Andrea Bocelli serenades South Florida for Valentine's Day

It’d be difficult to think of a show more likely to get you into the mood for love than a concert by Andrea Bocelli. Everything about the world-renowned Italian tenor screams romance, from his soaring arias, to his lovely ballads, to his poetic way with language, and to being named one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People of 1998.

Bocelli has a love affair with South Florida as well, having recently bought a home in North Miami Beach, so it’s only fitting that he will perform Friday night for the fifth consecutive year at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. The Valentine’s Day show will feature songs from his new album, Love in Portofino, plus a mix of arias, love songs and his own classics.

Bocelli talked to about the allure of the Magic City, his surprise performance during Christmas Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Miami Beach, why he chooses to perform with pop stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Nelly Furtado, and what brings him the most pride.

Is there something special about the BB&T Center for you?
Yes, it is a special place indeed, where singing is an honor besides being a pleasure. I feel it as a tradition to come back every year and stay with my public sharing the joy of music. Furthermore, my companion [Veronica Berti] and I particularly love Florida, and we perceive it as a place that is caliente, a perfect one where to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

What can we expect from the show this time?
My staff and I have prepared a show that we hope will be up to expectations — we hope it will remain in the hearts of those who will take part in it. I will perform a series of pages from a repertoire that is typical for Italian tenors. The songs and the arias that I prefer, inevitably, speak of love. On the day that celebrates love, I will try even harder to convey the power of this wonderful feeling. But as I often say, I think that we should make sure that the magic of Valentine’s Day is extended to every day of the year.

What were you going for with “Love in Portofino”?
I wanted to put together a selection of timeless masterpieces which in many cases have accompanied my youth. Music that has inflamed and touched several generations, because many couples got together and will get together under the spell of these fascinating and seductive love songs.

What inspired you to move to Miami?
In my language, “Florida” is an adjective that means prosperous, attractive, vigorous, lively. I love this land overlooking the sea, full of sunshine. A quiet place and yet full of life and opportunities, a land where people are happy, cheerful, active in their work and friendly in human relations. I like strolling around the canals together with my children; I love walking among people and feeling your vitality.

How did you end up performing at Christmas Mass in Miami Beach?
I am a believer, so on Christmas Day it is really important for me to take part in the Holy Mass. I spoke to the priest shortly before the service, he accepted, and so I sang two pieces related to the occasion.

It must have been quite a surprise for the congregation.
Maybe at the beginning somebody was amazed. But I believe and hope that my contribution did not turn the attention away from the Mass. Singing can be an extraordinary way of praying, and in that sense I thought it was natural to give my contribution.

You’ve long been hailed as a great tenor, and have performed with many legends — what drew you to perform with pop music stars?
Curiosity related to music has never abandoned me in these 20 years of my career: Many are the artists I have worked with — and I have learned something from all of them — and many are the ones I still would like to work with. Not only the great names I have admired for years, but also the new emerging talents.

Many have praised your voice as the most beautiful in the world, and yet you have your critics. Do they affect you much?
I am convinced that you do not choose to become a singer — you become a singer only when people ask you to sing for them. Since I was a child, people have always insisted on listening to me. Naturally there was (not so much among colleagues, but among some music critics) someone who was less ready to accept the news represented by the unusual path of my career. I would like to emphasize that constructive criticism is very important for an artist. I myself I am the fiercest critic of my performances, and I always try to learn something from imperfections.

You were passionate about music at a very young age — were you a good singer from the start?
I think that Our Lord has granted me a natural talent. I remember the words my elementary school teacher told me, almost half a century ago: “Remember that God gave you a gift, and of this gift you have no merit.” She was perfectly right, and I think I have taken her advice to heart.

What are you the most proud of, both career-wise and personally?
I am proud to be an Italian — I think I was lucky to be born and raised in the country where opera was born, and my greatest joy is to be the ambassador of the music and culture of my country. I try to be a present and attentive father and a caring partner. I am very proud I have created a foundation that bears my name [the Andrea Bocelli Foundation], which is the achievement of a philanthropic dream I had been cherishing for a long time. As I often say, I think that life is a like a great banquet where we are all well if there is a bare minimum for everyone. But if there is someone who is not well, the banquet will fail. It is for this reason that solidarity is not only a moral duty but also an act of intelligence. ABF is pursuing several projects, programs aimed at overcoming the barriers created by poverty, disability and social exclusion.