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Andrea Bocelli's Career Highlights, Singing with Celine Dion and...Edith Piaf?

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"I could not live without music," Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli tells us via e-mail while on tour. "Singing is always a joy. Even now, after 20 years of career and with graying hair, I am never tired of singing."

One of the most popular classical crossover singers performing today (his recordings have sold more than 70 million copies), Bocelli returns to Houston to perform with the Houston Symphony and Houston Symphony Chorus for a special concert at the Toyota Center. The program is based on his most recent CD release and PBS special, Live in Central Park. That performance included renditions of soaring arias from Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, La Bohème and La Traviata mixed with tunes such as "New York, New York," "Once Upon a Time in the West" and "Time to Say Goodbye."

Bocelli, who has taken the stage thousands of times in his career, says he continues to feel a few butterflies in his stomach before every show. "Since my debut...when I was a teenager in a small town close to where I was born in Tuscany, up to [my] performance of a few hours ago, anticipation is great and always present. There is not a great difference between the first and the last concert. I think it is right to feel worried and excited when you have great respect for music and for the public."

Asked to recall a few of the highlights of his career, Bocelli has a long list. "Surely there have been moments in my career which come to my mind before others. For instance, my lyrical debut on a stage in 1994 (in Macbeth by Verdi), as at that time I was going to achieve my biggest dream in life, which was to sing as a tenor in an opera...Another unforgettable moment was a Tosca which I performed in Torre Del Lago (the home of Puccini) in which I had on the stage, close to me, my two sons playing the part of [the] altar boys. I also remember with a strong emotion a Requiem by Verdi performed in Verona...I was singing a sacred page in front of seventeen thousand people a few months after the death of my father. I think it is easy to imagine my state of mind.

"Also in the United States, I have had many professional and intense moments, from my debut at the Metropolitan in New York to the great concert in 2011 on the great lawn of Central Park. At that time, I really got aware of the extraordinary affection Americans feel for me, which I return with much gratitude."

Bocelli has shared the stage with many pop and classical stars. A few of those performances stand out for him. "When I have to speak of the most special duet in the field of pop, I immediately think of Celine Dion, a great professional and a great person, who is very simple and who loves her job. In the field of opera it is more difficult to make a choice; I remember Daniela Dessì, with whom I sang La Bohème. " He also counts performing with Tony Bennett, Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo as highlights.

As far as future projects, Bocelli tells us he has a few in mind. "I would like, for instance, to play all the tenor roles conceived by that absolute genius who's my fellow countryman, Giacomo Puccini. And in my next album, entitled Passione, I will run the risk of "an impossible meeting" which will become true thanks to technology. I am referring to "La Vie en Rose," which I will sing along with the vibrating and marvelous voice of [the late] Edith Piaf...a real coup de théâtre."

Like many popular opera stars, Bocelli has a full schedule for the next several years, but he says he has a very simple career plan. "I am a lucky man as my job is to dedicate myself to my greatest passion: music. I hope to go on doing it as long as I can. I simply wish to go on singing [as long as] the public will ask me to, be it in front of a hundred thousand people (just as it was some months ago) or in my dining room at home for my family and for some dear friends...for me it makes no difference."

Andrea Bocelli joins the Houston Symphony and Chorus, along with soprano Maria Aleida and guest vocalist Katherine Jenkins, in concert at 7:30 p.m. on November 28 at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information, visit the symphony's website or call 866-446-8849. $75 to $375.

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