A video shared on Facebook shows 12-year-old Michael Merlino shining while singing “La mejor de todas” with a poise and tone well beyond his years.
The 2:30-minute video, viewed more than 14 million times, was uploaded by a family friend with the sole purpose of getting the attention of one the world’s most famous and well-regarded classical singers, Andrea Bocelli.
It was Merlino’s dream to sing with the Italian singer.
“I love his style of music and he is a person with a disability and he still transcends to people. He sings just like a normal person,” the tween told Fox News Latino during a Skype interview from his native Dominican Republic on Thursday.
Merlino has been singing classical music since he was about 4 years old. His father used to play him old records of some of the great singers and he just picked it up.
“I am drawn to this type of music,” he said. “I feel good with this type of music.”
It was during a trip to Italy many moons ago that his parents noticed their son’s gift, telling FNL that he would interpret some of the classic songs perfectly.
“He was mimicking a song called “O Sole Mio” – sometimes singing it to me perfectly and we started to notice that he had a great ear,” his mother Miguelina Escaña said. “He was really young.”
Eventually the boy started attending a music academy and a few month ago, when he found out that his idol Bocelli was performing at the Altos de Chavon Amphitheater near Santo Domingo, his family and friends started the social media campaign.
“The idea came from our friend Maria Isabel who asked Michael to sing something at the beach and she taped it,” Escaña said. “In that moment Michael said his dream was to meet and sing with Andrea Bocelli and she made sure to make his dream come true.”
And it did.
On April 4, Merlino took to the stage with Bocelli to sing “Amapaola.”
“I felt good because I was received perfectly [by the audience] and when I started singing, and reaching the higher notes with him, people were clapping,” he said. “I felt a little nervous but that was not the worst part. During the rehearsal I was really nervous," the boy admitted.
His mother said she had no words to describe the evening, calling it something beyond her wildest dreams.
“It’s an indescribable emotion. It’s something that I never dreamed of,” she said. “I knew he had talent, but for him to reach this level at only 12 years old is something that I cannot express in words. It’s an unforgettable emotion.”
Handling his instant fame with grace, Merlino will continue going to school and practicing his craft because singing on a stage like that is what he wants to be doing.
“Claro que si! (Of course I do!),” he said.