Thursday


So in love —with the girl he's never seen



He has been with 29-year-old Veronica for ten years and now the arrival of Virginia has made their happiness complete. "It is a wonderful love story", Andrea Bocelli says.
"I never expected to have such a wonderful life. And if not everything is perfect, that only makes me appreciate all the things that are. I don't talk about the rest..."

Which is why the classical tenor worth over $50 million refuses to talk about the blindness that has prevented him seeing his partner, their daughter and his two sons of 17 and 14 from his previous marriage. Nor will he talk about the fact that his ex-wife Enrica still lives next door to his stunning villa in the select town of Forte Dei Marmi and that although they are legally divorced Andrea is still seeking permission from the Roman Catholic church to marry again. "I want to marry Veronica more than anything in the world," Andrea says. "I am doing everything I can to make sure we marry soon, although it is completely natural in a love story to have a child."
"My sons were at the hospital when Virginia was born. We were all emotional. We were all very moved by it."
The world's richest and most successful male singer — he has sold nearly 100 million albums — Bocelli takes his amazing rise to fame and fortune after years of obscurity, very much in his stride. "I never expected it but now I'm determined to enjoy it and to make sure my family benefit from it," he says.

The son of poor Tuscany hill-farmers he suffered from the eye-disease glaucoma as a child but had a normal happy upbringing. Then at 12, came disaster: Andrea suffered a blow on the head while playing football and soon afterwards was totally blind. Refusing to succumb to the disability he went to Pisa University and became a lawyer. Suddenly against the advice of friends and family he threw up a promising law practice to become a singer. For the next 10 years he struggled to make ends meet by singing in piano bars and making demonstration tapes which rarely got played.

Then by chance, one was heard by Italian rock star Zucchero who played it to his friend Pavarroti. The great man was so impressed that he invited Bocelli to his home for lessons. "What he taught me was beyond price," Bocelli says. "Without Pavarroti I would still be singing in piano bars."

Enrica met Bocelli when she was 17. "She was very young, very sweet-natured and it was easy for her to captivate me," he says. "She was the most spontaneous, natural and honest person I had ever met.
"The trouble was I was always away touring and recording. I did not realise I was growing apart from my family."  He certainly realised it when he was served with divorce papers and in accordance with Italian law, the locks on the house were changed and he was only able to see his sons on dates stipulated by a judge.

"One morning I woke up and decided I would not live in sorrow any more. I must learn to live and love again." That night he met Veronica at a party. He was old enough to be her father, but he fell instantly in love. "I said: 'Do you have to leave now?' and we have been together ever since."

This year will be busier than ever for the man now hailed as the world's most successful male singer. He has a world opera tour, at least 50 major concerts and a recording of Verdi's Requiem. But he will make sure that Veronica and Virginia come with him whenever possible. He hopes to record at least three pop albums. "It's a refreshing change to me," he says. "I like the atmosphere of the studios and the work is not demanding so I can rest my voice."

"I can't often do that at home. There we have the sun, my family and people dropping in all the time. You can never really rest. Whatever happens in the future I'm not afraid. My success is enough. If in the future it is less, then in some ways it might be better I would have more time for myself and my family.

"I know people say that at 54 I am too old to have a young family but I have never felt so happy and so young." He remembers the first time  he held his baby daughter in his arms. "I buried my face in the sweet smell of her and sang Ange Adorable from Romeo and Juliette." At that moment, the man who lives his life in darkness felt he was walking out into the sun. (Susan French/Tony James Features)

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