My review was originally published on the Orange County Register site earlier today.
Live review: Andrea Bocelli at Honda Center
Pity the fools who spent anywhere from $75 to $375 for tickets to attend Andrea Bocelli’s seemingly sold-out concert at Honda Center in Anaheim on Sunday night, only to arrive after he had delivered some of the night’s most memorable moments.
Because the concert was divided into two parts, the first half of the night allowed the adored 53-year-old Italian tenor to showcase his love of opera through popular selections from Verdi, Puccini and Gounod. Yet I couldn’t believe that even 30 minutes into the program, some attendees were still just making their way to their seats and disrupting other concert-goers’ experience.
Many of the selections featured were ones familiar to those who have caught the singer at the Ducks home in the past, including last year’s holiday-themed appearance. But Bocelli’s warm and soaring tenor, radiant smile and genuine connection with both the audience and the other musicians on stage made for a magical night. Adding to the decisive factor was the clarity of the vocal amplification of Bocelli, sopranos Ana Maria Martinez and Heather Headley, as well as the orchestra and chorus.
After conductor Eugene Kohn led the large symphony plus the Cal Voce Singers through the “Triumph Chorus” from Verdi’s Aida, the popular tenor took the stage to deliver “La mia letizia infondere,” the first of many popular arias, songs and sacred songs he would perform over the course of the night.
As Bocelli offered a bit of something for everyone (opera, popular song, holiday fare), one didn’t have to wait long to hear a favorite style or selection from Bocelli’s increasingly wide discography. (His latest, Concerto: One Night in Central Park, a document of his September show in NYC, was released last month.)
This writer’s taste is decidedly in the world of opera, and Bocelli didn’t disappoint. Highlights included his ever-popular ease with Verdi’s “La donna e mobile” from Rigoletto and a heartfelt duet with Martinez on the beautiful “O soave fanciulla” from Puccini’s La Boheme.
Connecting with an audience as large as the one that nearly filled Honda Center isn’t easy – even when armed with a wonderful voice and backed by a large orchestra – so it didn’t hurt that a large curtain behind the stage, plus two large screens positioned on the sides, projected footage of the performers as well as artful imagery enhancing the experience.
The second half of the concert allowed Bocelli to continue to showcase his tenor – including sustained high notes – in a mix of sacred and holiday songs (notably his affecting “Adeste fidelis” from 2009′s My Christmas album) and popular tunes such as “More (Ti Guardero Nel Cuore)” and “O sole mio.” Headley was featured on a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Over the Rainbow” that, while technically brilliant, was still a bit over-the-top. The Grammy- and Tony-winning soprano’s voice was better utilized on a duet with Bocelli, “Canto della terra.”
Other standouts from the second half included “Ave Maria,” with Bocelli both singing and playing flute, and an incredible version of “Amazing Grace” that began with him singing in a hushed voice to the quiet accompaniment of strings. The song built slowly and effectively, with the repeated lines “was blind, but now I see” particularly poignant.
The night ended with a captivating encore that extended the eclectic theme. As he performed an upbeat version of “New York, New York,” images of Bocelli greeting fans and visiting various sites in the Big Apple were displayed. Martinez then joined him for a high-powered version of the popular “Time to Say Goodbye (Con te partiro)” before the star came out to cap off the night with a potent “Nessun dorma” from Turandot.