Andrea Bocelli: Attention, un miracle peut en cacher bien d’autres (We talk about beauty, but we all keep score)

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Si Dieu chantait, sa voix ressemblerait à celle d’Andrea Bocelli. Céline Dion
Because of my personal convictions as a devout Catholic, I am not only fighting against something, I am fighting for something – and I am for life. … A young pregnant wife was hospitalized for a simple attack of appendicitis. The doctors had to apply some ice on her stomach 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 that it was the right choice. … I hope this could encourage many mothers that sometimes find themselves in difficult situations – in those moments when life is complicated but want to save the life of their baby. Andrea Bocelli
Les gens n’aiment pas que l’on explique des choses qu’ils veulent garder  » absolues « . Moi, je trouve qu’il vaut mieux savoir. C’est très bizarre que l’on supporte si mal le réalisme. Dans le fond, la sociologie est très proche de ce qu’on appelle la sagesse. Elle apprend à se méfier des mystifications. Je préfère me débarrasser des faux enchantements pour pouvoir m’émerveiller des vrais  » miracles « . En sachant qu’ils sont précieux parce qu’ils sont fragiles.  (…) Le succès de la pilule Viagra n’est que l’attestation visible de ce qui se sait depuis longtemps dans les cabinets médicaux ou psychanalytiques. Les hommes, surtout, pourraient se simplifier la vie. Le rôle masculin m’est très insupportable depuis très longtemps dans son côté faiseur, bluffeur, m’as-tu-vu, exhibitionniste. Si les rapports masculins/féminins (qui se reproduisent aussi chez les homosexuels) étaient dépouillés de ce devoir d’exhibition, on respirerait mieux. Les numéros d’hommes, c’est tuant! Pierre Bourdieu
Je crois que la culture dans nos sociétés est un des lieux du sacré : la religion culturelle est devenue pour certaines catégories sociales – dont les intellectuels – le lieu des convictions les plus profondes, des engagements les plus profonds. Par exemple, la honte de la gaffe culturelle est devenue l’équivalent du péché. Je pense que l’analogie avec la religion peut-être poussée très loin. Alors qu’aujourd’hui, une analyse de sociologie religieuse peut être poussée très loin, comme celle sur les évêques ; elle ne touche personne même pas les évêques. … La sociologie de la culture se heurte à des résistances fantastiques. Et le travail d’objectivation qui a été fait sur la religion : personne ne peut contester qu’il y a une certaine corrélation entre la religion que l’on a acquise dans sa famille et la religion que l’on professe ; on ne peut pas nier qu’il y ait une transmission de père en fils des convictions religieuses, que quand cette transmission disparaît, la religion disparaît. Bon, quand on le dit sur la culture, on enlève à l’homme cultivé un des fondements du charme de la culture, à savoir l’illusion de l’innéité, l’illusion charismatique : c’est à dire j’ai acquis ça par moi-même, à la naissance comme une espèce de miracle. Pierre Bourdieu
Les miracles, ce sont les situations dans lesquelles les lois ordinaires sont suspendues. Il y a l’amor fati. C’est un truc que j’ai dit à propos de la Kabylie et du Béarn : c’est terrible, les gens aiment vraiment ceux qu’ils ont des chances socialement définies d’aimer. Quand on dit : « Il a épousé sa promise », on le dit très clairement. Dans les milieux que j’ai étudiés — les paysans kabyles ou béarnais —, pour chaque garçon, il y a trois filles possibles. Et il se trouve qu’il aime une de celles-là. Sauf accident, il y a des mésalliances… C’est assez désespérant. Parmi toutes les lois sociales, une des plus terribles est la loi de l’homogamie. Or ces lois sont vraies à grande échelle ; et quand on raffine, c’est pire. Quand on prend l’espace social tel qu’il est décrit dans La Distinction, plus on découpe petit, plus l’homogamie se renforce. J’avais fait une toute petite note dans La Noblesse d’Etat sur l’homogamie des normaliens. Ça fait froid dans le dos. Mais ce qui se passe dans le cercle homogame peut être vécu comme miraculeux : les rapports de violence, de domination peuvent être suspendus. Pierre Bourdieu
Le goût « pur » et l’esthétique qui en fait la théorie trouvent leur principe dans le refus du goût « impur » et de l’aïs­thèsis [« sensation » en grec, ce qui a donné « esthétique »] forme simple et primitive du plaisir sensible réduit à un plaisir des sens, comme dans ce que Kant appelle « le goût de la langue, du palais et du gosier », abandon à la sensation immédiate […]. On pourrait montrer que tout le langage de l’esthé­tique est enfermé dans un refus principiel du facile, entendu dans tous les sens que l’éthique et l’esthé­tique bourgeoises donnent à ce mot. (… Comme le disent les mots employés pour les dénoncer, « facile » ou « léger » bien sûr, mais aussi « frivole », « futile », « tape-à-l’oeil », « supericiel », « racoleur » … ou dans, dans le registre des satisfactions orales, « sirupeux », « douceâtre », « à l’eau de rose », « écoeurant », les oeuvres vulgaires ne sont pas seulement une une sorte d’insulte au raffinement des raffinés, une manière d’offense au public « difficile » qui n’entend pas qu’on lui offre des choses « faciles » (on aime à dire des atistes, et en particulier des chefs d’orchestre, qu’ils se respectent et qu’ils respectent leur public); elles suscitent le malaise et le dégoût par les méthodes de séduction, ordinairement dénoncées comme « basses », « dégradantes », « avilissantes » qu’elles mettent en oeuvre, donnant au spectateur le sentiment d’être traité comme le premier venu, qu’on peut séduire avec des charmes de pacotille, l’invitant à régressser vers les formes les plus primitives et les plus élémentaires du plaisir. Pierre Bourdieu
La musique la plus légitime fait l’objet, avec le disque et la radio, d’usages non moins passifs et intermittents que les musiques « populaires » sans être pour autant discréditée et sans qu’on lui impute les effets aliénants qu’on attribue à la musique populaire. Quant au caractère répétitif de la forme, il atteint un maximum dans le chant grégorien (pourtant hautement valorisé) ou dans nombre de musiques médiévales aujourd’hui cultivées et dans tant de musiques de divertissement du 17e et du 18e siècles, d’ailleurs conçues à l’origine pour être ainsi consommées « en fond sonore ». Pierre Bourdieu
There are occasional miracles…but such blockbusters are rare. . . . They have to be seen as special, almost freak occurrences. Decca senior vice president
There are simply so many other options competing for our scarce leisure time and our ever-rising disposable income. A hundred years ago, we didn’t have TV. Fifty years ago, there was no Internet. Twenty-five years ago, the $10 billion video game industry was in its infancy. As the entertainment market offers an ever-increasing number of options, classical music’s fight for our attention has become more competitive and makes the classical audience look small, even as it holds on to its share. If Lizst had to vie with the Matrix Reloaded or video games such as Grand Theft Auto III, would he have captured the public’s imagination? …Some argue that classical music has more intrinsic value than other forms of entertainment because of its significance for our musical tradition and its intellectual complexity. But whether this makes it more valuable depend on why one listens to music. We may admire the musical facility in Mozart or be challenged by the expansive musical canvas in Mahler, but be more profoundly moved by “Amazing Grace” on a lone bagpipe. Still, classical music’s prevailing culture and conventions do feel increasingly out of sync with contemporary experience. As most people will tell you, a modern classical music concert is an entirely somber, serious affair for performers and audiences alike. It is predictable and almost lifelessly professional. No classical music stage today would tolerate the onstage shenanigans of Vladimir de Pachmann, a world-famous nineteenth-century pianist who earned millions touring and was known to dip each finger in brandy before a recital. Although the dress code has relaxed somewhat in recent years—much to the horror of the old guard—some rules are strictly observed, such as no applause between movements. These conventions may seem unnecessarily restrictive for those who have known only dress-casual workplaces. This widening gap between the conventions of classical music and the rest of society tends to reinforce classical music’s image as music for the economic elite. And yet this image is not entirely borne out by the facts. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the classical music concert audience is no richer than audiences for jazz or musical plays. This survey shows that the level of participation in all arts rises with income. It is not simply that classical music audiences tend to be richer than other audiences, but that all audiences tend to be richer than average. Moreover, both rich and poor share similar preferences. For example, musical plays are more popular than classical music at each income level, with similar relative participation rates. Perhaps more worrisome is the cultural elitism of many people in the classical music community. The fact that there are 276 versions of Beethoven’s 5th, already tends to foster an atmosphere where someone who can’t tell one from the other is made to feel less than welcome. Even those in the business end, “encouraged the attitude that you have to be able to spell Tchaikovsky backwards to be qualified to buy something,” noted the President of EMI Classics back in 1990. And some classical music proponents criticize any attempt to reach a wider audience as “dumbing down.” They view the enormous popularity of The Three Tenors and other crossover albums as a phenomenon that degrades or reduces the status of classical music. In the words of essayist Joseph Epstein: “The bloody snobbish truth is, I prefer not to think myself part of this crowd [his fellow audience at a Pops concert]. I think myself…much better—intellectually superior, musically more sophisticated, even though I haven’t any musical training whatsoever and cannot follow a score.” This attitude, albeit half-joking, may hurt classical music’s ability to reinvent itself and adapt to the modern audience and the modern world. On the contrary, to emotionally connect to today’s audiences and capture their imaginations will take vision and innovation. But there are examples out there. One of the most unlikely successes on Broadway last year was a production of Puccini’s La Bohème, the 1896 opera about a doomed love between Mimi, a Parisian seamstress, and Rodolfo, a starving poet. While the music is exactly as Puccini wrote it and the characters sing in Italian, Baz Luhrmann, the director of Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge, reimagined the story set in 1957. More importantly, he ignored the usual opera conventions and hired singers who looked and acted the parts. Although purists criticized the quality of the singing and objected to the use of microphones, Luhrmann’s experiment shows that there is an enthusiastic new audience for classical music if classical music is made relevant. Even in tradition-bound solo recitals, old customs are loosening up. At the end of a recent recital, Maxim Vengerov, a rising twenty-something violinist, picked up a microphone and talked to the audience for 20 minutes. On a stage where the only thing usually uttered by the soloist is the announcement of the encores, his entertaining anecdotes and sincere answers to questions left the audience more connected to both the music and the musician. Is it possible to make money in today’s classical recordings business without blockbuster crossovers? Absolutely, says Naxos, the world’s bestselling budget label, with 15 percent of classical CD sales in the U.K., 25 percent in Canada, and more than 5 percent in the U.S. While the major labels pursued blockbusters, Naxos, founded in 1987, focused on producing the standard repertory cheaply. “My ambition was to make classical recordings available on CD at a price comparable to that of LPs,” states Klaus Heymann, founder and chairman. Think of Naxos as the Southwest Airlines of classical CDs. It delivers classical music without frills and at rock-bottom prices. It hires young or unknown recording artists, many from Eastern Europe, and pays them a flat fee with no added royalties. It keeps one recording of each work in its catalog, limiting the catalog to about 2,500 titles and eliminating duplication of repertoire. It doesn’t waste a lot of money on expensive promotions. That way, it can sell its CDs for $6.98, not $16.98. And it sells a lot of CDs. Enough to be profitable in spite of budget prices. The other successful strategy focuses on niche markets and nonstandard repertory. Hyperion, a British label founded in 1980, and others have taken this approach. “I didn’t see the point in doing the 103rd version of the New World Symphony, so I went for the more neglected areas, but not so neglected that nobody would buy them,” said Hyperion founder Ted Perry. The label’s first hit was an album of Latin hymns by Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), which sold over 150,000 copies. Along with Nonesuch, which released Górecki’s Third Symphony and the works of other contemporary composers, Hyperion has shown that record companies can be profitable by exploiting a niche market that has been neglected in the catalogs of the major labels. Boston Fed
