International recording stars don’t come any bigger than Andrea Bocelli, a rare rock star in the realm of classical music who has sold more than 80 million albums and was named one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1998.
When he visits your town, it’s an event, and his visit to the Forum on Saturday, his second Tampa performance in just two years, following a sold-out performance in 2011, was no exception, judging by the enthusiasm of the crowd and the array of evening attire on display.
As a tuxedo-clad Bocelli, 54, was escorted onstage as part of his six-concert “A Passion for Life” 2013 holiday tour, the sold-out crowd welcomed him with the enthusiasm the occasion warranted, flooding the Forum with a standing ovation that made clear Tampa’s appreciation at being included in such an exclusive event.
After a bit of a warm-up on “O, paradiso,” a soaring rendition of “La donna e mobile” really propelled the crowd into the show, presented by Florida Opera Festival. Bocelli was generous with his co-stars, ceding the stage to soprano Svetla Vassileva for “Bolero” early in the program and having her join him for a stunning duet on “Nuit d’hymenee” from “Romeo et Juliette” soon after.
The entirety of Part 1 of the show kept the focus on classic opera, including selections from “Don Pasquale,” “La Boheme” and “La Traviata” - a delicious duet with Vassileva on “Brindisi.”
A 20-minute break allowed the crowd and performers to catch their breath, then Part 2 mixed in crowd-pleasing numbers like the holiday spiritual “Adeste Fidelis,” the familiar “Ave Maria,” and the “Godfather” theme from Vassileva.
The cavernous Forum, typically filled by the collective roar of thousands of Tampa Bay Lightning fans, was no match for the powerful Tuscan-born vocalist, who has a voice that was made for filling opera halls, and his soaring tenor filled the arena to capacity.
The stage was simply but elegantly lit and was backed by a screen that mirrored the scene on stage, leaving the focus on the man at the center of the action.
The Opera Tampa Orchestra and Chorus was conducted with precision by Eugene Kohn. Bocelli was also joined onstage by Tony- and Grammy-winning guest vocalist Heather Headley and guest artist Le DIV4S.