I was torn between calling this story “The Man in the Shadows” or “Ricomincio Dai Tre” (I Start Again from Three) because both titles would be so appropriate here. If you follow Il Volo, you certainly know who I am talking about in this story, their manager, Michele Torpedine. At concerts we see a patch of grey hair and we all say, “There’s Michele.”
But who is this man? And where did it all begin for him?
“Ricomincio Dai Tre” is Michele Torpedine’s autobiography. I said this about the guys’ book and, I will say it about Michele’s book, “If you can read Italian, you need to read this book.” It was so good, I read it in one weekend. I will say a lot of the people he talks about, you probably will not know, unless you’re Italian. Having said this, it is a very good read!
Let’s start by first looking at how the guys came to know Michele.
The day the guys came together singing, “O Sole Mio” on Ti Lascio una Canzone, Michele was at the end of his career. For him it was truly over. All he had done for so many now seemed in vain. But with this vision before him, three amazing teenagers, he was able to see a new light. A light that would start the wheels rolling again. A light that would reveal truth. A truth that never before was revealed to him. A truth he searched for his whole life but would only find in his relationship with Il Volo.
What was this truth? For the answer, let’s go back to the beginning that is the beginning for Michele. Let’s listen to what Michele has to say about his humble beginnings….
In my story, you will find pieces of true stories of artists, such as Andrea Bocelli, Il Volo, or rather, among their stories, you will find mine, that of an Apulian child emigrated to Bologna, the boy who from a studio apartment in a small white house (the Apulian houses are often white), went to the oval room of the White House.
I loved the music, I still love it, the world of music, less.
I was born on 12th May 1952 in a small town in northern Puglia. I don’t remember anything about this place, because I moved to Bologna when I was 5 months old.
My father was called Salvatore, he was a tailor, he was severe, hard.
My mother’s name was Titina, I lost her when I was 27 years old. I carried her down in my arms, wrapped in a sheet, to the mortuary chamber. She was 51 years old. Hunger, misery and cancer, this was her life, she struggled like a beast, then from one day to the other she fell ill and flew away in less than a year, I still haven’t managed to forgive her for leaving me so early.
In Bologna, we come in search of work and survival, we are poor, but really poor. We lived five people in one room.
At the age of 8, I started to work, with a shoemaker, straightening the nails that were extracted from the soles. At 12 I started working as a bartender, then as a waiter and bellhop.
My brother Nino, at the age of 17, assembled his first battery of drums (drum set), I, who was five years younger than him, began to follow him and learn. I began to work in the evening. I would go to the places where you can play. At the age of 14, I became part of a local orchestra.
At 16, my first dream comes true, a friend of mine called me on a Sunday afternoon and tells me that he was given the task of hiring six bands to open the Jimi Hendrix concert and asked me if I wanted to take part. I accept immediately, I was excited.
Our band is the last one to play before Hendrix enters. Bad fate because people couldn’t wait any longer so they threw booze and popcorn at us.
Things began to improve they call me more and more often.
One evening, all together, we go to see a concert of musicians playing with Ray Charles, the place is packed, that evening he is there too, Ray Charles, at a certain point they tell me they don’t have a drummer and they asked me to play. My legs were shaking, I was paralyzed with fear, but then I calmed down and played.
Michele says that the battery (the drums) is his life, not women, nothing for him is as reliable as a drum set. Michele continues…
Everything goes well, time passes, I was good, but not a genius, I understood that it is better to change.
One day someone proposed that I be a road manager, that is the one who contacts the local promoters, pays the musicians, takes the money, checks that everything goes well.
I plan a series of concerts for artists like Paoli-Vanoni, a great success, things are getting better and better, from one day to the next I became a millionaire, and people began to ask for me.
I started a partnership with Zucchero Fornaciari. He is good soul singer, nobody in Italy sings like that. Time passed and Zucchero became very successful, one day he came to me with a beautiful and sad song: “Miserere”, and he says, “this song should be sung with a tenor … let’s try to ask Pavarotti?”
Pavarotti was in America. I have to bring him a demo of the song so he can listen to it. I contact all the tenors I know but nobody wants to do a demo with Zucchero, join the lyric, with them pop was not contemplated by the classical tenors.
By pure chance, a friend tells me that in Tuscany, in a club, in the evening, there is a blind boy who plays the piano and is very good, he also sings tenor songs, his name is Andrea Bocelli.
It was the first time I met Bocelli. No one believed in him, not even himself.
Bocelli agreed to do the demo but, he was fearful because Pavarotti would hear it. He is very good and likeable. He sings the demo in a special way. I tell him to persist with music and he replies that he has won a receptionist competition and that the music will remain his passion.
