It is a crisp winter’s day in New York City, and Andrea Bocelli, tall and elegant at 59, is talking about his faith. “In religion,” he says slowly, “is the meaning of life.”
He is in America for a series of concerts and speaks unhurriedly and deliberately, partly with the help of the elegant lady translator who sits to his left and partly, when he feels inspired, in his imperfect but adequate English, for which he unnecessarily but disarmingly volunteers an apology: “When I began to speak it I was already too old to learn very well. I do my best.” For religion, he is tackling it in English.
“I want to warn you,” he says, “that if we start talking about this we will not end soon – and I want to go to bed at some point today. But in just a few words … Either we are children of hazard, of chance – and I think that from my point of view, this would be quite disappointing and not very believable – or we consider ourselves as children of Somebody that wanted this, an intelligent entity that wanted us to exist. And if you choose to follow the road of believing that, then you start on a path that you cannot abandon afterwards. And that will give you many, many and very pleasant surprises.”
If anyone has earned his right to some pleasant surprises it is Bocelli. He is the elder of two sons from a middle-class family which owned a farm that sold agricultural machinery and made wine in the small Tuscan village of La Sterza. He suffered trauma before birth when his mother was rushed to hospital with appendicitis, which the doctors feared would have a disastrous effect on her unborn son.
“The doctors had to apply some ice on her stomach,” he once recounted at a concert, “and when the treatments ended the doctors suggested that she abort the child. They told her it was the best solution because the baby would be born with some disability. But the young brave wife decided not to abort, and the child was born. That woman was my mother, and I was the child. Maybe I’m partisan, but I can say it was the right choice.”
Although otherwise healthy, the young Andrea suffered from glaucoma and became completely blind at the age of 12 after being hit in the eye while playing football. His life was changed irredeemably. “Had it been an advantage,” he says now, dryly, of his condition, “people would not call it a handicap.” Luckily for him, he had his love of music to help him through.
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