Friday, 28 February 2014

Bringing on Broadway

Show tunes: For their latest album, Il Divo tackles popular songs from Broadway musicals.

Show tunes: For their latest album, Il Divo tackles popular songs from Broadway musicals.

After 10 years and 26 million records sold, Il Divo is treating their fans to a charming new album.

CARLOS Marin – one-fourth of “popera” group Il Divo – is on the phone. The persistent static may have distorted his usual husky voice to a level that’s barely recognisable, but it does little to conceal his excitement.

In an accent that falls somewhere between Antonio Banderas and Julio Iglesias, the hunky Spanish baritone describes his group’s latest album A Musical Affair with much fervour.

“It’s always that something we wanted to do, ever since we appeared on some shows a few years ago, singing songs like Somewhere, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and The Impossible Dream. It made us realise that our voices fit perfectly in the musical genre,” says Marin.

A Musical Affair is exactly as its name suggests – a compilation of pseudo-classical music borrowed from Broadway gems such as Phantom Of The Opera, Carousel and West Side Story. Featuring a line-up of guest stars the likes of Barbra Streisand, Nicole Scherzinger, Kristin Chenoweth and musical greats such as Heather Headley and Michael Ball, the album is fun and at times kitschy, chock full of all-too-familiar staples – Tonight, Can You Feel The Love Tonight and Memory – in the group’s signature melodramatic harmonising.

On what it was like to work with a line-up of stellar duet partners, Marin is quick to answer. “Every single artiste is amazing, but of course Barbra Streisand is an icon.”

He also has nothing but praises for others, including Scherzinger (“She has a really beautiful musical theatre voice even though she does pop”) and Chenoweth (“What a fantastic soprano voice.”)

The album’s strength however, lies not in their brilliant collaborative efforts (though that certainly helps), but in the foursome’s choice of repertoire, including a surprise inclusion of more spunky material like Queen’s powerful rock anthem, Who Wants To Live Forever and more obscure tunes like Who Can I Turn To?, a stirring ballad from the rarely revived 1965 musical The Roar Of The Greasepaint — The Smell Of The Crowd. It mirrors the group’s willingness to push boundaries and take their act to the next level.

Of course, it helps that Marin and his three compatriots - Urs Bühler, Sébastien Izambard and David Miller – all come from various theatrical backgrounds.

Marin himself was cast as Marius in Les Miserables when the show first premiered in Spain in 1993 when he was only 21; by 1995, he has played Marius 685 times in Madrid’s New Apollo Theatre.

This two-year stint was, unsurprisingly, a pivotal moment in Marin’s life.

“It made me love theatre,” he says. “It’s also helped me a lot because you think about the song and how you would sing it as if you were on stage.”

Despite their vast experiences in theatre, Marin admits that the work that went into a musical album was not as easy as anticipated.

“It’s not just about the voice. It’s four guys doing harmony; you need to unify this harmony so you don’t lose the essence of what you’re saying.”

He adds: “You need to tell a story in three minutes.”

There’s also the formidable challenge of bringing a new sound to these well-loved classics. “Obviously we can’t keep singing the same songs in same way, even if the fans love it,” he says.

Nevertheless, the hard work seems to have paid off, judging by the way fans gushed over their live Broadway performance at New York’s Marquis Theatre several months ago. Timed to coincide with the release of the album, Il Divo, A Musical Affair: The Greatest Songs Of Broadway Live is the group’s first appearance in the world-famous musical arena.

In sleek Armani suits, the quartet once again displayed their dominant gift for soliciting adoration from large numbers of people, especially women.

Marin himself is known as a big flirt, winking and flashing come-hither grins to females in the audience.

In a way, this year’s album and complementary concert series was the perfect commemoration of the success of a 10-year career together. The group was founded back in 2003, after Simon Cowell – who, after watching Andrea Bocelli in action, realised a boy band approach to light opera might be a winner – discovered the foursome after scouring 15 countries in different parts of the world.

“We wanted to bring something new to the audience this year. We needed something special and this is it,” says Marin.

He recounts Il Divo’s first coming together with much sentimentality: “We’re four guys from different countries, with backgrounds as solo singers. We didn’t know each other. They just put us in a room and said, ‘Just do it.’ It took us quite long to find to sound of Il Divo, but after all that time spent trying, we finally did it. And now, we’re having the time of our lives.”

Even with success knocking on their doors, the foursome refuses to rest on their laurels. “From now on, the idea is to do a new concert album – this time a musical, next time whatever – every one to two years depending on how busy we are. We’re also looking to go on a world tour next year.”

One can almost imagine Cowell beaming with pride in the background. And according to Marin, he might very well be.

“At the beginning, he oversaw everything,” says Marin. “At some point however, he told us, ‘Guys, you know what you’re doing. I really trust you.’ He told us we’re going to do the album on our own. When we let him listen to the final product, he told us, ‘Wow guys, you did an amazing job and I wasn’t involved at all!’”

If the album can impress someone as famously prickly and hard-to-please as Cowell, Il Divo must be doing something right.

Il Divo will be staging two concerts at Arena of Stars, Resorts World Genting, Genting Highlands on March 14 and 15. Tickets for Il Divo - A Musical Affair, priced at RM180, RM280, RM390, RM590, RM790 and RM980, are available online at

Win tickets to Il Divo’s concert

NOT only will pop opera quartet Il Divo be performing live in Genting Highlands on March 14 and 15 (8.30pm), Lea Salonga will be featured as a guest artiste.

The popular singer and actress, known for providing her mellifluous vocals for a number of Disney classics, will help the quartet entertain the crowd with Broadway tunes like The Lion King’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight, Memory from Cats and West Side Story’s Tonight.

Star2 and Genting will be giving out tickets to 50 lucky readers (each winner will receive two PS4 tickets worth RM360) who will enjoy the show on March 14.

All you need to do is answer these simple questions:

1) Name one of the Il Divo singers.

2) Where is the venue for Il Divo - A Musical Affair show in Malaysia?

> E-mail the correct answers to before March 4 with the subject title “Il Divo-The Star Contest” along with the particulars listed below:

1) Full name as per I.C.

2) I.C. number

3) Address

4) Mobile number

* Winners will be notified by Genting.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Il Divo , Carlos Marin , Broadway , Simon Cowell


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