Andrea Bocelli is one of the most famous classical music singers of all time, with a record-breaking 80 million records sold worldwide. His duet with Sarah Brightman, “Time to Say Goodbye,” is one of the best-selling singles of all time, and his recent collaboration with Ed Sheeran, “Perfect Symphony,” currently has almost 80 million views on YouTube.
The 59-year-old was born with congenital glaucoma and lost his vision entirely after a soccer accident when he was 12. His life story, from his humble beginnings in Tuscany to his struggle to make it as a singer, is documented in the new film The Music of Silence.
The biopic, directed by Michael Radford, is based on Bocelli’s own memoir of the same name. Bocelli makes a cameo as himself and actor Toby Sebastian stars as the younger Amos, Bocelli’s alter ego. Antonio Banderas stars as the music teacher who shaped Amos’ voice into one of the most sought-after voices in music today. And Jordi Molla and Luisa Ranieri play Amos’ parents.
Bocelli above all hopes that his life story will serve as an inspiration to young people to not let any setback prevent them from fulfilling their goals. The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Bocelli about his deep faith, the performances he is most proud of and what he thinks of Banderas’ singing voice.
The Music of Silence opens Friday in theaters in New York and Los Angeles as well as on demand.
What was your reaction to The Music of Silence? Does it accurately portray your life?
Sometimes it seems to me that it is somewhat paradoxical that my existence can be considered interesting to the point of making a film about it. However, that was the case, and I feel consoled to see that many valuable artists, including the actor, the director and the screenwriter have done their best to achieve a pleasant result.
The thing I am interested in is that from the story of my life can emerge a message and that it can be useful, above all, for young people. The path of my voice, and with it of my existence, has the appearance of a fairy tale with a happy ending.
My story reaffirms that there is no impossible dream. The essential thing is to believe in it, and to pursue one’s own project of life with honesty, humility and discipline. Mine is, fundamentally, a message of faith. There is a project, in fact, that has been conceived for each of us. And it is up to us to identify and honor it. Fate does not exist; every life is a story corresponding to a precise direction.
What was most difficult for you in writing a book about your life?
I wrote the book at the end of the 1990s. It was a way to escape the laziness of the waiting times in the dressing rooms of theaters around the world. It has been also a personal strategy to retrace my first 40 years of life, to better understand their meaning. My father was ill, so I wrote it very quickly to give him the joy of reading it before leaving us. The story in the book is told in third person and through the pseudonym of Amos: a literary ploy that has allowed me greater lucidity in the narration.
How involved were you with the screenwriter in telling your story?
Trying to find the time in my professional agenda, I have tried as much as possible, to live closely to the writing of the screenplay. I read and made some changes; I spoke a lot with the screenwriter Anna Pavignano during the drafting. In some cases I have even written myself some pages, like the final scene.
What advice did you give to Antonio Banderas in how to play the role of your teacher?
Antonio is a great interpreter and certainly he does not need my advice. He is a completely versatile and sensitive artist. I know he identified with the character of Maestro Bettarini with wonderful results.
On the set I have been told how, whenever there was a break, he took the opportunity to sit at the piano and play and improvise. Besides, often while speaking with the director Michael Radford, on the scenes pertaining to young Amos, Antonio even sang, showing [himself] to possess a beautiful baritone voice.
How do you think your life would have been most different if your childhood had gone differently, if the soccer accident never happened?
Frankly I do not even think of this. But I do not think that the accident — and therefore my conditions — have somehow influenced my grown-up life, my profession or my musical and creative activities. Everyone has the duty to approach the tools that God has given them, trying to make the most of their talents, serenely accepting their own story. We cannot but accept, always gratefully, the instruments that our earthly adventure offers us, what and how many they are.
Luciano Pavarotti is a major figure in your story, although we don’t see him in the film. What is your favorite memory of him?
The film covers my story, from birth to my first successes. It proceeds through hints and stylization, just as it has to be. It is true, Pavarotti has been left out, but it would have been complex and perhaps even unhappy to evoke him through an actor. Also Caterina Caselli Sugar, for instance, a formidable artist and talent scout has not been mentioned, even though we have had a recording partnership born at the very beginning of my career that has never ceased.
Big Luciano was an exceptional artist and a dear friend. I remember the long intercontinental calls (at times seemingly impossible, because we were both unmindful of the time zone) around the world. We used to meet, virtually, and we talked about music, singing, vocal technique.
How has your immense success changed your life?
Success has given me the opportunity to experience music, to do, of my greatest passion, a profession. It has also allowed me economic comfort superior to my needs. However, thank god, he never “took my hand,” perhaps because I reached it at an already mature age, when I was over 35.
Success in itself is not a value. On the contrary, for the purpose of acquiring a real human depth, I am afraid it represents an obstacle, because in that condition it is easier to lose contact with reality. And without keeping your feet firmly on the ground, you risk losing yourself. I do a special job but I am a normal person, in habits and relationships.
Your voice is featured on dozens of movie soundtracks. Is there one film collaboration you’re particularly proud of?
I can hardly name one in particular…but I’m happy with this combination of my voice and the seventh art. There are songs, like “Time to Say Goodbye,” which was used in animated films, but also in comedies and even in thrillers.
You’ve performed for numerous world leaders. Was there one meeting with a world leader that really influenced you?
Surely the meeting with the last three Popes: St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis. I have had the privilege of singing for them, and those have been some of the most moving moments of my career. Also because they are superior spirits. They are figures that, for us believers, represent the highest religious authority, therefore the most shining bridge between earthly and transcendent existence.
What are you working on next?
Beyond the usual tours, in the United States and in many other countries of the world, in May I will record and debut “Lucia di Lammermoor” by Gaetano Donizetti, while in the summer I will perform “Andrea Chenier” by Umberto Giordano. This is what I have on my agenda. But to be honest, the future is always an unknown factor: as a boy my tutor taught me that doing programs longer than 48 hours away is not wise. So, I do not think much about the future, and I prefer to concentrate on the present.