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