Of the three, Piero is the only one who said, “…. if there is one thing I want to do in life, it is singing, living for and with music.” That pretty much sums up Piero. He sings with such feeling and devotion. He studies endlessly! Opera is his dream! He’s studied among other opera’s Cavalieria Rusticana. I await the day when he will sing in his first opera. No matter where it is in the world, I will be there to see him fulfill his dream!
It might seem strange to you that he dreams of being an opera singer. He is a superstar. He has achieved in 12 years what most men can only, hope, to achieve in a lifetime. But, when you have dream, you have a dream!
Let’s go back and see what I’ve said, in the past, about Piero’s Golden Voice!
Piero is a spinto (meaning pushed) tenor. A spinto tenor has the brightness and height of a lyric tenor, but with a heavier vocal weight enabling the voice to be “pushed” to dramatic climaxes with less strain than his lighter-voice counterparts. His voice is warm, graceful, bright, and can be heard over an orchestra. Piero has a powerful voice that easily reaches the higher notes. Every note that comes out of his mouth reaches us with such intensity and remains with us for a long time. It’s the voice that reaches out to you and demands your attention. Think of him singing “E Lucevan le Stele” from Tosca (his favorite opera). Or singing the beautiful Spanish aria “No Puede Ser” from A Tabernera del Puerto. From the first note Piero pierces our souls! His passion comes through in his music. Arias are very dramatic and, Piero brings all the drama of the aria into his performance. Always a showstopper!
So let’s move on to Piero’s classical education!
We know that Piero was discovered by his grandfather when he was about 4 years old. You will recall he was swinging on a swing that hung from a mulberry tree in his grandfather’s garden. And as a result, he began his classical education by taking piano lessons.
But how do you get from that swing to stardom. You do what all three guys did! You start by joining a choir. Let’s listen to what Piero had to say about this first meeting with the choir…
The first thing I find myself in front of these guys who are in a semicircle. I enter, I hear them singing and immediately I see in the center of this semicircle a lady and a gentleman sitting at the piano. I had just made the acquaintance of the Little Singers of the Philharmonic Association – Santa Cecilia of Agrigento. The association was founded in 1983 and has two choirs, one for white voices and one for adults. Until 2008 they also collaborated with the “Sistina” Music Chapel of Rome, which led the choir to perform before the Pope during the Jubilee and which was opened to the best singers with the possibility of doing an internship in Rome.
The master accompanist was Alfonso Lo Presti and the director of the chorus of white voices was the maestro, Marisa Bonfiglio.
I will owe everything in my life to this lady.
Marisa was right in the middle and waiting for me. My father had warned Marisa that we would go to see the evidence to understand how it worked and if she could like me. I arrive, I was ten years old and, I was pretty chubby and, I find myself in the midst of all females and just two boys, Davide and Arturo.
After the greetings, Marisa asks Piero to introduce himself.
Hi, guys, I’m Piero, Piero Barone, I was born in 1993 and I like to sing. In a chorus what else should I say? If I was there, I had to like music, right? I thought it was the first thing to clarify. At that point the master Bonfiglio made me sit on the left, next to Davide and Arturo, while all the rest of the chorus – all females – were on the right. Three males in a world of females:
The number three would be my destiny, right?
We begin to sing, Easter songs, Christmas carols, church choir songs. With Davide and Arturo, I established a very strong relationship, which continues today: we are still friends. We phone each other when I am far from Naro and, when I come back, we go out together as often as we can.
At the time of the choir, we were always attached to each other, we looked at the girls but, we were three losers of nine to ten years, losers! Marisa never scolded anyone, but if we were disruptive, she looked a little like that and said “Guys,” and we were immediately serious again.
This is the point where Piero’s voice is beginning to change and so adjustments have to be made to accommodate this change. Let’s hear what Piero had to say about that….
Even my passion for red is in some way linked to the chorus of the little singers. I dressed in red, all red from head to toe. They make my presentation I start to sing. I could still sing but I was at the limit and I start the Ave Maria. Until then other tenors have arrived at the end of the piece all red in the face for the effort. Because singing, in reality, requires a much greater physical effort than one imagines. In short, I finish the song, the teacher looks at me, looks at Marisa Bonfiglio, looks at my father, looks at all the others: “Do you see this guy? He has everything red, except his face: he sang with incredible ease”. And to my father’s question, ‘What could I do with my son?’ The master replied: ‘Mr. Barone, now your son is having a change of voice, your son in his throat has a diamond. What would I do in his place? I would take this diamond, put it in a safe and hide the keys. Between two years we reopen this safe.’ And, so, we did!
What about those red glasses?
