Home for the opera superstar would be in Tuscany, Italy, a famously stunning region as rich in history, culture and artistic legacy as it is vineyards, olive trees and picturesque rolling hills. It’s where Bocelli lives with his wife Veronica, who is also his manager, and his three children. Bocelli feels most comfortable when he’s surrounded by family and friends, his dogs and horses. “When he’s at home, he’s really relaxed and informal. He’s always happy to exchange a joke,” Bocelli’s international booking agent, Andrea Primicerio, explained.
Recently, a large swath of the world has discovered Matteo, Bocelli’s 21-year-old son and a wonderfully talented singer and something of a heartthrob whose apple does not fall far from the Bocelli tree. A video for a gorgeous father-son duet called “Fall On Me” released in September has exploded and is at over 25 million YouTube views and counting. That track, along with a wildly successful ticket bundle and robust media strategy, has helped catapult Bocelli’s new album Sí to No.1, the first for a classical album in over a decade.
Still, Bocelli remains down to earth according to Primicerio, who notes that the star tenor, who’s used to playing for popes and royalty, might treat his guests to unexpected performances on the piano, seeing that he also likes spontaneity.
“Two years ago, we played Madison Square Garden. Andrea likes to take walks to relax before concerts,” Primicerio recalls. “On one of those walks, he heard a busker singing.
The busker had no crowd and was making no money. So he went up to him, picked up the guitar and started to sing. It took the crowd a while to realize who had joined the street concert, but once they did, the busker’s income for that day and beyond was sorted.”
An abandoned concert grand piano in a hotel lobby can also be enough to prompt a free performance from Bocelli, but it has to come from him. “If you tell him to do it, he won’t,” said Primicerio. “Andrea wants to be independent, to be able to make his own decisions. He is very respectful of every agreement and relationship, but he doesn’t like to be in a situation where he has to do something.”
It’s one of the reasons he never signed a worldwide deal with a multi-national promoter, but there’s another one: “Twenty years ago, I did speak to the big promoters and I felt that they didn’t understand Andrea. For them it was just another product. It wasn’t the way to go,” Primicerio said.
The way instead was to build relationships with teams, a process that is still ongoing. In the U.S. the right partners were found with Frank and Bruce Gelb of Gelb Productions.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege for my father, Frank Gelb, and I to promote Andrea Bocelli for nearly 20 years,” Bruce Gelb says. “I have always been impressed and humbled by how much he gives to every performance and the level of care he takes with every song. Working with the Bocellis has given us not just work, but also friendship.
“I have learned an equal amount from how Andrea and Veronica and the entire family balance the demands of the music industry with a focus on family and healthy work-life balance,” Gelb added.
Since 2016, L.A.-based Maverick management has become a part of Bocelli’s team, led by Scott Rodger, who spoke about the strategy behind achieving the first classical No. 1 album in the U.S. in more than a decade.
Jan Nechville –
Tangled up in blue: It’s hard not to weep during a Bocelli show.
Rodger told Pollstar that Bocelli has a multigenerational audience in the U.S. as well as internationally.
“His large shows are very much for the masses and he has an extremely wide repertoire from opera to more contemporary pop-crossover songs.”
Bocelli’s current show is split in halves, the first dedicated to classical opera. In the second-half he brings out the hits, which will tug at the heartstrings of even the most cynical concertgoer.
“To watch grown men and women well up with emotion each and every night as Andrea hits the crescendo on beloved songs like ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ or ‘Nessun Dorma’ is an experience that gets me every time,” said Gelb.
In the UK, Team Bocelli partnered with the legendary promoter Harvey Goldsmith and Kilimanjaro Live’s Stuart Galbraith, who’ve co-promoted Bocelli’s shows for more than 10 years.
As in the States, the professional relationship has developed into a friendship.
“We’ve had some wonderful times dealing with Andrea himself, Veronica [Bocelli], Andrea Primicerio, and the whole team on the road,” Galbraith said, adding, “Nearly every show we do is sold out. In 2018 he’s more relevant and stronger than he’s ever been. We’re already on sale for our October 2019 shows, and they’re all well on their way to selling out.”
Speaking of the production, Goldsmith noted that “the most complicated part is dealing with sound issues at different venues. Thankfully Andrea Taglia, chief sound engineer, is on hand to help create the magic of Bocelli’s sound, because his is so precise.”
