, age barriers and labels of all kinds,” and while true opera snobs may consider his work to be more pop than authentic, his commitment to bringing the finest music from his homeland to everyone he can makes him a true international treasure. Having performed for two U.S. Presidents, Popes, royalty, and built bridges across the generations by working with American Idol contestants, singing alongside Christina Aguilera, Bono, and Pavarotti, I have yet to encounter an individual who has experienced Bocelli’s music that hasn’t been affected by it in some way.
And in his most recent offering—incidentally, one that I wouldn’t hesitate to call his best since Romanza—Bocelli pays homage to the music that has affected him the most by serving up a roster of “tunes [that] are classics, because they’re masterpieces," as he told Decca. Hitting shelves on November 4, 2008 in both CD format as well as a gorgeously boxed deluxe limited edition CD/DVD package, Incanto is comprised of fourteen unabashedly romantic and historically significant tracks. A personal tribute “to the great tenors he has admired his whole life,” as Bocelli revealed in the Decca notes, the album which coincides with Bocelli’s fiftieth birthday was compiled as a way “to make an album of all the songs I remember from my earliest childhood, the music of my roots.”