Legendary opera tenor Andrea Bocelli, who survived COVID-19 this spring, is getting major blowback in Italy after he said the coronavirus lockdown made him feel “humiliated and offended” by depriving him of his personal autonomy to come and go as he pleased.
Bocelli spoke at a panel Monday before Italy's Senate, where he was introduced by right-wing opposition leader Matteo Salvini, who has railed against the government’s stringent measures to combat the outbreak.
The singer’s announcement in May that he had recovered from the virus came weeks after his Easter Sunday performance in Milan’s empty cathedral. At the time, Bocelli said that when he learned on March 10 that he had tested positive, just as the nation was going into lockdown, “I jumped into the pool, I felt well” and had only a slight fever. He apparently was referring to a private pool at his residence, as public gym pools were closed by then.
The Grammy-nominated international star told the conference at the Italian Senate that he resented not being able to leave his home even though he “committed no crime” and revealed, without providing details, that he violated that lockdown restriction.
At the height of lockdown, Italians could only leave home to go to essential jobs, walk dogs or buy food or medicine.
Dismayed, Health Ministry Undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri on Tuesday said that perhaps Bocelli “wanted to express the inconvenience of every Italian who, because of lockdown, stayed home.”
“I wouldn’t have said those words, but I imagine he’ll be able to explain it somehow,” Sileri added.
The conference was held on the eve of Premier Giuseppe Conte’s appearance in the Senate, set for later Tuesday, where he was expected to lay out his center-left government’s case for extending a state of emergency for the pandemic, which expires on July 31.
The emergency status allowed Conte to bypass Parliament or even his Cabinet in decreeing a string of measures aimed at slowing the spread of the outbreak in the country where it first emerged in Europe, and would go on to claim more than 35,000 lives.
Bocelli told the conference that at first his children told him to be careful about the virus when he first started having doubts about its severity.
"But as time passed, I know lots of people, but I didn’t know anyone who went into intensive care," he said.
At the worst point of the outbreak, as many as 4,000 people were in intensive care in Italy, a country of 60 million, with several hundred virus-linked deaths on some days.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.