Two years ago, I wrote a story about the history of music in Naples in order for the fans to understand why the guys sing Opera, in their case Operatic pop or popera and Neapolitan songs and why their Bel Canto worked!
This story was really two stories in one. It was about Il Volo and their music, and it was about where their music came from and the people who made this music famous.
I am going to give you a small portion of that story so that we can follow this journey that will lead us Beyond Bel Canto.
Italy is an emotion and in the center of that emotion is a passion and that passion is Naples. Naples is like no other place in Italy or, for that matter, no other place in the world. Neapolitans are the most diversified people in all of Italy. Naples is a feeling you can never shake but, above all…
Naples is music!
The first Neapolitan songs as we know them, date back to 1835 but the golden age of song, in Naples, was from 1890 – 1910 when immigration to America began. Men left with the dream of a better life but what they found was even harder than what they left. They left their homes and families, and, in some cases, they never went home again. They found themselves alone with nothing but their music.
Many Neapolitan songs were written about these times. Most of these immigrants lived in New York City in lower Manhattan in an area which became known as Little Italy. Small music companies would put on one act plays. Little vignettes. The stories were always the same, they were about home and family. They were about the mother they would never see again.
In 1903, Enrico Caruso made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Caruso’s debut on November 23, 1903, was in a new production of Rigoletto. A few months later, he began his lifelong association with the Victor Talking Machine Company. He made his first American record on February 1st, 1904, having signed a lucrative financial deal with Victor. Thereafter, his recording career ran in tandem with his Met career, both bolstering each other, until his death in 1921.
Torna A Surriento ~ Not Caruso! Actually, the version I prefer!
Caruso was the first international singer to come to America. He introduced America to Italian Music. He loved to sing Neapolitan songs and they were so popular that when he performed at the MET at the end of the show he would come out and sing these songs. Among these songs were “’O sole Mio,” “Torna Sorrento” and “Santa Lucia.” As a result, Neapolitan songs became a part of an opera singer’s repertoire and every opera singer after Caruso would sing opera and Neapolitan songs.
Music in Naples remained the same until after World War I. At one-point singers were taxed for singing but that’s a story for another time!
With the arrival of US troops in World War II, Naples woke up to a new beat. The US troops introduced them to the buzz and rhythm of jazz and boogie, and Naples immediately liked it. It took little time for performers and songwriters to understand how these new US imports could benefit them.
Now it was time for a new name to appear in Neapolitan music. Enter, Renato Carosone. Carosone introduced Naples to music they could dance to and so Naples got up and danced and never looked back until the late 1970s when a new movement was started in Naples.
I would not do Neapolitan Music or Il Volo justice if I didn’t mention Pino Daniele.
Pino Daniele was an Italian singer-songwriter, and guitarist, whose influences covered a wide number of genres, including pop, blues, jazz, and Italian and Middle Eastern music.
Daniele made his debut in the Italian music world in 1977 with the album Terra mia, which was a successful mix of Neapolitan tradition and Blues. Daniele defined his music with the term “tarumbò”, which indicated a mix of tarantella, blues and rumba.
Daniele’s talent is evident in albums like Pino Daniele (1979) but, he scored his greatest success in 1980, with “Nero a metà,” which was noted by some authorities as the hallmark of the rebirth of Neapolitan song.
Daniele wrote and sang his own music, and this music was known in America.
I started this piece by saying Italy is an emotion and Naples a passion. If Naples is a passion, that passion was Pino Daniele. Songs like Napulè, Quando and Quando Chiove are just a few examples of his songs. Examples I chose because I know you know these songs. They are very deep passionate songs. Many artists have sung Daniele’s songs but in order to do justice to a Pino Daniele song you have to bring passion, emotion and Neapolitan dialect to the song.
Enter Ignazio Boschetto….
Ignazio’s tribute to Daniele is amazing and emotional.
Ignazio’s rendition of Alleria is one of the most beautiful expressions of this song I have ever heard.
Daniele’s songs are very deep and very emotional, and you can feel the depth of the song because of the presentation of the song. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it’s as if Daniele wrote his songs for Ignazio.