I believe Andrea’s voice is similar to the way people sang bel canto at the time bel canto was written. It was a chest voice admittedly up to G, maybe A-flat. Everything after that, basically from A-flat or A on, goes into a mixed voice. It’s half head, half chest. Andrea can get to a G, maybe an A-flat, in that full voice. After that, which was bel canto tradition, they turned it into, if not a real falsetto, a mixed voice. If you look at some of these old Donizetti things, written up to high Bs, by the time they were singing that high, they were singing in a falsetto. Andrea has always had this sort of half voice. Now, if you’re trying to sing B-flat and Cs, which opera singers like the Marcello Giordanis of the world do, well, they’re singing those high notes in full voice. And when they sing over an orchestra, they cut glass. In other words, it gets really exciting. Whereas Andrea’s voice, amplified, is just fine. Singing that stuff on stage unamplified is where the issue is. Andrea’s voice comes originally from the pop side. It comes from the pop side so it speaks clearly. And so when he sings opera in that style it doesn’t sound overly mannered. Now that has pros and cons. This is where the big battle comes. Because the opera purist will say, ‘Well, that’s not really an opera voice. Because he can’t do what the so-called real opera singers do on stage. He can’t do those high notes. They don’t grow and get bigger.’ But therefore he’s less histrionic. So people who are coming from a non-opera background will say, ‘Oh, isn’t it nice to hear that?’ Because Andrea doesn’t sound like he’s exaggerating, he sounds like he’s just singing in a nice lyrical way. So it’s easy for people to approach that without feeling like they’re hearing somebody barking in that exaggerated operatic way. People who don’t know how to approach opera. But people can get to opera by liking Andrea’s pop stuff. And when he sings opera or classical stuff, since it’s all amplified, and recorded, and he’s singing in that nice lyric way, they won’t feel put-off. That’s a big point of contention for the real opera fan or the real opera critic. They’re saying that’s not real. That’s a recording studio or an amplified reality. What happens to the poor opera singer who lives day in and day out, who’s screaming their guts out, trying to cut over an orchestra? Of course they’re going to sound more histrionic, even on recording, because that’s the way they sing. Likewise, that’s why a lot of opera singers, when they sing pop music, tend to sound exaggerated. Because they learn what the Italians call l’impostazione, a way of placing the voice in this way to cut glass over the second row, and they don’t know how to turn that off. Steven Mercurio
Pavarotti’s great career therefore ended with a virtual performance, something sad but inevitable. It would have been too dangerous for him, because of his physical condition, to risk a live performance before a global audience. First I recorded a number of versions of the orchestra playing the aria, then [I] took the tapes to the small studio at Pavarotti’s house in Modena. He selected the right version before I directed him alone as he sang along, while being recorded. He found the force to repeat it until he was completely satisfied. Then he collapsed on his wheelchair and closed his eyes, exhausted. (…)  The orchestra pretended to play for the audience, I pretended to conduct and Luciano pretended to sing. The effect was wonderful. Leone Magiera
Beginning with the premise that a listener always wants the most beauty possible, it would have been interesting to offer ticket buyers in Modena this choice: ripe Pavarotti, U.S.D.A.-inspected, guaranteed and pretested; or Pavarotti as a gamble on the unknown — and given the lack of rehearsal time a bad gamble at that. It was going to be his voice either way. Everyone, of course, would reject the simulation to see what happened. The explanation they would no doubt give is that live sound is better than recorded sound. But I think the real reason would be something else. It’s the time factor. People don’t want to be two-timed. Everything we do in life is geared to cause and effect, and when Mr. Pavarotti opens his mouth, we insist on not knowing what will come out. Public performance is more of a sporting event than we like to admit. We talk about beauty, but we all keep score. Picture a soccer match on television. Diego Maradona is outwitting defenders and speeding toward the enemy goal. Now picture Mr. Pavarotti and the Modena concert’s producer, Tibor Rudas, in the telecast booth. « Maradona looks off balance, » they say to themselves. « This isn’t going to be a very beautiful kick. But wait. Remember that great goal by Di Stefano for Real Madrid 35 years ago. We have that right here, queued up on tape. Our fans deserve the most beautiful football we can give them, so let’s cut from Maradona and show them this instead. » How could soccer fans possibly complain? The substitute is going to have just about the same look: two-dimensional and shrunk to the scale of a television screen. And it is more beautiful. But of course they are going to complain. Soccer fans are being denied the link of action to consequence, the motion of time, the chunk of data that connects the past (Maradona’s approach) and the future (the result of his kick). If anyone was cheated by Mr. Pavarotti, it was the good citizens of Modena, the ones who were in attendance when it happened. They had the great man in front of them, sharing the same space, the same moment. They had their right to the present and to the unknown. For BBC listeners who could not see the Pavarotti lips moving out of whack with the music, ignorance may have been bliss and the sounds divine. When broadcasters record « live » events for future transmission (which they frequently do), the margin for complaint narrows even more. Here the thrill of the moment was never theirs to begin with. Frozen on tape, a firsthand experience is now secondhand. Mr. Pavarotti’s tactic would change the process to a thirdhand experience of a secondhand event. The difference isn’t all that dramatic. The Maradona analogy reminds us of the two kinds of listening going on in music these days: what is about to happen versus what has already happened. The dichotomy, which actually predates electronics by a generation or two, began with the marketing of eternal masterpieces, unmovable and omnipresent. Here, you get to know the music so well that, after bar 50, bar 51 is scarcely a surprise. Recordings — the kind Mr. Pavarotti lip-synced to — have simply reinforced the syndrome. You not only know exactly what, but exactly how. This is the little self-deception we exercise every time we play a favorite record or tune in a « Live From Lincoln Center » repeat. If we don’t already know the results, we at least know that if the performance had been a disaster, it wouldn’t be there for us to hear in the first place. Maybe Mr. Pavarotti wasn’t fooling his listeners any more than they have consented to fool themselves. Bernard Holland
Audiences have changed. People who go and hear Bocelli hear opera in soundbites – just one aria from Boheme or Tosca, like you would hear a pop song. … It’s more that I have such respect for what it takes to be a great jazz or pop artist that I know how few opera singers can really do that. To be Ella Fitzgerald, who to me is one of the greatest singers ever, you have to improvise, you have to be raw, you need to be able to lose that trained style that can sound so mannered. Collette
Compared with sopranos, tenors are a rare breed, partly because the way in which they sing is unnatural. The natural male voice is a baritone. With training, some voices have the ability to go down and become bass or bass baritone, fewer have the ability to go up and become tenors. But if the voice is forced, it can be ruined, as has happened to many great tenors with short careers. And there is no magic formula in terms of a teaching method. Each voice is unique and determined by factors such as nationality, which will influence the sound the larynx can produce – in some countries, the language spoken produces a more open sound than others. Who you like is also very much a question of personal taste. John Cargher
Bocelli has gone about it the other way round, beginning his career as a recording artist before attempting to earn credibility in staged productions. The reason for this is obvious: Bocelli’s blindness is a serious obstacle, not only in terms of the dramatic interaction with fellow cast members but in terms of his relationship with the conductor. In the 19th century, conductors followed singers when it came to tempo, these days it’s the other way round. But there is no way that Bocelli can follow a conductor he can’t see. The result is that his limited appearances in opera productions have been treated with derision by unforgiving critics. At one stage Bocelli’s management, it’s rumoured, offered several opera companies around the world the opportunity to use the star in a fundraising concert in exchange for casting him in an operatic production. All of them declined. Kevin Berger
Bocelli is, plain and simple, a San Remo smoocher who was snapped up by desperate classical labels as a marketing gimmick – it’s the blind leading the deaf. He is rarely in tune and never in tempo. Listen to his recording of the Verdi Requiem and blush. The conductor, Valery Gergiev, only tolerated him because he was assured that it would multiply sales and it did, but no person of discrimination would keep it in the house. Norman Lebrech
It’s more that I have such respect for what it takes to be a great jazz or pop artist that I know how few opera singers can really do that. To be Ella Fitzgerald, who to me is one of the greatest singers ever, you have to improvise, you have to be raw, you need to be able to lose that trained style that can sound so mannered. These days it is the fashion, and indeed universally expected, for tenors to take high notes at full volume, but this was not always the case. Until the 1850s, top Cs were sung falsetto. Audiences now would feel cheated if deprived of the thrill of anticipating whether or not a singer will clear the bar of the last note in the first act of La Boheme. And today we also expect our tenors to be true romantic leads, as in the case of the suavely handsome Roberto Alagna. These days what’s expected of a singer is that he has to have all the vocal ability plus he has to have the acting talents and presence of a theatre actor or a Hollywood star. Record companies and opera management know that’s what audiences want. … The concept exploited unique opportunities to build a global crossover audience of people who might never feel comfortable in the supposedly starchy atmosphere of an opera house, but wanted to hum along to Nessun Dorma. It was a logical, irresistible opportunity: the association with sport enabled opera to score a goal with an added oomph of virility. The Sydney Morning Herald
La technique d’enseignement des conservatoires de musique a tendance à polariser les élèves entre deux solutions extrêmes, la professionnalisation et l’échec, aux dépends de l’amateurisme actif, qui se trouve de fait peu encouragé par la pratique normale du conservatoire, par sa fermeture sur lui-même et l’exclusivité de son répertoire. Antoine Hennion, Françoise Martinat, Jean-Pierre Vignole
Si la musique commence lorsque la formation est terminée, cela implique que les élèves n’ayant pas atteint le niveau requis pour devenir virtuose ne seront jamais musiciens. Il en résulte, en France, un malentendu qui jalonne l’histoire de l’inscription sociale de la musique, où la place et le statut de l’amateur dans la société n’a pas été pensée, car elle n’est tout simplement pas pensable dans un tel contexte. La figure du musicien virtuose, telle qu’elle est si parfaitement incarnée par le violoniste Morel de Marcel Proust, chasse toute possibilité d’envisager l’amateurisme, lequel ne se conçoit alors que de manière négative : l’amateur est celui qui a échoué à devenir musicien, qui n’a pas atteint la perfection ; qui ne jouera donc jamais de musique. Le nageur qui reste sur son tabouret n’est pas un nageur, le musicien qui ne joue pas de musique n’est pas un musicien. Noémi Lefebvre
 Si les publications sur ce qu’on appellera par commodité « le rock », et ses publics, sont aujourd’hui bien répandues, le grand absent des travaux sur les musiques populaires est incontestablement ce qu’on range sous la catégorie « musique de variété ». La raison principale en est sans doute que, alors que le rock à la suite du jazz a acquis ses lettres de noblesse au fur et à mesure qu’il cessait de devenir l’expression de la rébellion postadolescente et que les politiques publiques le consacraient comme nouveau territoire légitime d’intervention, la variété reste considérée comme le vilain petit canard de la portée : au mieux, une musique à faire pleurer à bon compte dans les chaumières, une sorte d’équivalent du roman à l’eau de rose pour ménagères rêvant d’évasion ; au pire, la version la plus aboutie et donc idéologiquement la moins défendable de l’industrie musicale, une machine à vendre du disque et à asséner des tubes sur les radios, des tubes forcément simplistes qui puissent plaire au plus grand nombre. Cette légitimité inexistante de la variété est probablement accentuée par le fait que les valeurs qu’elle met en scène – dans les textes des chansons autant que par certains arrangements « dégoulinants » – sont l’expression d’un certain romantisme, valeur que la division sexuelle des loisirs a pendant longtemps et sans doute encore aujourd’hui attribué préférentiellement aux femmes (alors que le rock est plutôt du côté des pratiques et des représentations masculines). Philippe Le Guern

