Andrea Bocelli Debuts In Japan, Korea

Korean soprano Sumi Jo to join the Italian tenor for several duets.

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli makes his Asian debut Thursday (May 11), when he performs with the Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra at the Orchard Hall in Tokyo.

That performance will be repeated Saturday and Monday, before the 41-year-old blind singer heads to a concert at the Suwon Outdoor Theater in Seoul, South Korea, on May 17.

Bocelli will perform with friend and associate, conductor Chung Myong-whun. They have worked together on two albums, 1997's A Hymn for the World and last year's best-seller Sacred Arias.

"He is a very special man," Bocelli said of Chung, "a great artist who loves music and understands the importance of reaching people through music."

The Asian concerts will feature the Grammy-nominated Bocelli singing such pieces as "Che gelida manina," from Puccini's La Boheme, and Mascagni's Ave Maria.

Korean soprano Sumi Jo will also join Bocelli. Together they will sing "Sulla Tomba," from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor; "E il sol dell'anima," from Verdi's Rigoletto; and "O soave fanciulla," from La Boheme.

Later this year, Bocelli will record La Boheme with conductor Zubin Mehta for Universal Classics. He'll also release an album of Verdi arias in the fall.

Born in 1958, Bocelli lost his sight in a soccer game when he was 12. He won a series of singing contests but left his home in Tuscany for Pisa to earn a law degree. He helped support himself during those years by performing popular songs in piano bars. He gave that up to sing full time, and less than 10 years later his 1998 album Aria: The Opera Album became one of the most successful classical albums ever.

"My parents' influence has taught me never to accept life's difficulties in a passive way, but rather to draw strength from them," Bocelli said recently. His father died April 29, the same day he performed a concert for the pope in Italy.

Bocelli made his U.S. operatic debut in November 1999 at the Michigan Opera Theater. In July he'll return to the U.S. for a concert in New York at the Statue of Liberty.