LONDON • Blind Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli has sold 85 million albums and is the best-selling singer on the classical charts, but at age 57, this year could be shaping up into one of his biggest ever.
Bocelli, who rocketed to stardom in the early 1990s in part as a pro- tege of the late Luciano Pavarotti, will on Oct 23 release Cinema, an album of songs from films including Maria in West Side Story (1961) and Brucia La Terra (Burn The Earth) from The Godfather (1972).
It includes a duet with pop star Ariana Grande of E Piu Ti Penso (The More I Think Of You) from Once Upon A Time In America (1984).
"I love very much this kind of music. Why? Because the music of the movies is like a big field where composers can run where they want and be free," he said at The Elstree Studios, north of London, where he was filming a song to be used in the hit British television show Strictly Come Dancing.
Asked what film music means to him, even though he has been blind since the age of 12 when a sporting injury affected his already poor vision, he said: "The same thing it means to you."
Singing with Grande, he added, had been a treat, in part because his two sons are big fans of the former teen actress turned singer.
"She comes from a different repertoire and her voice is very nice, very sensual... I think for her also, it's been very interesting to change the atmosphere of the repertoire, I think her fans will be very surprised to listen to her sing a song like this."
He follows up the release of Cinema with a Public Broadcasting Service special in the United States based on the album, broadcast on Nov 27.
This year, he released a recording of Puccini's Turandot, which includes Nessun Dorma, the tenor aria that became a hit for Pavarotti when Fifa used it as the theme for the 1990 soccer World Cup.
Bocelli, who has now made 11 complete opera recordings, said he sees no difference between singing romantic ballads and crossover tunes and classical opera. "There is only one way to sing. What changes is the atmosphere, the feeling."
His global stardom has given him opportunities to sing for world leaders, including his first performance for Pope Francis when the head of the Roman Catholic church was in Philadelphia during his recent visit to the US.
Bocelli said it was also a huge honour that his fans worldwide fill stadiums to hear him.
"It's strange to think that many people can leave their houses and go on a long trip to pay often expen- sive tickets to listen to my voice. It's strange for me, it's incredible," he said. "For me, the affection of the people is the most important thing."