Attention: un miracle peut en cacher bien d’autres !

En ces temps où, avec les progrès de la médecine, l’oreille absolue sera bientôt à la portée du premier venu …

Mais où les exigences et les cadences infernales tant de l’opéra moderne que des grand messes sportives contraignent les chanteurs contre-nature que sont les ténors à la retraite précoce ou à la tricherie du playback

Pendant que, comme vient de le redémontrer le Washington Post, la beauté semble plus que jamais dans l’oreille de celui qui écoute …

Et qu’en France, un enseignement de la musique centré sur la virtuosité technique ne laisse aucune place au simple amateur …

Comment ne pas voir, de sa condamnation médicale dès la naissance à sa perte ultérieure de la vue (le privant largement du contact indispensable avec le chef d’orchestre) et,  sans compter une église qui en lui refusant le remariage le contraint au concubinage, son rejet actuel par les professionnels de l’opéra toujours plus guindés …

Le véritable miracle de la consécration désormais planétaire de l’ancien chanteur de piano-concert devenu ténor lyrique Andrea Bocelli (plus de 40 millions de disque vendus) ?

Beyond the criticism: Deconstructing Andrea Bocelli’s voice

Kevin Berger

The Los Angeles Times

December 8, 2010

Steven Mercurio knows Andrea Bocelli well. The dynamic New York-based conductor has guided some of the world’s best singers, including Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo, on celebrated opera stages. Because of his passionate approach to all styles of music, and his natural talents as a teacher, Mercurio was called upon to school Bocelli through his first starring performance in an opera, Rodolfo in « La Boheme, » in 1998. Since then Mercurio has conducted Bocelli in countless stage performances and recordings, arranged many of his songs, and been his good friend.

I didn’t want to devote my Los Angeles Times profile of Bocelli, who’s appearing Friday at Staples Center, to retreading the timeworn critical controversy over his voice. But I did want to hear from the straight-shooting Mercurio, whose infectious energy is matched by his musical intelligence. I asked him to explain, if he didn’t mind, Bocelli’s vocal range to me. He didn’t mind at all.

« I believe Andrea’s voice is similar to the way people sang bel canto at the time bel canto was written, » Mercurio said. « It was a chest voice admittedly up to G, maybe A-flat. Everything after that, basically from A-flat or A on, goes into a mixed voice. It’s half head, half chest. Andrea can get to a G, maybe an A-flat, in that full voice. After that, which was bel canto tradition, they turned it into, if not a real falsetto, a mixed voice. If you look at some of these old Donizetti things, written up to high Bs, by the time they were singing that high, they were singing in a falsetto. Andrea has always had this sort of half voice.

« Now, if you’re trying to sing B-flat and Cs, which opera singers like the Marcello Giordanis of the world do, well, they’re singing those high notes in full voice. And when they sing over an orchestra, they cut glass. In other words, it gets really exciting. Whereas Andrea’s voice, amplified, is just fine. Singing that stuff on stage unamplified is where the issue is. »

How would he explain Bocelli’s popularity?

« Andrea’s voice comes originally from the pop side, » Mercurio said. « It comes from the pop side so it speaks clearly. And so when he sings opera in that style it doesn’t sound overly mannered. Now that has pros and cons. This is where the big battle comes. Because the opera purist will say, ‘Well, that’s not really an opera voice. Because he can’t do what the so-called real opera singers do on stage. He can’t do those high notes. They don’t grow and get bigger.’ But therefore he’s less histrionic.

« So people who are coming from a non-opera background will say, ‘Oh, isn’t it nice to hear that?’ Because Andrea doesn’t sound like he’s exaggerating, he sounds like he’s just singing in a nice lyrical way. So it’s easy for people to approach that without feeling like they’re hearing somebody barking in that exaggerated operatic way. People who don’t know how to approach opera.

« But people can get to opera by liking Andrea’s pop stuff. And when he sings opera or classical stuff, since it’s all amplified, and recorded, and he’s singing in that nice lyric way, they won’t feel put-off. That’s a big point of contention for the real opera fan or the real opera critic. They’re saying that’s not real. That’s a recording studio or an amplified reality. What happens to the poor opera singer who lives day in and day out, who’s screaming their guts out, trying to cut over an orchestra? Of course they’re going to sound more histrionic, even on recording, because that’s the way they sing. Likewise, that’s why a lot of opera singers, when they sing pop music, tend to sound exaggerated. Because they learn what the Italians call l’impostazione, a way of placing the voice in this way to cut glass over the second row, and they don’t know how to turn that off. »

Voir aussi:

Andrea Bocelli worked hard to become a big draw

With a concert tour stop at Staples Center, he is a long way from the days of singing classic pop covers in piano bars. He looks back at his time as a struggling singer with fondness.

Kevin Berger

The Los Angeles Times

December 9, 2010

Reporting from New York

Friday evening, as Christmas lights glittered outside the window of his Central Park hotel suite, Andrea Bocelli was doing his best to explain himself in English. At his side was gracious Italian translator Maria Galetta, ready to help out. But the singer remained determined to find the right words himself.

Ten years ago, at a peak of his international stardom, Bocelli wrote an ingratiating memoir. He frankly described his blindness, the pains and prejudices he confronted as a kid, and the years he scraped by as a piano singer in bars and clubs in his native Tuscany. Why had he called his book « The Music of Silence »?

Bocelli, 52, furrowed his brow and leaned forward. He was unshaven and wearing a white-knit sweater, open at the neck. He had a day off from his Christmas tour, which arrives Friday at Staples Center, and had the look of a perennial performer glad to be free for a moment from his tailored suits and image. A seriousness took hold.

« First, silence is part of music, » he said slowly in English. « In the scores, the pauses are very important. Second, because in our society, what we really miss is the silence. We live in a society full of big sounds, big confusion, big mess, you know? Everywhere there is music, in the elevator, in the restaurant, in the cars, at theaters. Cars, they make noise, the engines. There’s no place where we can feel the peace of silence. For this reason I discovered that silence is music for me. »

A gentle lyricism and warm tone animate Bocelli’s singing voice. His hugely popular repertoire glides from the classic Neapolitan songs of Enrico Caruso to swooning pop duets with Celine Dion, or, as the case will be at Staples Center, Heather Headley, best known for her marquee Broadway roles in « The Lion King » and « Aida. »

Bocelli’s forays into opera have enchanted fans — though seldom critics, who argue he doesn’t have the vocal prowess and range of a classically trained tenor. Steven Mercurio, who has worked with Bocelli on stage and in the studio more often than any other conductor, agreed.

But, said Mercurio in a phone interview — he is busy conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on tour with Sting — Bocelli’s voice is « expressive and lyrical. » When Bocelli stays true to his range, Mercurio added, « he sounds beautiful. »

Given Bocelli’s romantic mystique, it’s surprising, and refreshing, to revisit his memoir. He wanted to explain his life to his sons (Amos, 15, and Matteo, 13), he said, and composed his book like a novel. « It’s easier to do it telling a story, » he said. « Because otherwise you end up writing an essay. Nobody’s interested in an essay. »

Did he also want to set the record straight, given so many others had written about him? « No. Because honestly I read probably 1% of the things that people write about me. »

As Bocelli acknowledged, the book has been poorly translated from Italian into English, which may explain why it quickly disappeared in the U.S. after being published in 2002. Still, it lays bare a little hellion — his parents called him Terremoto (earthquake) — behind the international hits.

Bocelli was born with congenital glaucoma and had partial sight until he was 12. He attended a school for the blind and one day, while playing goalie in a soccer game, was struck in the face by a ball.

The ball had a special metal plate in it so the kids could hear it when kicked. The plate caught Bocelli in the eye that had allowed him to see light and colors.

At the hospital, doctors attempted to stop the hemorrhage. They placed leeches between Bocelli’s eye and temple to suck out the blood. The treatments failed. From that point on, Bocelli would have to learn to live with complete blindness, like one learns to live « with sadness and pain, » he wrote.

Bocelli soon forged an internal fortitude about his blindness. As he wrote, referring to himself in third person, « He felt himself capable of doing everything that other boys his own age did, and claimed the right to be treated and judged by the same standards as everyone else. »

Bocelli has never veered from that attitude. Mercurio recalled that after their performances of the Jules Massenet opera « Werther » at the Detroit Opera House in 2000, he would drive Bocelli to the Detroit Athletic Club and teach him to play basketball. « I’d put him on the foul line and stand under the basket and say, ‘No, shoot a foot higher,’  » Mercurio said. « When it went in and he heard the swish he went out of his mind. »

Bocelli hates to talk publicly about his blindness. Journalists are warned by his publicist that he may end the interview if they bring it up. In private it’s a different story. « With friends he’ll say anything, » Mercurio said.

