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Matteo Bocelli: The son also rises

Courtesy of Mattia Guolo

For every Liza Minnelli, whose career was never hampered by being the daughter of Judy Garland, there’s a Frank Sinatra Jr., the late entertainer who, despite his enormous gifts as a singer and musical conductor, wasn’t always taken as seriously as he should have been because of his genealogy.

So far, it looks like Matteo Bocelli is trending toward the Minnelli side of the line.

Bocelli, of course, is the son of Andrea Bocelli, one of the most revered and successful operatic tenors of the past 50 years. But it doesn’t appear his bloodline is much of a hindrance.

“Honestly, I think at the end of the day, I don’t really care about [that],” insisted the 26-year-old vocalist in an accent seasoned with the sound of his native Italy. He was on the phone from Florida to beat the drum performance at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City that was held on Dec. 16.

“I think that in life, the most important thing is to be happy,” Bocelli added. “I’ve always known that my last name could’ve been kind of like a weight because people would’ve had a lot of expectations, not only for the level of success that you reach, but also expectation in the type of music you make.”

Bocelli also emphasizes the link between music and personal feelings.

“But as I always think, at the end, we are all human beings and we all have our own emotion inside, and in this case, we have our own vision of music,” he explained, “and I just bring the music that makes me happy and that satisfies me. And, even if it’s a small amount of people that enjoy my music, I say, ‘Mission accomplished!'”

That certainly seems to be the case so far. Earlier this fall, Capitol Records released Bocelli’s debut album, “Matteo,” a project that includes contributions from, among others, Ed Sheeran and his brother, Matthew (the pair composed the song “Chasing Stars”). And he recently completed the European leg of his first headlining tour. 

As for Bocelli’s reference to his “own version of music,” he was speaking of the path he’s been forging, not as a classical performer like his father, but in the realm of pop. As such, Sheeran looms as a large inspiration.

“I always consider myself a romantic guy, and I always enjoyed mostly to sing ballads when I was home,” Bocelli pointed out. “But, I found in (Sheeran), I think, the perfect balance between (ballads and more sprightly tunes).

“Everyone got to know him as a ballad guy because of ‘Thinking Out Loud,'” he added, alluding to Sheeran’s music, “but he became huge worldwide with ‘Shape of You,’ which is an up-tempo song. I mainly enjoy ballads, but I do enjoy a lot more (livelier) songs. It’s fun for the live shows because you see people moving, and it’s fun to have the audience dancing as well.”

Not that his old man hasn’t played a significant part of Bocelli’s development as an artist as well as a human being. But when asked what lessons have been imparted from father to son, his initial response was somewhat surprising because it was more philosophical – if not original – than technical.

“He told me, in life, you cannot always do what you love, but you have to learn to love what you do,” the younger Bocelli noted. “And in my case, obviously, I chose to do music, which is to always be my passion. So I already feel lucky. But in anyone’s career, you might not like everything, every single part of it, but it’s only in loving everything that you do that you’ll be able to do what you love.”

The singer added that he has leaned on Dad for more performance-focused advice as well.

“Of course there are a lot of technical things that he taught me, you know, vocal technique,” Bocelli said. “That’s a process and a journey in the sense that whenever I have some doubts, I call him and I ask him.

“I opened up to him when I was starting to let him listen to my voice,” he added. “That’s when we began, I don’t want to say some lessons because they weren’t like (formal) lessons, but they were moments in which we would sit at the piano and he would explain something.”

Big deal at Borgata

Jan. 1 is not only the start of the new year, it’s the day the Borgata Winter Poker Open kicks off at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

Between then and Jan. 26, the Big B will host 42 contests, including 22 main events, with a combined guaranteed prize pool of $10 million (the other 20 contests are secondary and satellite contests). The ultimate throwdown is the Borgata Winter Poker Open Championship, a five-day No Limit Hold’Em challenge starting Jan. 22 that has a $5,300 buy-in and a $3 million guaranteed pool.

Would-be Phil Helmuths can avail themselves of packages that include entries to multiple tournaments, a Borgata hotel stay and other travel benefits. BetMGM Poker is also staging nightly qualifiers for entry into the Kickoff, Almighty Million, Mystery Bounty, and Championship events.

Borgata Winter Poker Open hopefuls can compete for seats online through the BetMGM Poker app for as little as $2. And there will be 16 different opportunities on-site to qualify for main events, seven of which may earn players a seat in the Championship. 

For more info, go to borgata.mgmresorts.com.

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