Una Notte Magica ~IL Volo: Music without Walls

13450974_898547276940953_246444626540900406_nUNA NOTTE MAGICA – Tributo ai Tre Tenori, the latest CD from IL Volo is now available in retail outlets. The CD was recorded live on July 1, 2016 in Piazza Santa Croce Florence with Maestro Placido Domingo as guest conductor. Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto, and Gianluca Ginoble follow in the melodic footsteps of the original popera trio of Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti. Twenty-six years ago, The Three Tenors premiered their popular concert in America via Public Broadcast Service Television (PBS). In 2016, IL Volo pay homage to those who inspired them to become the international music stars they are today with A Magical Night: A Tribute to The Three Tenors.

The first time I saw IL Volo perform on PBS TV was in June 2012. They reminded me of The Three Tenors, as the repertoire was similar. The playlists for both feature operatic arias, Neapolitan songs and Broadway favorites. They are a young Italian version with two tenors and baritone singing in the Italian bel canto tradition. ILVolo cross genres as well as generations presenting a mixed musical experience of classical pop.

In a promotional interview with Cecelia Sharpe, WRCJ 90 9FM Detroit Public Radio August 24, 2016, Barone said, “the reason why we did this [Una Notte Magica] is because they have been our idols, we’ve grown up listening to them, so we decided to do this tribute to our idols, but, in a very humble way, because we don’t want to imitate them, because we cannot.” IL Volo are not opera singers they do not have the gravitas. Carreras, Domingo, and Pavarotti were at the height of their careers when they joined forces. An opera singer is at once an actor, singer and ensemble player. An opera is grand theater set to music typically in three acts. It is performed live with an orchestra and without microphones. The players rely on the acoustics of the theater and vocal projection to reach out to the audience. Barone said, “at our age, we don’t want to be professional opera singers, we just did this to remember that night.”

IL Volo’s strengths are charismatic live performers with the ability to establish rapport with an audience. Each of them has a passion for music along with integrity on stage. Their heritage gives them that sense of art, balance and beauty characteristic of their homeland. Italians are sensual people, emotionally mature and at ease in their own skin. IL Volo’s audience is complex with an appeal to a wide age range and across cultures. Their resume is impressive having toured as special guest artists with Barbra Streisand in 2012. Popular Italian artist and musician Eros Ramazzotti appeared on their sophomore CD, We Are Love, with his song “Cosi.” Domingo joined IL Volo on this CD with “Il Canto”. In 2014, they won Latin Pop Albums Artist of the Year at the Latin Billboard Music Awards. A win at the prestigious Sanremo Festival in 2015 with “Grande Amore” written by Francesco Boccia brought fame in their homeland. A third place finish on Eurovision in May 2015 further gave exposure to a younger European audience increasing their popularity. The article, IL Volo Wins Sanremo 2015 by Francesca Bezzone provides insight into the drama that is this Italian music festival. They toured across the Americas and Europe from January until July of 2016. In the PBS Radio interview, Barone mentions a concert to be held at the Pavarotti Foundation in September. In November, IL Volo will be in Brazil appearing with the Supreme Songbird Mariah Carey for three concert dates.

The playlist on this new CD offers previously recorded material highlighted in bold text. Several tracks have only been performed in concert noted in italics.

Turandot: Nessun Dorma
Mattinata (from “West Side Story”)
L’elisir d’amore: Una furtiva lagrima
La danza
Tosca: E lucevan le stelle
Torna a surriento
Core ‘ngrato
‘O paese d’o sole
Maria (from “West Side Story”)
My Way
‘O surdato ‘nnammurato
Cielito lindo
En aranjuez con tu amor
La tabernera del puerto: No puede ser
Non ti scordar di me
O sole mio
La Traviata – Libiamo ne`lieti calici
Ave Maria, Mater Misericordiae
Adeste Fideles

The only song not recorded on an IL Volo album was Barone’s rendition of “Where Do I Begin.” He is a one-man band in this independent and innovative video. His plaid days seem far behind now that he performs routinely in Armani before a 30 piece orchestra.