Given Bocelli’s lavish fame — spotlighted by his massive concerts at the Statute of Liberty, St. Peter’s Basilica, Leicester Square — it’s hard not to ask him to reflect on the nights in the1980s when he sang over clinking glasses, through clouds of cigarette smoke, in Italian clubs.

He fondly remembered one club that was part disco, part bar.

Patrons would meander between thumping disco music in one room and him playing the piano in another. What songs did he sing?

« Classic pop music like Frank Sinatra, Charles Aznavour, Stevie Wonder. the Beatles, » Bocelli said. He started singing in a jarringly flawless American voice, « Don’t go changing to try and please me, you never let me down…. » He laughed.

Reminded that he called that period of his life « dissolute, » Bocelli let slip a sly grin. « I had many friends, some girlfriends, » he said.

Galetta, the translator, conferred with him in Italian. « In Italian, female friends and girlfriends can easily be confused, » she said.

Bocelli assured her he meant « girlfriends. »

One summer night in an open-air club in the town of Chianni, a 17-year-old fan, Enrica Cenzatti, introduced herself to Bocelli. The two fell in love and married when Bocelli got his first big break — an endorsement from Luciano Pavarotti, who had heard and liked one of Bocelli’s demos.

Bocelli, Cenzatti and their boys moved to the coastal commune of Forte dei Marmi. The marriage unraveled in 2002; today Bocelli lives with his girlfriend and manager, Veronica Berti, in a villa near his wife, whom he hasn’t divorced, and their kids.

Talking about his carefree nights as the piano man seemed to put Bocelli in a slightly melancholic mood. « When I played in the piano bar I was very comfortable, much more than now, » he said. « Because now I have many responsibilities. Many people come to my concerts just for me. And often the tickets are very expensive. And I am sorry for this. At that time I spent my time very easy. Now it’s much more difficult. But I feel a big affection from the people. »

Indeed, it must feel like he’s come a long way from singing « Strangers in the Night » to 30 people, toasting him with shot glasses of grappa? This time he responded without hesitation. « Many, many kilometers. »

Voir également:

The king of popera

The Sydney Morning Herald

August 28, 2004

He may be a hit with the masses, but tenor Andrea Bocelli has few fans within opera’s establishment, writes Caroline Baum.

It’s no accident that IMG, the global entertainment management company that represents the world’s biggest sporting stars (Tiger Woods, the Williams sisters, Michael Schumacher) also has a few of the world’s top tenors in its stable. Tenors are the elite athletes of the opera world, the Olympians of track and field: they need the stamina of the marathon runner, the quick reflexes of the sprinter and the vocal and physical agility of the hurdler.

The late Mark McCormack, IMG’s founder, understood that, blessed with natural gifts and sometimes freakish talents, tenors could be as profitable as champions. So it’s no coincidence that these days you are as likely to hear a tenor in a sporting arena as you are in an opera house.

No one embodies the new « popera » genre more than Andrea Bocelli, the 46-year-old Italian tenor who has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide since 1997.

A love of sport had tragic consequences in Bocelli’s life, when he was blinded in an accident during a soccer game at home in Tuscany.

But that disability has also contributed to his success, creating an aura of sympathy and pathos around him. In other ways, he has been blessed, with several lucky breaks leading to a career no one could have envisaged for a lawyer who sang Sinatra songs in piano bars to pay for his musical tuition.

Bocelli’s big chance came when Luciano Pavarotti heard him singing a song by U2’s Bono on an audition tape. Pavarotti later invited Bocelli to sing a duet with him at a concert. The audience went wild and has been doing so ever since.

Yet when Bocelli comes to Sydney, he’ll be performing at the SuperDome at Sydney Olympic Park, not at the Opera House, singing to a capacity crowd of 18,000 each night. And thanks to amplification and giant-screen technology, everyone will be able to hear and see him as if they had the best seat in the house, something you can’t always guarantee in a conventional theatre.

But it is the very use of such technology that helps, at least in part, to explain the sniffy attitude that means Bocelli is not taken seriously by true opera lovers. The fact that he sings into a microphone disguises the inherent lack of power in his voice, they contend.

For purists, the power of a tenor’s voice is very much part of the thrill. The microphone is to opera what illicit drugs are to sport.

Not that Bocelli is the first, or the only operatic tenor to resort to such aids. Pavarotti’s former manager, Herbert Breslin, reveals in a new kiss-and-tell book to be published later this year that the legendary tenor would occasionally lip-synch during concerts if he was tired.

It’s a claim never before made in the world of opera, but common in pop, which relies completely on amplification and its many tricks to boost vocal effect.

As Opera Australia’s managing director Adrian Collette explains: « Amplification doesn’t just augment the voice, it can cover up a lot of mistakes.

« Bocelli, for example, has a small voice and sings out of tune from time to time, but the amplification reverb helps cover that up. It can also extend notes so they sound like they’re being held longer. »

Without the phenomenal success of the Three Tenors (Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carerras), there would have been no precedent for the Bocelli phenomenon. It was they, and their canny managers, who embraced the notion of arena performances.

In a stroke of marketing genius, impresarios such as Mario Dradi, who staged the first Three Tenors concert in Rome in 1990, and Tibor Rudas, who managed several of Pavarotti’s outdoor concerts, brought together the three most charismatic male voices of the second half of the 20th century.

The concept exploited unique opportunities to build a global crossover audience of people who might never feel comfortable in the supposedly starchy atmosphere of an opera house, but wanted to hum along to Nessun Dorma. The Three Tenors brand (a registered trademark) played on the trio’s shared passion for football, making their first performance at a soccer World Cup.

It was a logical, irresistible opportunity: the association with sport enabled opera to score a goal with an added oomph of virility.

Of course, it helped that on their own, each of the Three Tenors possessed prodigious talents, enormous reputations, undoubted charisma and a devoted following, but were sufficiently different in style and temperament to make the mystique of the tenor an elusive quality.

In the case of Pavarotti it is the sweet natural beauty of his voice and an unmistakable presence; in the case of Domingo, the darker timbre of the voice plus a dramatic intensity; and in Carreras, a matinee idol persona heightened by a sense of tragedy (he overcame life-threatening leukaemia with a bone marrow transplant).

Enrico Caruso, considered by many the greatest tenor of all time, defined a great tenor as, « a big chest, a big mouth, 90 per cent memory, 10 per cent intelligence, lots of hard work and something in the heart ».

What he could not foresee as being equally crucial was the power of management and marketing, although he took part in the beginning of the era of mass communication as the first tenor to make a recording, thereby guaranteeing himself the largest operatic audience in the world at that time.

Mario Lanza, to whom Bocelli is sometimes compared, made the transition from opera singer to crossover artist by starring in several Hollywood movies, in the process tarnishing his operatic credibility and reducing him to the status of schmalzy crooner at a time when the synergy between film, considered a lowbrow medium, and opera, a highbrow medium, had not been fully understood. It was something that Domingo, a consummate actor, seized on to great success in films like Tosca and La Traviata.

Breslin, a veteran of the opera world who once also represented Joan Sutherland, says: « Several things have changed: first of all, there are very few great tenors around, so of course the public is hungry for what they can get and are prepared to settle for second best. When Pavarotti began his career, there were a dozen brilliant tenors singing around the world, which kept standards very high.

« Secondly, audiences have changed. People who go and hear Bocelli hear opera in soundbites – just one aria from Boheme or Tosca, like you would hear a pop song. »

Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras had already earned themselves impeccable credentials as the finest tenors of the age inside opera’s inner sanctum, performing the traditional repertoire to critical acclaim in the most august houses on the circuit, such as La Scala, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan.

Bocelli has gone about it the other way round, beginning his career as a recording artist before attempting to earn credibility in staged productions.

The reason for this is obvious: Bocelli’s blindness is a serious obstacle, not only in terms of the dramatic interaction with fellow cast members but in terms of his relationship with the conductor. In the 19th century, conductors followed singers when it came to tempo, these days it’s the other way round. But there is no way that Bocelli can follow a conductor he can’t see.

The result is that his limited appearances in opera productions have been treated with derision by unforgiving critics. At one stage Bocelli’s management, it’s rumoured, offered several opera companies around the world the opportunity to use the star in a fundraising concert in exchange for casting him in an operatic production. All of them declined.

Opera Australia’s Collette, who has only heard Bocelli on recordings, describes his voice as « pretty, light, with a very individual colour and timbre – he’s got a unique sound ». He insists that he’s not a snob about singers who attempt to crack the highly lucrative crossover market, singing popular tunes by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Weber or the Beatles along with a bit of Puccini and Verdi.

« It’s more that I have such respect for what it takes to be a great jazz or pop artist that I know how few opera singers can really do that. To be Ella Fitzgerald, who to me is one of the greatest singers ever, you have to improvise, you have to be raw, you need to be able to lose that trained style that can sound so mannered.

« If you’re Domingo, you’re not Hugh Jackman. There’s only one tenor in Australia who has had real success as a crossover artist and that’s David Hobson, whose voice suits the lighter repertoire in opera as well as musicals. »

Breslin is reluctant to call Bocelli an opera singer, but recognises that he is a great entertainer « who sings pretty songs in a nice voice, a bit like Engelbert Humperdinck ».

Compared with sopranos, tenors are a rare breed, partly because the way in which they sing is unnatural, as John Cargher, the doyen of opera connoisseurs explains.

« The natural male voice is a baritone. With training, some voices have the ability to go down and become bass or bass baritone, fewer have the ability to go up and become tenors. But if the voice is forced, it can be ruined, as has happened to many great tenors with short careers. And there is no magic formula in terms of a teaching method. Each voice is unique and determined by factors such as nationality, which will influence the sound the larynx can produce – in some countries, the language spoken produces a more open sound than others. Who you like is also very much a question of personal taste. »

And, like wine (which Bocelli’s father produces at the family vineyard, under the label of Chianti Bocelli), some voices mature better than others.

These days it is the fashion, and indeed universally expected, for tenors to take high notes at full volume, but this was not always the case. Until the 1850s, top Cs were sung falsetto. Audiences now would feel cheated if deprived of the thrill of anticipating whether or not a singer will clear the bar of the last note in the first act of La Boheme. And today we also expect our tenors to be true romantic leads, as in the case of the suavely handsome Roberto Alagna.

Pavarotti was the exception to the rule, simply because the quality of his voice meant audiences made allowances for him. « He was an irresistible force, » says Collette, who, having heard the singer live, calls him « one of the two or three greatest ever ».

« These days what’s expected of a singer is that he has to have all the vocal ability plus he has to have the acting talents and presence of a theatre actor or a Hollywood star, » Collette says. « Record companies and opera management know that’s what audiences want. For the OA, the bottom line is if you can’t sing it, no matter how well you act or look, you won’t get the role. »

Among the current batch of homegrown tenors singing with Opera Australia, Collette singles out Stuart Skelton as « the one to watch ». Cargher also mentions Skelton, together with three other Australian tenors building a reputation with their performances in European opera houses: Steve Davislim, Julian Gavin and Glen Winslade.

