Il Divo singers stick to their mu­si­cal guns

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Rob Wil­liams

THE mem­bers of Il Divo have dis­cov­ered just how much of a wicked game the mu­sic busi­ness can be.

The multi­na­tional group of cross­over clas­si­cal pop vo­cal­ists had to fight back against a rein­ven­tion of the quar­tet by a pro­ducer and some record com­pany ex­ec­u­tives prior to the record­ing of their lat­est al­bum, Wicked Game.

“The first vi­sion be­fore it was even called Wicked Game was, ‘Let’s throw the baby out with the bath­wa­ter and pre­tend Il Divo never ex­isted be­fore to­day. What would you do?’” says David Miller, the only Amer­i­can in the group.

None of the ideas pre­sented clicked and ul­ti­mately the hunky Ar­mani suit-wear­ing group — Miller, Se­bastien Izam­bard of France, Urs Büh­ler from Switzer­land and Car­los Marin from Spain — stuck to their guns and con­tin­ued mix­ing pop, sym­phonic and op­er­atic mu­sic to­gether for cov­ers of Chris Isaak, the Swell Sea­son and Roy Or­bi­son, the Broad­way favourite Don’t Cry for Me Ar­gentina, the An­drea Bo­celli hit Time to Say Good­bye (Con Te Par­tiro) and some orig­i­nals writ­ten for the group.

“We can’t start from zero: there is a known tem­plate; there is an Il Divo,” Miller says. “The thing that makes Il Divo work is a mas­sive jug­gling act. You’ve got four voices, you’ve got four coun­tries and you’ve got four per­son­al­i­ties. There are pop el­e­ments and or­ches­tral el­e­ments. The be­gin­nings of the songs start in an in­ti­mate place and end up as an op­er­atic scream fest.”

The first pro­ducer, who was even­tu­ally let go, was try­ing to get the group to head in a jazz­ier di­rec­tion in the same vein as Michael Bublé, but that didn’t work for the guys. Miller is pleased with the re­sults, but would With Nikki Yanof­sky MTS Cen­tre Tues­day at 8 p.m. Tick­ets: $61 to $138 at Tick­et­mas­ter have liked to have even more pop el­e­ments on the al­bum, he says.

“This isn’t a clas­si­cal group, it’s a cross­over group,” he says. “I like hav­ing the va­ri­ety of sounds and ap­proaches to dif­fer­ent songs. It’s blend­ing a new ap­proach to tra­di­tional tech­niques. When one side gets out of bal­ance from the other it takes away from the bal­ance we’re try­ing to achieve.

“I miss the pop el­e­ments: the bass gui­tar com­ing in, the drums; some of the pop el­e­ments that give it the colour and lighting shade. We had mul­ti­ple pro­duc­ers as well with dif­fer­ent peo­ple with dif­fer­ent ears com­ing in with their ap­proach. It added more balls to the jug­gling mix.”

One of those jug­glers is British record ex­ec­u­tive Si­mon Cow­ell, who as­sem­bled the four clas­si­cally trained opera stars and cre­ated Il Divo (Ital­ian for “divine male per­former”) when he was mak­ing his name in the United States as the tell-it-like-it-is judge on Amer­i­can Idol.

Cow­ell still has a say in the band’s di­rec­tion but is less hands-on than he was ini­tially due to his busy sched­ule, Miller says.

“It’s not like it was — he sim­ply doesn’t have as much time as he did (with) all of his TV shows and be­ing on dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents,” he says. “He spends most of his time in the air go­ing back and forth be­tween Lon­don and L.A.”

Cow­ell’s idea to form an adult­con­tem­po­rary clas­si­cal cross­over group, and help pop­u­lar­ize the genre known as popera, proved to be a good one. Since re­leas­ing its de­but in 2004, Il Divo has sold more than 25 mil­lion copies of its seven al­bums, toured with Bar­bra Streisand, recorded the sin­gle I Be­lieve in You with Ce­line Dion and re­leased five concert DVDs.

Win­nipeg­gers will get the chance to see them again when the group per­forms at the MTS Cen­tre Tues­day backed by a full or­ches­tra. Teenage Cana­dian jazz artist Nikki Yanof­sky opens.

The new concert pro­duc­tion was de­signed by Brian Burke, the cre­ative di­rec­tor of Dion’s Las Ve­gas show, A New Day, and the Wynn Las Ve­gas cir­cus show, Le Reve.

“He had a clean vi­sion of what Il Divo was about: us, the or­ches­tra and the mu­sic, ev­ery­thing else was a sup­ple­ment to that,” Miller says. “It’s a very clean pre­sen­ta­tion of what we do and frees us up to be our­selves. We’ve got some fancy schmancy LED screens that move in and out to cre­ate mood, but no ac­tual fire pots go­ing off.”

Not that Il Divo needs pyro, be­cause for their fans, the four mem­bers of the group are usu­ally hot enough.

SUP­PLIED PHOTO

Mem­bers of Il Divo credit the quar­tet’s suc­cess to a ‘mas­sive jug­gling act.’

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