But it must be said, my ‘fixation’ for red glasses was not born here but was born in 2010 in Los Angeles. I was at my first photo shoot and I went to the studio, it was the first real photo shoot. In short, I had glasses, as always, but one of the photographers who follows us looks at me a little and tells me: ‘You have to keep your glasses, but they must be red.’ And how could I do a pair of red eyeglasses in Los Angeles in one day? I think and think again, in the end the idea came: I called my optician of confidence in Naro, Giuseppe Minio, and I asked him to do it for me. Would you ever believe it? In twenty-four hours, I received the envelope in Los Angeles with my red glasses, and inside I also found rose petals and little hearts, pure affection directly from Naro, which is always good.
But I’m getting ahead of myself I still had to face the change of voice. That moment of change is something excruciating because you cannot sing, so no longer being a white voice, I had to leave the chorus. But Marisa Bonfiglio did not let me go like this, ‘Piero, see you soon,’ she cared about me and then helped me again: she took me to Palermo to a conservatory professor, a tenor. That master’s verdict was again: ‘Let’s wait.’ But in the wait, I could not remain completely silent. In reality, the wait for the change of voice lasted less than I thought, because towards the fourteen and a half years my voice had already matured.
So the change happened and Piero moved on in his life. He did participate in many singing competitions and won most.
But there was also his school work to consider. Piero said, “Had it been for me I would have studied only singing and music.” But in fact, Piero studied accounting. Piero tells us “And I excelled in Math, in fact, I am so good, that I am the one of the three that runs with a bag full of all of our accounts.”
Let me pause a moment to tell you about the archives at Il Volo Flight Crew. Everyone should take the time to visit them. They are the history of Il Volo from 2009 to the present. Anything you want to know, any past event and any future event can be found in the archives.
When I write these stories I like to go into the archives and see if there is something that would work with my story. I remembered an interview that Piero did when he was 19 years old. The interviewer was Marcella Lattuca who was a friend who Piero knew from the chorus. I think this interview gives us some great insight into who Piero was at the beginning of his career and his hopes and aspirations for his future and the future of Il Volo.
So let’s go right to the interview with Marcella Lattuca from Agrigentini Bella Gente.
Marcella: This episode is very special because I have the privilege to talk with a real star of international music, he is only 19 years. Piero Barone, whom I thank for the interview, has reached goals that perhaps, artists cannot reach, over a whole career. Thanks Piero, for being our guest.
Piero: It’s a pleasure. We did the chorus together and today we are here to do this fantastic interview.
Marcella: It’s true, you and I started in parallel, with a fairly considerable age gap, alas.
You start from Naro, you were born in Naro, you have a family from Agrigento, and you start with the Little Cantori di Santa Cecilia. Tell us how you approached music.
Piero: I have always pursued this dream of music, I grew up in the middle of music with my grandfather, Pietro and thanks also to my father, because you know, sometimes there are moments, when you’re little, you play piano and you want to give up everything, but thanks to the constancy of my father, I always pursued this dream, first with the chorus of Santa Cecilia, studying with private teachers, and now fortunately, I’m here.
Marcella: Your career was born a few years ago, when you were really a child. What was actually the turning point, which made you feel you wanted to do something more?
Piero: In fact there was not, because I always wanted to sing, but there was luck, thanks to my father, always, thanks to my father, to do a summer festival in Cosenza.
My father called me and told me “Do you want to do this festival? Let’s go and come back in 24 hours (by car), let’s go and come back”.
I replied, “Dad, are you crazy?” and he “Come on, let’s try, I drive and you sleep in the car.”
For that selection they did not take me, but they gave my name to the editorial office of Ti Lascio Una Canzone, Antonella Clerici’s program.
One day I was returning from piano school and I found my father on the phone with a lady Isabella Abiuso, and from there it all started, in fact my father asked me if I wanted to do that program and I replied “Why not, let’s try.”
Marcella: You started as a soloist at Ti Lascio Una Canzone, and then maybe fate played a special role.
Piero: Oh yes, we started this program as three singers, and now I, Ignazio and Gianluca are the group Il Volo, on the fourth episode, the producer Roberto Cenci, had the idea to join our voices, and from there started … the three tenors …. the Tryo, we changed name, but in the end we decided to call ourselves Il Volo. They wanted a short Italian name. Il Volo was a metaphorical name, Il Volo, to fly. Immediately after the program, we signed a program with Universal Music in Los Angeles.
Marcella: What I understood from you is, the one that followed you the most, was your dad, also because, being a minor, you could not go around alone.
Piero: My father and my grandfather – my grandfather discovered my voice, my father helped me. He is great and he has been a great support.