But no one is suggesting that any of these singers is going to fill a sports stadium. And despite the best efforts of Alan Jones and friends, former shoe repair man Peter Brocklehurst, featured recently on the ABC’s Australian Story program and in Good Weekend magazine pursuing his dream of becoming a tenor at the age of 44, is not, according to the opera world’s sharpest ears, a contender.

London opera critic Norman Lebrecht, who has written several books on the classical music world, sees the triumph of Bocelli as a cynical exercise on the part of a recording industry facing diminishing audiences.

« Bocelli is, plain and simple, a San Remo smoocher who was snapped up by desperate classical labels as a marketing gimmick – it’s the blind leading the deaf. He is rarely in tune and never in tempo.

« Listen to his recording of the Verdi Requiem and blush. The conductor, Valery Gergiev, only tolerated him because he was assured that it would multiply sales and it did, but no person of discrimination would keep it in the house. »

Of course, such criticism is unlikely to deter his hundreds of thousands of (mostly female) fans around the world. They’ll keep buying his CDs, pelting him with red roses and begging for encores of French and Italian love songs, swooning in the aisles over Bocelli’s potent combination of vulnerability, intensity and good looks.

For them, the future looks rosy: Bocelli, could have another 20 years as a successful recording artist and arena performer ahead of him. Perhaps the shrewdest assessment that IMG’s Mark McCormack made is that, unlike athletes, whose peak performance period usually spans a brief time, tenors can go the distance for far longer than any marathon man.

Andrea Bocelli performs with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the SuperDome on September 17 and 18.

A fistful of top tenors

Roberto Alagna, Franco-Italian

Is married to star soprano Angela Gheorghiu; as opera’s royal couple, they appear in many productions together.

Ramon Vargas, Mexican

A glamorous lyrical tenor, suited to the romantic repertoire.

Juan Diego Florez, Peruvian

Brilliant in ornamental, florid repertoire, such as Rossini.

Josef Calleja, Maltese

Tipped by some as the next Pavarotti.

Ben Heppner, Canadian

Heroic tenor particularly suited to big Wagnerian roles.

Jose Cura, Argentinian

Like Domingo, is also pursuing a career as a conductor.

Marcello Alvarez, Argentinian

Quit his job in a furniture factory to pursue an operatic career at 30.

Salvatore Licitra, Italian

Replaced Pavarotti to debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Voir encore:

Critic’s Notebook; Pavarotti Lip-Syncs, And the Echoes Are Far-Reaching

Bernard Holland

The New York Times

October 27, 1992

The BBC, by all reports, is not happy with Luciano Pavarotti. The British broadcasters bought the rights to a Sept. 27 concert in Modena, Italy, and discovered that the Italian tenor had silently moved his mouth (inexpertly, some of those present said) to recorded music. Mr. Pavarotti’s part in this two-hour event was small, but the BBC paid for the real thing and wants some of its money back. Mr. Pavarotti says he did it because he had had no time to rehearse.

Deciding what the term « real thing » means has not been so easy since music first started using electrical current. Once upon a simpler time, a musician made a noise and someone else’s ears received it. Now there are an awful lot of wires in between. There is nothing artificial about them. They have become part of the music.

Sound engineers possess little boxes that can make the inside of a small recording studio sound like a cathedral, and vice versa. And can we call Mr. Pavarotti’s little subterfuge fraudulent when Frank Sinatra’s voice in concert is being reconstituted by microphones, amplifiers and loudspeakers on its way to paying customers?

The Sinatra transaction and the Pavarotti caper aren’t the same, but the confusions between live and electronic are. Modena is different mainly in the time gap between the original « real thing » and the synthesized « real thing. » Maybe the BBC ought to be glad it caught Mr. Pavarotti in such good voice, even if it wasn’t the one he had on Sept. 27.

Beginning with the premise that a listener always wants the most beauty possible, it would have been interesting to offer ticket buyers in Modena this choice: ripe Pavarotti, U.S.D.A.-inspected, guaranteed and pretested; or Pavarotti as a gamble on the unknown — and given the lack of rehearsal time a bad gamble at that. It was going to be his voice either way.

Everyone, of course, would reject the simulation to see what happened. The explanation they would no doubt give is that live sound is better than recorded sound. But I think the real reason would be something else. It’s the time factor. People don’t want to be two-timed. Everything we do in life is geared to cause and effect, and when Mr. Pavarotti opens his mouth, we insist on not knowing what will come out. Public performance is more of a sporting event than we like to admit. We talk about beauty, but we all keep score.

Picture a soccer match on television. Diego Maradona is outwitting defenders and speeding toward the enemy goal. Now picture Mr. Pavarotti and the Modena concert’s producer, Tibor Rudas, in the telecast booth. « Maradona looks off balance, » they say to themselves. « This isn’t going to be a very beautiful kick. But wait. Remember that great goal by Di Stefano for Real Madrid 35 years ago. We have that right here, queued up on tape. Our fans deserve the most beautiful football we can give them, so let’s cut from Maradona and show them this instead. »

How could soccer fans possibly complain? The substitute is going to have just about the same look: two-dimensional and shrunk to the scale of a television screen. And it is more beautiful.

But of course they are going to complain. Soccer fans are being denied the link of action to consequence, the motion of time, the chunk of data that connects the past (Maradona’s approach) and the future (the result of his kick).

If anyone was cheated by Mr. Pavarotti, it was the good citizens of Modena, the ones who were in attendance when it happened. They had the great man in front of them, sharing the same space, the same moment. They had their right to the present and to the unknown. For BBC listeners who could not see the Pavarotti lips moving out of whack with the music, ignorance may have been bliss and the sounds divine.

When broadcasters record « live » events for future transmission (which they frequently do), the margin for complaint narrows even more. Here the thrill of the moment was never theirs to begin with. Frozen on tape, a firsthand experience is now secondhand. Mr. Pavarotti’s tactic would change the process to a thirdhand experience of a secondhand event. The difference isn’t all that dramatic.

The Maradona analogy reminds us of the two kinds of listening going on in music these days: what is about to happen versus what has already happened. The dichotomy, which actually predates electronics by a generation or two, began with the marketing of eternal masterpieces, unmovable and omnipresent. Here, you get to know the music so well that, after bar 50, bar 51 is scarcely a surprise. Recordings — the kind Mr. Pavarotti lip-synced to — have simply reinforced the syndrome. You not only know exactly what, but exactly how.

This is the little self-deception we exercise every time we play a favorite record or tune in a « Live From Lincoln Center » repeat. If we don’t already know the results, we at least know that if the performance had been a disaster, it wouldn’t be there for us to hear in the first place. Maybe Mr. Pavarotti wasn’t fooling his listeners any more than they have consented to fool themselves.

Voir de plus:

Pavarotti mimed at final performance

· Millions watched tenor’s opening of Olympics

· Star’s conductor Leone Magiera reveals secret

Tom Kington in Rome

Monday 7 April 2008 00.04 BST

On a freezing February night in 2006, an ailing Luciano Pavarotti rose from his wheelchair at the opening of the Turin Winter Olympics to give a resounding rendition of the aria Nessun Dorma, his final public performance before he died of cancer last September.

Details have emerged of how the opera singer was unsure of his weakening voice and faked the live appearance in front of a TV audience of millions, using video trickery, careful lipsynching and a compliant orchestra that pre-recorded its backing days earlier.

« Pavarotti’s great career therefore ended with a virtual performance, something sad but inevitable, » said Leone Magiera, the star’s longtime pianist and conductor, who has revealed the ploy in a book. « It would have been too dangerous for him, because of his physical condition, to risk a live performance before a global audience. »

Magiera said that the trick took days to set up. « First I recorded a number of versions of the orchestra playing the aria, then [I] took the tapes to the small studio at Pavarotti’s house in Modena, » he said.

« He selected the right version before I directed him alone as he sang along, while being recorded. »

In the book, Pavarotti Visto da Vicino, or Pavarotti Seen from up Close, Magiera says: « He found the force to repeat it until he was completely satisfied. Then he collapsed on his wheelchair and closed his eyes, exhausted. »

Less than a week later, just before the Olympics ceremony, Pavarotti was filmed on stage miming to the recordings as the orchestra pretended to play behind him.

On the big night, that video was played for TV audiences along with the pre-recorded music, while crowds in the stadium heard the music and saw conductor, singer and orchestra faking it for a second time.

« The orchestra pretended to play for the audience, I pretended to conduct and Luciano pretended to sing. The effect was wonderful, » Magiera wrote in the book.

The effect was good enough for one fan who wrote on YouTube after watching the video: « Knowing when to cut off that final high note to match a tape would be next to impossible … It’s live, it’s him. »

Looking back, Magiera said he preferred to recall another performance given by Pavarotti in the 1990s, this time to a deserted opera house in the Amazon jungle. Built in 1896 for rubber barons, the opulent Amazon Theatre featured in the film Fitzcarraldo.

« He was determined to sing at the old opera house in Manaus, where he was convinced Caruso had once sung, » he said.

« We went up there by boat, located a piano but found the theatre out of use. Nevertheless, we went in and he sang two arias from Tosca, E lucevan le stelle and Recondita armonia to an audience of about five. »

Magiera’s memoir details Pavarotti’s struggle to work, even as he succumbed to pancreatic cancer. While giving lessons to young singers, he would drift off, whereupon his Peruvian assistant would ring him on his mobile phone. Jerked awake, Pavarotti « would immediately make a more or less relevant observation about the performance he had only partly listened to ».

At the end, even his legendary appetite deserted him, Magiera writes. When he could not eat the plate of rigatoni he had asked for, « he looked at me with a sad smile and said ‘That’s a bad sign for me if I prefer mashed potato to macheroni’. »

Voir de même:

Andrea Bocelli Miracle Birth Gave Us Music

Fool’s gold today

In 1958 a pregnant mother went to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. A diagnosis of acute appendicitis was made and surgery was the obvious best option.

It can be a formidable challenge to anesthetize and do surgery on a pregnant patient, especially non-obstetric surgery. Every time I face such a case, I am well aware that I must take care of two patients, and their lives and well-being are equally important to me. The stakes are increased not only because there are two individuals under my care, but because pregnancy increases the anesthetic risk for the mother significantly.

Imagine how much more difficult this situation was in 1958, when surgical and anesthetic technique was not nearly as developed as today!

At the time of surgery, the young mother-to-be was advised to abort her baby due to the risk of developmental defects as a result of surgery and anesthesia. But contrary to medical advice, the mom trusted God and decided to keep the baby in the hopes things will work out alright.

