The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: How good is singer Andrea Bocelli? Tune in to his “Live in Central Park” concert Friday night at 8 on PBS, which also has other classic shows on tap for December

December 1, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger It is hard to think of a performing figure who has divided the classical world as much as the Italian singer Andrea Bocelli (below). Lieder and opera purists will point out that Bocelli too often resorts to amplifying his voice. His singing shows strains and a lack of training, they say. And he leans too heavily of reliable pops repertoire to enhance his popularity.

And yet the public adores him, and consistently makes his recordings into best-sellers. And truth be told, you have to admire somebody who overcame such a severe handicap as blindness go study and graduate from a conservatory and then go on to a global career that includes having sold some 70 million albums, CDs or “units,” as the industry likes to say.

You also have to admire his pluck or courage. He just keeps going forward on his path ahead. And I think it is hard to completely dismiss the pleasing Italian tenor qualities of his tone. Something in his voice has that same quality that tugs at you, much the way the Luciano Pavarotti – who, I believe, could not read music – moved you whenever he sang his signature aria “Nessun Dorma.”

Well, whatever you think of Andrea Bocelli, you can sample his singing this Friday night from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television. That when PBS will broadcast the recording they made of his huge concert, which 75,000 attended in terrible weather, in Central Park on Sept. 15. Yes, popular musicians will be there, including Celine Dion, “hitman” David Foster (below) and Tony Bennett. But so will some serious classical starts including violinist Nicola Benedetti and  opera singer Bryn Terfel.  And Bocelli’s backup band is none other than the New York Philharmonic under the baton of its music director Alan Gilbert along with the Westminster Symphonic Choir.

For more information, visit:,0,1391555.story

Speaking of broadcasts, other holiday music and holiday programs on PBS and Wisconsin Public Television with a strong classical component in December include:

8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14: Live From Lincoln Center “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” (below) New York City Ballet’s beloved holiday favorite, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, airs live from Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater.

Set to Tchaikovsky’s infectious score, Balanchine’s Nutcracker features New York City Ballet’s entire roster of more than 150 dancers and musicians, as well as two alternating casts of 50 children from the School of American Ballet, the New York City Ballet’s official school. In addition to Balanchine’s choreography, the seminal work features scenery by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, costumes by Karinska and lighting by Mark Stanley, after the original design by Ronald Bates.

12 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18: PBS Arts From San Francisco: The Little Mermaid From the San Francisco BalletExperience

Hans Christian Andersen’s haunting tale of love meets with San Francisco Ballet’s production of John Neumeier’s inventive ballet. The original score is by young Russian-American composer Lera Auerbach.

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30: Live From Lincoln Center “Bernstein and Gershwin”

Music director and conductor Alan Gilbert (below) leads the New York Philharmonic in a New Year’s Eve program featuring 20th-century American composers Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin. Actor Alec Baldwin hosts the broadcast.

Posted in Classical music

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