Live In Concert

Local musicians and singers back Andrea Bocelli

By Jessica Laskey
May 2023

As you listen to the lush musical splendor of Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli on May 12 at Golden 1 Center, pay attention to the orchestration and choral voices that surround his vocals.

Sixty-nine musicians and 60 singers from the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera will share the stage with Bocelli for his fourth visit since 2015. This is one of just seven U.S. appearances in Bocelli’s 2023 international tour, a testament to the professionalism of local musicians and the artistic quality Bocelli and his team expect.

“I think they really enjoy coming to Sacramento,” says Giuliano Kornberg, executive director of the orchestra and choir. “We have a good rapport with his team and the energy in Golden 1 is really compelling. We easily get 11–12,000 people in there, which creates a great buzz.”

That buzz may also come from the musicians and singers onstage. At showtime, they will have had just one rehearsal with the conductor. You read that right: one rehearsal to go over an entire program of music they received three weeks earlier.

“It’s not for wimps,” says first soprano Candis Elkin of the short turnaround. This will be her third time singing with Bocelli and the local orchestra, which she joined in 2019.

“You have to put in time at home outside of rehearsal and know what it takes to be accountable. You listen to tapes or play things on piano if you can. It’s actually much easier in this day and age. You couldn’t go look up a piece of music (online) before, you had to have a piano or read music or know a pianist. Now, there’s no excuse.”

Veteran cellist Susan Lamb Cook concurs. “It’s so important to manage your time,” she says.

Cook has played with the local orchestra for more than 20 years and teaches in the UC Davis music department. She plays for the Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra, runs a chamber music series at Harris Center, and performs in festivals throughout Europe each summer. “You have to keep in good shape and get plenty of rest to make sure you’re ready to go when you step up onstage.”

Kornberg explains the musicians will meet with the conductor—without Bocelli—May 11 to run through the pieces. The day of the concert, the orchestra, chorus and conductor will meet for a two-hour sound check. After a brief dinner break, the ensemble takes the stage for two hours and 30 minutes of music.

“It’s always insane how quickly it comes together, but the Bocelli people know what they’re doing,” Kornberg says. “It also speaks to the artistic quality and professionalism of our organization.”

Despite the time crunch, working with a legend is worth the anxiety. Elkin says her favorite part is being able to observe the master at work and at rest.

“Where the sopranos sit, we can see the whole Bocelli company in the wings before he comes onstage in a special pit made just for them,” Elkin says. “You see him with his kids and the ballet dancers who escort him onstage and you get a chance to see that he’s a nice guy. (His team) protects him very closely. He’s a valuable asset as well as their family.”

As for what that valuable asset sings, the decision is made only a few weeks prior from a playlist Cook describes as “half standard operatic repertoire and half more popular music.”

Elkin hopes “Nessun dorma” makes it into the program as it has in years past. She says the aria from the final act of Puccini’s opera “Turandot” is “one of prettiest songs ever written” and she loves singing its soprano part.

“It’s such a thrill to be onstage with him,” Cook says. “He has such a marvelous voice, it touches you through to your heart.”

Andrea Bocelli – Live in Concert is Friday, May 12, at 8 p.m. at Golden 1 Center. For information, visit

Jessica Laskey can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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