Andrea Bocelli performed at the ‘Celebrate Africa – The Grand Finale’ concert in Johannesburg on Friday and was left satisfied that he had shown the South African public the ‘best of Italian music’ - intimating that those same people had not been treated to the best of Italian football.
As a keen football fan, the world-renowned tenor and multiple World Music Award winner was dismayed to see his team exit South Africa 2010 at the group stage without winning a single game, drawing with Paraguay and New Zealand, before losing to Slovakia.
“In terms of my World Cup memories, I prefer to think back to Spain in 1982 or even Germany in 2006 when we were world champions,” he told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview in the singer’s dressing room. “Of course, this year has bad memories for me because unfortunately our football team didn’t do very well here, so I’m here to at least try and show people the best music that Italy has to offer!”
And show that he did, wowing the sell-out crowd with his musical ability, charm and good humour, the latter typified when he carried a vuvuzela on stage during one of his encores, much to the delight of the audience.
During the concert, Bocelli was joined on stage by Canadian rock star Bryan Adams, performing the Beatles’ track ‘Yesterday,’ but mainly he sang numbers from Verdi and Puccini operas, supported by South African soprano Pretty Yende as well as the Johannesburg's Festival Orchestra and the Gauteng Choristers.
Fittingly, his finale was Nessun Dorma, a song introduced to football fans across the world by Luciano Pavarotti during the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. And Bocelli was keen to point out why he felt that particular piece of music could transcend the boundaries between the beautiful game and opera.
“Well, Nessun Dorma finishes with the word ‘Vincerò’ which means ‘I will win’, he explained. “For football fans and footballers, that’s a very strong message. And because of that World Cup, everyone in the world now knows that piece of music – and I’m delighted about that because it’s such a beautiful piece from the operatic repertoire. But in terms of the football [at Italy 90], I simply remember a tragedy because Italy didn’t win!”
Friday's concert was Bocelli’s debut appearance in South Africa, and despite his hectic touring schedule, he was determined to sample a bit of the country’s character and environment with his fiancée Veronica.
“Above everything else, I’m here to learn – I love to learn,” said the 51-year-old. “At the concert, I discovered the heart of the South African audience and I’m really excited because we’re going to be going on a safari in the centre of the country. I’m sure it will be incredible.
“It’s quite emotional to me to be here for many reasons because at school I learned a few things about South Africa, in terms of its history, which I’ve never forgotten. South Africa is a country with a very big story.”
*With thanks to Penny Stein Promotions