I fly to Philadelphia to give Pavarotti the demo and, he immediately tells me that he will never sing a song of light music. I asked him to at least listen to the demo and he agreed. I explained to him that the boy who sings is not a tenor but a simple boy who plays for passion and Pavarotti asks me if I’m kidding him, because for years he hasn’t heard such a beautiful voice.
I go home and call Bocelli and I incredulously propose a contract to him. Bocelli doesn’t believe it’s all true.
At first it was difficult, nobody wanted Andrea. Too risky! There were always so many bad reviews in American newspapers, but people loved him, that’s the only thing he has always counted on.
The live reaction of the people was a show in the show. Andrea was a great interpreter of emotions he knew how to take on the feelings of ordinary people. This was its added value: to be a common mortal with a divine voice.
As to women, Michele says…
Women, I love them, but I’m afraid of them. I can’t trust the exclusive relationship with a woman. I am not so naive as not to understand that beautiful women are with me even for what I do, I am wealthy, I ride in beautiful cars and, I have some power. I never married, but I was almost married. How it ended makes me feel bad today. I was 30, she was from Bologna, beautiful and intelligent. We decided to get married.
I will only say, he cheated and, it was over! Too bad!
As with everything, Michele goes back to his mother….
My mother who I loved very much, left me early, too early, without giving me a way to show all my love for her. My mother could not share with me that little bit of success, of well-being, that I wanted to give her after so many hardships. I had everything from her, and she, she had no way to say with pride “That is my son”. I feel guilty about this.
But there is another woman who has always been important in my life, and it is my sister Liliana, a little friend, a little mother, and always with me even at work, especially in the most important moments.
I must admit that other female figures have been very important in my career. At the beginning, Cristina Gelsi, who followed me in the 16 years with Bocelli. And, now Barbara Vitali, omnipresent in all my activities, almost my alter ego, she lives traveling the world to assist Il Volo.
So, let’s talk about the guys and their relationship with Michele.
In an interview with La Vita in Diretta, Michele was asked, “What has changed, Torpedine?”
I have many enemies, which will increase after this book but, I met the right people: Gianluca Ginoble, Ignazio Boschetto and Piero Barone.
Yes, as you can tell from the title of the book, when I met them and put them together as a trio, they were so young… to think that ten years have already passed! With them and with their families, good people, a relationship was born that goes far beyond the professional one.
Together we joke and laugh, then we get serious, enjoying worldwide successes: but the human side, their being real and clean, for me is an added value, which is priceless. And, especially in this environment, is a rare commodity.
So true! This is something we always say about the guys. Something we admire! Their integrity and values are priceless! We admire that they are able to remain grounded being in this environment.
Where there is gratitude, there is Il Volo! Michele continues…
It’s so hard to be told ‘thank you.’ For this reason, the boys, Gianluca, Piero and Ignazio are different: grateful, so much so that I had to tell them to stop making my name and thanking me during interviews or at the end of the concerts, everything seems prepared.
But, of course, we know it’s from the heart! That’s who Il Volo is!
Asked about whether or not Michele would “Fancy a family.” He replied….
I have no children or wife, I married music. Perhaps the ugly will come later when I turn around and find no one. But at the moment I’m fine with that!
We wonder what did Michele expect when he signed Il Volo?
Another great story started, a new story at a time when it seemed to me that there was no future for me, for my profession: a breath of oxygen in my environment.
After years of disappointment, loss of trust and gratitude, missing or denied, with Ignazio, Piero and Gianluca, Michele rediscovers the values of gratitude. Michele says….
The boys allowed me to really go back to my job.
So where did Michele begin with the boys? He started in a place where he always wanted to be.
Let’s start with trust because they trust me first of all; the administration of an entire world tour, with important figures to move on which I could take what I want if I were dishonest. But they trusted me and so did their parents, to whom, moreover, I have committed myself to teaching everything, the mechanisms, the things that move, the figures, the relationships. All.
So how does Michele describe this trust?
If I had to define the story of Il Volo with a dominant feeling, I would call it, Un Grande Amore – A Great Love!
Many have arrogated the merit of the success of the three boys, which is certainly the result of great teamwork, but it is above all the result of intelligence, humility and generosity of the three families who have not only never hindered my work as manager, but were supportive in the best way: Ercole and Lenora Ginoble parents of Gianluca, Vito and Caterina Boschetto father and mother of Ignazio, and Gaetano and Eleonora Barone who gave life to Piero.
To sum up his life, Michele says,
Many disappointments, mainly human and partly, even professional.
