Andrea Bocelli is the biggest selling solo classical artist of all time. Befitting his inimitable world-conquering status, there isn’t an empty seat in the country’s largest indoor arena to watch the Tuscan tenor. Somehow, I can’t envisage this happening for Nigel Kennedy.
It also a rare treat to witness the majesty of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Marcello Rota, another flamboyant Italian who injects a live wire energy into the proceedings.
Violinist Lindsey Stirling and soprano Illaria Della Bidia also appear, while Ireland’s largest volunteer choir the Dún Laoghaire Choral Society provide a sizeable backing chorus.
Bocelli beams from ear to ear when he hears the crowd. At this stage in his glittering career, surely it would be easy to be blasé by default, or phone in a performance, but he seems to be as thrilled by the occasion as anyone.
The first 45 minutes whizz by in a flash with renditions of popular operatic arias such as ‘Libiamo ne’ lieti Calici’ by Giuseppe Verdi, which roughly translates as ‘Drinking Song’, which is quite apt for a Friday night.
The big screens project cityscapes of Rome and small Italian towns. Purists would no doubt pour scorn over such postcard sentimentality, but the effect is to be completely transported from the humdrum banality of waiting in traffic on a wet Dublin night and be whisked off to the Tuscan hills.
During the second half, a montage of images pays tribute to film-maker Federico Fellini with scenes from Amarcord and La Dolce Vita. Bocelli takes the opportunity to sing a little Elvis. ‘Love Me Tender’ is rendered beautifully in his rich Italian accent.
The performance is as close to perfection as it gets. It also demonstrates the venue’s versatility in a week when it hosts comedy, Kylie, Slash and championship boxing.
It says it all when the only sour note is a signature dressing gown on sale at the merchandise stand for an eye-watering €250, but this hardly qualifies as severe criticism when you aren’t being forced to buy it. Business in programmes, calendars and CDs appears to be brisk.
Back to the sumptuous music, ‘Con Te Partiro’ has them swooning in the aisles, even if Sarah Brightman isn’t present to perform one of the biggest selling singles of all time and Bocell’s signature song. ‘Nessun Dorma’ sounds colossal, featuring a powerful performance from the Dún Laoghaire Choral Society.
Andrea Bocelli basks in the auditorium’s rapt radiance for one final bow. Bellissimo.