As I write this article, I have heard the CD and seen about half of the video scenes but have not seen the whole concert in one video. That is yet to come. My comments are focused on the concert from the standpoint of music and performance quality. Since it is more of a formal concert than the guys normally do there really is no comment to be made on staging and lighting, etc. The program is presented in a classic formal format.
When I was in high school and undergrad college taking voice lessons I was introduced to some of these songs and, in fact, ended up singing some of them in recitals. This literature is part of an advanced, good quality vocal training program. The boys of Il Volo each went through that kind of training early on and continue it even today. However, when you sing programs of more pop music as they normally do, and the pure bel canto approach gives way a bit to vocal techniques that fit the pop music.
That was the case for most of the past 5 years but now they come full circle to a concert to honor the “Three Tenors” program from over 20 years ago. This kind of music is very demanding from the standpoint of vocal power and energy as well as range. It is hard work! It also represents a return to the foundation from which the boys started.
The songs: (done in CD album order – not program order)
First of all it is great to have a more substantial orchestra working with the guys. It is also great to have as conductor, one of their mentors: Placido Domingo. Domingo has for 40 years been one of the greatest opera stars in the world. He is very helpful not only conducting but also, of course, as another vocal coach. (side bar: many people know Domingo as a star singer in opera but he also has for the past decade or more been conducting many operas. So he is very experienced.) He shares the task with Marcello Rota. Also, Domingo joins the guys to sing the song: “Non Ti Scordar di Me”.
Nessun Dorma – one of the most famous and beautiful love songs ever- written by Puccini for the opera “Turandot”. All three of the guys take this on and it is no surprise that Piero and Ignazio handle the high notes but Gianluca joins them on the end that is a wonderful surprise. On my first and second hearing of this recording I went “ WOW ! “
Granada and Mattinata are songs that the guys have done many times on tour going back to their first programs in the USA. Beautifully done, as usual. It is interesting to hear the more original arrangements of each vrs. the tour version they usually do. Very nice. (not good or bad – just different and still wonderful)
One song I learned in college and sang on a recital was “Una Furtiva Lagrima” from the opera “L’Elisir D’Amore” (Elixir of Love) by Gaetano Donizetti. This song belongs to Ignazio with his incredible ability to take very high notes to a very soft tone with total control. I can’t tell strongly enough that is very, very hard to do ! He sings this song so beautifully !
Gianluca takes on a song that we singers back in college days used to call “a tear to hell” (pardon me). La Danza by Rossini is “baritone madness” – a song that we all loved to hate. It takes a man (vrs. A boy) of power and resilience to just simply survive to the end. You know already what I am going to say: the short skinny guy we all loved as a boy now in 2016, is the MAN that ABSOLUTELY COMMANDS this song. What an incredible tornado. I dare you to sing with him on the last note and get all the way to the end without a breath. I dare you !!!
Naturally, we have to have Piero’s wonderful rendition of E Lucevan le Stelle written by Puccini for his opera “ Tosca”. The program would not be complete otherwise. He delivers superbly.
On tour the boys did an Elvis arrangement called Surrender which is a re-write of the song called Torna A Surriento by Ernesto Curtis. Lovely song done in its original ¾ time meter and phrases. (the Elvis version was in 4/4 time).
Core ‘Ngrato with all three guys and ‘O Paese D’ O Sole with Piero and Ignazio in duet. Also from their tours and very nicely done as usual.
Maria from “West Side Story’ by Leonard Bernstein. This wonderful song has been done by Il Volo in different guises: as a solo song; as a trio; and as a duet. On this album and the concert in Florence it is done as a duet between Gianluca and Ignazio.
They are wonderful together on this duet. Even though all three did a great job on this song when they used to do it as a trio, I do feel it works better as a duet. Very fine indeed.
However, some of us remember five years ago when a skinny short kid of 16 came out on stage and did this song as a drama-vocal rendering with just piano. We had our breath taken away because of the introspective passion that kid brought to the front.
He always looked so delicate out there by himself and it seemed as though he would pass out after the end of the song each night. How many of you remember that ? Bless you Gianluca! Great memories.
From the recent tour we have the famous song My Way composed by Paul Anka and sang by Frank Sinatra and Elvis on tour. Here Piero and Gianluca are superb. Gee, when are they not superb?
Also from the recent tour Ignazio sings the iconic love song Tonight from West Side Story also by Bernstein. I remember his performance of this when they came to Las Vegas last year. So wonderful.
Then the trio comes back for ‘O Surdato ‘Nnammurato and the always fun, Mama.
They continue with the folk song inspired Cielito Lindo that many of us learned in elementary school. Giampiero Grani does a great orchestra of this.
More solo work follows with Gianluca’s wonderful and dramatic En Aranjuez con tu amor from “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Joanquin Rodrigo . This song always features a solo violinist as the protagonist to the baritone.
From a little mini opera called “La Tabernera del Puerto” by Pablo Sorozabal comes an aria perfect for Piero called Non Puede Ser. Of course, Piero owns this song as well. He is so fine.
Il Volo has sung Non Ti Scordar di Me by Ernesto Curtis before but this time Placido Domingo joins the boys for a gorgeous rendition. It is always great to hear their mentor join with them in a song (as they did in the wonderful song “Il Canto”).
The theme song for the boys has been O Sole Mio by Eduardo di Capua and here it gets the original treatment with orchestration by Giampiero.
This concert has a great song for the closing number. The composer usually considered the “king “ of opera composers: Giuseppi Verdi and from one of his most famous operas called “La Traviata” comes the most famous of all drinking songs: Libiamo.
You may think you don’t know this song but when you hear it, I bet you will recognize it. Great (we used to call this kind of wild and challenging music a “barn burner” ) way to end a concert.
This program is almost a perfect review of the songs that Carreras, Pavarotti and Domingo did in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s in those “Three Tenors” that they took on tour. The difference is that our boys left out a few songs including some in German and French. That is a trivial thing. As a voice teacher who took time to listen to the CD of that concert and contrast with this one, I must say that Il Volo does as well and often better than the original (Pavarotti was often in poor voice in those later years). To be technical since the human voice is the last part of the body to mature and usually not until around age 32 to 35, There are about two times in the program when the original guys are a bit bigger in size of tone. But it is amazing to me that our guys at 21, 22 & 23 are the equal of the original and in some songs – better.
This is the most demanding tour program they have done and I am pleased to note that the American tour has a relief date before each concert and sometimes two dates. That is what I have asked for for years. Young instruments need the work but also need the rest in between. You try and sing 2 hours and 30 minutes of intense music like this without a break and you will feel the strain.
These guys are doing something so incredible.