At some point, I found myself feeling more disappointed than ever with music, with the environment I mean. There was never gratitude around me. I found myself tired, eager for simplicity, for pure things. The horizon seems closed to me. One night I was at home, sitting on the couch, three boys, fourteen, fifteen, appear on TV. Of course, they are good, and if I tried to really put them together? A trio, here’s what I could do: Il Volo.
I think those three determined boys saved me from depression and from the desire to leave everything. Three teenagers, yes, but already great, in all respects. Already great since I first saw them: Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca.
How do the guys feel about Michele?
Let me answer that by going back to last October when Michele was involved in a lawsuit with Tony Renis. Renis accused Michele of violating their contract with the boys. The boys answered with this message about Michele.
We know you well. You have been by our side for more than 10 years. You have defended us from everyone, you have fought for us, you have taught us so much and above all you love us. You always made us understand who we should trust and who preferred to use us for their own interests and for their own personal glory. We are proud to have chosen you and to have renewed our trust, for 10 years, day after day. This is truth that no sentence can hinder. For the rest, just have patience: in the end the truth always comes. In life and in courts.
In concluding Michele says…
I started from a studio apartment in a small white house and passed to the Oval Room of the White House, received by Clinton and Bush. Who knows Ricomincio Dai Tre – I Start Again from Three may become a film!
Maybe it’s time for me to go back to my old career and write the screenplay!
What did we learn from this story? We learned Michele is a very sensitive man.
Before I conclude for today, I would like to talk to you about three friends of Il Volo ~ Fabio Ingrassia, Roberto Amade and Mariano Di Vaio. One of them had some great news for us this week.
Many of you know these men. I’m sure all of you know Fabio Ingrassia. Fabio has performed with the guys in, among other places, Verona. We have all seen him paint to music. It was so exciting to watch Fabio paint Charlie Chaplin while the guys sang, “Smile.” I wrote an article about Fabio, “Fabio Ingrassia…In Black and White Between Colors” (to read this story go to www.ilvoloflightcrw.com) Fabio graces us with his presence every day. We have the pleasure of watching Fabio and Maria raise Noah.
I’ve spoken about Roberto Amade in some of my stories. In 2014 Ignazio and Roberto collaborated on a project in support of young aspiring artists in Marsala. This past year, I did an article about Roberto called, “Leri Cavour.” (www.ilvoloflightcrw.com) This is a restoration project that Roberto and his wife Isabel are working on. Roberto loves spending time with his family. Just this past week we saw Roberto and Isabel with their youngest daughter vacationing in Venice.
And finally, entrepreneur Mariano Da Vaio. Mariano is on social media every day with his three sons. I sometimes wonder, who is the child and, who is the adult. I’m very impressed by how he communicates with his children. It is done in a very playful but intelligent way. And he is teaching his children to speak English. This week Mariano gave us the great news that he and Eleanora are having a baby. Baby number four! Congratulations! We await the arrival!
So, why do I mention these guys? There are other friends of the guys, we know Guiseppe and Eraldo Di Stefano friends of Gianluca and Dario Mirabile friend of Piero. The reason I chose to talk about Fabio, Roberto and Mariano is they are the three who are married.
I look at these three guys and I see where in the future our guys will be! These three men are married to amazing women and, they have wonderful families.
This week Fabio said something that I think was beautiful. “Hold your babies until you can’t feel your arms anymore. Let them sleep in the bed until they’re no longer afraid of the dark. Kiss them to a ton of kisses. Tell them how beautiful and good they are with every little challenge won. They will grow strong and full of love. So, you don’t need to beg him for anything since he never missed it. These are not vices. They will know their worth because the tireless hug of your arms taught them love.”
This not only sums up Fabio’s family it also sums up Roberto and Mariano’s families. I say to all of you out there, especially all you, young fans, who are ready to move on in your lives and, consider marrying, follow these guys (on Facebook and Instagram) to see how great marriages work. They are all so hands-on in their families. There is so much love between them.
In an interview the guys were asked, “How is it to come home after traveling around the world. You come home and you are famous.” One of them answered something to the effect of, “You need to leave the fame at the door.”
This is the secret to why these three marriages are successful. They truly leave the fame at the door. They always put their families first. I see them interact with their wives and children and I say they are truly great examples for young people!
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
If you would like to share a story with me, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To read more Il Volo stories visit us at www.ilvoloflightcrw.com
Excerpts from “Ricomincio Dai Tre” by Michele Torpedine. Interviews with La Vita in Diretta, Sabato Italiano, ilsussidiario.it and TV Zoom
Credit to owners of all photos.