Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli performed at the historic Duomo Cathedral in Milan, Italy, in a special Easter Sunday concert that was broadcast live on YouTube on Sunday, April 12, 2020. Before the concert, Bocelli said he viewed the show as a prayer that the worldwide audience could all participate in at once. The video is embedded below:
Andrea Bocelli Aimed to Inspire Hope On Easter Sunday As He Led the World In a Musical Prayer
Andrea Bocelli sang for an empty church due to the social distancing measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He was accompanied by the cathedral’s organist, Emanuele Vianel. Off-camera, a very small production crew was also on-site. Bocelli sang “Ave Maria,” “Domine Deus,” “Sancta Maria,” “Panis Angelica” and “Amazing Grace.”
The Duomo Cathedral has been closed to the public and live masses canceled since the pandemic spread across Italy. But the city of Milan and the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo reached out to Bocelli about putting on this special performance in order to inspire hope.
The mayor of Milan, Beppe Sala, said in a prepared statement, “This year, Easter will be very different for all of us. The joyous serenity that usually comes with this day has been greatly troubled by the pandemic that we’re experiencing. I am sure that the extraordinary voice of Bocelli will be the embrace we are missing these days, a strong, special hug capable of warming the heart of Milan, Italy and the world.”
Bocelli explained ahead of the performance that he viewed the event as a collective prayer rather than as a concert. “I will go there to pray, and I’d like to think that everyone listening to me sing can pray with me,” Bocelli told NBC News. “I chose some of the most beautiful pieces of sacred artists and I will sing this kind of music.”
Bocelli has been urging people to remain hopeful during these trying times and to appreciate the extra time at home with family members. He told the Guardian, “Do not be afraid of a virus that will pass, in the same way that you wouldn’t be afraid when you get behind the wheel of your car, knowing that throughout the year there are so many road victims.”
The legendary singer has been doing his part to try to assist medical workers in his home country of Italy. His foundation has been raising funds to buy equipment for hospitals, including ventilators and personal protective gear for doctors and nurses. Bocelli included a link to the GoFundMe campaign on the YouTube live stream page and it can also be accessed here.
Italy was among the first countries to be hit especially hard by the coronavirus. As of April 11, there were more than 152,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Italy. More than 19,400 people had died from it. On a positive note, more than 32,534 patients have recovered from the coronavirus in Italy, according to a real-time map compiled by John Hopkins University.
Andrea Bocelli Has Sung Multiple Times For Three Different Popes
Today is far from the first time Andrea Bocelli has shared his musical talent as a form of prayer. He has sung before the leader of the Catholic Church on several occasions.
Bocelli sang for Pope John Paul II at least three times. Bocelli was invited to perform for the late pontiff in 1999 at the pope’s summer palace outside Rome, Italy. According to the Associated Press, Bocelli sang the Holy Year hymn and Pope John Paul II gave Bocelli a pat on the head after in gratitude. The AP report adds Bocelli had previously performed for the pope and President Bill Clinton.
The following year, Pope John Paul II invited Bocelli to sing during a special May Day mass. CNN reported at the time that Bocelli sang at the service hours after his father, Alessandro Bocelli, unexpectedly passed away. Bocelli took a helicopter from Pisa to Rome in order to be at the church on time.
In more recent years, Bocelli has also sung before Pope Benedict XVI and then Pope Francis. In an op-ed for TIME magazine in September 2015, Bocelli described his awe of Pope Francis and how it was an honor to sing for him:
I remember well how I was moved to tears as soon as [Pope Francis] spoke his first words as pope. That was probably because I immediately recognized in that man a soul devoted to the Good. And the Good, we know, always moves us: There are things that can’t be explained with words, because words can’t explain love.
Having the chance to sing again in front of the Holy Father, for whom I have deep and sincere devotion, offering my humble contribution as a fervent Catholic, is a great honor for me. St. Augustine notoriously reminds us that singing is an extraordinary form of prayer. And this is my goal, my purpose and my joy: to pray together.
Bocelli traveled to the United States that year and sang with Philadelphia’s Philharmonic Orchestra as Pope Francis looked on.