Legendary opera singer Andrea Bocelli is helping ring in this holiday season by performing during ABC’s The Disney Holiday Singalong on November 30, 2020. While BTS is singing their rendition of “Santa Claus is Comin to Town,” the 62-year-old Italian opera star will perform the Christmas classic, “Silent Night.”
Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, The Disney Holiday Singalong kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on Monday evening, and while many viewers have heard Bocelli’s gorgeous voice, some new listeners might be surprised to see that the opera star is blind.
Bocelli was not born blind when he entered the world on September 22, 1958 in Tuscany, Italy. However, he was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma at 5 months old, a rare condition that damages the optic nerves in the eye, according to glaucoma.com.
While congenital glaucoma can be hereditary, it’s caused by incorrect development of the eye’s drainage system before birth. Symptoms include cloudiness around the cornea, sensitivity to light, and enlarged eyes. Thankfully, not all cases of congenital glaucoma lead to full blindness, which initially, was true for Bocelli.
Surgical treatment such as filtering surgery, also known as micro surgery, can create a drainage canal in the eye, while laser surgery uses light to create a small opening in the eye tissue. Non-surgical treatments, such as eye drops and medication, can help by either increasing the exit of the guild from the eye or decreasing the production of fluid inside the eye.
Michael Radford, producer of the film, The Music of Silence, which was based on Bocelli’s life, explained The Guardian that after the singer was born with glaucoma in one eye, “He was in hospital most of his early childhood until they managed to save about 10% of the sight in one eye. He was categorized as blind, but with a limited amount of sight.”
Bocelli Became Fully Blind After Suffering a Football Injury at Age 12
Bocelli, who’s largely considered the world’s most famous living tenor, who’s sold over 80 million albums, never let his disability slow him down. At age 12, “he was playing football in his blind school and somebody kicked a ball that hit his other eye and blinded him,” Radford said.
Bocelli described the football incident in a 2010 interview with The Telegraph. He said:
As a child I was very lively and uncontrollable, I loved playing football and one day during a match, I was hit violently in the face with a ball on my right eye, the only one which I could see light and colour with. The doctors tried to cure me with various operations and they even used leeches but there was nothing that could be done.
Despite His Blindness, Bocelli Never Stops Living Life to the Fullest
Bocelli, who has a daughter, Virginia, with wife, Veronica Berti, also shares two sons, Amos and Matteo, with his first wife, Enrica Cenzatti, never let blindness slow down his life.
Radford, who worked closely with Bocelli while writing the script of his autobiographical film, said that the opera star “doesn’t consider himself to be handicapped in any way… He rides horses and does all sorts of things that you wouldn’t imagine that someone who is blind would do with the degrees of skill that he achieves.”
While singer Celine Dion said, “If God could sing, he would sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli,” and the opera star can play piano, flute, and guitar, he also has hobbies outside of music. Radford marveled, “Last time I went to see him, he greeted me on an Andalucían stallion which was walking only on its hind legs and he was controlling it. Amazing. Then he galloped into the distance.”
“There are all these tricks that he uses,” Radford continued. “He’ll kick a chair with his foot, to figure out where it is. And of course his other senses are absolutely developed. He can smell, touch, feel, above all he can hear. Literally by clicking his fingers he can tell you how far away a wall is.”