The song would go on to become one of the most popular crossover classical songs in history, selling more than 12 million copies worldwide. Brightman’s “Time to Say Goodbye” album would conquer the Billboard Classical Crossover chart for 35 weeks in the United States. And Pacheco, 32, the Herndon-raised, Nashville-based tenor whose PBS special “Introducing Nathan Pacheco” aired in September, would go on to become a rising classical crossover star in his own right.
“I remember being so drawn to [Bocelli’s] style of music because I knew he was bringing in classical elements,” Pacheco said. The son of a piano teacher didn’t know then that he wanted to pursue music as a career, but he did recognize how crossover music can be liberating for those who don’t appreciate traditional opera or classical standards. “I liked that he was singing with a raspy and pop-like voice, especially in the verses,” Pacheco said. “I thought that was so cool.”
For decades, classically trained musicians were reluctant to call crossover “cool.” The crossover genre has caused ire, even fear in classical circles, since the term is often misused by casual observers of classical music. Crossover music is distinct from classical, incorporating many styles — show tunes, folk melodies, pop music — into the genre. Adding to the confusion, many opera singers and classically trained musicians dabble in the genre over the course of their careers.
Young singers like Pacheco, though, actively seek to become crossover stars, often forgoing conservatories to pursue success in the generalists’ field. And like pop stars, crossover artists follow tumultuous paths to success, reliant upon big breaks and odd turns, not necessarily technique.
Pacheco’s big break came when he began touring with Yanni, the Greek self-taught pianist and producer who topped the New Age and Crossover charts in the ’90s. He then performed with Welsh crossover star Katherine Jenkins in Britain, gaining experience and exposure on stages overseas.
On Sunday at Strathmore, Pacheco will perform standards such as “Nessun Dorma” alongside his own folk-classical compositions from his self-titled debut album, songs that he says are deeply influenced by his family’s Brazilian heritage. After Strathmore, the tenor kicks off a four-month tour in the United States, punctuated with concerts in Britain and Ireland alongside Jenkins. It’s an impressive turn for a local singer-songwriter, whose childhood diet of the Three Tenors and U2 seems to be paying off.
A well-timed audition
Pacheco had just finished a degree in vocal performance at Brigham Young University and was preparing to study opera at the Manhattan School of Music when he decided to plunge into the industry.