Andrea Bocelli Live in Central Park

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“Star singer Andrea Bocelli dazzled thousands with his signature brand of pop and opera on a cold, wet night in New York City’s Central Park, which will be etched in his memory as an important career milestone.”

So it was reported by Reuters news agency a day after the historic event which saw the tenor following in the distinguished footsteps of opera superstars Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, both of whom have given memorable Central Park performances.

Andrea Bocelli Live in Central Park airs on Great Performances, Sunday, December 4 at 7 p.m.

Accompanied by the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of music director Alan Gilbert, the spectacular event was Bocelli’s special gift to New York City. The program is the New York-based offering of the multi-city PBS Arts Fall Festival, which includes four Great Performances productions. Award-winning journalist Paula Zahn is the evening’s host.

Widely regarded as the most popular Italian tenor in the world with more than 70 million albums sold, Bocelli was joined that rainy, windswept evening by pop stars Céline Dion, Tony Bennett, Chris Botti and David Foster, and from the classical world, bass baritone Bryn Terfel, sopranos Ana María Martínez and Pretty Yende, and violinist Nicola Benedetti, along with the Westminster Symphonic Choir, under the direction of Joe Miller. Bocelli presented a varied repertoire that includes well known arias, fan favorites, and some new surprises.

Since Great Performances introduced American television audiences to Bocelli with 1997’s Romanza concert, Bocelli has been featured in a notable series of Great Performances specials, including Sacred Arias, Amore, Vivere, My Christmas and American Dream, his spectacular “Statue of Liberty” concert from New Jersey’s Liberty State Park.

The night began promisingly as the setting sun cast a golden glow on the New York skyline, but as Maestro Gilbert struck up the portentous strains of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino overture, a light but steady rain fell over the crowd of some tens of thousands of New Yorkers, and those who had come much farther, to see him. Though umbrellas were raised, and a chilly wind began to blow, fans were swept up in the beauty of the music and the presence of their idol. “In spite of the rain and cold, you are heroes,” Bocelli assured the adoring crowd.

The first act of stirring operatic selections including Verdi and Puccini favorites gave way to more popular fare in the second including duets with Celine Dion and Tony Bennett.