Met star: Andrea Bocelli is better than opera tenors

Met star: Andrea Bocelli is better than opera tenors


norman lebrecht

January 12, 2022

Nadine Sierra tells the Screaming Divas why she’s touring with Bocelli.

‘He’s the nicest person there is… I don’t know how many instruments he plays, maybe 100. If we’re gonna have a real talk, let’s have a real talk. I really don’t like how the opera industry cuts him down all the time and says nasty things about him…

‘Let me tell you something: I don’t have a single tenor colleague in our realm who can do what he does – sing every day, travel every day, then sing, memorise all of this new music, get up there in front of minimum 18,000 people and still have a quality in his voice that is beautiful. Can sing high notes for days and has breath control…. sometimes I’m singing high notes with him and I’m thinking, he’s gotta stop now cos I’m gonna die.

‘This energy is so much needed in performing.

‘He makes me feel super-comfortable on stage… The entire first half of all of his concerts is opera.’

Watch from 45:00.


  • Nik says:

    In what way does the opera industry cut him down?
    He is not part of it, so what power does it have over him?

    • Herb says:

      A lot of professional musicians on this blog cut him down every chance they get. I for one find it very distasteful. Even professionals who defend him get chopped down to size and their careers mocked and disparaged (see below).

      • Una says:

        Yes, exactly. He has got to where he jas got to by a lot of hard work and dedication and with a disability that stops him from doing opera in the theatre on stage or concert work with not being able to see. Everyone has their favourite singers but bashing people up, and mocking them and others like me for actually being recognised as being ae to do the job, is just awful and so unnecessary.

        • Adrienne says:

          “a disability that stops him from doing opera in the theatre on stage or concert work with not being able to see.”

          And that other slight problem – he would be inaudible.

    • Maria says:

      He sings lots of opera in concert, only due to his blindless and so has an inability to do staged productions. He gets a lot of unnecessary bashing just because the endless snobs of this world, who think they are the experts of the music world yet couldn’t even sing in the bath, can’t cope with anyone doing ‘crossover’ and perhaps earning more money than in a staged opera.

  • Helen says:

    Play 100 instruments, sing every day, sing high notes for days and has breath control ….

    ….. more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

    I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but some of these crossover fans!

  • Anon says:

    There is definitely no need to cut him down.
    He is a gateway into opera who has reached millions of people over his career.

  • Paul R. says:

    Good call, Norman. More newsworthy than the fact that Sierra broke off her 2+ year engagement to Nicolas Bendati.

  • A.L. says:

    Perfect. She has given me and probably others another reason to stay away. To try to legitimize a perennially amplified popera act is unforgivable not to say unfortunate. Insulting, too.

  • Frank says:

    If he makes her ‘feel comfortable’ on stage, what does that say for the rest of the industry?

  • Nick says:

    Oh, well, no further discussion needed then. A nobody soprano mooching off of his ‘time to say goodbye’ stardom says he is better than anyone she knows.
    I’m convinced and immediately will change my mind about him!
    Let’s see, who should we trust? The entire opera industry (as she pointed out) which does not ‘appreciate’ his genius or, once again, a nobody soprano touring and getting paid to sing next to someone most people go to see because they’ve heard his name and most of them go: ‘oh my god, and he is bliiind though?!’

    If Rieu hires her for his next tour I’m sure she’ll say ‘he’s better than Menuhin!’ Imagine her on tour with Yanni! ‘Richter could never do what Yanni does!’

    Ugh, shameless selling of oneself by praising these industry-created mediocrities…infuriating but mostly, sad.

    • amused says:

      Comments like this make me laugh…

      Yes, Nadine Sierra is a “nobody soprano”……who in 2021 and 2022 is scheduled to be singing leadings roles and concerts at (in no particular order) the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Paris Opera, Barcelona, the Staatsoper unter den Linden, Teatro Colón, Teatro di San Carlo, and more…

      It is actually impressive that someone apparently has managed to figure out how to comment on a blog, but somehow doesn’t know how to use Google to do a simple search…

      • guest says:

        She isn’t a nobody but she isn’t a “name” either. Many of the examples you gave are in the future. How about the past? No performances at Teatro Colón. At La Scala, just one short Rigoletto run in 2016. In Paris, five performances in the period 2015-2018, plus another 7 in 2021 if operabase is to be trusted. At the Met, 35 performances in the period 2015-2019 plus participation in 3 galas, those Met affairs with many singers. At the Met she was cast mostly in Rigoletto and Nozze. The Met continued with Rigoletto and Nozze past 2019 but she wasn’t cast in them. Most telling is the fact she doesn’t give recital concerts in her own name – there are only two such recitals in the operabase list (past, not future). When you are famous, you give recitals. When you aren’t famous, you don’t, because your recitals don’t sell. It should be obvious why she associates with Bocelli and butters him up shamelessly – she hopes people will remember her name, and in due course she might chance a couple of recitals of her own. We all know the fees for singing in opera performances are nice, but recital money is nicer, for less strenuous work – you can pick your pieces, and you pick only what suits you.

