In the beginning the guys were called “awesome opera singers!” That’s how they described them. No, not in Italy! Here in America!
I love looking back at the beginning of their career and watching how they grew! One of the nice things about living in New York is you get all the interviews and promos firsthand!
In the late summer of 2011, the guys were getting ready for their first North American Tour. This involved a lot of preparation and a lot of appearances on TV talk shows to pave the way! I remember watching them on “Good Morning America” and thinking this is going to be an amazing journey for them. They have so much going for them but above all they had their youth which was an asset! Their voices were enticing and, they were adorable! Every teenage girl was going to fall in love with them. So would their mothers, and above all the grandmothers! It was the beginning of a journey that was going to take them to every corner of the earth. They would steal the hearts of all who came into contact with them. And, given their age, we could count on their music being around for a long time. That was the thing about their music, it came from the past and fit right into the present and would go well into the future. Everyone would come to love it! Yes, there were others who sang the same songs but, they were not Il Volo! Only Il Volo could pierce our hearts with their beautiful voices and leave us memories that would grow with age and expand with every new song!
During the last days of summer in September of 2011, the guys were taping the “Today” show. They were teenagers and they were belting out their favorite song “O Sole Mio” in front of projections of stained-glass windows. Their appearance capped a few months that brought them from “American Idol” to the morning talk shows to the final episode of “Entourage.” The idea was carefully designed to expose them to both mothers and daughters, before their first North American tour, which included theaters like the Beacon Theater in Manhattan.
In the NBC studio at Rockefeller Center, a sleepy-eyed Gianluca, 16, crooned the opening verse, and Piero, 18, and Ignazio, who was turning 17 the following Tuesday, released ringing high notes. Hoda Kotb, “Today’s” co-host, put her hand on her heart and smiled wistfully behind the cameras.
“We are Il Volo,” Ignazio said at the end with a heavy accent and a dimpled grin. “It means ‘flight.’ Thank you for flying with us!
After the taping Hoda said, “Believe me, everyone’s going to come running. They’re going to beat down the door.” How right she was!
The theory, Arias for teenagers, the crossover dream was being masterminded by some of the most savvy executives in the music business: Jimmy Iovine, who helped turn Eminem and Lady Gaga into superstars; Ron Fair, who nurtured the careers of Christina Aguilera and the Black Eyed Peas; and Steve Leber, a management legend who worked with the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and AC/DC and has come out of pop retirement to try to make Il Volo explode. And explode they did!
The group was introducing the same Italian pop standards and power ballads that performers like Bocelli used to rocket to superstardom. The difference, of course, is age: theirs, and that of their potential audience.
“In the beginning all of us thought that because of their kind of music, the audience would be from 35 and up,” said producer Tony Renis. “But now we realize that they can conquer the kids. The younger generation all over the world. The kids are used to rap but they never had the chance to listen to this kind of music. But now Il Volo is spreading a new kind of feeling. They are conquering every age.”
The group caught Mr. Renis’s eye in the spring of 2009, when the three boys were competing individually on “Ti Lascio una Canzone,” an Italian version of “American Idol.” A shrewd producer on the show, Roberto Cenci, suggested they combine forces, and their renditions of modern classics were hits.
“These kids were singing ‘O Sole Mio,’ and I heard such amazing, beautiful voices that I didn’t believe it,” Mr. Renis said. “I thought it was fake. They were singing with such mature voices, like men of 50 or 60 years.”
Mr. Iovine and Mr. Fair signed the guys to Geffen Records after hearing a clip that Mr. Renis played for them. Their debut album, “Il Volo,” a mélange of songs in Italian, English and Spanish calibrated for the widest possible appeal, was assembled over the next year and released in Italy in November 2010.
The label’s connections landed the guys a spot on “American Idol.” They also did a cameo on the final episode of “Entourage,” with their song “Un Amore Così Grande.”
Meanwhile, when Anthony Rugiero heard Il Volo sing, he was struck by the group’s similarity to both opera’s The Three Tenors and the pop music world’s Jonas Brothers.
