Part concert, part documentary, part travelogue, this video hit duplicates the sleeper success of Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli's album compilations and underscores his unique crossover appeal. In the U.S., Bocelli's critical response has been confined to fusillades of scorn from classical and opera writers, but the bulletproof superstar is better understood in the context of Europe's more established tradition of pop-classical fusions.Ironically, fans abroad are less prickly than stateside arbiters about the need for a discreet wall between high (classical) art and low (pop) kitsch, which Bocelli cheerfully ignores with his mix of operatic chestnuts, soft pop, and traditional Italian songs.
Indeed, despite interview segments in which he proclaims his love of opera or proudly recalls an apprenticeship to operatic veteran Franco Corelli, Bocelli comes across as more fan than virtuoso. But if his voice can prompt technical cavils from hard-core opera buffs, the blind singer's emotional directness and relative lack of onstage preening explain much of his populist appeal. Featured songs include warhorse arias, leading off with the "Louie, Louie" of tenor showpieces, Turandot's "Nessun Dorma," and duets with gruff Italian pop-rocker Zucchero and sopranos Nuccia Focile and Sarah Brightman (who buddies up for the tear-jerking closer, "Time to Say Goodbye").
Even with the marquee bonus of those guests, however, A Night in Tuscany gets its biggest boost from the seductive Italian countryside, prominently featured in between-song segments, and in the romantic concert setting, Pisa's Piazza dei Cavalieri. --Sam Sutherland