1. Can we start straightaway by asking you how you have experienced this year, that has been so very different?
Like everyone else, with worry and sadness. These months have been very complex and totally new. I realise that I’ve been very lucky because I have spent it with my family, in my home in Tuscany, and I’ve had time to study, to listen to music and to read. After almost a quarter of a century without stopping, travelling all round the world, this year I’ve given an incredibly low number of concerts and I must admit that I really miss that direct relationship that you establish with the audience at a live performance. On the other hand, this enforced pause has triggered a greater creativity in a way, and the internal motivation to make my new album, Believe, which is absolutely the product of this difficult year. I believe that today, more than ever, we need to reflect and to start again to enter into dialogue with our souls, and Believe expresses my own modest contribution.
2. Congratulations on breaking all the records with the live streaming of your performance on YouTube on Easter Day 2020! For many people, watching your performance of Amazing Grace was a really special moment. How did it feel to meet with such resounding success with this performance?
I felt honoured to give voice to the desire for spirituality of so many people. But I would say that it wasn’t so much my performance in itself that was successful as the message that was transmitted through this event. It wasn’t so much a concert than a shared prayer. Thanks to the music and the technology that linked us all together, it was a special occasion to pray together and to reassert the Christian message, that speaks of rebirth and of life that triumphs over death.
3. You recently released an album, on 13 November, with the title Believe. What can you tell the readers of Vents about this latest album of yours and what should they expect when they listen to it?
The album is a collection of pieces linked to spirituality. The gamble was to bring together pieces that are varied (in type, period and language) that can unite the listener the gift of the motivation to encounter their own spiritual dimension and to listen to its reasoning. After many discs where the theme has been sensuality and amorous passion, I opted for a project dedicated to the soul, in the desire to offer a moment of serenity and optimism to my public. At the heart of Believe are the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, the foundations of good Christian behaviour, and also three universal ethical principles. The collection includes some of the great classics (from composers such as Fauré and Bizet, as well as some previously unpublished pieces by Puccini and Morricone), and some new pieces that I composed myself, alongside songs that, while not linked to religion, are still steeped in religiosity, such as “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Finally, how can I forget the contribution of two great artists, Alison Krauss and Cecilia Bartoli, whose fine voices have enhanced the beauty of the album.
4. We’re approaching the event on 12 December with the title ‘Believe in Christmas’: what are your expectations for this concert?
I’m very excited, it will be my first streamed concert so it will be possible to watch it all around the world. It will be broadcast from one of the most beautiful theatres in the world, the Teatro Regio in Parma. It’s an opportunity to sing many of the pieces from Believe as well as some of the best loved Christmas songs. The great director Franco Dragone (who directed the legendary Cirque Du Soleil shows) will reinvent the theatre, so that we can experience the magic and warmth of Christmas together. It will be my way of embracing you, one by one, and wishing you “Happy Christmas” once more. Alongside me there will be many guests, including my friend Zucchero, and my daughter Virginia will be there, to represent the whole audience, gazing with curiosity at the wonders of the theatre and the magic of Christmas.
5. What does Christmas mean for you, particularly when the world is going through such a tumultuous period?
For me it represents a time of joy and contemplation. It’s a day that I love to spend with my family, more than any other day, in the desire to remind myself and my children of the deep spiritual significance that this festival encapsulates and proposes. Today, more than ever, this Christian festival can be an important time in which to get back to our inner home, to start listening and living in harmony, interpreting our earthly path with spirituality. As I often say, the darkest moments can accentuate the glimmers of light, that point us in the right direction and separate good values from negative ones. Christmas is a beautiful metaphor for the miracle of life that is born and of the love that cherishes it.
6. One final question, which may sound rather silly: in line with the spirit of Christmas festivity, do you have a favourite Christmas song that symbolizes for you the meaning of this special day?
I love Christmas songs from popular tradition (both European and American) which have now become classics, and at the same time I love the classical pieces just as much, which are now so well-known that they’re almost like popular songs in themselves! I’m also thinking of pieces that are genuinely religious, such as “Adeste Fideles” (“O Come All Ye Faithful”), which I listened to as a child, captivated and amazed by its magical sounds, in the church of Lajatico, the Tuscan village where I was born and grew up. In other words, at Christmas, more than any other time, music is the voice of the soul and helps us to pray, to love ourselves and the world, and to look to the future with renewed trust.