So now let’s move on to 2009 when three Italian teenage boys revolutionized the music industry and brought life back to Opera and Neapolitan music. They were the first Italian artists in history to sign a contract with a major American music label. This was unheard of! No international artist or group ever captured the ear of an American music label before even stepping foot in America! When they came to America, they had a signed Universal Music contract in hand!
They presented Operatic pop or popera to America. What is this movement? It’s singing Opera in a more classical style. While opera is very strict and regimented, popera is more ethereal it has a lighter feeling, and it moves freely. It takes away the hard edges of opera and replaces it with a more ethereal feel while still presenting the drama and the high notes of the opera. It has a more popular appeal. This along with the classical Neapolitan songs become a big draw. Why did it work? One reason is three amazing voices! If the voice wasn’t there the song wasn’t going to sell.
Over the years the guys continue to change and evolve finding new directions and taking lots of risks! With their win at Sanremo, they finally opened the last door, their front door ~ Italy. For Il Volo this was a very important win because it brought their music home!
We stop along this amazing journey to see departure points.
In 2018, it was time to crossover!
The albums keep coming, the success keeps coming and the boys have grown into very attractive young men. And now they’re ready for a new experience. The music evolves and they are ready to crossover.
In 2018 they released one of the most exciting Latin albums to come out in years. I would go so far as to say Amame is the most exciting Latin album that was ever produced. It’s opera, its rock, it’s classical, it’s pop and it never stops giving. The rhythm in songs like Noche Sin Dia is amazing. You have to move with the music. You can’t sit still.
Maldito Amor is a phenomenal experience for your ears. The delivery is smooth and beautiful. It’s one of those songs that stays with you forever.
This album is so exciting that I will not play it while I’m working because from the first note you have to get up and dance. Exciting! Exciting! Exciting!I thought about this album and how I would write about it. These three amazing guys absolutely floored me. The beat is so intense and they are spot on. I think the guys knocked it out of the box with Noche Sin Dia. With Latin music you don’t just sing it, you feel it and if you don’t feel it, you don’t cut it. This album cuts it! Good move!
As if that wasn’t enough, they follow up with Musica!
This is the album that proved that great can get greater. This album is representative of where these young men are now. It’s beautiful, it’s sensitive, it’s romantic. It’s about love. It’s about them being ready for love. It comes from deep within them. All the sweetness and humility of these guys is in this album. It moves your senses. What I am saying is they have evolved, and their voices have evolved. They’ve grown into their voices. Their voices are mature and have expanded in such an amazing way. There’s an intriguing balance in their voices. To experience this amazing evolution in voice and song you need go no further than “Be My Love.” Gianluca’s voice vibrates and expands to realms I’ve never heard before. Ignazio makes your heart stop as you journey along his notes which lead to absolute ecstasy. Piero fills all your senses and brings you to such heights that you have to stop and breathe. This is Musica che resta!
And then it’s time for a new direction! A new risk! Il Volo sings Morricone was that new direction. No, they didn’t leave Bel Canto behind, instead, they moved forward and added Morricone’s music to their repertoire.
This project started with their desire to pay tribute to Ennio Morricone. What better way than to present an album of his Academy Award winning songs.
Morricone died at the beginning of the COVID pandemic and because of this, it gave the guys the opportunity to go through his songs and compile a list of songs that would give a true representation of who Morricone was. In the beginning of their career, the guys sang E Più Ti Penso accompanied by Ennio Morricone.
Most of Morricone songs where movie theme songs like The Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, the Bad and, the Ugly. The guys along with the Morricone’s family and in particular Andrea Morricone put words to music to form an album which has become the theme of their new World Tour, IL Volo Sings Morricone.
There are so many wonderful songs in this album that it is hard to single one out. The Ecstasy of Gold is Gianluca’s favorite. Se from Cinema Paradiso is Piero’s favorite and Here’s to You from Sacco & Venzetti is Ignazio’s favorite.
And so, we move forward.
This year the guys recorded a new album Tres Voce Un Alma. This album like Amame is phenomenal. It includes some very beautiful Spanish songs like Abrazame and Tan Enamorados. And let’s not forget the Portuguese song, Come Vai Voce. The tour that followed in South America proved that they are phenomenal entertainers whether singing in Italian, English or Spanish!
So, I touched on the different directions they’ve gone in over the last 14 years, but now we must look to the future!
