ROUGHHOUSING WITH HIS 2-YEAR-OLD son Amos, singer Andrea Bocelli swings the impish cherub in the air. Tickling the child’s cheeks with his scruffy beard, he smothers him with kisses. Carrying Amos to the piano in his six-bedroom house on the Italian Riviera, Bocelli, who is blind, gently places the tot’s hands on the keyboard. It’s a rare quiet moment for the sexy 6’3″ tenor, whose new album Romanza is a global hit, selling more than 4.5 million copies since January. Lately Bocelli, 39, misses Amos so much on road trips that he may start carrying snapshots of his son—even though he can’t see them. “It’s beautiful to show [others] pictures of my son” he says.
Although he suffered from glaucoma from birth, a brain hemorrhage caused by a head injury during a soccer game at age 12 dealt the final blow to Bocelli’s sight. But the man whom Italian rock star Zucchero discovered in 1992 claims the loss of his sight has never deterred him: “Singing,” Bocelli says, “was my destiny.”
The experts agree. Luciano Pavarotti said, “There is no one finer,” when he first heard Bocelli after Zucchero gave him a demo tape of the young tenor singing “Miserere.” Singer Al Jarreau, who performed with him in 1995 on the “Night of the Proms” tour in Europe, calls Bocelli’s “the most beautiful voice in the world.” Fans include actress Isabella Rossellini, Monaco’s Prince Albert, Sarah, Duchess of York, and even the Pope, for whom Bocelli has performed four times.
Aside from his young family—wife Enrica, 27, Amos and baby Matteo, born last month—little distracts Bocelli from his goal: to become one of the world’s greatest tenors, not just a singer of love songs. He sings in bed at 3 a.m.; in a Nuremberg restaurant (with U2’s Bono at the next table); on Alpine slopes with Olympic ski stud Alberto Tomba—yes, Bocelli skis. Anywhere he goes, the tenor is apt to belt out an aria. He’s also determined to improve his English: “I have always had cour-age,” he says, delighted to remember the word.
Bocelli’s parents, Alessandro, 68, and Edi, 59, sold farm equipment and produced wine in tiny Lajatico, in Tuscany about 20 miles from Pisa. As for music, “there was nothing, nothing,” Bocelli moans good-naturedly. Not even his younger brother Alberto, now 36 and an architect, shared his passion. After his first eye operation, at 8 months, his mother says he stopped sobbing when a Russian child in the hospital played a classical record.
Bocelli began piano at 6 and flute and saxophone lessons at 7, but he became known for his voice. Still, in 1981 he enrolled in the University of Pisa to study law because, he says, “In life we should have concrete alternatives.” He graduated in 1986 and practiced for a few years while moonlighting in piano bars around Pisa. One night in 1987 Enrica Cenzatti, then a 17-year-old student, walked in. She fell in love with “his voice first, Chen him,” she says. Enrica prevailed over the other women in his life, and they married in 1992, but don’t ask Bocelli the date. “He has no time to be romantic,” Enrica laughs.
Music fills the Bocellis’ new seaside home in Forte dei Marmi. Friends have gathered for dinner. Enrica scurries to the kitchen to cook, and the singer strolls outside in the fading sunlight. Suddenly a cheer goes up; Bocelli can’t see them, but he hears the fans who have straddled a fence near his property and are busily snapping photos. “This is my life now,” he says, a little startled at the unexpected ovation. “My passions are the same. Inside I am the same. But my life has changed so much.”
BRYAN ALEXANDER in Forte dei Marmi