13533158_909883502473997_750619870964570526_nThis live concert with 6,000 people in attendance, is supported by the Massimo Theater Orchestra of Palermo. Boschetto spoke of the emotional impact of the concert 26 years ago and the challenge of learning this new musical style while in the midst of an European concert tour. People who had been at the original Three Tenors Concert in 1990, were also in the crowd on this night in July 2016. Opera was born in the city of Florence adding to the special occasion. Boschetto’s performance was a wonderful surprise throughout the entire CD. Of the three, he is the most natural actor and able to bring an emotional note to his song. It takes time to develop the ability to express this. An aria out of context is a challenge. An opera singer is fully involved in the story when the song comes. The momentum builds towards it. Arias are emotionally charged with either anger, desire, betrayal, grief, confusion or love. Still, he brings passion to Donizetti’s “Una furtiva lagrima” (A Secret Tear) from L’Elisir di Amore (Love Potion). A personal favorite from The Three Tenors is Pavarotti’s Rondine al Nido. It is not part of IL Volo’s playlist this night. I think Boschetto might consider taking this one on. It’s graceful, plaintive and rich with Neapolitan poetic language. He’s got the patience and timing this song needs to build its sweetness. Click on this link to hear Pavarotti’s performance.

“Libiamo ne’Leiti Calici” from Verdi’s La Traviata, (The Fallen Woman) is a delightful moment on the CD.  The full chorus and symphony provide a musical experience closest to the sensation felt at a live opera. It’s wonderful to be present when all performers are playing their part. The waltz tempo and oompah in this drinking song are fun. Click on this link to review the recording made by Luciano Diegoli. I believe it is from the concert Barone refers to earlier. It is published on Sep 7, 2016 in Modena’s large square in homage to Luciano Pavarotti. Unfortunately, the soprano on this live recording is not on the CD.

14233084_958355077626839_6677795932621087665_nOpera is Barone’s forte. His voice continues to mature adding resonance and crispness to each note. In the We Are Love CD, he delivered a gasp during “L’Ultima Volta”. Domingo has that ability in his voice, the plaintive lament trembles right under the surface. I wonder if Barone found his inspiration to take this path seriously during the recording sessions. How often does a young man of 19 get to work with a bonafide opera star. Barone soaked in a bit and continues to expand his vocal skills. He needs to further develop the emotional quality of his voice. He does create an aura around himself when he begins his song. The liner notes in the CD speak of transcendence, “When asked to describe the emotion I felt onstage in Florence, this is what I reply: I only remember the deep breath I took before being bathed in light.” This young man is just beginning to tap into his great heart. A native of Naro Sicily, he brings forth all the mystery and baroque splendor in the narrow winding streets of his home town. And, like his city, he has a hill to climb before reaching his Castello di Chiaramonte.

A DVD of this concert was premiered on Detroit Public Television August 24, 2016. Fans can purchase the DVD from the webpage scheduled for release sometime in October. This is their 5th PBS special.

The Legacy of the Three Tenors

The premier concert of The Three Tenors was recorded in Rome on July 7, 1990. For an in-depth story of that phenomena click on this link and read the NPR Music article by Anastasia Tsioulcas How The Three Tenors Sang The Hits And Changed The Game.

Barone makes an interesting comment on wishing to have met Pavarotti, “He was the perfect man at the perfect time to work with young people.” His statement resurrected a memory of Pavarotti performing at the Worcester, Massachusetts Centrum in 1985. A friend tells the story of having a ticket in the balcony section behind the stage. During the concert, the front section patrons were polite and clapped in a mild manner. Meanwhile, the crowd in the balcony cheered the power of his magnificent voice. Pavarotti turned away from the posh set and sang up to the hoi polli. A classic Pavarotti move. Nobody was better at reading an audience than the Maestro. He worked, toured and brought opera music out of the small theaters into large accepting crowds. Name another opera star that could fill Central Park in New York City. How many opera stars become a household name? What a great legacy is in the Pavarotti Foundation as it continues to support the next generation of artists.

Domingo equally worked at crossing boundaries of musical genres, not wanting to be confined by his great tenor voice to only opera. The first time I heard Domingo’s voice was on the duet with John Denver, “Perhaps Love”, a song written by Denver in 1981. Apparently, Domingo’s grandson brought IL Volo to his attention. He is passing the baton to the next generation of artists that want no boundary on their voices. “Many people began listening to classical music when Luciano, Jose and I performed The Three Tenors concerts. These three boys continue our idea.” Domingo fully endorses and supports IL Volo. Barone said, “our passion is the opera, we want to share with everybody our message, that this world doesn’t have walls. That’s what Pavarotti’s wife, Nicoletta Montovani, said. We did this project thanks to the support of the Pavarotti Foundation. Our message is what Pavarotti wanted to do before he died. Pavarotti and Friends worked with different artists from pop world, he broke the walls between opera music and pop music and wanted to bring opera music to everybody. So that’s what we wanted to do, to keep doing this message.”