“I was amazed,” said Rugiero. “It was, like wow! They are treating these kids like the Jonas Brothers in Italy and they’re singing opera, like The Three Tenors. You look at them and it’s like, these guys have it all. It’s too good to be true.”
Rugiero, who heard the group sing in Italy, knew Il Volo could help his charitable endeavors. He had been looking for a way to raise funds for Boys’ Town of Italy, Italian Language Inter-Cultural Alliance and the Volterra-Detroit.
“I was thinking, how can I get a group together that’s big enough that it would reach all age levels? I thought about singing groups and was trying to think of who I could get, when I see these young kids in Italy,” Rugiero recalled. “They take classical music and put a little something into it. These kids are wonderful.”
Rugiero, who also is a board member of the Detroit Opera House, was determined to bring the group to Detroit as a fundraiser for three organizations and began working on a plan to produce the concert himself. After Live Nation bought the group’s North American concert tour, Rugiero suggested a benefit dinner that would be held in conjunction with the show on Sunday, October 16. Concert promoters liked the idea.
This video is the best example of how they were able to steal the hearts of the American people. The video shows them on a simple stage with limit musicians and their voices shine!
“I purchased the first 20 rows, center section, all premium seats,” Rugiero said, describing seats at the Fox Theatre. “We hope to have a great evening.”
Fiat was the sponsor of the event, along with several Italian-American business leaders including Tom Celani and Anthony Soave.
The Volterra-Detroit Foundation supports The University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture and Comune di Volterra, which had formed a partnership to provide a new educational opportunity in the City of Volterra, Italy, for students in metro Detroit. Through the partnership, U.S. students can study in Italy for no additional fee, after paying their regular college tuition.
“I love programs that bridge the gap between Italy and the U.S.,” Rugiero said.
Rugiero didn’t get to produce the concert but he was able to use it as a fundraiser for three worthy organizations.
Back in New York, the “Today Show” was not their only talk-show appearance. They were on “The Tonight Show,” “Good Morning America,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and CBS’s “Early Show” in May, when their album was released in the United States. And they were preparing for a PBS special.
In the meantime, their album made its debut on the Billboard 100 chart at No. 10. The Italian and American management teams butted heads about where, when and how to spend the boys’ time. Should they stay in America a full year and play smallish clubs? Make one-off appearances all over the world? Play theaters seating 1,000 or 3,000?
“No one had a real game plan,” said Mr. Leber, who persuaded the families to bring him and his son, Jordan, on to help manage the group as it rolled out. “They need to tour, tour, tour, tour. The kids and the parents were nervous about going on the road. But the most important thing was to go on the road.”
So, on the road they were. Each of the boys was accompanied by one parent, a substantial sacrifice, since all three left their jobs to join their sons, and none are wealthy: Piero’s father is an auto-body mechanic, Gianluca’s a truck driver, and Ignazio’s mother owned a pizzeria that her 25-year-old daughter was running in her absence. None of the three spoke English.
The group had already been to Singapore, New Zealand, Sydney, Miami, jumping on the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival. With the upcoming North American Tour, it was necessary to get a new wardrobe. The guys were taken to Dolce & Gabbana on Madison Avenue to shop for a tour wardrobe. When they arrived at the store, Barbara Vitali told the sales associate, “We have to balance the repertory they are performing with the teenagers that they are.”
The scene in D & G was confusing! A series of slim blazers failed to fit Ignazio, who has lost more than 30 pounds but remains wide in the shoulders. Ignazio sang “All Nylon” to the tune of “All Night Long.” Gianluca emerged from the dressing room in tight black velvet pants and a shiny black blazer. Piero ended up with boots spattered Pollock style.
“They’re very, very different from one another,” Mr. Fair said. “Gianluca’s like a young Tony Curtis or a Mario Lanza, almost a Presley character, handsome and dark and Italian with fabulous hair. Ignazio is a crowd pleaser and a people person, adorable and funny. Piero is more studious, very serious.”
