Il Divo singers stick to their musical guns
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.
Members of Il Divo credit the quartet’s success to a ‘massive juggling act.’