She gave birth to a boy who had congenital glaucoma, but who was otherwise healthy. He had decreased vision, and following some trauma during a football game he lost his vision at age 12.

But this boy was special for a different reason. He was blessed with an unbelievable talent. He had and continues to have the voice of an angel.

During a concert he thanked his mother, Edi, who made the right decision to allow him to live so he can bless the world with the common grace of beautiful music. He ended up selling over 70 million records, and his music is well-loved throughout the world.

That musician’s name is Andrea Bocelli.

Voir encore:

Andrea Bocelli : une voix et un coeur.

Un chanteur lyrique qui flirte avec la variété et dont le grand Al Jarreau a dit qu’il avait « la plus belle voix au monde » : portrait.

Andrea Bocelli est né le 22 Septembre 1958 dans la ferme familiale Lajatico (Toscane). Il devient aveugle à l’âge de 12 ans à la suite d’un glaucome congénital aggravé par un diabète chronique. Il apprend le braille dans une école spécialisée de Reggio Emilia où la beauté de sa voix lui permet de devenir soliste dans le choeur. Selon ses propres termes, il ne se souvient pas avoir vécu sans passion pour la musique, et il a poursuivi très tôt le rêve de devenir chanteur d’opéra. Durant l’adolescence, il gagne nombre de concours de chant mais choisit par prudence de passer un diplôme de Droit à l’Université de Pise tout en faisant quelques apparitions remarquées dans les bars musicaux de la ville dans un répertoire allant d’Aznavour à Sinatra. Le réel tournant dans sa vie d’artiste est sa rencontre avec le légendaire ténor Franco Corelli qui accepte de prendre comme élève celui qu’il surnomme « l’ange aveugle ». Fini le Droit et les cafés-concerts…

En 1992, la rock-star italienne Zucchero Fornaciari, qui avait besoin d’un ténor de doublure pour lui donner la réplique dans la préparation du duo « Miserere » à chanter avec Luciano Pavarotti, recrute Andrea Bocelli. Pavarotti est enchanté. Le jeune débutant est ensuite approché par la maison de disque Sugar Label dont la présidente l’a entendu chanter le fameux « Nessun dorma » du Turandot de Puccini lors d’une soirée privée. La maison de disque fait en sorte de faire inviter son protégé au Festival de San Remo où il obtient le succès escompté et une révélation au public italien. Le reste du monde le découvre à l’occasion de la sortie du tube planétaire « Con te partirò », numéro 1 en France pendant six semaines et meilleure vente de disques de tous les temps en Allemagne…

En 1994, Luciano Pavarotti invite personnellement Andrea Bocelli au festival Pavarotti de Modène où il chante en duo avec le Maestro (qui l’a désigné comme son successeur) mais aussi avec Bryan Adams, Andreas Vollenveider et Nancy Gustavsson. « Le ténor qui voit avec le coeur » passe même la veillée de Noël aux côtés du Pape! L’année suivante, il fait une tournée télévisée triomphale en Europe où il partage la vedette avec Al Jarreau, Bryan Ferry, Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) et John Miles. Depuis, il a chanté sur les scènes les plus prestigieuses avec la plupart des stars mondiales.

Ses grands débuts sur une scène d’opéra se font en 1998 à Cagliari (Sicile) dans une production de la Bohème de Puccini, où il tient le rôle de Rodolphe. Malheureusement, sa voix rencontre des difficultés à « passer la fosse d’orchestre », pour employer l’expression des critiques lyriques : Bocelli ne réussit pas à cette occasion à être reconnu par la presse et les « aficionados » comme le grand ténor capable d’enflammer le public des salles d’opéra. A la scène, c’est donc vers la carrière de chanteur de variétés qu’il s’oriente, tout en poursuivant son travail de ténor pour le disque, enregistrant les arias les plus célèbres du répertoire et quelques intégrales lyriques à destination du grand public. Marié en 1993, Andrea Bocelli est le père de deux garçons. Il a, dit- il, fait sienne la devise du Petit Prince de Saint- Exupéry : « On ne voit qu’avec le coeur; l’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux »…

Voir encore:

A Requiem for Classical Music?

Julie Lee

Boston Fed

Regional ReviewQuarter 2, 2003

A man stands surrounded by women. He is tall and handsome with long, flowing hair; the women are worshipful, kneeling at his feet. There is one particularly zealous admirer with large scissors, ready to cut a lock of his hair. If it weren’t for the corsets and bustles, this could be a scene of a rock star being hounded by hysterical female fans. Yet, this is a caricature from 1876 depicting Franz Lizst and admirers after one of his concerts.

A lot has changed since then. Today, such an enthusiastic reception is reserved for teen pop idols and movie stars. Even as overall sales of music grew steadily until the late 1990s, the sales of classical music CDs hovered at a scant 3 to 4 percent of the total. Record companies such as BMG Classics are slashing the number of new classical releases or, like CRI (a not-for-profit label which has recorded 42 Pulitzer Prize-winning composers), closing altogether. Classical music stations have disappeared in many cities; one-third of the nation’s top 100 radio markets do not have a classical station. After 63 years, ChevronTexaco’s radio broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera House will be off the air next year. Many symphony orchestras are cutting back programs and suffering financial difficulties. The Pittsburgh Symphony is selling its concert hall. A sign of the times: the “Death of Classical Music Archive” on ArtsJournal.com contains more than 50 recent articles on the topic.

At the same time, it is easier than ever to buy any classical CD one might desire. A recent search on Amazon.com for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 yielded a staggering 874 options, including 276 different recordings of a complete performance of all four movements. The choices included every imaginable compilation (from Beethoven: Greatest Hits to Beethoven: Super Hits) and every possible price point (from $2.98 for a performance by an unnamed orchestra to $101.98 for a boxed set with famed conductor Herbert von Karajan). Previously hard-to- find works are also more readily available. As a piano student 20 years ago, I had trouble locating Debussy’s “Children’s Corner” (a suite of miniatures for piano) performed by Walter Gieseking—but Amazon instantly offered up two choices.

Moreover, attendance at classical concerts appears to be rising slightly. According to a 1997 survey commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts, more than 15 percent of respondents attended a classical music event the previous year, a 3 percentage point increase from five years earlier. And while classical’s share of CDs is not large, it appears to have held steady over the past 20 years.

So, is classical music dying? Or are the reports of its demise simply exaggerated?

A STAR IS BORN:

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE CLASSICAL MUSIC BUSINESS

Everybody knows classical music when they hear it. It’s old. It’s serious. It’s stuffy. Yet, classical music is an imprecise term, generally referring to Western music from medieval times to the present day. Most of what is commonly called classical music is indeed old, dating back to the sixth century when church chants were first written down and codified. However, much new classical music is being written right now, and much more is still to be written. During the 2002-2003 season alone, 207 works were premiered worldwide.

It is often assumed that all classical music is serious and is written with artistic merit as its purpose. But that is not the case. Classical music can be complex, deep, and intellectually meaty (like Beethoven or Brahms symphonies), but it also can be light, irreverent, and frivolous (like Strauss waltzes). And while knowledge and familiarity can enhance one’s enjoyment of classical music, they are not required, much in the way one needn’t be an Elizabethan scholar to enjoy Shakespeare or a film studies major to enjoy movies. Many people enjoy classical music with little or no formal training.

Whatever its pretensions, artistic or otherwise, until the 19th century the classical music business was relatively prosaic. The composer was a staff function within the machinery of social organizations like the royal court, which employed musicians to sing and play for worship in the cathedral and for entertainment at the palace. Many prominent composers, including Monteverdi, Haydn, and Mozart, held such positions. These hired composers/conductors/music directors generally worked at the whim of their employers, who were not always interested in music. Haydn is said to have composed the “Surprise” symphony to wake dozing patrons after a big meal and the “Farewell” symphony to send his employer a message that it was time to cut short a stay in the country because the musicians were homesick.

Consequently, many famous works in classical music were composed because they were in the job description. For example, J.S. Bach (1685-1750) wrote his cycle of cantatas so that his choir would have a piece to perform each Sunday. And he dedicated the Brandenburg Concertos to a potential employer, as a job application of sorts. By all accounts, Bach was a methodical and industrious employee, “in the business of holding jobs.” He did not set out to create masterpieces of artistic importance; those turned out to be fortunate by-products.

The rise of the bourgeois class by the eighteenth century set the stage for change, including the appearance of freelance composers, star performers, and the modern market for music. As music moved out of the salons of aristocracy to the concert halls of the middle class, it became a public commercial activity in which the professional musicians performed for the paying audience. By the nineteenth century, many of the principles governing the classical music business today were already in place. The new system of an organized market for mass consumption of music required two key elements: star performers to attract an audience, and the supporting business apparatus to deliver the star and the music to the public efficiently. There were tickets to sell, seats to fill, and stars to manufacture and market.

Which bring us back to Franz Lizst (1811-1886), a Hungarian- born composer-pianist and, along with Nicolò Paganini, the first modern virtuoso and international superstar. First and foremost, there was his brilliant technique. In the words of Felix Mendelssohn, “Lizst has a certain suppleness and versatility in his fingers, as well as a thoroughly musical feeling, which may nowhere find its equal.” But Lizst was also a showman. He heightened the effect of his technique by performing from memory (a requirement on today’s stage) and by refusing to share the stage with other musicians (before him, there were no solo recitals and no instrumentalist gave a concert without others). And not unlike today’s rock stars, his extra-musical activities and scandalous love affairs were integral to his mystique. Although critics and detractors considered him cheap and flashy, those very qualities made him a star. He gave his audience what they wanted.

The twentieth century brought additional ways to consume music and new ways to promote star performers. Recordings, radio, television, and eventually the Internet further increased the potential audience for classical music. Tenor Enrico Caruso was the first recording star. His 1904 performance from the opera I Pagliacci became the first record to sell one million copies; and several other artists had top ten hits in the years between 1900 and 1920. Superstar conductors like Arturo Toscanini, Eugene Ormandy, and Leopold Stokowski were successful enough to become household names. Although accurate sales figures are hard to come by, Ormandy and Toscanini are reported to have sold more than 20 million records each over the course of their careers. And Stokowski shook hands with twentieth-century pop icon, Mickey Mouse, in Disney’s 1940 movie, Fantasia.

WHERE’S THE MONEY?

THE CASE OF THE RECORDING INDUSTRY

In spite of the commercial success of its biggest stars, classical music recordings were not traditionally expected to make much of a profit, at least not a quick one. The typical recording sold at a relatively slow rate, two or three thousand on first release, but steadily over a longer period. Walter Legge, arguably the best-known record producer in the history of classical music, said that he wanted to make records that would sell for 20 or 30 years—and 40 years later, many still do. But this also meant that many recordings (especially those by large orchestras) wouldn’t make a profit until they were reissued as part of a midprice or budget series.

