Andrea Bocelli emotional tribute on idol Franco Corelli centenary ‘He ignited my passion’

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Andrea has described how his nanny Orianna encouraged his love of music, and opera, in particular. One day, at the family home in Lajatico, she gave him a recording of Corelli performing the opera Andrea Chenier by Umberto Giordano. Andrea has said it changed his life. Today he spoke of his love and admiration for the tenor, after who he recently named a new music school. And more than 50 years after he first heard that recording, he also finally performed the same role on stage. SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH

Today, Andrea said: “I was a child when I heard his voice for the first time and it was a shock. An overwhelming call touched my heart, ignited my imagination by taking me by the hand and introducing me to a whole new world.

“It was the spark that inflamed a passion that would then lead me to undertake the study of singing.

“On the centenary of his birth, my thoughts full of gratitude go to the tenor Franco Corelli, a charismatic artist, a great and vibrant voice, full of feelings, who has given the world unforgettable performances.”

Andrea added: “The superlative testimony of his example showed me the way to go, not to reach, but to get closer to his magnificent freedom in the management of the dynamics of sound.

“As a boy, I consumed his records. Years later I had the joy of becoming his pupil, establishing a relationship of mutual respect and, on my part, of real devotion.

“We are what we are able to give: the great Maestro Corelli, who remains alive in the heart of those who have heard his voice, also reminds us of this.” 

All those years ago, one aria in particular struck the child and has stayed with him ever since.

Andrea recalled the moment: “All of a sudden the orchestra introduced the recitative of the improvviso, Un dì, all’azzurro spazio, and finally a voice filled the pauses of the

orchestra. A large and extremely vibrant voice, brimming with feelings, filled with an indescribable pain that went straight to the heart.

Watch Franco Corelli and Andrea Bocelli sing l’improviso from Andrea Chenier below.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZfmaXu6bxUE

Andrea added: “It was a broad singing, free, spontaneous, sweet at times roaring at others, but always authoritative and dominating.

“Chénier, the poet [the main character] was addressing the theme of love in a general sense. Franco Corelli in that record seemed to deal with the subject of love for his art: the art of singing, that art capable of involving, of touching.

“I was just a child, but listening to that certainly marked my destiny.”

Not only did Corelli have one of the greatest tenors in opera history, but he was also a rebel who attacked classical teaching techniques and developed his own way to use his impressive voice – something he was able to pass on to Bocelli many years later.

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https://www.youtube.com/embed/i6gBS7glDLc

Dario Franco Corelli was born on April 8, 1921, in Ancona. His grandfather had been a successful operatic tenor and young Franco’s talent was spotted and he studied opera at the Pesaro Conservatory of Music.

But Corelli believed traditional teachers limited and even damaged the voice and called them “a plague on singers. Instead, he developed his own techniques which lowered the larynx to allow a larger “cavernous” sound but he could also “float” the larynx, allowing greater control and purity.

His fame spread in the 1950s and in n1961 he made his debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera. Corelli became one of the Met’s main headliners for the next 14 years – a world-famous, huge box office draw.

Across a glittering career, Corelli sang opposite fellow greats like Joan Sutherland and Maria Callas. Some purist critics refused to accept his unique full-throated voice (Callas suffered similar criticisms) but Corelli thrilled his fans on stage and on his many recordings.

After he retired in 1976, and despite his previous comments about teachers, Corelli took select students. Including a young rising star, Andrea Bocelli.

Andrea previously said: “When I was a boy, I literally used up his records. Years later I was so lucky to study with him and eventually establish a relationship of mutual esteem which on my side was of true devotion.”

Andrea added: “In the field of singing a teacher is like a doctor, if you find the right one you make great progress, if you find the wrong one, you run the risk to be ruined forever.”

Corelli’s signature piece from Andrea Chenier and the full opera are regarded as one of the greatest challenges for any tenor.

Andrea finally staged his own production for one night only at the Teatro del Silenzio in his hometown of Lajatico in 2018 when he stood with a full cast and orchestra and performed the very same aria that first ignited his love of opera.

From small boy to world-famous tenor of 62, Andrea has always expressed his admiration and love for Corell, which culminated in December 2020 when he opened the Franco Corelli Music Academy in Camerino.

Central Italy had been hit by a series of earthquakes in October 2016. Hundreds were killed and many towns devastated. The Andrea Bocelli Foundation funded a series of community regeneration projects, including the school in Camerino.

At the opening ceremony. Andrea said: “Franco Corelli… was my inspiration, maestro and great friend. If his voice had not touched my heart, perhaps I would have done something else, perhaps become a lawyer.”

Instead, Andrea has become one of teh most beloved singers in the world and has started to pass on what he learned to his son Matteo and young daughter Virginia.

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