Andrea Bocelli on being friends with Sarah Ferguson and duetting with his son
He charmed the chapel performing for Eugenie and Jack — now Andrea Bocelli is going viral duetting with his son. They tell Craig McLean about making friends in Windsor.
It was the other wedding of the year. Last Friday’s marriage at Windsor Castle of Princess Eugenie and wine merchant Jack Brooksbank was a starry affair. It was a right royal knees-up with fish for dinner, tequila for toasts (probs), a top hat for Cara Delevingne and bonus Brit monarchical pomp for four million television viewers caught between the rock of the Harry ‘n’ Meghan shebang and the hard place of the agonising wait for series three of The Crown.
But republicans can rest assured: it seems that none of the reported £2m cost to the public purse was spent on the entertainment. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who sang Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, probably performed as a favour.
First, the superstar of the classical world is close to the second most powerful woman in St George’s Chapel last week: the mother of the bride. “Sarah Ferguson has been a very good friend of mine for many years now,” the 60-year-old, who has been blind since the age of 12 and has 90 million record sales to his name, tells me.
“She invited me (to sing) for this reason: because we are very close friends. We met a long time ago in a TV studio. I heard somebody knocking on my door, I opened it and it was her — and she was giving me her book. I think it was a sort of biography of her life.”
Nonetheless, they became friends. Bocelli has had a close relationship with Fergie and family, “but especially with her”, and has seen Eugenie and Beatrice growing up, “but let’s say very occasionally”.
Luckily there were no bridezilla demands for, say, that wedding staple, Robbie Williams’s Angels, and not just because Robbie himself was in attendance. Of his song selection — two “sacred” pieces — “she trusted me”, Bocelli shrugs.
Then, second, Bocelli is close to the boss of The Firm. He and the Queen have bonded over a love of horses. He maintains stables in Tuscany, near his primary residence, a converted hotel in the seaside resort of Forte dei Marmi. There, the walls of the lounge are covered with large-scale black and white photographs of the tall, elegant Bocelli riding and petting his beloved equines.
“I went to Windsor and saw the Queen’s horses,” the singer recalls. He’s yet to ride her steeds, “but she promised. She said that one time, when I’m in England and a little bit less busy, we can do it”.
So is he suggesting that he gave her mate’s rates? Rather than granny paying for Eugenie’s wedding entertainment, she’s offering a go on her horses?
“No, no. The Queen is the Queen, so she doesn’t talk about money,” Bocelli jokes with the easy intimacy of a man who’s sung for popes, presidents, kings, queens and the Premier League-winning Leicester City squad — the latter a favour from this football obsessive to his old friend and countryman Claudio Ranieri, the club’s manager in their remarkable 2015-16 season. Four days after that windy day in Windsor, Bocelli is back home in Italy. I meet him in a hotel in Milan. He’s here with his son, Matteo, a singing student. He’s 21 and, at almost six foot five, has an inch or two on his dad and on his older brother Amos (both boys, his sons from his first marriage, accompanied Bocelli to the wedding). Matteo has also landed a modelling gig in a Guess? campaign alongside Jennifer Lopez.
Lifting the lid on Eugenie’s big day, Bocelli admits that initially all was not well. “I was a little bit in trouble with my voice. I was very tired,” he admits. “I tried to warm my voice, I did my best, but in any case I had some cough and phlegm. But, yes, I was nervous.”
Are there any tricks he can deploy for coughs: whisky, honey, Tunes?
“No tricks. There is a way to live: I need to eat light. Of course, don’t smoke and don’t drink. Things an athlete does.
“The voice isn’t like a normal instrument that you can fix like a piano or violin. Unluckily, the voice is inside. So you take what you get and you try with what you have. And in that case, only experience helps. And everything went well.”
Inside the chapel with the other guests, it went well for his son, too: “I was sitting next to Kate Moss,” says Matteo. Good work. But Matteo denies that that was the prerogative of the headline artist’s plus-one. “No, I did not choose that!” he laughs. “But it was cool, and she was very nice. We didn’t chat during the ceremony, though, because everything was very formal.”
Matteo is a viral music sensation. Fall On Me is a moving duet sung by him and his dad, and the first single from Bocelli senior’s new album, Si. Even on a record that also features collaborations with Ed Sheeran (whose previous song with Bocelli, Perfect Symphony, has 150 million YouTube views), Dua Lipa and Josh Groban, Fall On Me is a middle-market juggernaut of a song. The soaring ballad has racked 16 million YouTube views in only four weeks.
“Sixteen-and-a-half,” Bocelli corrects with a grin. So that’s half a million more views while we’ve been drowning in the brown pools of Matteo’s eyes.
Tonight Bocelli padre e figlio are performing Fall On Me at the Italian launch party for Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. A family-friendly confection based on Tchaikovsky’s ballet, it’s being released into the pre-Christmas sweet spot and stars Keira Knightley and Morgan Freeman. In a savvy marketing masterstroke, Fall On Me features on the soundtrack.
So, 96 hours after singing the roof off in a 14th-century royal British palace, Team Bocelli are doing the same in a 17th-century Italian palace, decked out like a fairytale wonderland and stuffed with local dignitaries, influencers and fashion folk.
That might be no biggie to dad, a man with grateful letters from the White House pinned to his walls at home. But to Matteo, sitting next to supermodels at royal weddings and singing for Hollywood superstars is new. When I ask which of the Windsors he chatted to, he lapses into Italian and converses with his dad’s manager. He’s trying to work out who he saw.
“Harry? William?” asks his manager.
“The Duke of Edinburgh?”
“La Principessa Americana?”
“Non! Di York!”
“Ah, the one who got married!”
“Si, Eugenie! There’s too many names! Too many royals!”
And what suit were these dapper Italians wearing? “Me? Don’t talk to me about this!” exclaims Matteo. “They suggested to me the wrong suit! I didn’t have tails!”
Was the Queen tutting? “No, honestly not!” insists Matteo.
Still, it appears that il maestro, a man of rarefied good manners, may have inadvertently raised a royal eyebrow.
After his performance “I met the Queen, and I insult because she went to rest herself. And Sarah called her and we went almost in her house, very close. Poor lady, she was trying to rest”.
And what were Andrea’s thoughts after entertaining the 850 guests and millions watching round the world?
“The typical response: Okay, I’ve done it. Mission accomplished!”
Si and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms soundtrack are both released on Friday. Andrea Bocelli performs at the O2 on November 2 and 3