        • amused says:

          There is some truth to what you say, but that has more to do with how long it takes for an opera career to be built and how a singer is being sold to the public.

          The dates you pointed out, beginning in 2015, put her in her mid-twenties (born in 1988): for a singer to get engaged in such roles in her mid-twenties at the Met, Paris, and La Scala (where planning happens 2-5 years in advance, depending on the show) means that at an age where young singers are still in or finishing school and hopefully ironing out the last major flaws of a basic vocal technique, she was considered a sellable product by any insider in the music business. Everyone in the US inside the business knew who she was by the time she was about 20, an incredibly young age for a singer.

          After an initial testing out period, where the engagements are more spread out and she shows that she truly can deliver onstage, comes the planning for future seasons and new productions, which is why you might see that the 21-22 season is as full as it can be: it is a season of someone who looks to not just be a working singer, but who really is becoming (or has now become) a star.

          In the meantime, Deutsche Gramophone takes notice, releases her first solo album in 2018, and now that the bet is paying off, will be releasing her second album.

          What is happening? The people who run around giving recital concerts in their name are either 1. singers who come from a smaller country that capture that smaller market or 2. singers who are being made into superstars by the industry.

          This is a question of working singer vs. star vs. superstar, and most opera fans do not realize how extremely limited the superstar world of opera is, and how those singers have an entire mechanism behind them promoting them. For each one of those chosen superstars, there are dozens of stars, and hundreds of great singers working singers at the highest levels.

          Nadine Sierra is stepping into stardom and is at the beginning of the (potential) superstar path. And her CD releases started right at 30. Renée Fleming just started along that same path in her mid-thirties…

          Compare her with Erin Morely, a singer in a different Fach working absolutely at the highest level. No solo CDs, but the ones she has recorded are not meaningless. She has not been chosen yet as a superstar…is she a star? is she famous? She most definitely is to anyone in the business, and to many devoted opera fans.

          To equate famous only with solo concert recitals is to say that superstars are the only ones people know (and care?) about, which communicates either a distorted, tunnel-vision view of the opera world, or only a more superficial knowledge of the opera world where one knows only those at the very top of the list of singers being promoted: the chosen superstars, and misses the numerous other singers working at the highest levels of an international scene.

          To call her a nobody soprano just reeks of ignorance, if not stupidity…

          Nadine Sierra has had a meteoric start in the opera world…without Bocelli…and will potentially build an amazing career…without Bocelli. She doesn’t need him for that. But she probably genuinly enjoys working with him, and those in a industry looking to build a superstar career are probably happy to have her continue to concertize with him. The star part of the job…she seems to acheived that. It is the superstar part that remains to be seen.

          • JB says:

            There is a downside to working with Bocelli who is looked down on by much of the opera world. It is like selling Luis Vuitton bags at Walmart and can harm Sierra’s brand. I am not so sure that she really likes to sing with him. It might be more about compensating Covid-related losses.

          • guest says:

            We have already agreed she isn’t a nobody. We’ll talk about stardom IF, not WHEN, she makes it to it. Not saying she couldn’t. In my opinion, today practically anyone can make it to stardom, all that it takes is an excellent agent. Tell people often enough somebody is the greatest and many of them end up believing it.

            To arrive at the Met five years after your debut is very nice but by no means extraordinary. When you sing at the Met 3-6 performances per year, you are one of many sopranos. It took her four years to persuade the Met management to give her more performances. She sang there 18 performances in 2019, which was very nice indeed, but it was just two roles. When you sing two dozen performances per season, 10-12 different roles, or twice as many performances, 14-16 roles, you are somebody, meaning an excellent opera singer; you may still be no superstar because superstardom and excellency aren’t necessarily the same thing.

          • Tom Phillips says:

            No real star sings 10-12 different roles or 24 performances per season at ONLY ONE opera house – that is the very definition of a “house singer” rather than an international one. Although it may be closer to this in cities like Vienna or Munich than the Met, La Scala, Paris, Royal Opera etc.

          • guest says:

            Perhaps you would like to check the Met archives first? Engagements at the Met, and in Europe / South America, is that international enough for you?

      • BRUCEB says:

        Yeah, you have to be super terrible to get gigs like that. They only hire nobodies.

    • Maria says:

      You don’t sing. at the Met if you’re useless!!! This is more about snobbery.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      Rieu can actually play the violin which is more than you can say for Bocelli’s pitiful attempts at singing opera.

