Is Andrea Bocelli an Opera Singer?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Andrea Bocelli, the blind tenor who gets no respect from the classical establishment, will sing with the New York Philharmonic in Central Park on September 15. But that doesn't change the basic question: can you call him an opera singer?

Fans will point out that his 2003 album “Sentimento” was the best selling classical album of the year. A record-setting seven of his recordings have topped the Classical albums charts in the United States where he also holds the record for having three recordings listed in the top three places of charts. Last year he sang a selection of arias, lieder and art songs on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.

Bocelli's detractors argue that he's pop through and through: he generally uses a microphone when he performs, and his repertoire leans toward lighter material. Bernard Holland of The New York Times criticized his "poor phrasing, uneven tone and lack of technique." Baltimore Sun music critic Tim Smith has said: "unaided by electronics, he produced an undernourished, often under-pitch tone. Top notes were strained, phrases monochromatic. Bocelli's most loyal fans presumably didn't mind any of the weaknesses, but, frankly, I found most of his singing embarrassing."

What do you think? Is it fair to judge Bocelli by the standards of opera? Or should he be considered according to his repertoire? Take our poll:

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Comments [10]

mary munro from salem oregon

Last night I viewed Andrea Bocelli giving a concert on cable television. I know nothing about music----however---i kept raising volume on my television because his rendition of songs i love and listen to frequently sounded weak and reedy.

Dec. 09 2015 12:55 PM
Paul Anderson

I know this is an old argument, but my problem with Boccelli (and his promotion as an "opera singer") is that he is dumbing down (as are others who have followed in his wake) the level of appreciation for real opera singing for the general public. Pavarotti crossed the bridge in the early 709's and in the last century, the masses had a general higher level appreciation and wouldn't tolerate someone like Boccelli who is a marketing phenomenon.

He's a marketing package (which includes his blindness) - and he needs to be electronically enhanced. But in this age of technology, the electronic enhancement only endears him to the public more. We expect that (and CGI, etc) and don't tolerate much that is "pure" - which is sad for our times.

Oct. 25 2015 11:09 AM
Joanne Jones from San Diego

To Toni Tynan, With all due respect, I think perhaps that you don't understand that opera singers (or classical singers whose forte is the art song, and whose training is essentially the same as that for an opera singer) do not sing amplified. They have voices that are able to be trained to be heard over a large orchestra and throughout a large theatrical venue. Opera/classical singers are not amplified at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Bocelli chose to do a concert at Carnegie Hall, so he had to sing unamplified, just as he would have to sing unamplified in any opera house or classical concert hall. You may enjoy his voice on those electronically enhanced studio recordings and in live arena concerts where he can also be amplified and have other enhancements added to his voice (though not as enhanced as in a studio recording), but at Carnegie Hall you got to hear his naked voice. Not so impressive as on those recordings and arena concerts, I'd say. His voice is not powerful and strong. If you couldn't hear him in the fifth row, his voice is not powerful and strong. It is weak and tinny. If you were sitting in the fifth row and couldn't hear him, I'm not surprised. If you had attended a concert sung by a real opera singer, I can guarantee you that you would have been able to hear him or her not only in the fifth row of the orchestra, but up in the top of the balcony. Now you know one of the big differences between a real opera singer and a classical crossover singer (also called a pop opera or popera singer.) A real opera singer is trained to project his or her voice out over an orchestra and throughout a large theater. A popera singer has to depend on a microphone to be heard. I can guarantee you that Carnegie Hall is not going to issue a raincheck to attend another Bocelli concert. If you want to attend further concerts by Mr. Bocelli, I'd suggest that you attend concerts that are held in sports arenas or other venues where pop performers perform. That way you will be guaranteed that Mr. Bocelli will be amplified (and otherwise "processed") so that you can actually hear him and so he will sound more like the voice you are used to hearing in recordings. A much better idea would be to attend a concert sung by a real opera singer. That way, you will know in advance that no matter where you sit, you will be able to hear him or her. You aren't the first Bocelli fan to be disappointed upon hearing what his voice actually sounds like without enhancements. Many of his fans have had this experience. I'm just sorry you spent so much money on tickets. I'd be disappointed in such a performance too. Unfortunately, Bocelli's huge bloated marketing machine touts him as an opera singer and so do the press. It's not your fault that these people are not telling the truth. Yes, the emperor has no clothes, but it's still a shock to discover this.