All photo credits to Piero Barone




IL Volo Live from Pompeii

IV_DVD_FINAL84_t700IL Volo have released a new DVD: “IL Volo Live from Pompeii”. The concert was recorded for PBS television on June 10th near the Roman Amphitheater at Pompeii prior to the start of a successful 24 city Italian tour. Detroit Public Television premiered the concert July 6, with the performers in studio during the fund-raiser. PBS affiliates aired the concert during the traditional August fund drive offering concert tickets, DVD’s and CD’s to donors as thank you gifts. The DVD is now available through Amazon or Barnes & Noble to the general public. It’s live and it’s IL Volo.

The DVD play list includes a classic IL Volo repertoire with three hits from the sixties, “Delilah”, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and “Unchained Melody”. Several compositions won or performed first at the prestigious Sanremo Music Festival including their signature hit from February, “Grande Amore”. There are songs from cinema “Eternally” and “Beautiful That Way”. Three songs are recorded in Spanish including “Grande Amore”, “Si Me Falta Tu Mirada” and “Recuerdame”. The aria “E lucevan le stelle”, from Tosca and a Neapolitan serenade, “Anema e Core”.  A complete list is located at the end of this article.

The CD “Grande Amore” International Version and EP “Sanremo” have a majority of these songs on their play list. Readers can find a review of both on this blog by clicking on these links.


The DVD opens with a flyover of the great Roman amphitheater. The corona of the setting sun washes over the back wall now holding up the canopy of a starlit night. The musicians tweak their instruments into tune. The Filharmonica Veneta, led by Maestro Celso Valli, fills the night with beautiful music. The audience leans in and the show begins.

The concert rolls on for a non-stop hour and twenty minutes. IL Volo’s voices blend rich, vibrant tenors and a smooth warm baritone. Despite their young faces, these guys are pro’s at blending their strengths and bringing out the best in every song. There’s a softness in tone now. Their range has broadened to include the subtle as well as the power. Their harmonies are complex, each singer finds his key, the note ensemble, and takes the lyric to its fullest potential. The singing style is either a throwback or trend setter for bel canto, songs beautifully sung. Not many pop singers have the gravitas for a 33 piece orchestra with a rhythm section. The guys are entertaining, sophisticated and playful in their fitted Armani suits.

IL Volo are at their finest with “Caruso” by Lucio Dalla. An Italian lament to the late Enrico Caruso born in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. A bittersweet story of love and loss. A man whose heart has given up but still he goes on living for a little longer.

mezzanine_939The ride rolls into a fabulous arrangement of the Neapolitan gem “Volare” by Domenico Modugno. Drummer Paolo Valli gives the guys a rumba beat to play with and gets the audience up dancing  too. The highest C is hit with a little extra oomph. It’s a romp, it’s a bomp, It’s fantastic!

“Si Mi Falta Tu Mirada” by Marco Marinangeli and Claudia Brant. A Spanish tale of being lost in love and a tangle of emotions. IL Volo form a sweet bound with the audience and get them up swaying in the night. It looks like diamonds flashing in the dark. The shimmering wave is from smartphones but could be specters of old awoken by the energy.


The concert has a misstep or two, not in musical quality but in too much editing. The show opens with a brief announcement by a voice telling us IL Volo coming to America for the first time from their Italian home. So who are these guys? Two songs in and we still don’t know. The performers pause to acknowledge the viewing audience but don’t introduce each other. They don’t even take a pause to say goodbye at the end of the show. The credits role and we still don’t know. It was quite an effort to find the names of the performers in the liner notes. They appear in small print under their solo tracks. This is the 4th collaboration with PBS TV in three years. But, could be the first for viewers. The previous specials had the singers frequently naming each other and chatting to the audience to help make that important personal connection.

If this is the first time watching, Piero Barone 22 wears the red glasses partially concealing fine dark expressive eyes. Piero speaks through his eyes and brings a more palpable quality of emotions into his repertoire. He sings a classic aria from the famous opera Tosca by Puccini. He does a terrific job extending or shortening those round Italian vowels in classic operatic technique. It’s a gutsy step forward in his career and an outstanding moment in the show.

