For many, Easter 2020 was quite different than they were used to. Instead of gathering for a large meal with extended family, people stayed in with those they lived with and had virtual gatherings online to follow social distancing guidelines. While it’s a strange time, art has a way of sending a message of hope. This was made even more apparent thanks to a stunning performance by celebrated Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli, who gave an epic solo performance at Milan’s Duomo cathedral.
Accompanied only by an organist, Bocelli stood alone inside the grand cathedral and, for nearly 30 minutes, gave a soaring performance. It seems fitting that Bocelli would perform at Milan’s Duomo, as it is the capital of Italy’s Lombardy region which has been the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus cases. Currently, the region has 59,052 cases of COVID-19, accounting for nearly 38% of Italy’s cases. As images of towns like Brescia, which has been hit particularly hard during the pandemic, flew across the screen, Bocelli opened the concert with a moving rendition of Ave Maria.
From there, he sang songs from well-loved operas like Cavalleria Rusticana and Petite Messe Solennelle. As dramatic as it was to see him perform in the empty cathedral—a masterful piece of Gothic architecture started in 1386—the real triumph came as Bocelli stepped outside. Taking his place on the steps of the cathedral, Bocelli began to sing Amazing Grace, a universal anthem of redemption. In a city of 1.7 million, he stood alone. Yet, somehow, through his music, he was able to bring hope to millions around the world.
The event, which was live-streamed on Easter Sunday, was watched live by 2.7 million viewers and has already hit over 24.5 million views on YouTube (at the time of publication). And currently, it’s the number one trending video on the platform, proving once again the power that the arts have to unite us in difficult times.
The stream, which also included footage of cities like Paris, shows how much the world has changed in a short time. The streets of Paris were completely empty, as were those of Venice, which was shown earlier in the concert. For Bocelli, who participated in the concert without compensation, it was important to do something at this moment in time.
“On the day in which we celebrate the trust in a life that triumphs,” he declared. “I’m happy to answer ‘Sì’ to the invitation of the City and the Duomo of Milan. I believe in the strength of praying together. I believe in Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone, whether they are believers or not, truly needs right now. Thanks to music, streamed live, bringing together millions of clasped hands everywhere in the world, we will hug this wounded Earth’s pulsing heart.”