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Spectacle supplants Bocelli

MANSFIELD -- Is mere music no longer enough? So it would seem, judging from the theatrical fillips -- smoke machines, mood lighting, film clips -- employed to enhance Andrea Bocelli's operatic/pop revue at the Tweeter Center last night. The audience seemed to know what it had come for: the latter half of the program, including some numbers from Bocelli's latest CD ``Amore." How else to explain their apparent restiveness as he motored his way through the classical selections: a little Puccini, a dollop of Verdi, a smattering of Bizet.

It was impossible to judge the caliber of his voice, so massively amped were he and his fellow performers: young baritone Luis Ledesma, lyric soprano Ana Maria Martinez, and Kelly Levesque (who cranked out the now-requisite pop-melismas) admittedly, it's a challenge to try to reach out to and touch an audience spanning the space of several football fields. However, the steroidal sound system only served to flatten Bocelli's dynamics. Every utterance was a roar, and he seemed singularly unmoved by his own melodizing, as well as his surroundings. Classically at least, he didn't inhabit the music, nor it him, despite the athletic input of maestro Steven Mercurio, who elicited a lovely, luscious sound from the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Stick-still through the first half (and counterpoint to the audience, who never stopped milling and schmoozing: at least one spectator made a valiant effort to cellphone right over the music), Bocelli warmed to the folk melodies that opened the second act , and ultimately delivered a warm, sexy ``Besame Mucho" on a register rather low for a figure self-vaunted as ``the world's best-selling tenor."

Martinez acquitted herself marvelously in this mixed company, coasting the sound waves with no apparent effort and with a palpable joy. If you are seeking a true classical experience (perhaps a fool's errand in the Tweeter venue), she's the one to pursue: later this year she'll be making her New York recital debut at the Frick Museum. Now, there's a setting custom-built for true music-lovers.

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