A New Direction!
Almost 15 years have passed since they came together and what they’ve done in those years is amazing. When they began they were unique. There was no one else like them. And they began to grow first musically by leaps and bounds. And they were constantly changing. They were always ready to try something new! From Bel Canto they formed relationships and feelings more musically than personally. They started to climb, not to stardom, that they always had, they climbed the ladder of success. Over the years they grew together in their relationship, and they grew apart in their music. They began to feel their music in their bones. They began to understand how their music works together but also how it works apart. In music you need freedom. In Bel Canto they have freedom because they feel it in their blood, and no one can separate them from it. But now they are ready. Each man has found themselves Beyond Bel Canto. They are now expressing who they are in relationship to their music.
It’s the dawn of a new day. It’s the beginning of finding a new way of keeping all that you treasure in place while exploring the road ahead. So, on the dawn of this new day, we find a new idea. An unsual idea. A new approach. Staying together while being apart. And even in this they are successful. Most of the time when a group comes to this awareness they part ways. Buy no not our guys, they are coming together in music, in life and in their relationship with a new approach to concerts. A sharing of ideas and feelings and a sincere support for one another’s music and talent. An amazing feat that only three totally phenomenal guys could accomplish.
They have been together as long as they have been apart.They know only one life, for good or for bad, it’s the life they’ve shared for 15 years. The important thing is it’s been very good for them.
Is it risky? For some yes, but for them no. They’ve taken so many risks in their career and they always succeeded. Ignazio might say but there was “Eurovision.” To me Eurovision was a win. A success. If the rules had changed one year earlier instead of one year later, they would have won.
Anything good is worth fighting for. And fighters they are. Consider how they mulled over Sanremo to go or not to go. That’s who they are. They are risk takers, but they think everything through. They don’t need managers or producers they know how to handle everything. They consider every possibility and then move ahead when they find the right fit.
While they were on tour in South America I was touring South America and I listened to their concerts whenever I was able to get them on board the cruise ship. I was reading everything that everyone was posting and what I noticed was every night after their concerts and on their free days, they were in Ignazio’s room recording. I couldn’t understand why they were doing this while traveling from city to city and concert to concert. What were they recording? New songs? Maybe there was going to be a new album. If so, why not wait until you get home and record it in the studio. But they weren’t recording songs, they were recording sounds. New sounds! Their new sounds! A new way of presenting their voices to us. They took the songs we were familiar with, and they recorded them with their sound. We already know what the voices are about, but they wanted us to hear their personal sound. They were preparing for their new concerts! They wanted us to hear what they hear when they sing! They wanted us to feel what they feel when they sing! They took songs like Grenada, broke it into pieces and presented it in a new way! Classical, Soul and Pop! Suddenly a voice that we know and a song that we know becomes a new song with a new expression.
Right out the gate we have Piero our beautiful spinto tenor singing Granada as we know it as we are used to it but with just a little more feeling and a lot more voice!
Gianluca stuns us with his version of Granada. He brings back visions of Sinatra singing Granada. I’ve included Sinatra’s version here so you can understand what I’m saying. At point 1:00 in the video you can hear Sinatra sing what Gianluca is singing and understand what I’m saying.
Gianluca I know you admire Sinatra and that is well accepted and received but honestly, if Sinatra was alive he would admire you! He never had your range!
And then there is our beautiful lyrical tenor, Ignazio! Ignazio always lets us ride on his notes to ecstasy, but this is different. His voice has that extra punch. His voice is so smooth, so clear, so defined and his range is outrageous! He pierces us with each note and pulls us forward with a rhythm that evades definition! So natural! Such ease! A production in itself. Gianluca said “Ignazio is soulful. He can do anything!” So true! So true!
They’ve taken Bel Canto and turned it into a new sound so you can hear the songs we know and the words we know but with a fresh new approach. In their voices we feel, and we understand who they are and their new direction. They wanted to show us who they are individually. Not that we never heard them sing alone before, but they wanted us to feel the song in a new way.
What does it mean and where are they coming from with this new sound. It is three amazing men showing us they are more than three amazing men, with three phenomenal voices. They show us collectively and individually who they are with an amazing new sound.
I’m sure much of this new direction took shape during Covid when the guys had lots of time to think about their future and where their music would fit in it!