Three hours and well into five figures’ worth of clothing later, the group headed to theBorgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, site of the tour’s first performance of the guys first full concert ever. They allotted two days for preparation.
The following morning’s rehearsal began well. The boys sounded fresh as they warmed up; the echo of one of Ignazio’s high notes stayed in the ice-cold air of the theater for five full seconds. But Gianluca missed an entrance — he had, as usual, been on his cellphone with his girlfriend — and things quickly dissolved into backstage shouting.
The next day was the opening show, and the boys had still not run a single song all the way through. Mr. Leber arrived, doling out hugs. “This is not music,” he said. “This is a happening. This is an event.”
And it was. It got off to a rough start. The lighting careened from darkness to glare. The sound mix, including the vocal track augmenting some of the group’s harmonies, was murky; the video projections — a mixture of slow-motion Italian film clips and animations — were distracting. The boys seemed unsure of exactly where to stand and how to move.
Then they opened their mouths. The first song was “Il Mondo,” a sweeping heart tugger. Like many of the numbers in Il Volo’s playbook, it started quietly, with a verse from Gianluca. It built and built, until Ignazio, oozing delight at being onstage, let loose a startlingly full and mature high note.
A girl literally screamed with delight!
Gianluca glanced at Piero with relief in his eyes. The audience gave standing ovation after standing ovation.
Next stop, Toronto. In contrast to the Borgata show — which, like much of the tour, was organized by the American concert-promotion monolith Live Nation — the Toronto appearance was the work of a local promoter, Mimmo Pellegrino. It was at Roy Thomson Hall, where the Toronto Symphony Orchestra plays and, which is about three times the size of the Borgata theater.
The Borgata show had, as Mr. Leber had predicted, the feel of an event – sold out, electric. In Toronto about a quarter of the seats remained empty. Some odd scenic elements had been added, like three enormous white masks that were revealed at the end to be swivel chairs. The audience response was warm, but it was hard for even the loudest of the recorded string arrangements to fill the big space.
The audience at both shows was mostly older, but there were the seeds of what could become a classic boy-band phenomenon: that girl screaming in the audience at the Borgata, high-pitched shrieks of “We love you!” in Toronto, a high school senior who asked Piero to be her date for homecoming. (He said yes.) And maybe, just maybe, they will inspire young people to try “real” opera. The thought was, if Il Volo can persuade teenagers to notice and care about vocal production in a classical — or at least classic — style, who knows?
“By January they could sell 1.5 million records around the world,” predicted Mr. Fair, who arrived at the theater in Toronto just as the boys were exiting the stage. “Everyone will know who Il Volo is. It’s going to be a gigantic live act. Tickets are going to sell like crazy. And then a song will come along, like a Coldplay-type song, a pop record that’s introspective and beautiful, and everyone on the more pop end of things will know them.”
But before everyone knew them there was a degree of fame and it was pleasant and inviting. There was some discussion after the Borgata show about whether the boys should exit through a back door. They decided instead to greet the public, and as they walked into the lobby, what can only be called a polite mob ensued, just the right size and just the right amount of enthusiasm. The boys thanked everyone graciously as they signed autographs and posed for photos.
Earlier in the day Ignazio was doing a sound check onstage with the band. Steve Leber watched from the seats. As if on cue, Ignazio hit one of his shining high notes. Mr. Leber smiled. “Our game plan is working,” he said.
And it certainly worked well. The crowds grew and, the enthusiasm grew and, it has never stopped working since then. The 2011 North American Tour was just the beginning of their success in America. A success that ten years later continues not just in North American but around the world.
And over the last year the call from our guys and the world was Let the Concerts Begin.
2022 should prove to be the best year yet! Welcome Back guys! You have really given us great pleasure with your Tribute to Ennio Morricone and we look forward to its arrival in North America and around the world!
