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Andrea Bocelli wants opera to be mass appeal

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Though any number of Taylor Swift and One Direction fans might disagree, Andrea Bocelli is steadfast in his belief that "there is nothing more popular than opera."

At the very least, there's nobody more popular in opera than Bocelli.

The Italian-born tenor, who's also a songwriter and record producer (and attorney), has fulfilled a stated mission of bringing opera to the masses and has transcended his chosen genre even beyond masters such as Luciano Pavarotti and the Three Tenors. Bocelli has sold more than 80 million records worldwide, including more then five million of 1999's "Sacred Arias," making it the most successful classical crossover album ever by a solo artist, and "Romanza," a more pop-oriented set that's sold more than 20 million copies as the top-selling album by an Italian singer in any genre.

Bocelli's other credits include his duet with Sarah Brightman, "Time to Say Goodbye," which has sold more than 12 million copies, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for "The Prayer," a duet with Celine Dion that Bocelli wrote for the animated film "Quest For Camelot," and a Guinness Book of World Records mention for holding the top three spots at one time on Billboard magazine's Classical Albums chart. He's also recorded with Christina Aguilera and Mary J. Blige and appears on Barbra Streisand's new duets album, "Partners."

So while the masses may not be able to hum his tunes, he's certainly known beyond concert halls and opera houses.

"I have the privilege to dedicate myself, for my work, to my greatest passion -- music and singing," says Bocelli, 56, who this year is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his first album with the new "Opera -- The Ultimate Collection," which compiles some of his favorite pieces into a 22-song compilation that features two brand new recordings.

"It is normal for a singer to aspire to perfection," he notes, "which is obviously something impossible. I happen to be very critical towards myself. I must admit, though, that in recent years I think I have reached a good balance that allows me to express my harmonizing technique and interpretative momentum."

Part of that evolution, stresses the twice-married father of three, is the ability to convey the intricacies of opera and classical music conventions in a way that makes it accessible to any listener. "It is worth remembering (that) opera is a form of art born n Italy and conceived for the general public," explains Bocelli, who's been blind from the age of 12 after a suffering a brain hemorrhage during a soccer game. "If taken by the hand, any audience -- in my opinion -- is willing to discover a repertoire that can sound unfamiliar at first, but that can convey extraordinary emotions,.

"The time we are living (in) is a time of transition, after deconstructing so many rules and abandoned so many genres, man is probably, still striving to find new and credible forms of expression. For sure opera, and classical music in general, will endure, like history has amply demonstrated."

Bocelli's "Opera" album certainly backs him up, presenting "my ideal selection...many pieces I have always loved most, pages that have inflamed and touched me more."

"Recording a CD is for me still something very important," Bocelli says. "It is one of the ways to mark my artistic path, to deepen a specific repertoire through a study as rigorous as possible. Besides, a CD is still a way to enter people's homes, to have the honor of being part of the soundtrack of many people's lives, giving them a moment of joy."

And he promises that bringing that joy is something he hopes to do for the foreseeable future.

"My plan is to continue to sing (as long as) the good Lord will give me a chance," Bocelli says, "and (as long as) the public will ask me to do it."

Andrea Bocelli and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14.

Joe Louis Arena, 19 Steve Yzerman Drive, Detroit.

Tickets are $55-$355.

Call 313-471-6606 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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