A wait of three years but it was worth every second …  Andrea Bocelli, live, in the Baths of Caracalla, Rome.  I still remember booking the tickets, way back in August 2019.  A considered amount, we pondered long and hard but the decision was always inevitable.  The book of life is brief and to forego the chance of seeing Andrea Bocelli on a summer’s evening in Rome would be unthinkable.  Done!  Then came 2020 and the travesty that was Covid.  Life, itself, was postponed.  In truth, life, as we once knew it, was gone and, in its place, one filled with anxiety and fear.  It’s as though the fun has been sucked from every pore, replaced, instead, by the mundane and the monotonous.  So it is that it has never been more important to heed the words of the late Robin Williams and cling to that ‘little spark of madness’ for ‘if you lose that, you’re nothing.’  Do the things that make you happy!  Stimulate your mind.  Make life worth living and memories worth having.  What about that little thing called a bank balance?  There’s the rub!  A matter of perspective.  Born to be chained to the rhythm, one must choose the riches one seeks …

The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.’

Prince of Genovia, The Princess Diaries.

Taxi for the Hassler!  No other start to the evening would have been fitting.  Thus, as we were whisked through the cobbled streets of the ancient city, still balmy in the evening sunshine, the vibrancy was contagious, the anticipation tangible.  Andrea Bocelli was in town and anyone who was anyone was going …  As we approached the Hotel at the top of the Piazza di Spagna, a uniformed gentleman stepped forward to open the car door and escort us through the entrance.  How I love that!  Back in the Hassler where manners, etiquette and elegance still exist, along with a piano player who serenades as one sips one’s Cervaro …  In another life, I must have enjoyed great wealth, surely, for, in this environment, I am at my happiest, clinging to the last bastions of a bygone era.

Alas, one bottle of Cervaro is never enough but, as we walked back through the foyer to a glorious sky above the Spanish Steps, as ever, I pictured Princess Diana rushing into the lift …  No sign of Tom Cruise, on this occasion, but Manny and I were already versed in what we would say to him!  Always fun to dream and, the whole evening felt just like that – a dream.  The sky was ablaze with the hues of sunset as we arrived at the entrance to the Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla).  There was a definite buzz mingled with an air of refinement as the elegant crowd made their way through the gates, following the tree-lined pathways amidst the ancient site, the ruins of the baths floodlit up ahead in swathes of changing colour.  There was no rush as each of us basked in the privilege that was ours.

The stage was lit beneath the towering ruins and the seats in place for the huge orchestra.  Receiving our programmes, we climbed the stairs to find ours, chosen so carefully three years ago, now a distant memory.  We were not disappointed, however, trained well always to select those on the aisle.  By now, nearing nine-o-clock, it seemed there was no time for drinks but we were to learn how wrong we were.  As the orchestra was clapped onto the stage, the musicians began their warm up as the audience continued to make their way to their seats, most with multiple beverages to hand!  Now, that was a bone of contention as it became increasingly clear that drinks, to many, were more important than seeing Andrea Bocelli take the stage.  Hugely annoying for the rest of us forced to endure the stream of latecomers returning from the bar.  Funny, at times like these, I always think of Pop and imagine his reaction … loved people, particularly the ignorant and entitled!

It felt completely surreal to, finally, be sitting there on this balmy summer evening.  Rome, the Baths of Caracalla, Andrea Bocelli … once in a lifetime.  The backdrop was magnificent, the lighting of the ancient ruins towering over the stage, superb; the atmosphere primed.   I had wondered how someone blind would be able to stand and sing for the duration but he was escorted on and off, leaving the stage after each song or, alternatively, joined by one of the three singers with whom he duetted: sopranos Cristina Pasaroiu and Aida Garifullina and Italian baritone, Massimo Cavaletti.  In two parts, it was an opera-lovers dream.  Recognising most by Verdi and Puccini – my favourite – the enchantment was complete; the power of music never more evident.  The words were irrelevant, translation unnecessary, dwarfed by the talent that is Andrea Bocelli.  Instantly recognisable, his voice impassioned, he, effortlessly, connected with his audience, touching both heart and soul.  It was magical; truly magical.

As Becca and Manny joined the throngs heading for refreshments during the interval, I perused the programme, a little disappointed to learn that the whole concert was to be devoted to opera.  In my mind, I had pictured us all, tears streaming down our faces, as we listened to his signature tune, Time to Say Goodbye …  Regardless, how privileged were we?  As he returned to the stage, each moment was more precious as the end creeped ever nearer.  Desperately trying to capture the setting for all time, the music, the emotion, suddenly, it was here.  After three years of anticipation, now it was over.  This great Italian tenor said his thank yous and goodbyes and was escorted from the stage … and, promptly, escorted back on!  The audience were not prepared to let him go and he was happy to return.  Then it was that, as the applause subsided, the strains of the orchestra became suddenly familiar.  As Aida Garifullina joined him, in the most beautiful fuschia pink gown, our wishes had been answered – those too, it seemed, of the hundreds around us.  Time to Say Goodbye.  The smiles, the tears as the Baths of Caracalla were immersed in emotion.  All, so thankful for a fitting finale to a magnificent evening.

Andrea Bocelli waved his goodbyes once again … but still the audience, on its feet, begged for more.  He had saved the best for last – Nessun Dorma.  Not a dry eye in the house!  A once in a lifetime experience, never to be repeated.  I wanted to press ‘pause’, to remember it for all time.  I confess to video-ing the final moments on my phone while desperately trying not to miss one of them.  This was the finale.  This was his parting gift, deserving of the standing ovation it invoked.  An explosion of light and emotion, a setting to die for, Andrea Bocelli had, finally, left the stage.  As the crowd dissipated, we sat for a little while, almost convinced it had all been a dream.  Once home, I pressed ‘play’ on the video I had been reluctant to take.  No regrets.  The same tears and ‘a dream’ I shall re-live forever.

Life is not the number of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away.’

‘Alex ‘Hitch’ Hitchens’, Hitch.

Amen to that.

This is Trish, signing off.