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The fourth tenor


ANDREA BOCELLI’S career is littered with unprecedented events and, after nearly 15 years in the industry, he still sells records like hot cakes and draws 20,000 people per concert.

Bocelli’s intriguing life began in 1958 when he was born in Lagatico, a town in rural Tuscany. However, Bocelli was born with congenital glaucoma and was blinded at the age of 12 by a cerebral hemorrhage during a game of football. The singer describes the anguish of blindness in antithesis to the transcendent experience of singing.

Bocelli got his big break when he recorded the demo for Miserere, a song that was being prepared for Pavarotti to release. Italian rock star Zucchero recorded the demo and, as soon as he heard Bocelli sing, he was amazed at how he managed to relate to the language of popular song.

It was this unique talent that forged the way for Bocelli’s career. He was immediately snapped up by a record label and became an overnight sensation in Italy when he won the Sanremo Song Festival, Italy’s most prestigious  music event for newcomers.

It was the success of one song that made Bocelli an international star. Con Te Partirò, more commonly known as Time to say Goodbye, released in 1996 as a duet with Sarah Brightman, was a massive global hit.

In 1997, Bocelli recorded his international debut album Romanzo, which quickly sold 15 million records. By 1999, Bocelli was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy and he also won a Golden Globe for The Prayer, a duet with Celine Dion.

It was around this time that he released his second ‘crossover’ album Sogno. Following this release, Bocelli suddenly found four of his albums in the US album chart at the same time; a feat only achieved by artists such as U2, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. According to the US media, ‘Bocellimania’ had begun.

The year 2000 was another remarkable period for the singer, performing at an array of significant international events. Concerts were held at the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, Bocelli becoming the first ever artist to perform at the foot of the New York monument. He also performed at the Sydney Olympics and at the official concert for football’s Euro 2000.

His most solemn and poignant musical duty was the following year, when he performed Ave Maria at a memorial, held days after September 11, at the smoking ruins at Ground Zero.

Bocelli has constantly released classical albums and pop albums with a variety of orchestras, choirs, musicians and pop stars. In 2003, his third full work Tosca, took Bocelli on a remarkable world tour.

The man, who had sang for popes, kings, queens, presidents and princes described the end of 2003 as his most honoured moment, when he sang Ave Maria at his good friend Pavarotti’s wedding. His close relationship with Pavarotti and similar styles often gave Bocelli the label as the fourth tenor.

In January of this year, Bocelli released Amore, another pop album containing duets with Christina Aguilera, Kenny G and Stevie Wonder. Supporters of Bocelli say that his stage presence and the heartfelt emotion he puts into his singing make up for any perceived lack of technical proficiency and training.

Bocelli has sold 50 million records and has become one of the most influential figures of classical music.

Andrea Bocelli is performing at Lisbon’s Pavilhão Atlântico on Sunday, October 22. Tickets available at or call 707 234 234.