Feb. 12 2015 05:50 PM
Matthew M

A response to Fred Jamison- sir I am a classically trained musician myself both in voice and piano and while I agree that Bocelli is no great opera singer I must politely ask that you get off your high horse and stop being such an opera snob...your pomposity astounds me!!!

Dec. 01 2013 03:45 PM
Fred Jamison from San Diego

Andrea Bocelli is definitely not an opera singer. He does not have the voice or the technique for opera. He also can't sing without least not very well. His Metropolitan Opera House recital was just a money making venture (The man IS popular). Forced to sing without amplification, he sounded amateurish, off pitch, and did not have adequate volume to be heard well. In his few attempts at singing roles in operas (more money making ventures), he has been equally dismal. He usually sings concerts in large venues where his thin, reedy voice can be amplified and electronically altered to cover up its flaws. His many adoring fans tend to be people who are musically uneducated and can't hear the flaws in his voice...nor apparently can they tell the difference between a pop singer like Bocelli (or Katherine Jenkins, Sarah Brightman, Charlotte Church, Paul Potts, Russell Watson, Filippa Giordano, Tarja Turunen) and a real opera singer. Real opera singers make a career of singing roles in complete operas and they learn to project their voices out over an orchestra in a large theater without amplification. if you like Bocelli's voice, fine. Just don't mistake him for a real opera singer.

Sep. 13 2013 12:53 PM
Warren Christie from NY

He is a pop singer who sings opera OK -- in any event a heck of a lot better than most opera singers sing pop. These are two totally different styles which require too decidedly different mechanical techniques of vocal production.

Feb. 27 2012 07:11 PM
Connie from Houston, Texas

Who Cares. He has a beautiful voice and I could listen to him forever.

Dec. 04 2011 08:27 PM
Frank Feldman

A pop singer who sings arias tolerably well, for a pop singer. The highbrows should find someone else to pick on. The public loves him.

Aug. 06 2011 11:08 PM
Toni Tynan from Greenwich, CT 06831

Andrea Bocelli is one of the most loved and talented singers of our time with enormous talent and a beautiful voice. I do not know many singers who can sing Opera as well as contemporary musical pieces with such devotion and love to his trade. I have been a fan of Andrea for many years from the start of his musical career and have attended several of his concerts in New York, at Carnegie Hall as well as Madison Square Guarden..When I brought my family of five to Carnegie Hall, the only disappointment we had was that he was not wearing a small mike. We were in the fifth row in the orchestra and the tickets cost me over $1,000 and we would have enjoyed all he sang that evening more if he was wearing the small mike on his tuxedo. I cannot imagine what the attendees heard way up in the balcony and all they missed. I wrote to Carnegie Hall that our family would appreciate a raincheck to attend a future Andrea Bocelli concert at Carnegie Hall, but to please have him wear the small mike on his tuxedo, but I never received the courtesy of a response from Carnegie Hall. So no matter where he sings in the New York area from now on, I will always ask if he will be wearing a mike before I order tickets. His voice is powerful, wonderful, and strong, however in a place as large as Carnegie Hall he is at a disadvantage to sing acapella. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this with you. Toni Tynan, 39 Guilford Lane, Greenwich, CT 06831 - Phone: 203/531-8311

Aug. 05 2011 10:58 AM
Bo from Hicksville, NY

Bocelli is okay for those that know nothing about opera. Atleast they are hearing a decent voice instead of the usual pop stars who really can't sing at all. I would never make it as just an opera singer; he isn't good enough - how can you compare him to Flores, Corelli or Hampson? He is definitely a talented pop singer - which is a rarity.

Aug. 05 2011 09:37 AM

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