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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Andre Boccelli's Mephistophilean Bargain

Boccelli for the last 15 or so years, has owned a big portion of the 40+ mostly female "easy listening" market.  Those who would never, or rarely ever listen to opera, but like the bands and crooners Air Supply, Dean Martin, Perry Como, James Taylor, Jimmy Buffet, Josh Groban, Michael Buble, James Blunt etc. (My wife is a fan of his and the genre)  As he has an "operatic" type of voice, opera impresarios have attempted to use him as a vehicle to lure in his faithful crowd for their financial gain. The Teatro Carlo Felice currently has some financial difficulties, so they are hoping with 4 repetitions of the opera, selling the HD performance to theatres and a DVD/CD release that they will make some money to help pay off their debt.  While Gelb's presentation of Boccelli as a lieder singer was a critical flop, my understanding was the house was packed with his faithful who paid big prices to hear him sing.  Interestingly, he's not making a massive salary considering his usual fees for concerts, 100k Euros for 3 weeks of rehearsals and 4 performances is chump change next to what he usually takes in for a concert, though I'm sure there is also a back end on the HD and DVD/CD deal which very well may be produced by his wife on his label, though I'm sure there is more to come on this.

Now here is the rub.  Boccelli never has had a big voice and it is not well projected. He sings his specially written songs with a soft orchestra and a big microphone and it works even today with the evident wear and tear on his voice.  He also desperately wants to succeed where he has failed and it does not appear anyone has the heart, or cojones to tell him no and even if they did, he probably would not listen.  The issue here is that he is being used as a vehicle by the impresarios of the World to bring in cash.  He is being encouraged to do things beyond his limitations and that frankly is disturbing. So here he is having made a Mephistophelean bargain with Giovanni Pacor at the Carlo Felice.  He will have the bully pulpit before his audience, not the usual Genoan opera audience and they will love him even if he is an abject failure, which there is a high probability he will be by operatic standards.  He will receive standing ovations from his crowd and they will adore him to the point that he still thinks he's got it. The critics will also come and invariably
the next morning pan him for his efforts, which he probably will never hear. But he will hear the rapturous applause from his audience.  Then the shampoo cycle will rinse and repeat elsewhere, as it is his audience buying the tickets and his audience will not let him down and he knows it.  The question
is, when will the Impressarios stop using him to make up the shortfalls for their problems?

Norman Lebrecht's take on Boccelli's return to opera

The Teatro Carlo Felice website

1 comment:

  1. Thanks,I needed that! Excellent commentary. Boccelli basically "sings only one piece and that one poorly. There is no range and no drama in his singing whatsoever. And yet he still has legions of fans. But then so do Celine Dion and Andre Rioux; all cut from the same fabric, so to speak.