Celine Dion talks Las Vegas return, how Whitney Houston inspired that 'surprise' high note in 'All By Myself'

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It's all coming back to us now.

With live music staging a return, Celine Dion has announced her first set of concerts since the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to postpone her Courage World Tour last year. The pop icon will open the The Theatre at Resorts World Las Vegas with a 10-show run beginning Nov. 5, with mini-residencies from Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan to follow.

Tickets for all four artists' shows go on sale May 24 (1 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. PDT) at axs.com.

With 5,000 seats, the new theater is an upgrade from Dion's longtime home at the 4,100-seat Colosseum at Caesars Palace, where the French-Canadian singer played two residencies over 16 years. In addition to the Resorts World residency, Dion is also celebrating the 25th anniversary of her breakthrough 1996 album "Falling Into You," which spawned indelible hits including "All By Myself" and "Because You Loved Me."

Dion, 53, has three sons – René-Charles, 20, and twins Nelson and Eddy, 10 – with late husband René Angélil, who died in 2016. The family spent Mother's Day together this past weekend, which was filled with "doughnuts and flowers and playing in the pool with the kids and the dogs," she tells USA TODAY, calling from her Las Vegas home. "It was great."

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Question: After more than a year of no concerts, why does now feel like the right time to return to Las Vegas?

Celine Dion: We have an amazing opportunity to start in a brand-new place. I haven't seen it in person yet, but this theater is state of the art and all the technology is the crème de la crème. Everybody is super excited and we're all working really hard.

Right now, here in the United States, things are starting to happen again, slowly but surely. It’s hard because as we’re creating this show and moving forward, at the same time, we’re seeing what’s going on in other places of the world like Canada and India and Brazil. COVID is still part of us and there’s a lot of places that still don’t see the light yet. Of course, I’m thrilled and excited and nervous for the premiere, but I’m also very proud because we’ll be giving all the profits from the first show to COVID relief. And the hotel and our show partners are joining us in that.

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Celine Dion performing during her Courage World Tour in 2019.
Celine Dion performing during her Courage World Tour in 2019.

Q: Given that it's the 25th anniversary of "Falling Into You," could you see yourself incorporating even more of that album into the setlist?

Dion: We're still working on which ones will be part of the show, but I will be singing the songs that got me to where I am today. The challenge for me is, how can I freshen them up and present them in the newest way possible? I don't want to go on stage and change the whole song because I don't want to disappoint the fans, but there's probably a way to perform them in a way that's surprising as well.

Q: Jim Steinman, who wrote "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" from that album, died last month. What do you remember about him?

Dion: He was a very emotional person. (Whether) he was playing the piano or proposing a song, he believed in what he was doing so much. I found that Jim had something in common with my husband: René cried a lot and Jim cried a lot. They would sing something happy? They were crying. They would sing something sad? They were crying. So he was just fragile and sensitive and beautiful.

Q: This year is also the 30th anniversary of "Beauty and the Beast." If I'm correct, you were initially hesitant to record the title track after your experience with "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West." (Dion recorded "Dreams to Dream" for the latter film, but was ultimately replaced by Linda Ronstadt.)

Dion: "An American Tail" was quite an adventure. I loved that song very, very much and I still do. But Linda Ronstadt did amazingly and I'm glad she got to sing it. My husband, though, he took it hard. René couldn't believe it. And I was like, "It's OK, it's OK, don't worry. It's fine." But he was very sad and he was crying. But then another song came to us and it was "Beauty and the Beast."

A poster for Celine Dion's upcoming Las Vegas residency.
A poster for Celine Dion's upcoming Las Vegas residency.

Q: As a then-rising star in the U.S., what did "Beauty and the Beast" mean for your career?

Dion: It introduced me to my fans and opened up so many doors for me. It definitely became part of the beginning of the rest of my journey as a singer. When I think about the first song of my career ("It Was Only a Dream"), which my mom wrote, and then "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Power of Love" and "Because You Loved Me" and ("My Heart Will Go On" from) "Titanic" – these are songs I can sing the rest of my life. These are classics. There are some times when I'm like, "Oh, my God, I wish I could sing other songs." But every time I sing them, I look at people's eyes and the way they sing with me, I'm like, "Wow, it got me here." So I'm very, very thankful. I'm glad to have that problem.

Q: Has the high note in "All By Myself" gotten any easier to hit?

Dion: No, sir, it was not easy from the first day. David (Foster, the song's producer) and I talked on the phone I don't know how many times, and we finally agreed on one note. I was comfortable with the key and I flew to California (to record), and David said, "Before I play the song, I just want you to know that I have a surprise in it." I'm like, "OK..." Is it a choir? I didn't really know to what expect, but something big from David Foster. He gave the song to me and it was almost a key and a half higher than what he had proposed and what I had agreed (to).

I didn't think it was funny at all. He said to me, "Don't worry. If you can't hit it, Whitney (Houston) is just next door and she can come and do it." I was like, "Oh. My. God." But I guess that was all I needed to hear, so I went into the studio and I had no choice but to do it because I really wanted to sing that song. And it worked out. But from Day One, it's been a hard one.

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Q: Did you and your younger sons pick up any new hobbies in quarantine?

Q: Aside from working on school, they are playing piano and drawing. Last summer, fall and winter, we spent a lot of time in Quebec doing activities outside, but the kids were also listening to a lot of jazz music. I was like, "Oh, my God, how soothing. That's a good surprise." And they were talking to me about, "Mom, I want to watch 'Star Wars.' Can you buy us some lightsabers?" So lightsabers, trampoline, drawing, cooking and piano. That's been amazing. It's a different world right now, and I'm happy that they're picking up things to play with and trying stuff.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Celine Dion interview: Las Vegas return, 'Beauty and the Beast' at 30