ROME (Reuters Life!) - Rome authorities rarely give permission for concerts to be held inside the Colosseum but Monday night was an exception when tenor Andrea Bocelli sang in a benefit to help victims of the April 6 Italian earthquake.
Bocelli sang 12 arias and Neapolitan songs to an elite audience of several hundred people who paid 1,000 euros ($1,400) a ticket to help rebuild the music conservatory of L'Aquila, which was severely damaged in the quake that killed some 300 people.
The blind tenor, alone and together with Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu, sang Schubert's "Ave Maria," Puccini's "O mio babbino caro" and Neapolitan classics such as "O surdato 'nnamumurato" and "Santa Lucia Luntana."
The 90-minute concert was broadcast live on state television RAI and aired on Eurovision.
The concert included readings about earthquake victims from actors Virna Lisa and Leo Gullotta and concluded with Bocelli's performance of "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot.
Among those who attended were Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida.
The singers were accompanied by the Abruzzese Symphonic Orchestra, from the region that was devastated by the quake, and the Nuovo Coro Lirico Sinfonico Romano.
Performers from the National Academy of Dance, covered with white dust to simulate the victims of the earthquake, danced slowly in various parts of the Colosseum throughout the concert.
Because of the delicate state of the 2,000 year-old arena and the limited flat space for a stage, only a handful of concerts have been held inside the ancient amphitheatre.
They have included performances by Ray Charles and Paul McCartney. Other mega-concerts, such as those by Simon and Garfunkel, have been held outside.
Editing by Steve Addison