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Finding His Way in 'Werther'; Andrea Bocelli's Tentative Debut
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Opera -- Werther
Author: Malitz, Nancy
Date: Nov 1, 1999
Start Page: C.09
Section: STYLE

The prescribed routine for an untried opera singer: Find an out- of-the-way opera company and make your necessary mistakes in front of an undemanding audience, critics numbering few to none. Then emerge, assured and polished, in the big time. If you're Andrea Bocelli, you can forget that. The fully developed superstar of the pop and crossover firmament learned there's only one way to make a North American operatic debut--in the national spotlight, with fans and critics flying in from everywhere, the vulnerability quotient extremely high.

Onstage here at Michigan Opera Theatre on Friday night, Bocelli must have found some comfort in the role of Werther, the melancholy hero of Massenet's opera after Goethe. "Werther's" music is a cry of frustration over fate not going one's way. Not a magazine nor television profile of this sightless, Grammy-winning pop singer has failed to mention Bocelli's long-held desire to do opera. Never mind that the prospect of his negotiating a treacherous set is an insurance underwriter's nightmare, or that a conductor accustomed to giving visual cues would have to invent new schemes. Even that a three-hour opera makes demands of endurance and theatrical pacing that a three-minute song does not. This is something Bocelli has wanted to do, and at 41, he has found people to help him do it.

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