DAVID GREENE, HOST:
It is Easter this Sunday. And in Milan, the renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will be sending a message of love and hope to the world, especially Italy, which has seen more death in this pandemic than any country.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PANIS ANGELICUS")
ANDREA BOCELLI: (Singing in non-English language).
GREENE: "Panis Angelica" (ph) is one of the songs Bocelli will be performing Sunday at the Milan Cathedral, which is known as the Duomo.
BOCELLI: Many times, I've performed this piece also in front of the pope, for example. It's a beautiful page of music.
GREENE: On Sunday, there will be no audience because of the pandemic, just Bocelli and his organist in the empty cathedral. He'll livestream this concert on his YouTube channel for free. Bocelli joined me from his home outside Milan, where he and his family have been staying put, mostly. He says he knows how many Italians have been suffering through this. And he feels fortunate.
BOCELLI: For us - it's very bad to say this, but I dreamed throughout my life to have a period to rest myself, to stay with my family, to speak with my sons, and I had. But anyway, I am privileged because I'm in my house with my families. And I'm - everything's OK here.
GREENE: He was speaking to me along with his wife, Veronica. And as we were setting up, I could hear the tinkling of their piano. I mean, the idea of Andrea Bocelli playing for us in a moment like we're in was a wonderful thought. Though, we were warned not to get our hopes up.
Who's playing the piano?
BOCELLI: Me (laughter). It's me.
GREENE: Yeah? Have you been playing a lot of piano during - while you've been home?
BOCELLI: Yes, yes. Many times during the day, I go to play the piano because it my first...
VERONICA BERTI: Hobby.
BOCELLI: Hobby (laughter).
BERTI: ...And work. Work and hobby both go together.
GREENE: That's great. Well, I want to hear about Easter Sunday. Andrea, you - the mayor of Milan invited you to do this show.
GREENE: Why did you decide to accept the invitation?
BOCELLI: Because I think that, in this moment, music can help. And in this moment, I think it's very important to do our best to create positivity among the people. My idea - my will will be to help people don't lose the hope.
GREENE: Well, I know the Duomo in Milan and the square would normally be very crowded on Easter Sunday. Is it going to be strange to be there and performing with almost no one else there?
BOCELLI: No. It's not strange because this is not a concert. Basically, this is only a prayer. I really hope that people listening my singing can pray with me.
GREENE: Veronica, can you still hear me?
GREENE: Can I ask you how strange it will be to see your husband perform in such an empty place? I mean, you're probably used to seeing crowds of people kind of react to his beautiful voice.
BERTI: Yeah. That's a very good question. I mean, let me say that I'm used to seeing him perform professionally in front of a lot of people but also in front of a very little crowd. Sometimes when we go in church, and especially in church while people are sick - and we go there many times on Sunday, especially in the hospital close to our home.
There are many, like - there are maybe, like, literally five, six people praying together because they cannot move from their bed. So it's quite common for me to see Andrea in a very, very little crowd. It depends how strongly you pray and sing. And that's what make the difference. So I'm sure that even in the empty square, we will really feel, you know, the power of the praying together.
GREENE: Well, we all look forward to praying with you on Sunday. And thank you so, so much for spending a few minutes talking to us.
BOCELLI: OK. Thank you very much.
BERTI: Thank you very much. And thank you for having us. I mean, I understand well Andrea is supposed to perform with you.
GREENE: Well, we can just ask him. Andrea, if you want to perform something for us, what would you like to do?
BOCELLI: I don't know. I thought to sing "Ave Maria" by Schubert.
GREENE: It would be an honor to hear you do that.
BOCELLI: OK. I will.
BERTI: OK. Let's go. Thank you very much. And Happy Easter.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AVE MARIA")
BOCELLI: (Singing in non-English language).
GREENE: Wow. That was amazing. Thank you so much. And have a wonderful Easter.
BERTI: Thank you very much. Thank you, again. Bye.
GREENE: That was the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and his wife, Veronica. Bocelli is singing at the Milan Cathedral this Easter Sunday without a congregation or an audience present. The music will be livestreamed on YouTube. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.