Andrea Bocelli romances Abu Dhabi

Andrea Bocelli's romance-filled performance in Abu Dhabi engaged the crowd the entire night.

Bocelli's enchanting performance engaged the crowd at all times. Micaela Colace for The National
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Abu Dhabi has been blessed with two of the world's leading tenors in the space of a few days.

On Wednesday, Placido Domingo showed an audience at Emirates Palace that even at 72, the Spaniard is more than able to take on some of the more complex arias.

On Friday night, the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli enchanted a large audience at the du Arena with a friendly selection of aria classics and crossover pop-hits.

More impressively, courtesy of a carefully choreographed stage production - complete with a conductor-cam - Bocelli managed to transform the rather soulless venue into an intimate ballroom.

While both Domingo and Bocelli reached commercial success in their own rights, it is the former - in part courtesy of a longer career - possessing more mileage, with opera critics decrying Bocelli's unpolished technique.

While there is some merit to the argument - particularly during Bocelli's performance of Brindisi from Verdi's La Traviata, where he seemed to struggle with breath control - some snooty opera lovers are yet to understand Bocelli's success.

While Bocelli doesn't posses the technical virtuosity of the likes of Domingo, the Italian is defined by a soulfully rich tenor more resonant than technical.

Everything from the stage design to the programme played to Bocelli's strengths during his show; from the free roses handed out to the crowd inside the venue, to the regally clothed seats, to the mandatory VVIP section where you are in spittle range of the tenor.

The programme was virtually an all-Italian affair, with the first part dominated by a selection from Verdi's Il Trovatore.

After a rather nervous start by the Score Chorus - a collection of UAE's top orchestral groups - with Vedi! Le Fosche notturne, Bocelli took the stage with a sturdy rendition of Ah, si Ben Mio.

The soprano Paola Sanguinetti then joined Bocelli for a series of duets in the first half. Both longtime collaborators, the duo were wonderfully in sync in Verdi's L'onda De'suoni Mistici and Di Quella Pira.

The second part remained firmly in the Mediterranean, with pieces by modern Italian composers and Bocelli's own catalogue.

The Italian soprano quartet, the horribly titled Div4s, took the stage resembling golden mermaids and launched into a brooding take of Nino Rota's Romeo e Giulietta. Their take on Rota's The Godfather theme was clunky. As in the nature of such groups, each member took on a different verse and frustratingly got in the way of Rota's majestic melodies. They should have simply left it to the orchestra.

A warmed-up Bocelli then returned to the stage and went straight for the heartstrings with Mama.

Taken from Incanto, Bocelli's 2008 cover album of Italian folk songs, Mama was augmented on screen with a montage of black and white images of affectionate mothers.

Coupled with Bocelli's soulful yearnings of "Today your white head / I want to hold near my heart / Mother, only for you my song flies", tearful sniffles were heard from the grandstand.

Bocelli's new album Passione got a hearing, with the best of the three tracks being the gently lilting Era gia tutto previsto, where he led on the piano.

The encore provided no surprises with Bocelli and the choir finally locking in with a wondrous take on Time to Say Goodbye and Puccini's heroic Nessun Dorma.

While the argument if whether Bocelli is indeed an opera performer or a classical pop star has no sign of abating, one aspect tough to squabble with, is his flare for performance.

Bocelli's enchanting performance engaged the crowd at all times, a vital component no matter which genre you are from.