How do you begin to tell a story, more like a fairy tale, about three teenage boys who conquered the music industry?
They came from Italy from very different regions, very different families, very different backgrounds but, they had one thing in common, the ability to capture audiences with their amazingly, beautiful, voices.
Thinking back over the years, I realize they have put so much energy into such a short period of time. Twelve years of a lifetime but, in reality, they did it in five years! How is it possible that these three men could do, in such a short period of time, what most men cannot do in a lifetime? The secret is in the voices!
Going back to the beginning, I remember what Gianluca said, “I thought there were three hundred thousand boys singing like me, and instead that night I discovered that there are only two: Ignazio and Piero.” Of course, Gianluca was referring to the night they sang together for the first time on Ti Lascio Una Canzone. So, let’s begin there!
When they came together as contestants on Ti Lasacio una Canzone, they never dreamt that they would walk off the stage as stars! Individually, they sang with some very famous Italian singers, Al Bano, Massimo Ranieri, Fausto Leali, Adamo, Piero Mazzoccheti and, they were singing their songs and these men were in absolute awe of these teenagers.
From the first note that came out of their mouths, everyone recognized how unique their voices were. Roberto Cenci the artistic director and director of Ti Lascio una Canzone recognized the importance of these three voices. He recognized that the voices were different but alike in their uniqueness. Cenci understood if you put the voices together, they will blend beautifully and, they will be very appealing. How right he was! An experiment that turned into stardom.
And how did Michele Torpedine put it? “The three casually put together to sing a song of the program possess an incredible vocality for their age.” Watching them on TV Michele is thinking these guys are good and again repeats it to himself, they’re good! He thinks, “What if I try to put them together seriously?” Michele and everyone else felt they were incredible!
But it needed much more than just a feeling and it went beyond incredible. It needed something to come to life. It needed a new idea. It needed to be different because they were different. So how do you make it different? Bel Canto!
Bel canto is Italian for “beautiful singing.” From the mid-18th century through the early 19th century, Italian opera developed what is now known as a bel canto style. Composers began to write long, sustained vocal lines intended to show off the beauty of the voice.
Well, that works! They certainly have beautiful voices!
If you start with the premise that bel canto can make the difference, then you need to find the best way to present it! First, have them sing all the Italian classics. If you look at the music industry at the time you have to say “it won’t work” but, it did. Why? It worked because their voices were unique, the presenters were teenagers, and the world was waiting for something different. The difference was they needed to go back to what was and present in a different light. A unique idea. A little risky for sure but, a lot of very talented people in the industry felt it could work. And it did!
Bel canto for sure! But those voices that embody bel canto needed to go beyond and so where do you go? In their concerts they sing beautiful arias because they have beautiful operatic voices but, they will tell you, they do not sing opera. So, they reinvented the idea of opera. Just as bel canto reinvented opera, so did they reinvent it with their Operatic Pop. Always light, free flowing, ethereal! They took away the rigidness and left the beauty of the words which they present in their special ways with their special voices!
A few days after I finished this article, Michele Torpedine appeared on the Marzia Roncacci show. During the interview Marzia surprised everyone with an appearance by Piero. She asked one very important question, that is the question I just presented. So, I would like you to hear it in Piero’s own words.
Marzia: Listen, Piero, and also Michele, how do you explain this great success of yours, of three young people, because you are now very well established, even abroad, it is not so easy, there are only a few who are known and, they can be counted on your fingertips.
Piero: Our success is the echo! It is the resonance of the music we sing. As Pavarotti did in the past, bel canto is the winning weapon. Bel canto is the most popular Italian music in the world, and it is nice to hear in any theater or arena in the world, even in Japan, when the public hear these melodies, written right here in Italy, they go into ecstasy. Our voices also contribute, it is clear, and to hear young people with these voices …. but it is clear that if we didn’t sing this kind of music, it would be much more difficult.
Piero is very modest! Their voices are very important. They brought bel canto back to life in a unique way! Bravo!
So, let’s move on! Where do you begin?
Their first stop was Miami. It was like stepping into a dream for them. Everything in America was different from Italy. The streets, the houses, the cars, everything was different. But above all, they really could not comprehend all that was happening to them. After Miami they went to Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, they were invited to participant in the charity event “We Are the World 25 for Haiti”.
They took Los Angeles by storm. This is truly the beginning of IL VOLO!
By now, they were in a whirlwind!
Piero recalls, “We were fifteen and sixteen when we found ourselves in this American dream. We had signed a contract with a record company that includes famous artists like Beyonce and many others. We were invited by the record company to a party. We turned and saw, Quincy Jones; we turn around and we saw Rihanna; we turned and shook hands with Lady Gaga. We talked with them, some singers who were idols for us and for our peers.”
In fact, the guys only began to understand that something was changing when their first record came out. The boys had met all the big names and performed with them in We Are the World, but reality had not yet set in. Let’s hear what Ignazio had to say about this….
“It was already in May 2010 and the Il Volo album was about to come out all over the world. Maybe I was too small and naive, but I did not feel the anxiety of the job like today. The first major television show we appeared in, in America, was American Idol, the world’s most famous music talent show.”
And what a performance that was. They sang “ ‘O Sole Mio” and in that moment, they captured the hearts of thirty million people. Not to mention Ignazio giving five to Steven Tyler. But that’s another story!
During the last three episodes of American Idol’s tenth season, they performed and promoted their first album, Il Volo. The international edition of the album was released on April 12, 2011.
In its first week, the album reached the tenth spot of Billboard 200 and topped the Classical Albums chart. The album also entered the top ten in other countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and it peaked at number one on the Austria Albums Chart. It would later be certified platinum by the Federation of the Italian Music Industry.
Back in Italy, in their hometowns, the people were ecstatic. These three teenagers had achieved what only a few Italian artists had achieved, success in America!
By now, every program in America wanted them. The phone was ringing off the hook! They appeared on The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Early Show. There was no stopping them. The people of America had spoken and what they were calling for was, Il Volo. And slowly, the rest of the world also recognized their achievements.
The chatter began about these three teenagers with voices like “angels!” But what’s most important is what happened to the boys! These boys who came to America thinking, “who will know us there,” were now becoming a household name. And how did that happen, a little thing called PBS…
Next week we follow the guys to Detroit where they stepped on the stage at the Detroit Opera House and sealed their fate!
We continue to follow their footsteps Through the Fields of My Mind….
If you would like to share a story with me, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: I would like to thank Daniela for the wonderful translation of the interview with Michele and Piero. If you haven’t read it yet, go to www.ilvoloflightcrw.com to read it!
Credit to owners of all photos and videos.