On Saturday, December 12th, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will take the stage at the magnificent Teatro Regio di Parma opera house. This virtual concert, Believe in Christmas, will be livestreamed across the globe over multiple time zones on that one day—performed without an in-person audience amidst the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic.
While many details of the performance are being kept under tight wraps, it’s been announced that it will be elaborately staged by Franco Dragone (known for his work with Cirque du Soleil), have a full-orchestra accompaniment, and include a number of surprise guests.
One of those guests, Bocelli’s 8-year-old daughter, Virginia, appears in the promo for the event. But the appearance of 24-year-old French soprano Clara Barbier Serrano was a holiday surprise, even to her.
“I found out less than a week ago,” she says, “I have to admit I was quickly overwhelmed with stress and fear, not knowing what it would be like or what I would sing. This is the first time I’ve performed at a concert like this on such a stage and mixing music genres this way.”
“I will perform ‘Amazing Grace’ as a duet with Maestro Bocelli,” says Clara. She admits to still having some jitters. “Particularly because it’s a non-classical piece and we’ll have microphones, and it’s something I’ve never really done before, let alone in this type of setting.”
The young soprano’s journey to the Parma stage
Clara, who is now living and studying in London, was raised in Montpellier, France. She speaks French, English, and German fluently as well as some Spanish and Italian. But music has also been a native tongue of sorts. “I sang a lot of music at home, not classical but jazz and rock, and I was always fascinated by the emotional power it could have,” she says.
Since the age of 17, Clara has considered travel to be vital to both her personal development and music training for an operatic career . She first took singing lessons in Paris, then in Leipzig, and now in London. She’s had opportunities to perform in Germany, France, the Netherlands and has also taken courses in Italy.
“Feeling the cultures, habits, colors of each country helps me understand the music,” she says. “I also think it makes us better, more open-minded and empathetic, which are important traits as a musician.
“Travel is integral to the development of anyone interested in an operatic career. “It’s a precarious profession with many obstacles to success,” comments Fred Plotkin, an internationally respected opera expert, who for many years was performance manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. “Unless someone becomes a resident member of an opera company or has patrons, aspiring artists have to travel constantly to make a career happen.”
The gift of a career path
Clara applied for the very competitive Opera Course at the Royal College of Music London (RCM) and auditioned in 2019. To her astonishment, right after the audition, the panel called her back and offered her place in the course with a full scholarship. “I couldn’t not believe it,” she says. “I was on a cloud for days afterward, imagining what the next step in London would be.”
It was only later this year that she learned that she was the first recipient of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation-Community Jameel scholarship, created by the two organizations to support young musicians in accessing world-class training at RCM. The scholarship is based on merit as well as need, designed to open doors to gifted singers who would otherwise be unable to study full-time at RCM.
“When I found out about the scholarship, I joked to myself and friends, ‘Imagine singing with Andrea Bocelli.’ I never thought it would actually come about,” says Clara.
“The RCM scholarship can help make a career happen,” says Plotkin. “Singing with Andrea Bocelli during this concert will give her added prominence, too.”
“This year, with necessary restrictions on travel and social contact, learners everywhere from schoolchildren to to university students, have been significantly affected,” says George Richards, Director of Community Jameel. Earlier this year,
Community Jameel also worked closely with the Bocelli Foundation to support local communities in Italy tackling COVID-19. “Music students like Clara, who normally would be performing regularly to packed audiences at the Royal College of Music have faced their own challenges,” he says.
“These are hard times for everyone, especially artists,” says Clara. “It is difficult to accept that music ceases to be made and borders get harder to cross.” She feels very privileged for this opportunity to travel and sing and spread joy during these challenging times.
Listen to Soprano Clara Barbier Serrano on YouTube
How to Watch The Concert
- The Andrea Bocelli Christmas concert will stream on December 12th, at 8PM on both the East and West coasts. The central time zone stream will take place at 10PM CT.
- Tickets for the virtual even at $25 each and are available for purchase on Ticketmaster. The concert is billed as a “one-off live event,” with the livestream being the only way to see this performance.