Let’s look at each guys new sound.
Which one of the three has stayed closest to his voice over the years. No doubt, it’s Piero because Piero always had a direction. It was always about his love of opera, and since Covid if anything good came out of it for Piero, it was the opportunity to study more. We find Piero ready to step on the stage of any opera house in the world.
Ignazio spent his time during Covid studying sound, how it works in a recording studio and all the elements of producing a song. This is how he was able to do the recording in his room during the South American Tour. His voice is a new sound in itself! He’s taking all that’s inside him, all that he feels and he’s laying it on the table for us to experience. He opens his heart to us in his music. His expression is from his heart, and he delivers a new sound that is even more phenomenal than before! Very soulful! The sincerity in his music was always there it’s just more apparent now that he has the freedom to express it in his own way!
For Gianluca he was finally able to take piano lessons. We all know that for Gianluca every day is about finding new music. During this time, he found his niche. He wanted to come closer to American music. Elvis and Sinatra. This was always something that was there for Gianluca but now he was really ready to move forward.
What do the guys have to say about all of this. Our Daniela translated the interview from SORRISI E CANZONI TV. In this article the guys talk about where they are and how they got here. I am not including the whole article.
How did the idea of these two evenings come about?
Ignazio: Our personal tastes go beyond what we sing. We are experiencing an evolution in our group.
Gianluca: Il Volo remains the priority, however the lineup of the two evenings has been designed in a coherent way to show who we are.
Piero is the tenor of the group, he studies opera and dreams of one day interpreting for it.
I, on the other hand, love American music like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, John Mayer with his guitars, but also Italian songwriting like Fabrizio De André.
Ignazio has a soulful voice and can do anything.
You will sing both alone and with other artists. Can you give us some examples?
Gianluca: I will sing Geordie with Madame (Italian singer), because we both love De André, with Irama (Italian singer) La Cura by Battiato (Italian singer-songwriter) and with Annalisa (Italian singer) Shallow by Lady Gaga.
Piero: I will sing Miserere with Mario Biondi, and with Gianna Nannini Meravigliosa Creatura.
Ignazio: I will sing with Francesca Michielin (Italian singer). I know her artistically. She is very good at reaching people with her words. We will talk about love.
And then with Mario Biondi I will sing Natural Woman and Sei Bellissima, alone with the guitar. Ah, I will also duet with Orietta Berti! (long career Italian singer).”
Piero: And we will sing with Pooh (Italian group), we will almost be a soccer team!
Gianluca: We would like to say that we are three singers, not just three tenors. But obviously we will also re-propose our classics.
Piero: We will open the show with Granada, but in different versions: classical, soul and pop, us three, like our personalities.
The last time we met was October 2019, to celebrate the collection of THE BEST OF TEN YEARS. In these four years, three of which due to the pandemic, what has happened in your lives?
Piero: We have dedicated ourselves to ourselves. This stop has helped me a lot to clarify my ideas and -set myself up- for the future. I have deepened my studies of opera.
Gianluca: I rediscovered reading and studied the piano, as well as being with my family.
Ignazio: I too started studying, I fell in love with sound, with how a recording studio works, with how a song is produced. I spent time with my loved ones.
For years we have been in the midst of a storm of commitments, emotions and compromises. It was important to stop and understand what we wanted to do.
Gianluca: We are working on a new album. Then in October we will conclude the dates of the world tour that started in May 2022. After three years of standstill, we are back in a big way, without neglecting any continent. We have been everywhere: Australia, Japan, South America, USA, Europe and now we have added a date in Petra, Jordan. We have done more than 100 concerts. It is our longest tour ever. We had so much fun. We returned to the stage with a new awareness, enjoying every moment.
Piero: The public waited for our return for four years, they didn’t abandon us. This is a further confirmation of the people’s affection.
So, the guys have told us what their new direction is. Now, I must change direction and follow a new idea with three amazing guys who are always changing yet always remaining the same. Bel Canto will always be their MO but from here on in, they will also share their personal musical journey with us. Their unique voices will now be unique new sounds that will draw us in in a whole new way! Next week I will present the new concerts and the new sound Beyond Bel Canto.
For you listening pleasure….
The Concert at Verona Arena
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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