April 20, 2008

Andrea Bocelli in Taichung

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Yesterday I travelled to Taichung to attend Andrea Bocelli Live in Taichung. This was one of three stops on the tenor’s Asian tour, and the only one in the Greater China region. After a negotiation process reported to have been as long as two years, Bocelli finally agreed to make his first trip to Taiwan. Kudos to Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) for the achievement.

It was a star-studded evening of sorts, where lots of local celebrities and politicos made the pilgrimage to the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium. President-elect Ying-jeou Ma and wife entered the stadium to a round of applause, accompanied by Jason Hu and other KMT heavyweights.

I was lucky to have secured seats on the floor, 4 rows behind the VIP section and directly behind the sound engineers. In terms of acoustics I don’t think I could have done better. However we did sit behind a couple of camera scaffolds, so we didn’t have a good view of Bocelli and the conductor. But never mind, in a venue like this there is no choice but to look at the screens – you are just too far away from the performers.

The night was perfect for an outdoor concert, although the acoustics of an open-air stadium left a bit too much echo for my liking. The conductor, Marcello Rota, took his position and started the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra on the first piece. The first few notes sounded, and it was…the National Anthem...?! This took us by surprise and we slowly rose to our feet. It has been 8 years since the National Anthem was heard at events like this, and it was an emotional moment for KMT supporters inside the stadium. My parents and uncle were certainly ecstatic, as this was but another reminder that the days of DPP running the country were coming to an end.

The first half of the program focused on Italian opera, with solos and duets in turn by Bocelli, soprano Maria Luigia Borsi and baritone Gianfranco Montresor as well as performance by the Taipei Philharmonic Chorus. Quite frankly I was a bit disappointed in this part of the performance. Borsi gave a terrible performance of O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi, and I felt Bocelli’s performance during Brindisi from La Traviata was a little off in terms of tempo. His rendition of E lucevan le stelle from Tosca was interesting, showing the softer side of the character rather than continuing to hit the high notes with full force like Pavarotti. Or did he simply not have what it took to hit those notes with power?

The second half of the program was a bit more modern, including Italian classics such as O sole mio, which Bocelli sung with Borsi. I always felt that the real magic of Andrea Bocelli was his delivery of modern classics, and not his operatic work. The highlight came during the last song of the regular program, when Heather Headley sang a duet of Canto della terra. This was a great show of Bocelli’s powerful vocals at its best, coupled with the angelic voice of Headley. She was way, way better than Borsi in my opinion. The song itself, composed by the same team behind Con te partiro, is another masterpiece.

There were five encore performances, including The Prayer, another duet with the wonderful Heather Headley. I just couldn't get enough of Heather, and I wished she had a bigger role in the concert. The third encore was his international hit Con Te Partiro, which, fittingly, is usually his last encore song to close out the concerts. Here he invited Borsi on stage, but she only played backup and did not have a duet role like the original version with Sarah Brightman.

Bocelli finally closed the event with Nessun Dorma from Turandot. Now, EVERYONE knows this song, so this brought the crowd to their feet. Everyone left the concert with a feeling of elation after these two crowd favorites.

I was still a little disappointed, as I had hoped the concert would be more contemporary. But Bocelli's voice has no doubt wowed everyone, and I'm happy I was here.

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