For the most part, record companies seemed content with the prestige and comparatively small profit margins of their classical recordings or were willing to subsidize them with profits from their pop divisions. They kept their focus on “documenting” star performances. “The major labels all operated on the principle that the best way to make money was to record prominent names in standard repertory. . . [and they] signed exclusive contracts with the biggest artists they could find,” wrote music critic Terry Teachout in Commentary. Under this regime, Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price, Artur Rubinstein, and other big names continued to sell records into the 1960s and 1970s. Bernstein, in particular, brought classical music into millions of homes during the 1960s with his television series introducing classical music to young people.

But cracks were appearing in the traditional business model. The market for classical music and its star performers began to shrink if not in absolute sales, at least relative to the alternatives: Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson. The explosion of other entertainment options such as television, movies, and later videogames only intensified the competition for the audience’s time and pocketbook.

Moreover, this stars-and-standard repertory approach also resulted in market saturation of the core product, the Bach-Beethoven-Brahms fare constituting the canon. Since a “new” product meant a recording of an old piece by a young performer or a second recording by a veteran, the number of recordings of a relatively small number of pieces eventually proliferated. The result was a catalog consisting of tens of thousands of titles—the majority concentrated in the standard repertory—which was expensive for labels and retailers to maintain and potentially confusing to fans.

The industry also underwent several periods of consolidation including, a particularly intense round of mergers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For example, Decca, a British label founded in 1929, merged with Polygram in 1980 (which itself was formed by a merger of Deutsche Grammophon and Philips in 1972) and then was incorporated into Universal Music after its purchase in 1998. Similarly, RCA (Toscanini’s label) is now part of Bertelsmann, a German conglomerate, and Columbia Records (Vladimir Horowitz’s label) is part of Sony. As a division within a multinational conglomerate, these labels now competed directly with the more lucrative popular music divisions, and faced increasing pressure to maximize profits.

THE THREE TENORS

It was under these circumstances, that classical music experienced its most unprecedented commercial triumph. The phenomenal success of the Three Tenors in the early 1990s changed expectations and set a new standard for the industry. “Gone were the days when it was acceptable for classical music sales to chug along at a few hundred per year. Now they were expected to perform like popular music divisions,” observed Ian Lace in BBC Music Magazine.

José Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti, the three tenors of world renown, first sang together as a trio for the 1990 World Cup in Rome. What nobody could have imagined was the extraordinary success of this venture. About 800 million people worldwide saw the television broadcasts, and the recording, The Three Tenors in Concert, became by far the bestselling classical album of all time, with sales exceeding 10 million. The Three Tenors became both a franchise and a marketing concept. They went on to sing at subsequent World Cups (Los Angeles in 1994, Paris in 1998, and Yokohama in 2002), and spawned imitators like the Three Sopranos and even the Three Chinese Tenors.

In addition to making the singers extremely rich, The Three Tenors in Concert had an enormous effect on the business. It demonstrated that a classical CD can sell in the millions. In the way that Star Wars changed the movie industry, The Three Tenors instigated the industry’s relentless search for the next blockbuster that would immediately sell millions. Marketing became more expensive and sophisticated as companies worked to amplify small successes into hits. And some predicted this would help build a new, larger audience for classical music.

Such efforts have been successful to a point, leading to a string of highly popular crossover albums that topped pop charts. A 1992 recording of Henryk Górecki’s Third Symphony, a mournful work for soprano and orchestra by the contemporary Polish composer—previously more cult figure than superstar —sold more than 1 million CDs. Even more successful was Chant, recorded by Benedictine monks in northern Spain. Originally promoted by EMI Spain as an antidote to stress, the company undertook a U.S. marketing campaign after sales began to rise that included reducing the two-CD recording to one disc, shortening the title from Las Mejores Obras del Canto Gregoriano (The Best of Gregorian Chants) to the snappier Chant, commissioning an eye-catching new cover, and even shooting a video clip to accompany “Alleluia, beatus vir qui suffert.” Sales, in excess of 4 million, probably amount to more copies than all other Gregorian chant CDs combined.

Yet, a business strategy based on crossover blockbusters has turned out to be unreliable. Just as nobody had imagined the extraordinary success of The Three Tenors, finding and marketing the next classical mega-hit has been difficult and unpredictable, with little guidance from the three very different hits mentioned above: The Three Tenors is a crowd-pleasing medley of songs including the greatest hits of the opera repertory sung by the reigning tenors of the day; Chant consists of simple, unaccompanied melodies from the very beginning of Western music; and Górecki’s Third Symphony is a somber piece in the minimalist tradition by a modern composer. Notes then senior vice president at Decca (the record label responsible for The Three Tenors): “There are occasional miracles…but such blockbusters are rare. . . . They have to be seen as special, almost freak occurrences.”

Moreover, if Amazon’s “customers also bought” links are any indication, such one-time hits don’t appear to have spilled over into increased sales in the standard repertoire. Customers who purchased The Three Tenors have also bought other crossover CDs, like Pavarotti’s Greatest Hits or The #1 Opera Album, but don’t appear to have ventured into traditional opera CDs, like Pavarotti’s Turandot or La Bohème.

While the major recording companies pursued the seductive but elusive lure of mega-hits, a number of companies have been quite successful—commercially and artistically—by taking other approaches. The label Naxos, for example, records new versions of the standard repertory without star performers to keep costs reasonable; Hyperion and others specialize in recording and releasing less often heard, more adventurous works. (See sidebar.) The success of these firms suggests that classical music may still have some life in it yet.

REVERENCE VS. RELEVANCE:

THE CASE FOR EXPANDING THE AUDIENCE

It is worth noting that concerns about the health of classical music have popped up fairly regularly. In 1980, a New York Times article announced a “classical crisis” in the recording industry. In 1971, another New York Times piece noted a decline in classical radio stations going back to 1967; in 1949, articles in other publications complained of similar circumstances.

Yet, a closer look suggests that the demand for classical music seems to have held fairly steady, at least over the past 20 years. During that time, the share of classical recordings has remained relatively stable at about 3 to 5 percent. (The figure briefly reached an unusually high 7 to 8 percent in the late 1980s as classical music buffs replaced their LPs with CDs.) Moreover, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, 30 million adults (16 percent) had attended a classical music event in the previous 12 months—on par with the rates for jazz concerts and plays but smaller than for watching TV (96 percent) or going to the movies (66 percent). However, in reviewing all the evidence for an article published by the Symphony Orchestra Institute, Professor Douglas Dempster, of the Eastman School of Music concluded, “Classical music is more widely heard and available, performed at a higher level of preparation and artistry,

So, what is the source of the evident concern? One reason may be that there are simply so many other options competing for our scarce leisure time and our ever-rising disposable income. A hundred years ago, we didn’t have TV. Fifty years ago, there was no Internet. Twenty-five years ago, the $10 billion video game industry was in its infancy. As the entertainment market offers an ever-increasing number of options, classical music’s fight for our attention has become more competitive and makes the classical audience look small, even as it holds on to its share. If Lizst had to vie with the Matrix Reloaded or video games such as Grand Theft Auto III, would he have captured the public’s imagination?

Some argue that classical music has more intrinsic value than other forms of entertainment because of its significance for our musical tradition and its intellectual complexity. But whether this makes it more valuable depend on why one listens to music. We may admire the musical facility in Mozart or be challenged by the expansive musical canvas in Mahler, but be more profoundly moved by “Amazing Grace” on a lone bagpipe.

Still, classical music’s prevailing culture and conventions do feel increasingly out of sync with contemporary experience. As most people will tell you, a modern classical music concert is an entirely somber, serious affair for performers and audiences alike. It is predictable and almost lifelessly professional. No classical music stage today would tolerate the onstage shenanigans of Vladimir de Pachmann, a world-famous nineteenth-century pianist who earned millions touring and was known to dip each finger in brandy before a recital. Although the dress code has relaxed somewhat in recent years—much to the horror of the old guard—some rules are strictly observed, such as no applause between movements. These conventions may seem unnecessarily restrictive for those who have known only dress-casual workplaces.

This widening gap between the conventions of classical music and the rest of society tends to reinforce classical music’s image as music for the economic elite. And yet this image is not entirely borne out by the facts. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the classical music concert audience is no richer than audiences for jazz or musical plays. (See sidebar in full-text PDF.) This survey shows that the level of participation in all arts rises with income. It is not simply that classical music audiences tend to be richer than other audiences, but that all audiences tend to be richer than average. Moreover, both rich and poor share similar preferences. For example, musical plays are more popular than classical music at each income level, with similar relative participation rates.

Perhaps more worrisome is the cultural elitism of many people in the classical music community. The fact that there are 276 versions of Beethoven’s 5th, already tends to foster an atmosphere where someone who can’t tell one from the other is made to feel less than welcome. Even those in the business end, “encouraged the attitude that you have to be able to spell Tchaikovsky backwards to be qualified to buy something,” noted the President of EMI Classics back in 1990. And some classical music proponents criticize any attempt to reach a wider audience as “dumbing down.” They view the enormous popularity of The Three Tenors and other crossover albums as a phenomenon that degrades or reduces the status of classical music. In the words of essayist Joseph Epstein: “The bloody snobbish truth is, I prefer not to think myself part of this crowd [his fellow audience at a Pops concert]. I think myself…much better—intellectually superior, musically more sophisticated, even though I haven’t any musical training whatsoever and cannot follow a score.” This attitude, albeit half-joking, may hurt classical music’s ability to reinvent itself and adapt to the modern audience and the modern world.

On the contrary, to emotionally connect to today’s audiences and capture their imaginations will take vision and innovation. But there are examples out there. One of the most unlikely successes on Broadway last year was a production of Puccini’s La Bohéme, the 1896 opera about a doomed love between Mimi, a Parisian seamstress, and Rodolfo, a starving poet. While the music is exactly as Puccini wrote it and the characters sing in Italian, Baz Luhrmann, the director of Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge, reimagined the story set in 1957. More importantly, he ignored the usual opera conventions and hired singers who looked and acted the parts. Although purists criticized the quality of the singing and objected to the use of microphones, Luhrmann’s experiment shows that there is an enthusiastic new audience for classical music if classical music is made relevant.

Even in tradition-bound solo recitals, old customs are loosening up. At the end of a recent recital, Maxim Vengerov, a rising twenty-something violinist, picked up a microphone and talked to the audience for 20 minutes. On a stage where the only thing usually uttered by the soloist is the announcement of the encores, his entertaining anecdotes and sincere answers to questions left the audience more connected to both the music and the musician.