Rodger describes Taglia as “probably the most thorough engineer I’ve ever worked with. I very much doubt you will ever hear a better live orchestral sound in large scale venues that will match what you hear at an Andrea Bocelli show.”
The person on site at every gig – with the exception of Italy, where a thorough command of the Italian language is required – is British production manager John Gibbon, who was head of sound for shows at London’s Hyde Park before deciding a few years ago to focus on Bocelli.
He confirmed that the biggest challenge on tour was making an orchestra sound good in an arena or stadium. “We actually end up having more speakers than at a Metallica show. For a rock or pop show with more electric instruments, you can just turn it up, but for the Bocelli show, it’s more about coverage.
“We have an orchestra, so one of the things we have to make sure is that the orchestra are happy on stage, playing amongst themselves. So in the first sound check, the orchestra start playing on their own and then we add the sound in, so they’re not really aware that the PA is on. The orchestra play acoustically without monitoring, so we have to have wooden stages or reflective surfaces. There’s no carpet, because that deadens the sound.”
Father & son: Matteo and Andrea Bocelli
Gibbon explained that the stage had to be unusually big in order to hold some 150 people and perfectly flat so there was no chance of Bocelli stumbling.
“There’ve been two occasions where people didn’t see the point, and I’ve had to blindfold a local production guy and say, ‘All right, walk to the middle’ to make them realize how difficult it is,” he said.
Stepping out on stage comes much more naturally to Bocelli than stepping on a plane.
“He absolutely hates flying, and the thing that scares him most is flying long distance over oceans,” Primicerio revealed. “‘Why oceans?’ I once asked. ‘Sharks,’ he replied.”
The reason Bocelli regularly overcomes that fear is best explained by the maestro himself:
“Maintaining a direct relationship, a real and confidential relationship with those who have the goodness to appreciate the fruit of my profession, is a fundamental element of my life as an artist. The best way to thank them is to do it in person, through live performances.
“Wherever I sing,” Bocelli continued, “I try to imagine a ‘one-on-one’ relationship with each listener, to whom I try to communicate positive emotions. I therefore consider singing live a moment animated by the pleasure of meeting, breathing the same air, facing each other, sharing emotions.”
“Live, music and the beauty that it expresses,” Bocelli continues, “stands as a bridge between consciousness and the joy that flows from it and gives the event the scent and the magic of a celebration. This is my experience. I hope it is the same for those who honor me with their trust.”
Bocelli’s travel schedule, that he’s supported by a 70-piece orchestra and 65 strong choir, and the cost of bringing such a production into arenas all means that Andrea Bocelli tickets are not cheap.
It’s how he’s able to gross $2 million at The O2 in London, England, or $3 million at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, with one show.
Tickets to the opera superstar’s upcoming MGM Grand Garden Arena on Dec. 1, for example, range between $82-$418.
At this juncture, however, tickets are only available at two tiers: $289 and $418.25 before fees ($321.95 and $462.20 after, respectively). All of which helps explains why Bocelli’s average gross, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports for the past 36 months, is $1.95 million for 42 headline shows and an average of 12,500 tickets sold.
Primicerio understands Bocelli might miss out on reaching a younger audience at those prices and seeks to rectify the issue.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to have Andrea perform for everybody, because that’s his goal, really. He’s trying to bring opera, and classical music in general, to the world, and to younger people in particular, who he tries to remind of the fact that it’s beautiful music,” he said.
One such opportunity could materialize soon, Primicerio continued: “We want to do a concert in Havana, Cuba, for the people. Just for the people.
“We could never go to Cuba, because nobody could afford a ticket. We’re working on finding the finances to make it happen. We’re in touch with the country’s ministry of culture, and I think it will happen.”
Bocelli may be a superstar, but the words his agent uses to describe his long-standing client and friend are: hard-working, honest, humble and balanced.
Luca Rossetti –
“He is an old-fashioned, Italian gentleman,” said Primicerio. “It’s a strange thing with Andrea. He has a beautiful voice, of course, but there is also an energy stemming from him.
“You see people crying at his concerts. You see people crying in China, in the U.S., in Egypt, in Italy. It’s not what he says, it’s the way the energy is carried through his voice and his performance.
“You lose that emotion a bit, listening to him on CD. That’s why it is a great thing that live music exists. And I think that live music is going to be here forever.
“It is not just the music. He conveys an emotion which will stay with you for a long time.”