    • Vlad says:

      Infuriating, indeed. I guess the lady found a very lucrative job next to Bocelli.

    • JB says:

      Well, what we can say is that Sierra is a no-name for SlippeDisc. This is the second article in a row where she is just called a “Met star” in the title. But then only Netrebko gets the honor to see her name cited in the titles of SD.

      I think Sierra is a wonderful singer for whom Covid came unfortunately at the time when her career really took of. Now she has to sing with Bocelli (and even praise him). She also offers online voice lessons !!

  • green knight says:

    Bocelli always reminds me of me singing in the bath.

  • AZ says:

    Ms. Sierra is absolutely right to praise Bocelli. As it is, he may keep her longer and maybe even consider her as his permanent partner, who knows? So she will not have to strain her beautiful soprano trying to fill the MET (if she ever be reengaded there) and could preserve it, singing right into the microphone, forever….

    • Anon says:

      “if she ever be re-engaged there” – title role in Lucia di Lammermoor, April 2022.

      • AZ says:

        but she’s the one who complained that she’s no longer getting the engagements… so maybe yoy should inform her that, in fact, she has some…

      • Doughinope says:

        Sure- but she’ll cancel. She cancels more than she actually performs. It’s a weak little voice housed by an unhealthy ego wrapped in a pretty package dummies fall for.

    • Paul R. says:

      Welp, she’s scheduled to sing Lucia at the Met in April, so…

  • Allen says:

    Cast him as Arnold in Guillaume Tell and see how far he gets.

  • Save the MET says:

    Oy vey.

  • CMNY says:

    I’ve done concerts, as an orchestral player, with Bocelli. He is a pop singer with a high C (or, he used to sing an occasional high C or B). He never sang any opera excerpts that lasted more than two and a half minutes, and never sang more than three in a set before leaving the stage for 20 minutes. He was in control of, and managing, very limited vocal gifts.

    • sonicsinfonia says:

      When I first heard him, it was a pleasing toned voice, not very heavyweight. He did sing a complete Werther on stage, entering on horseback, which takes some guts when you are blind. Some of the more recent performances I’ve heard have sounded somewhat strained and I wished he wouldn’t push so hard, microphone or no microphone.

  • Matias says:

    ‘This energy is so much needed in performing’

    Is this ‘energy’ 120V or 230V AC, or is his amplification battery powered?

  • Couperin says:

    It’s one thing to get a gig with Bocelli… Now you gotta KEEP the gig with Bocelli.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Sounds like a Trump ass kissing session.

    • Dot says:

      What do you sound like? Bocelli would never speak as you do! If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all please.

  • Bill says:

    She’s not the worst-looking seeing eye dog, I suppose.

  • Miv Tucker says:

    But, surely that’s Tony Blair in the top photo?
    Dear God, is there nothing that man won’t do for publicity?

  • David G says:

    I saw the Screaming Divas podcast. Very interesting story about Bocelli. To be honest, I was never a fan, but when he appeared on the Tucker Gala with some accomplished legit singers, I thought, ok he’s putting his money where his mouth is, putting his reputation on the line. Kudos. And then he sang. It was just awful, and I vividly remember Nadine pulling him through it (was it a duet from Lucia?). She is very kind to speak of him with affection, but any of the tenors on that show could’ve sung him under the table, while earning a fraction of his income. Sorry.

  • V.Lind says:

    I’d never heard of her till her engagement was posted here, and had forgotten about her till her flaky and rather unkind announcement of its end. But I looked her up, and she does appear to have some stage cred. I think it demeans posters, and their argument, to demean her in order to make these arguments.

    Wouldn’t surprise me to think that Bocelli IS nicer than many opera singers she shares stages with. I don’t see a lot of harm in her sharing his occasionally, if she so desires.

    I do admit, though, that when I read her statement about consciously uncoupling with Nico Bendati I thought she was flaky, and I’m not sure this utterance improves her in my mind.

    I don’t know whether she is volunteering this stuff or if it’s all Screaming Divas stuff in reaction to questions, but she seems to be one of those breathless types who just opens her mouth and utters.

    For an adventure in crossover, I recommend this for reaction:

  • Norm Walker says:

    What this singer says about Bocelli’s personality is unassailable. As a classically trained singer myself, however, I have issues with the consistency of his pitch and tonal quality in most of the performances I have heard.

