And - with apologies to the fans who line up, dreamy-eyed, to get close to the classics heartthrob after a concert - Bell says he's okay without a romantic relationship. "I had a girlfriend for seven years in New York. It eventually ran its course. Then I had a relationship for a year - for the first time with another person who does what I do." Kristin Chenoweth is a Tony-winning singer­-actress who drew rave reviews for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in this season's musical,Wicked, on Broadway. "It turns out," Bell says, "that it's a lot easier being single when you're traveling around the world, not to feel like you're leaving somebody at home, spending every night on the phone. It takes a special kind of person to be with an artist, period. So yeah. It's good to be single."

Bell stops and thinks for a moment. "Friendships are very important. I have friends, good friends, in every place I go. Some of my best friends I see once a year. But you know, I worry sometimes. I've gotten so accustomed to this variety of people I see, traveling so much. It makes me think that if I had a normal life, maybe I'd get tired of the same people."

Within hours, Bell is onstage, completely comfortable, his trademark black shirttail out, slightly bloused sleeves neatly cuffed at his wrists as he stands between the concertmaster and the conductor's podium to play the new Corigliano concerto. As the highly cinematic music crashes and pounds around him, Bell's lithe body forms a question mark, then a parenthesis, then a spiral as he twists his torso, seeming to search his way upward for a note. If he uses sheet music, you might see him reach down during rests to crimp the corner of the right-hand page - he's making it easy to find the edge and turn it later, when he may not be looking at what he's doing.