Marcella: So immediately after Ti Lascio Una Canzone, you signed this contract with Universal, and you started your flight.
Piero: Yes, we signed a contract with Universal, with our producer Tony Renis and Umberto Gattica and our manager Michele Torpedine, and from there, the first TV, the first album, with the first album we sold 1 million copies. And now the new album We Are Love has been released, where there is also a duet with Eros Ramazzotti and with Placido Domingo.
Marcella: But when you say these things, do you realize where you’ve come from and all the way you’ve come in such a short time?
Piero: This is nothing, we made this new album, but behind this album we have done lots of experiences, like, a tour with Barbra Streisand, 12 dates with her. She was a great teacher for us and we learned so many things from her, like from many other great artists.
Marcella: I can mention some reviews I read on the internet.
“El Paso Times: Electrifying: the name of the group means the flight in Italian, perfect name for a trio of young tenors who conquers ever higher peaks”, just to name one, another: “Beautiful and intense voices accompanied by beautiful harmonies that enchant the public by giving strong emotions “, this is the enthusiastic comment of the “New York Journal. You are a trio, so you are dealing with two other guys who are the same age.
Piero: Ignazio and Gianluca
Marcella: Perfect. What is the relationship between you three? Is it really difficult to keep united, even if you go in one direction only?
Piero: This project was born as three friends, you know, living every day together, we have established a great relationship, we are like three brothers, because we share everything ….. not everything. There is a great relationship, a great agreement.
Marcella: But you also perform individually?
Piero: No, no, our concert is the concert of Il Volo. We have just finished a tour of 48 dates in America, this is the fourth tour. We have done an American tour, a South American, a European and another American just finished and now in 2013 we will do another South American, American and European.
Marcella: But for a boy of your age, you have spent most of your adolescence ….
Piero: On the plane
Marcella: In fact, and what effect does it make, having left your friends, your country, was it tough? Then you had to approach even with a language that was not yours, you had to learn English.
Piero: English is fundamental and we also had to learn Spanish.
Marcella: You have learned Spanish because now, however, you will start a tour, if I’m not mistaken in South America.
Piero: The second tour, and now there are great future projects, but I’ll tell you what we did in the last two months. We started at Rockefeller Center in New York, with the lighting of the Christmas tree, the Christmas season opens all over the world. We were there with Michael Bublé, Mariah Carey, Tony Bennett, everyone was there.
Immediately after we sang for the Nobel Prize presentation in Oslo. We represented Italy, because the Nobel Prize was given to the European Union. There were Jennifer Hudson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Gerald Butler, Sial, it was a great experience.
Marcella: I see on the internet, I read that you have also become a style icon, because your fans have adopted this red eyewear look, is your brand?
Piero: If you come to our concerts, you will see all the girls with red glasses, it’s really nice!
Marcella: And then you also have some very important fans, like for example …. say you …
Piero: We were in Panama and a friend called us and told us “Guys, read the interview about “La Repubblica” we go on the internet and we read that they asked Placido Domingo what music he is listening at the moment, and he replied: “I listen to Il Volo they are three jewels that the whole world should know.” And the nephew of Pacido Domingo, is a wild fan, crazy about us, he wears red glasses, the vest, the tie ……. and from there was born the duet with Palcido Domingo.
Marcella: In fact, because in the last album, in addition to the duet with Ramazzotti, you also have one with Placido Domingo, which is one of the three historical tenors.
Piero: Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti. We dedicated the song we sang together with Placido Domingo, Il Canto, to Pavarotti.
Marcella: It’s an extraordinary thing, you said that you met so many famous people and I would like to know if any of these gave you advice, if they made you a “mentor” in addition to your grandfather and your dad.
Piero: The advice, be yourself, because the key to success is only one, talent and humility, because all the great artists are great people.
Marcella: The real ones.
Piero: Real ones, like Barbra Streisand, 70, and every night she entertains 25,000 people in America’s biggest arenas.
Piero: American Idol, as jurors were: Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson. Steven Tyler is the singer of Aerosmith and in our new album we sang “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”, but we did it in a classic Italian “Questo Amore Splendido.” (Piero sings a few words)
Marcella: Nice to even hear it live.
Piero: We did Jay Leno, three times. Jay Leno is America’s most watched Tonight Show, Jay Leno and Larry King are the most famous, we sang “Beautiful Day” two weeks ago, which is the cover of U2.
People ask us, but your kind of music, what is it? We did two duets, one with Ramazzotti which is the top of pop and Placido Domingo, which is the top of classical music.
Marcella: So you are versatile, you have shown your versatility and even those who gave you a kind of emulation of the Trio of Tenors, like a bad copy of the trio, in the end it was denied.
