|Love it or hate it, classical crossover has been the one thing that has kept classical and operatic music alive through the pop/rock ruled explosion in the last 30 years. The genre, first explored when Spanish tenor Placido Domingo lent his voice to John Denver's "Perhaps Love" in the early to mid-80s and then took off with Sarah Brightman and Luciano Pavarotti in the early to late 90s , the joining of the original Three Tenors (Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti) and later on Josh Groban, Charlotte Church, Andrea Bocelli and Russell Watson and it is no wonder that there is indeed an appetite for the genre, from everyone to classical purists to those who ordinarily would not have found classical music of any kind in their iTunes playlists.
The continued success and growth of the genre should be a boon for a trio of Italian teenagers, known as Il Volo, who are the first Italian act to sign with an American record label. The trio, Piero Barone (age 17), Ignazio Boschetto (age 16), and Gianluca Ginoble (age 16) are already platinum in their native Italy without single sales, very little TV appearances and no radio/video airplay with their self-titled debut album! So what makes the album such a hot seller in Italy as it tracks its way to the United States in April?
"Il Volo" is a very solid 12-track effort of mostly Italian classically influenced pop that made Andrea Bocelli into the international superstar he is today and it is fitting that the trio's manager is the same man that managed the career of the Italian superstar. The effort begins with their take on Ennio Morricone’s songs “Il Mondo” and “E Piu Penso” and is interpreted brilliantly by the three young tenors, giving a breath of fresh air to the famed Italian composer's standards. The latter shows off the rare combination of song connection and power for the young Italian trio.
The track everyone could be talking about, at least in the US is the trio's take on one of the country's most famous songs "O Sole Mio". The trio creates a somewhat airy take on the song that Luciano Pavarotti made famous in the 1991 "Three Tenors" concert when Italy hosted the World Cup and it does include a decent tribute to Pavarotti's habit of purposely holding a certain note in the third take of the refrain of the Italian standard. However, where the Three Tenors made the song more about Pavarotti, Il Volo each take their turn in the song, creating seamless transitions, harmony and chemistry with one another.
"El Reloj", first made famous worldwide by the self-proclaimed "Mexican Frank Sinatra" singer-songwriter Luis Miguel and composed by the late Roberto Cantoral gets a 21st century classical crossover as the Italian teenage trio show off their international flair. Their Spanish is impeccable and turns the Mexican romantic song into a somewhat light and airy affair. Luis Miguel fans should be very proud of Il Volo's interpretation.
The trio shows off their English-language chops in the Charlie Chaplin-written "Smile" that is sure to bring a smile to any listener's face. The piece, which is a rendition of the recent “Glee” cast cover, is a beautifully performed and well-executed piece that one may mistake for Americans singing rather than Italians! "Smile" is certain to melt any listener's heart!
"Per Te" is the equivalent of a heart-wrenching romantic pop ballad and it does not disappoint as the trio shows off their vocal power, especially in harmony. Expect this song to rattle your bones and soul with its raw power, especially in the midpoint of "Per Te". "La Luna Hiza Esto", written for Il Volo by Grammy award-winning songwriter Diane Warren definitely has the sheer hokeyness one has come to expect from Warren lately but the trio's vocal talents are more than sufficient to cover up the slightly contrived nature of the Spanish lyrics. In fact, the lyrics may be to attract the Latina audiences in the Americas.
Another key song in the album is "Notte Stellata", which roughly translates to "The Swan", which should be very familiar to classical music purists as the theme to "Le Cygne", the 13th movement to the tour de force piece from Camille Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals". The trio reinterprets the central theme and puts beautifully placed Italian lyrics behind a haunting cello solo and string section. The album ends with a pair of English-language pieces "Painfully Beautiful" and "This Time" that again seem a bit contrived for the crossover genre, especially "Painfully Beautiful" but once again the three teenagers pull it off very well with the vocals but one cannot shake off the feeling that there is a missing connection to both songs.
"Il Volo" is a wonderful introduction of Barone, Boschetto and Gianluca to the whole world. American audiences hungry for classical crossover should have their appetites whetted by the album and they will be surprised by the sheer young age of the trio, as their voices in both harmony and individual are much older than they seem. Most Americans may mistake Barone for Andrea Bocelli when he first trekked out into the musical stage but make no mistake; this is a 17-year-old singing! Must listen tracks on this album include "E Piu Penso", the very strong "El Reloj", the soulful "Smile", the powerful "Per Te" and "Notte Stellata.” However, for them to take the next step, especially since they will meet inevitable comparisons to Andrea Bocelli is a more consistent connection to the music they perform. The last two tracks have great vocals, but there seemed to be a disconnect both lyrically and musically. This should come with time. Overall, "Il Volo" is a very good introduction a trio of vocally talented young tenors beginning to come into their own. The fact that they are this young and sing this well will make this reviewer dare to say we may have found the next Three Tenors!