Ignazio Boschetto 21 is the most flamboyant on stage. Although the shows are scripted, he has a spontaneous streak and often breaks into dance doing the Boschetto boogie. He is the rare tenor whose voice can soar above a full orchestra. He has perfect pitch and can ride up to a high C in his range.

Gianluca Ginoble 20 has a silky light baritone that finds new depth with each song. His nickname is GG for generally gorgeous. He is the philosopher of the trio and most prolific on social media. In this stage performance, he is now going out comfortably into the crowd and greeting the audience with ease. All three have grown as performers and people, always classy with their own special pizzazz on stage.

Il Volo "Live 2015"Anfiteatro di Pompei - Ercolano
Il Volo “Live 2015″Anfiteatro di Pompei – Ercolano

The stage lighting allows for some glimpses of the ruin. Piero sings his aria up on a tiered step. The camera pans out to the audience showing the crumbling back wall but that’s it. Pompeii is one of the finest Roman ruins in Italy at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s an entire Roman city well-preserved and a must stop on the once popular Grand Tour of Europe for 200 years. It’s still a must stop when in Naples for any traveler. The previous IL Volo DVD’s made with PBS offered a documentary on the making of the program. As enjoyable as the music is, it’s the chance to see these guys off-stage that can be the most memorable moments. All at once, we see they are three young Italian guys kicking around a soccer ball, flirting with girls, or chatting up the crew. They’re a lot of fun! So puzzled by the lack of video of the site itself, I contacted Detroit PBS Business Development Officer, Jamie Westrick and asked was there a separate film of the making of the concert in the works? Ms. Westrick has been part of the executive production team for all four releases. She said, “unfortunately, I’m unable to share many details”,  but she didn’t say no.

Honestly, some of the best moments of these PBS concerts are during the pledge breaks when the guys are in studio romping around talking to donors, chatting up the hosts and commenting on their lives as performers. They are sweet, sexy and deliciously Italian. Footage of these events are priceless and part of the experience. The understanding comes that they are young men coming into the prime of their lives. Their talent is unique and they make the most of their musical gifts. These exchanges help the viewer come alive again with the joy of music as IL Volo are able to express in body and spirit. It’s contagious in the most delightful well, the chance to fall in love with music again at any age.

All three of the guys have been named Ambassadors of their respective hometowns. Never have any of them failed to express their love of family, home, and their city of birth. In fact, it was the first DVD that inspired a personal journey to Sicily this year. The curiosity to see, taste, and experience this enchanted island was fostered by Piero and his consistent views from home. He loves Naro and showed it for what it is, a gorgeous Baroque treasure of tiny squares, churches and steep narrow streets winding around up to the castle. When in Marsala, of course I stopped at the Boschetto Family pizzeria. How delightful it was to meet Ignazio’s sister Nina and realize that despite the fame of the brother, the family is well grounded and takes pride in owning their own business. Gianluca loves Montepagano and a visit to Abruzzo is high on the list of next stops in Italy. Of course I want to go.

unnamedThe first DVD, “IL Volo Takes Flight,” was a winner because of the banter and mixing it up with the audience during the program. “IL Volo Live from Pompeii” has managed to edit out all that fun. There are a few glimpses here and there of the guys cheering on and interacting with the audience. But the trim was cut too close. Detroit PBS, pick up those bits off the cutting room floor and splice them back into the video. Give us the play, and charm that make this such a great trio.

Overall, it’s a chance to see IL Volo in concert from the comfort of home. If a show is out of reach, than the DVD is an option. The charisma and fun that is IL Volo is best appreciated in person. There is an extensive concert tour in Italy, USA and Europe for 2016. Tickets are on sale now and moving fast. Check out their website, IL Volo Music,  for dates in 2016. Try and go, you’ll have the time of your life!
Play List from the Detroit PBS DVD
1. Grande amore
2. Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)
3. Beautiful That Way (La Vita È Bella)
4. E Lucevan le Stelle
5. Delilah
6. Caruso
7. Quando L’Amore Diventa Poesia
8. The Best Day of My Life
9. Anema e Core
10. Nel Blu, Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)
11. L’immensità
12. Unchained Melody
13. Ricordami
14. Piove
15. Eternally
16. La Vita
17. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
18. Si Me Falta Tu Mirada
19. Recuerdame
20. Grande Amore (Spanish Version)

Photo Credits to IL Volo

@2015 Sony Music Entertainment US Latin

Written by Frances Ann Wychorski