Piero: This problem is only in Italy, but you know, Italy is a very, very difficult country, but …. let’s do everything in the time. The thing that makes us angry, and I have to say this, we participated in the Nobel Prize, we have represented Italy, the whole world talks about it, who does not talk about us: Italy.
Marcella: It seems we are a little xenophilous.
Piero: But we love our country, so we love it as it is.
Marcella: You said you spent most of your teenage years on a plane, but how did you stay in touch with your friends and study?
Piero: I always say that what we do is what we like to do, so if you love what you do, everything becomes easy.
Marcella: But how did you study?
Piero: I study again, because I lost a year with my work. But this year I graduate, study in hotels, on airplanes. I took the license. I did the theory in August and the guide in November.
Marcella: Even if in America? It’s not like you travel by car there.
Piero: Yes, I do. I drive my producer’s car. Sometimes I hire a Ferrari, or a Porsche, I like driving.
Marcella: And can you orient yourself? You are now a citizen of the world.
Piero: But the beautiful thing … “beautiful”, so to speak, because sometimes you lack freedom, especially in South America we have five bodyguards at the baggage claim because at the exit of the airport there are a thousand girls.
Marcella: They recognize you on the street, it is shocking!
Piero: We travel with cars darkened and armored because unfortunately South America is a dangerous country but we love it and they love us, the girls chase us with taxis…. and shout, it’s nice!
Marcella: Are you afraid of this thing?
Piero: No, no fear, it fills you with pride and satisfaction because you understand that what you are transmitting reaches people.
Marcella: But this life is so stressful, how do you recharge? What is your secret to recharging?
Piero: It’s my family. Many people tell me “you have traveled the world.” Everyone asks me “What is your favorite city? ? Los Angeles, New York, Miami, London, Paris” my favorite city is Naro, Naro is my world.
Marcella: What’s your relationship with Naro?? After singing in faraway places, with immense crowds, when you arrive at Naro, do you have to re-program again?
Piero: No, Naro is my homeland, so every time it’s always a party.
Marcella: What is your relationship with Naro’s inhabitants?
Piero: Fantastic, I love them!
Marcella: Welcome you?
Piero: Yes, I go to buy fruit, I go to the hairdresser … it’s very nice!
Marcella: Perhaps paradoxically your country is the only place where you can roam freely.
Piero: With my little car, now I go around with my friends, I greet everyone, I am a very open type.
Marcella: It is a practice of our program, to ask what advice would you give to a person who has become a public figure, like you, to the Agrigentini boys who want to approach the art of singing.
Piero: My advice is always to follow your dream, never give up, there will be people who will say, “But come on, change jobs, change profession.” Never believe in them, believe in yourself, but when you arrive, stay where you are. Returning to the previous speech, I learned this from Barbra Streisand, and from all the great artists.
For example, we were on tour with Barbra Streisand, we were in the dressing room and we hear a knock, I go to open and there is Sting, or Michael Buble, David Beckham, Tom Hanks, all these great artists who knock on our dressing room, to have a photo, to greet us.
Marcella: This proves the fact that these great artists that have such long careers, it means that they remained what they were, it means that goodness of mind pays, beyond talent.
Piero: And then the humility even if it is really difficult to stay what you are, if you do not have great people behind, like a big family, I am doubly lucky because I am a person that could follow his dream and get there. Yet we have not arrived, but we are working, we study a lot, and my second fortune is my family – a moral support, a daily support, my father travels with me only when there are concerts, because the tour is very stressful. But for promotions, I travel alone, and you know, in the morning, when I call home, they give me the charge to start the day.
Marcella: As a good Sicilian you have left the roots here, however you continually feed from your family.
Piero: When someone tell me “You know, when you speak, we hear the Sicilian accent, the Italian accent”….. let it be heard!
Marcella: On the other hand your pride, it is this and, I can say, you are also our pride and I believe I also interpret the thought of all the inhabitants of Agrigento who followed you.
Last question, what do you dream of doing “when you grow up?”
Piero: I’m studying lyric now, because that’s my dream, that world, it’s my dream, the lyric is another dimension, but you have to study … too much … and now I’m studying, thanks to my possibilities, I am studying in Bologna, with my teacher Sergio Bertocchi, a great teacher, and he is a great person. I’m studying an opera setting, however, always with Il Volo. Il Volo is always …. the group Il Volo…. IS IL VOLO. And so my dream is that one day maybe, to do the Premiere to La Scala or in some theater.
And so we come back to the Dream…Piero’s Dream!
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
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Thanks to Daniela Perani for the original translation of the interview.
Credit to owners of all photos and videos.