  • James says:

    Sierra is not actually paying him a huge compliment.
    ‘Can sing high notes for days… has breath control…’
    Dude, all you’re saying is that he has a technique. You know what? Big deal. That should be a literal bare minimum. She says she’s having real talk, you know what? I don’t buy it.
    Wanna have real talk? Ok. The great ‘crossover’ artist Alfredo Cocozza (aka Mario Lanza) was one of the best tenors ever. He sang with passion and gusto and could sing pop, opera and musical theatre equally brilliantly. He seemed to not be a jack of all and master of none.
    More real talk? Why does an opera industry not accomodate a blind person? Why does the crossover industry (as messed up as, if not more than, the opera industry, proved by this) fetishise his disability so as to make it a gimick? That, in many organisations, would raise serious issues at the absolute least, and at most, be considered unethical or illegal.
    There’s the real talk. Don’t dress up a superiority complex as hard talking.
    Real talk? Quite frankly, get fucked.

    TLDR, This isn’t real talk. You’re saying the most basic things and calling it ‘real’, more insulting than you think.

  • patrick says:

    The man has no control over pitch, dynamics, or support. The people who enjoy his singing are essentially tone deaf. Nadine Sierra is obviously raking it in or she wouldn’t even be saying those things. It’s embarassing when people completely comprimise their integrity for money.

    • Brian says:

      Well said. She isn’t the first opera singer to swallow her pride and stand beside him on stage: Fleming, Domingo, the cast of the Verdi Requiem recording he did early in his career… It’s probably very good money for those singers but it definitely blurs some lines…

  • Vlad says:

    Bocelli and opera tenors, come on! Sierra got a lucrative job with the man, I guess.

  • IP says:

    I skipped the entire career of one Barbara Frittoli just because she was a bit too eager to help with the presumed opera recordings of Mr. Bocelli. I think it will be a much smaller loss in the case of Miss Sierra.

  • Concerned Opera Buff says:

    His estimated financial worth is $100 million dollars. You can live a luxurious life on that. Why bother with appearing in radical opera productions with quarrelsome stage directors, when he can rack up huge fees for concerts. Another concern for singers at the Met, is that even if you get top fees, which I think is now $17,000 per performance, a good chunk of it goes to living expenses in New York. I can’t think of any opera singer making as much as Bocelli.

    • V.Lind says:

      None of them makes as much as Elton John, or dead Elvis for that matter. So? If opera singers start measuring their price instead of their value, they are sunk before the off. They don’t fill stadia and sell gazillions of units of recorded music.


  • Placido Pavarotti says:

    Bocelli is seen in the industry as a joke, hack. Not a singer. I worked with him plenty and without that Mike he has absolutely no voice.

    The issue I have is with the industry. Nadine saying these things is obviously because he has her on his tours and she makes a boat load of money. Opera singers kiss up and pretend non stop whether conductors or fellow singers. It’s hard to watch and I can’t imagine doing it myself.

    By the way, he has sang on the Met opera stage many times. Accompanied by the great Met opera orchestra. If he hasn’t been discovered yet it’s possible that his singing abilities didn’t impress the right people

  • NYtoAZ2020 says:

    Bocelli should be arrested for loitering in front of an orchestra.

  • Maximien says:

    What utter hogwash! –

  • Kathleen E King says:

    Signor Bocelli has a lovely voice, a gift of God, but it is NOT as good as Pavorotti’s (nor Caruso nor even Lanza), and he has worked hard under very adverse circumstances to develop his gifts. He does deserve great respect and credit. However, because of his handicap he can never be an “opera” singer, nor “better” than they because today to be a first rank tenor in opera one must be able to ACT as well. Given Maestro Pavorotti’s size (his “handicap” as it were) he today might not reach the divine status he did because of the acting and physical appeal demanded today any more than Dame Joan Sutherland or Maria Callas. No matter the voice, much more is demanded by opera today, and nice guy he may be, Signor Bocelli cannot deliver the theatrics required. Nor, may I add despite her strained efforts in singing theater can Ms Sierra. She may not be a “nobody soprano” but she has neither the voice nor the chops to be “somebody.”

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Kind of beautiful girl (voice) who prefers the company of ugly ones to enhance the difference in the eyes (ears) of the interesting guys.

  • justsaying says:

    What a paroxysm of irritation in the comment section!
    It’s understandable: Bocelli, off-mike, sounds dry and weak, and that frustrates people who like old-style opera singing. But tastes are changing, and some listeners are starting to prefer soft-grained voices like Sierra’s. She can be heard without a mike, but just barely, and sounds more comfortable with one. (It’s not just her, of course.)

    Depending on how you like your opera, it can be viewed as one more generational style-shift, or as a death spiral.

  • DYB says:

    Charlotte Church is better than Nadine Sierra, right? (I mean…kinda.)


    Andrea has a lovely voice. He sings Arias from the operas, he does not sing opera. That is the ultimate of being an operatic tenor.

  • June says:

    Andre Bocelli is the most wonderful singer when it comes to the prayer, opera. I believe he is truly blessed by God.

  • Bernalene Pistorius says:

    Do you know Jonathan Antoine from the UK? Do yourself a favour!!!