REPRISE

Classical music may never be the most popular music. And changes are afoot in the industry—and not only in classical music —as the Internet and other technological advancements roil the landscape and challenge traditional ways of doing business. For example, the initial success of Apple’s iTunes Music Store suggests there may be new and viable ways of buying recorded music over the Internet. These developments may change the ways in which we consume and experience classical music. But that does not necessarily signal its demise.

However, both artists and business people need to think hard about who their future audience is going to be and how to make classical music exciting and relevant to that audience. Whether by delivering neglected repertory, or offering fresh interpretations of old favorites to a small but dedicated audience, or by shedding antiquated conventions and trying to expand into new territory, in the end, successful strategies will need to make people care about the music. These experiments may mean the death of the classical music business as we know it, but also may provide an opportunity for rebirth and renewal.

Indie Classical (sidebar)

Is it possible to make money in today’s classical recordings business without blockbuster crossovers? Absolutely, says Naxos, the world’s bestselling budget label, with 15 percent of classical CD sales in the U.K., 25 percent in Canada, and more than 5 percent in the U.S. While the major labels pursued blockbusters, Naxos, founded in 1987, focused on producing the standard repertory cheaply. “My ambition was to make classical recordings available on CD at a price comparable to that of LPs,” states Klaus Heymann, founder and chairman.

Think of Naxos as the Southwest Airlines of classical CDs. It delivers classical music without frills and at rock-bottom prices. It hires young or unknown recording artists, many from Eastern Europe, and pays them a flat fee with no added royalties. It keeps one recording of each work in its catalog, limiting the catalog to about 2,500 titles and eliminating duplication of repertoire. It doesn’t waste a lot of money on expensive promotions. That way, it can sell its CDs for $6.98, not $16.98. And it sells a lot of CDs. Enough to be profitable in spite of budget prices.

The other successful strategy focuses on niche markets and nonstandard repertory. Hyperion, a British label founded in 1980, and others have taken this approach. “I didn’t see the point in doing the 103rd version of the New World Symphony, so I went for the more neglected areas, but not so neglected that nobody would buy them,” said Hyperion founder Ted Perry. The label’s first hit was an album of Latin hymns by Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), which sold over 150,000 copies. Along with Nonesuch, which released Górecki’s Third Symphony and the works of other contemporary composers, Hyperion has shown that record companies can be profitable by exploiting a niche market that has been neglected in the catalogs of the major labels.

Julie Lee is a health economist. After years of piano lessons, she is more comfortable as a fan of classical music than as a performer.

Voir enfin:

Pierre Bourdieu : Les aventuriers de l’île enchantée

entretien avec Catherine Portevin et Jean-Philippe Pisanias

Télérama n°2536

19/08/98

Conclusion naturelle de notre série d’entretiens avec le sociologue avant la sortie en librairie, le 26 août, de son livre, La Domination masculine (éd. du Seuil) et l’amour ? Quelle place a-t-il dans ces rapports de force que sont les relations entre les hommes et les femmes ?

Souvent, en lisant Bourdieu, on s’était posé cette question. À nous qui nous croyions des individus libres et indépendants, toute son oeuvre ne cessait de révéler nos déterminismes sociaux. Nos choix professionnels, affectifs, esthétiques, nos fragilités, nos souffrances ou nos assurances, nos ascensions sociales ou nos ruptures, nos façons de parler ou de penser, nos adhésions conscientes ou inconscientes répondent à des logiques sociales, selon nos origines, nos généalogies, le  » champ  » auquel nous appartenons… Dans tout ça, peut-il seulement exister un sentiment pur, un amour vrai, irréductible au social et qui soit un des moteurs les plus puissants de l’existence?

C’est la première fois, à notre connaissance, que Pierre Bourdieu répond à cette question. Et par l’affirmative; un oui à la fois enflammé et prudent, enthousiaste et sage.

TELERAMA: Vous dessinez, en conclusion de votre livre, un  » amour pur « , seul  » îlot enchanté  » ou peuvent s’annihiler les rapports de domination entre les sexes. Qu’est-ce, en la circonstance, que la pureté?

PIERRE BOURDIEU : Pur, cela veut dire indépendant du marché, indépendant des intérêts. L’amour pur, c’est l’art pour l’art de l’amour, l’amour qui n’a pas d’autre fin que lui-même. L’amour de l’art et l’amour pur sont des constructions sociales nées ensemble au XIXe siècle. On dit toujours que l’amour remonte au siècle des troubadours, ce n’est pas faux. Mais l’amour romanesque, tel que nous le connaissons, est vraiment une invention de la vie de bohème, et c’est entièrement le sujet de L’Education sentimentale, de Flaubert : la confrontation entre l’amour pur et l’amour  » normal « ,…

TRA : C’est quoi, l’amour normal ?

P.B. : C’est l’amour socialement sanctionné. L’amour pur s’invente chez les artistes, chez les gens qui peuvent investir dans une relation amoureuse du capital littéraire, du discours, de la parole… Tout ce que Flaubert a mis dans son roman. Les trois femmes qu’il met en scène sont chacune une des représentations de l’amour et se définissent les unes contre les autres. Mme Dambreuse est l’incarnation de l’amour bourgeois, Mme Amoult de l’amour pur et Rosanette, de l’amour vénal et mercenaire. Et l’amour pur se définit à la fois contre l’amour bourgeois qui a pour objectif la carrière, et contre l’amour vénal qui a pour objectif l’argent. Les deux étant en fait des amours mercenaires.

TRA Est-ce que, dès lors, cet amour pur est forcément une transgression sociale ?

P.B. : Oui, dans la mesure où il est en rupture avec l’ordre social qui demande d’autres gages. L’amour pur, c’est l’amour fou ; l’amour social convenable est un amour subordonné aux impératifs de la reproduction pas seulement biologique mais sociale.

TRA : Il peut tout de même y avoir de l’amour, là-dedans aussi ?

P.B. : Evidemment, c’est aussi de l’amour. Mais pas de l’amour fou. C’est de l’amour conforme, de l’amour du destin social, l’amor fati. On aime sa  » promise « . Ces constats de la sociologie désespèrent beaucoup en général. Or, quand on étudie statistiquement les mariages, on observe qu’ils unissent des hommes et des femmes de même milieu. Autrefois, cette homogamie était garantie et aménagée par les familles ; c’était le mariage de raison, de raison sociale. Aujourd’hui, les garçons et les filles se rencontrent de manière apparemment libre, et l’homogamie fonctionne toujours. Dans le Béarn, j’ai étudié les effets de ce passage des mariages arrangés aux mariages libres, le bal devenant le  » marché  » où se nouaient les unions d’où sortiront les mariages. Ce qui est intéressant, c’est qu’ils ne sont le produit ni d’un choix ni de l’intervention d’une instance supérieure (la famille) ; ils sont le produit de dispositions sociales qu’on appelle amour…

Peut-être, d’ailleurs, avons-nous un taux de divorce élevé parce que nous investissons dans le mariage des attentes démesurées. C’est lié, en particulier, aux femmes qui dépendent plus des valeurs d’amour que les hommes. Pour – j’insiste encore – des raisons uniquement sociologiques qui n’ont rien à voir avec la supposée  » nature  » féminine. On dit souvent que les femmes sont romanesques, et c’est vrai, dans tous les milieux, à tous les niveaux, comme l’atteste le fait que les femmes ont partie liée avec la lecture et la littérature.

TRA L’amour pur serait alors I’ exception, forcément éphémère. Et il ne semble pouvoir exister qu’hors du monde. N’est- il pas possible cependant que, même en se colletant au monde, aux contraintes sociales, il reste le plus fort?

P.B. : Cela arrive. La littérature est remplie des triomphes de l’amour pur. Dans la réalité, cette île enchantée sans violence, sans domination, est vulnérable en diable. Ce n’est pas raisonnable, raisonnable voulant dire conforme aux réalités sociales. C’est  » miraculeux « , avec beaucoup de guillemets, miraculeux sociologiquement : c’est peu probable, cela peut arriver, mais cela a une chance sur mille. La réciprocité parfaite, l’émerveillement réciproque, c’est voué au dépérissement… ne serait-ce que sous l’effet de la routine.

Les gens n’aiment pas que l’on explique des choses qu’ils veulent garder  » absolues « . Moi, je trouve qu’il vaut mieux savoir. C’est très bizarre que l’on supporte si mal le réalisme. Dans le fond, la sociologie est très proche de ce qu’on appelle la sagesse. Elle apprend à se méfier des mystifications. Je préfère me débarrasser des faux enchantements pour pouvoir m’émerveiller des vrais  » miracles « . En sachant qu’ils sont précieux parce qu’ils sont fragiles.

TRA : Et si on chassait toutes les marques de la domination masculine, quelle serait la part possible, entre les hommes et les femmes, de la séduction (dont vous dîtes qu’elle est une reconnaissance implicite de la domination sexuelle), du jeu entre les êtres, voire du charme?

P.B. : Certains intellectuels défendent la tradition française de la courtoisie, en s’inquiétant de la voir mise en péril par ce désenchantement actuel de la relation hommes/femmes. Ce genre d’attitude, qui va souvent de pair avec la méfiance à l’égard du féminisme, m’est très antipathique parce que c’est une manière moderne de s’en rapporter à de vieilles lunes. Ce n’est pas intéressant et puis c’est faux. Est-ce que la lucidité sur les rapports entre les sexes, ou sur les rapports sexuels en général, pourrait détruire tout enchantement? Je n’en suis pas sûr.

Cela débarrasserait au contraire les relations de ce qui les encombre, de la mauvaise foi (au sens sartrien de  » mensonge à soi-même « ), de la tricherie, des malentendus.

Dieu sait si je ne suis pas très optimiste mais, sur certains terrains, l’analyse des effets de domination symbolique a une vertu clinique. Cela détruit les contraintes que les gens s’imposent parce qu’ils sont dans des rôles pré-constitués, dans des  » programmes  » sociaux. L’un pour faire l’homme, l’autre pour faire la femme.

TRA : Quand on voit le succès de la pilule Viagra, on se dit que ce n’est pas demain la veille, tant la virilité reste une valeur et une angoisse…

P.B. : Une angoisse parce qu’une valeur. Le succès de la pilule Viagra n’est que l’attestation visible de ce qui se sait depuis longtemps dans les cabinets médicaux ou psychanalytiques.

Les hommes, surtout, pourraient se simplifier la vie. Le rôle masculin m’est très insupportable depuis très longtemps dans son côté faiseur, bluffeur, m’as-tu-vu, exhibitionniste. Si les rapports masculins/féminins (qui se reproduisent aussi chez les homosexuels) étaient dépouillés de ce devoir d’exhibition, on respirerait mieux. Les numéros d’hommes, c’est tuant!

Un commentaire pour Andrea Bocelli: Attention, un miracle peut en cacher bien d’autres (We talk about beauty, but we all keep score)

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