This afternoon we watched a live stream on YouTube showing a solo performance by Andrea Bocelli in the Cathedral of Milan. The stream started with live images of an eerily silent and deserted city. The sun was setting; two trams were soundlessly sliding along an avenue; and nothing but the wind could be heard.
Today on Easter Sunday, the Cathedral would have been packed with people celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. But churches and cathedrals in Italy, and across Europe, are closed. And so, the famous Italian tenor was standing alone in the vast and mighty Cathedral, only accompanied by an organist. After performing classics like Panis Angelicus, Ave Maria, Sancta Maria and Domine Deus, in front of rows of empty wooden benches, Bocelli eventually left the Cathedral for the final act of his show.
A few moments later, the tenor reappeared in front of the Cathedral, lifting his voice for the all too familiar notes of Amazing Grace. The haunting images of deserted cities - Paris, London and New York - appeared on the screen, showing what only a few weeks ago nobody would have thought possible. Millions of people across the world staying in their homes instead of roaming the streets on this sunny spring day. And Andrea Bocelli, clad in his elegant black three-piece suit, white shirt and black bow tie, his grey hair slightly flying in a soft breeze, perfectly positioned in front of the overpowering façade of the Cathedral of Milan, singing away Amazing Grace. This harrowing image of the singing tenor, so small and trivial, set against the sheer monstrosity of the Cathedral on the one side and the vast emptiness of the piazza on the other side, will stick in my mind as a crucial memory of this crisis.