Andrea Bocelli’s tenor bravado boomed louder then ever at Honda Center on Sunday night during the Orange County stop on his Passione Tour. But the two-hour show wasn’t without its technical difficulties and strange duet mash-ups.
With: David Foster, Maria Aleida, Caroline Campbell, Fantasia
Where: Honda Center, Anaheim
When: June 9
Main set: Ouverture/ La mia letizia infondere/ La donna e mobile/ Bolero/ Di tu, se fedele/ Di quella pira/Je veux vivre/ Nuit d’hymenee/ O soave fanciulla/ Brindisi/ Ouverture ‘O surdato ‘nnamurato/ Granada/ Funiculì, Funiculà/ Czardas/ Era gia tutto previsto/ La vie en rose/ Love in Portofino/ Summertime/ When I Fall in Love/ Il canto della terra/
Encore: Quizás, Quizás, Quizás/ The Prayer/ New York New York/ Con te partirò/ Nessun Dorma/
Kohn skillfully conducted more than 100 musicians from California State University Fullerton’s University Singers and the world-class Los Angeles Festival Orchestra, which lent a majestic, full-bodied tone to the evening’s music. He also served as Bocelli’s eyes for the evening, guiding the master tenor – who lost his vision at age 12 – to and from the microphone for all entrances and exits.
During the first half, Bocelli paid homage to Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday by incorporating seven of the great composer’s pieces in the set. Other first-half highlights included performances of “La Donna e mobile” and “Brindisi.”
Bocelli’s vocal prowess in both sacred repertoire and popular ballads is undeniable. His powerful, heroic timbre, along with his range, profound control and commanding presence, makes for an overwhelming live experience. Interestingly enough, Bocelli’s lack of sight seems to intensify his passion and lyrical interpretation.
Cuban soprano Aleida’s rendition of “Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s opera “Roméo et Juliette” was also well-received. She brought an effervescent energy to the medium waltz through her animated storytelling and impeccable execution. Not only was her control enviable as she effortlessly weaved from note to note, but Aleida’s upper register possessed an enchanting, ethereal quality.
Concert-goers squealed with delight when Kohn announced that Bocelli would pay respect to Puccini by adding the love duet “O soave fanciulla,” from the opera “La Bohème” to the lineup.
Aside from a brief “thank you,” Bocelli refrained from speaking during the first half. As he sang pensively at his microphone for the next 45 minutes, he quickly became a distant music deity. But when Foster arrived for the second half, Bocelli’s demeanor changed.
The second half, running roughly 90 minutes, brought out a brighter side of Bocelli with crowd favorites such as “Granada” and “Funiculì, Funiculà,” both from Bocelli’s 12th studio album,Incanto.
The highlight of the night, however, goes to Campbell, who played a gut-wrenching version of “Czardas” by Monti. Within the first few notes of her poignant, unaccompanied solo, the violinist captured the attention of nearly everyone as emotion poured from her crying instrument.
Then Foster, another guest, appeared onstage, grabbed the mic and gave the audience a rather long-winded disclosure statement about how his troublesome ride in traffic from Malibu had prevented him from attending the pre-show rehearsal.
Maybe Foster jinxed himself. From the start of “Era gia tutto previsto,” he was a beat behind the orchestra on piano, indicating something had obviously gone awry. Foster stopped the orchestra and Bocelli mid-phrase to shore up some glitches with his in-ear monitor.
After another false start and a few ad-libs by Foster, the audience cheered in relief when he counted the orchestra off for real.
“Era gia tutto previsto” showcased Bocelli’s rich lower register and a passionate lyrical interpretation. In fact, Bocelli’s new music from Passione is some of his most heartfelt work to date.
In “La Vie en Rose,” another song from the album, the late Edith Piaf’s musical spirit was brought back to life by mixing Bocelli’s live singing with Piaf’s original recording of the song. What resulted was a cleverly constructed duet that transported the audience back to the streets of France during the 1940s.
But when eight-time Grammy nominee Fantasia joined Bocelli on stage for three final songs, the evening got a little less pleasant.
Fantasia first took the stage for her solo rendition of the Gershwin classic “Summertime.” Although her voice possesses great agility, her shrieking tones in the upper register made it almost unbearable.
And when Bocelli joined for the operatic duet “Il canto della terra,” the two looked like the odd couple. Fantasia seemed rather cartoon-like and out of place next to the full-voiced, refined opera legend.
Aleida joined Bocelli for the first encore song, “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás,” also from Passione. To make up for the earlier technical gaffes, Foster accompanied Bocelli and Aleida on piano for two verses and choruses of “The Prayer.”
Then Bocelli topped off the evening with “Con te partirò” and Kander & Ebb’s “New York, New York,” in which Foster showcased his versatility among styles and keen jazz phrasing ability. Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” closed the show, with Bocelli fittingly saving the best note for last.
$ell SmArt… with Art!