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Great Performances | Andrea Bocelli Live from Central Park

“Star singer Andrea Bocelli dazzled thousands with his signature brand of pop and opera on a cold, wet night in New York City’s Central Park, which will be etched in his memory as an important career milestone.”

So it was reported by Reuters news agency a day after the historic event which saw the tenor following in the distinguished footsteps of opera superstars Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, both of whom have given memorable Central Park performances.

 Andrea Bocelli Live in Central Park airs on WMHT Friday, May 17, 2013 at 9pm. Accompanied by the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of music director Alan Gilbert, the spectacular event was Bocelli’s special gift to New York City. The program is the New York-based offering of the multi-city PBS Arts Fall Festival, which includes four Great Performances productions. Award-winning journalist Paula Zahn is the evening’s host.

Widely regarded as the most popular Italian tenor in the world with more than 70 million albums sold, Bocelli was joined that rainy, windswept evening by pop stars Céline Dion, Tony Bennett, Chris Botti and David Foster, and from the classical world, bass baritone Bryn Terfel, sopranos Ana María Martínez and Pretty Yende, and violinist Nicola Benedetti, along with the Westminster Symphonic Choir, under the direction of Joe Miller. Bocelli presented a varied repertoire that includes well known arias, fan favorites, and  some new surprises.

Since Great Performances introduced American television audiences to Bocelli with 1997's Romanza concert, Bocelli has been featured in a notable series of Great Performances specials, including Sacred Arias, Amore, Vivere, My Christmas and American Dream, his spectacular "Statue of Liberty" concert from New Jersey's Liberty State Park.

The night began promisingly as the setting sun cast a golden glow on the New York skyline, but as Maestro Gilbert struck up the portentous strains of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino overture, a light but steady rain fell over the crowd of some tens of thousands of New Yorkers, and those who had come much farther, to see him. Though umbrellas were raised, and a chilly wind began to blow, fans were swept up in the beauty of the music and the presence of their idol. “In spite of the rain and cold, you are heroes,” Bocelli assured the adoring crowd.

The first act of stirring operatic selections including Verdi and Puccini favorites gave way to more popular fare in the second including duets with Celine Dion and Tony Bennett.

The program:

La Forza del Destino Ouverture
Alan Gilbert, New York Philharmonic

 

'La donna ? mobile' (Rigoletto)
Andrea Bocelli

 

'Di quella pira' (Il Trovatore)
Andrea Bocelli

 

'Va Tosca! (Te Deum)' (Tosca)
Bryn Terfel, Choir

 

'Ave Maria ‘Ellens dritter Gesang’'
Andrea Bocelli

 

'Vicino a te s’acqueta' (Andrea Chenier)
Andrea Bocelli, Ana Maria Martinez

 

'Au fond du temple saint' (Les Pêcheurs de Perles)
Andrea Bocelli, Bryn Terfel

 

'O Soave Fanciulla' (La Bohème)
Andrea Bocelli, Pretty Yende

 

'Libiano ne’lieti calici' (La Traviata)
Andrea Bocelli, Pretty Yende, Choir

 

'Home on the Range'
Bryn Terfel, Choir

 

'En Aranjuez con tu amor'
Andrea Bocelli, Nicola Benedetti (violin)

 

'’O Sole Mio'
Andrea Bocelli, Choir

 

'Once Upon a Time in the West'
Andrea Bocelli

 

'More'
Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Chris Botti (trumpet)

 

'Volare'
Andrea Bocelli, David Foster

 

'The Prayer'
Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, David Foster

 

'New York, New York'
Andrea Bocelli, Tony Bennett

 

'Amazing Grace'
Andrea Bocelli, Choir

 

'Time to Say Goodbye'
Andrea Bocelli, All Cast, Choir

 

'Nessun Dorma' (Turandot) (encore)
Andrea Bocelli, Choir

Bocelli’s performance was the latest in a rich tradition of memorable free concerts in Central Park which, over the years, has included such notable performers as Barbra Streisand, Simon and Garfunkel, Diana Ross, Garth Brooks, Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Bon Jovi.

Before the concert, Bocelli nostalgically reflected, "I cannot help but smile when thinking about the upcoming concert in Central Park. It was my father's dream, and my father was right, because my artistic path would have been entirely different without the strong and sincere embrace of this extraordinary city where everything is possible, even when it seems impossible. My father will not be there, but I can count on his blessing and his kind and gentle smile to give me courage. My mother, sitting in the front row, will feel my father, too, and they will be together again just like when I was a little boy performing on the fireplace steps. Perhaps they had secretly dreamed that I might have the opportunity to perform in New York City, and maybe right here in Central Park."

Watch Friday, May 17, 2013 at 9pm on WMHT

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