Thousands crowd Central Park's Great Lawn, despite ominous skies. As the temperature drops and the wind kicks up, they stay, excited to listen to Andrea Bocelli.
Just before the tenor takes the stage, the rain subsides, the sky darkens, and the lights in the Manhattan skyline give the Great Lawn that magical feeling of being some place very special. Eventually a hard, cold rain falls, but Bocelli keeps going. The Sept. 15 concert is on PBS' "Great Performances: Andrea Bocelli Live in Central Park" Friday, Dec. 2 (check local listings).
"Singing in Central Park in a concert there is a little bit of a dream for every singer all over the world," Bocelli says in a phone interview from Italy with the aid of an interpreter. "And that is for many reasons. One of them is that Central Park is really the center of the world, and millions and millions of people, at least once in their lifetime, go there.
"And the second reason is exactly because of the precedent in Central Park," Bocelli continues. "Very few people give a concert there. I love, in particular, Central Park. I also have a special love and I feel a special gratitude toward the American people for what they have given me since the very beginning. The American audience made me feel their affection, their warmth, their love from the very first time I sang there."
If anything that has only increased, as the crowd adores Bocelli.
Though droves left during intermission, it was only because such a hard rain was falling. Bocelli was not involved in the decision as to when to hold the concert.
"There was the possibility of holding the concert the next day," he says. "I was essentially out of the decision. Other people were in charge of that. And then in the end I did what I always do -- I always leave it up to God to decide what will happen, and everything goes for the best."
Bocelli also has a little bit of help from his friends: opera singers Bryn Terfel, Ana Maria Martinez and Pretty Yende. Celine Dion, Tony Bennett and David Foster also take the stage.
Terfel sings "Va, Tosca" solo, "Vicino a Te" with Martinez and Bocelli, and with Bocelli on "Au Fond du Temple Saint."
Terfel, son of a sheep farmer from Wales, is very much one for a fun operatic gesture. He opens his black coat to reveal it's lined in the flag of Wales, with a red dragon.
Solo, Bocelli sings "O Sole Mio" and an exquisite "Ave Maria." He tells the crowd, "Despite the rain and the cold, you are really heroes."
He spends the first half of the concert dressed in black and the second half wearing white.
Foster, known as the Hitman, says, "I don't know if you can say this on TV, but you are singing your ass off."
Dion, glamorous in a silver beaded gown, sings "The Prayer."
And Bennett joins him onstage for "New York, New York." When the camera pulls back, the city looks washed clean with the lights from the surrounding buildings twinkling and the moon finally out.
Bocelli picked who would accompany him. "First of all, I was interested in quality because it was extremely important on that stage there were going to be great artists," Bocelli says. "And then since I had the good fortune of sharing the stage with many great artists, I tried to pick among the artists who were also friends."
Though opera would have to come in a distant favorite behind rock, country, hip-hop, pop and soul music in America, Bocelli's experience is that American audiences are receptive to classical music.
"I actually believe the American audience is one of the most open in the world toward music, any kind of music," he says. "And I think they have a very special sensitivity to know when an artist is sincere and giving it everything he or she can. And I believe when they listen to it they will fall in love with it."
Though most artists are only too happy to try to sell their projects, Bocelli takes a different approach.
"I honestly don't think you need to send a message so people need to see the show," he says. "I think the warmth and the affection the American audience has always showed me will bring them to see the show. What I would rather do is send an audience, even to my audience in Italy, a message of serenity and wish for a better future, that things will be better. And I hope this sense will come out from viewing the DVD and one will see this from watching the DVD of the concert."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun