MY FIRST IL VOLO CONCERT
3 JUNE 2016
In the central English town of Stratford-on-Avon, a little over 450 years ago, during the reign of Good Queen Bess, a son was born to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. They decided to call him Bill but as an adult he preferred to use the long form of his name, William. He grew up to be something of a writer and enjoyed more than a little success. When he was not writing sonnets, he was composing plays or acting in them.
Mr Shakespeare had a great love for Italy and many of his plays were set there in times ancient or modern. Well, the middle ages were modern when he was writing! You may have heard of many of his Italian plays – the Merchant of Venice, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. He also wrote a play set in our town – the Merry Wives of Windsor! Like the Bard, I also have a strong affinity with Italy and my Italian bride has since become “a merry wife” here in Windsor.
In Julius Caesar, the soothsayer warns Caesar to beware the Ides of March. When that date arrives, Caesar teases the soothsayer by reminding her of her warning; “The Ides of March are come,” he says. “Aye Caesar, but they are not yet gone!” she replies. If you know the plot, Caesar does not enjoy a merry evening in Rome that fateful day. He should have stayed in Britain where he was one of our earliest tourists in 55 and 54 B.C. But, I digress and must return to the plot.
Unlike Caesar, my wife and I had been looking forward to the “3 Nones of June” for more than six months – ever since we bought our tickets for the London Palladium. As it was the only date in England, we could not do anything about it being on a Friday. My wife had to work and I was entered in a golf competition for which I was the defending champion. I arranged an early start time and played two rounds before rushing home to Windsor to rendez-vous with my wife. With such a full program for the day-time, we were able to maintain a semblance of calm until the last moment.
Thankfully, we had only a short drive to the railway station and then it was “all aboard” the iron horse to London town! Descending into the subway (the famous London “Tube”) we came up for air at Oxford Circus station about 150 yards from the Palladium. We had just enough time to wolf down a sandwich and then we headed immediately to the theatre where a host of patrons were already waiting to enter. We heard lots of Italian voices but also plenty of English ones. As befits citizens of Royal Windsor, we had secured our places in the Royal Circle in the middle of the third row. The first two rows were not on sale when we booked and we assumed that these tickets were reserved for a few VIPs.
The Palladium is one of London’s most famous venues and all manner of famous artists have performed there over the years; e.g. the Beatles and Frank Sinatra; but, in reality, a veritable Who’s Who of show-business. The atmosphere inside the theatre was electric. Promptly at 7.30 the “warm-up” act came on stage. He was a charming guy who played electric piano and had some interesting percussion instruments set up on his computer. He was given a warm welcome by a generous and kind-hearted audience. We all fell a little in love with his boyish manner and his obvious enjoyment of appearing before such a packed theatre.
By 8.00 p.m. his set was over and the crew started to arrange the stage for the evening’s main event. By now, my wife and I were unable to contain our excitement and we were not alone! We saw the orchestra and backing musicians take up their places – sixteen member of the orchestra and four members of the band – including Giampiero Grani on the piano-forte and Giovanni di Caprio on guitars. Giovanni was sporting his usual severe haircut – as in he does not have any! The theatre lights were not just dimmed; they saved a few dollars on the electricity bill and it was pitch dark!
Then, the opening bars of “Per te ci sarò.” The stage lighting kicked into action and mid-way through the intro, we saw the guys assembled at the top of the steps and the audience went wild as they were finally able to release some pent-up tension. I recorded the song and you can view it later! I could hardly believe the power of the guys’ voices which I was experiencing “live” for the first time instead of via a CD or DVD recording; or over my “home cinema” sound system when they were on television. The music coursed through my whole being and entered my soul. I was captivated. I decided that I could not spend my precious time recording the show on my cell phone. It was too distracting. The music needed my undivided attention. “Volare” and “il Mondo” followed and the concert was in full flow. Two solos for each guy and three duets so that every pair sang once. They showed off much of their English repertoire but we were lucky to hear “l’amore si muove” and “L’immensità” along with some other songs in Italian.
During their first interlude the guys gave a witty and humorous explanation why they would speak in English for the evening. They did their normal interaction with the audience and they also made fun of some English accents. I have recorded a couple of these and hope that Crew members across the USA and elsewhere will enjoy them.
As everyone always says, two hours simply flew past; and, all too soon, it was time for ‘O Sole Mio! There was only one encore – Grande Amore, of course!! And strangely, there was no place for “Surrender” in the set. However, it was an evening never to be forgotten. Even more importantly, it is an evening that must be repeated as soon as possible! The guys were clear that they hoped to return to London before too long. Whatever the future, I shall go to see them in Italy at the first available opportunity. After so many months on the road, they will have a well-deserved break over the summer. Once they have been refreshed, I will be standing by with my passport at the ready!