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
Excerpts from an article in the New York Times by Zachary Woolfe on Sept. 29, 2011
Today I would like to share a letter with you from a lady named Marilyn Andrews in Seattle.
In 2020, at the height of the covid pandemic, my husband passed away from a long illness. I had been caring for him for several years prior to his passing. I loved him so deeply, but yet, after many months, I had been unable to grieve for him. Let me describe my husband, and you may be able to make an association with someone else:
Professional singer; glorious baritone voice; a repertoire of thousands of songs; offered a chance at fame on national TV (but turned it down over concerns for impact on the family); opened a show for Tony Bennett; musically inspired by Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Mario Lanza, the Three Tenors, etc.; private in nature but a consummate perfectionist in public performance; intelligent, serious, articulate, a philosopher of the mind; handsome, part time model with a stunning smile; fit and athletic runner and weight lifter; self taught in many things, including guitar and piano; a lover of beautiful clothes (Armani in particular); a lover of all things Italian – culture, art, history, wine. Above all, lover of family. The list could go on….
In the fall of 2020, I happened to hear a televised concert of Il Volo on TV. I loved the music and began to follow the group online and joined the fan club – my first and only one ever. As I read more about Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca individually, I was startled by the many things Gianluca and, my husband had in common. “How odd”, I thought. The more I learned, the more things I found they had in common, the stranger it became, and so the more I followed.
Sometime in the winter of 2020, I viewed and heard Gianluca’s performance of “Mi Mancherai” in Rome on YouTube. At that time, I knew virtually no Italian words, and so had no idea of the song’s meaning. But upon hearing it, something inside me just broke. It was such a jolt that I actually felt it physically. The timbre of the song, the sadness and the passion with which it was delivered instantly touched my soul at such a deep level that I cannot even describe it. I wept, and wept and wept, and realized that I was finally, finally grieving for my lost husband. Two days later, I searched online for an English translation of the song. And the tears came all over again, as I learned that the song is about losing someone so very close to you that you are overwhelmed with the “missing” and the sense of loss. It was quite literally a musical expression of grief – my grief. Without realizing it, I had been led, seemingly step by step, to the music of Il Volo, then to the character of Gianluca, then to his song, then to the expression of my grief. How could this even be possible – that a complete stranger helped me begin to overcome my deepest loss? I have no idea. But I somehow need to thank Il Volo and specifically Gianluca for the gift that he gave me, even without his knowledge of it.
Over time, I am healing. And I have begun the process of reinventing myself. Hesse says that “the true profession of man is finding his way to himself.” That is what I am doing. With my previous background in international business, I am learning Italian, working remotely here in Seattle for an Italian company in Vicenza, and planning a different life for myself. I may not stay in the U.S.; it is possible I may choose – Italy? Spain? Portugal? All of these changes involve a great deal of new thinking, new learning, and a lot of courage, but as I heal, I am becoming a true lioness!
Today the music of Il Volo brings me no tears, only incomparable joy. I have never had the opportunity or pleasure of seeing and hearing Il Volo in concert, but I hope to do so in the future, in Italy or somewhere in the world. It is highly unlikely that I will ever meet Gianluca in person. But if I did, I would shake his hand, thank him, and let him know that he has helped me more than he will ever know. “All things are possible.”
Toronto, concert No. 1 of IL VOLO WORLD TOUR 2020, it was a success, but let’s go in order.
Let’s start with this beautiful message made by Piero in the afternoon before the concert.
IL VOLO World Tour 2020
I can assure you that I have not yet got used to the idea of doing concerts around the world. In fact, every new tour I relive it as if it were our first live performance. Adrenaline, enthusiasm and even a pinch of anxiety are always the same!
Today we kick off a new American “coast to coast” tour. We start from Toronto which was one of our first stops ten years ago.
So friends, fans, and to those who will see us for the first time live, get ready because we are all going to meet again in this crazy adventure.
The stage awaits us, so let’s sing all together.
Really sweet Piero. ❤️
But here we are on the evening of the concert. The photos and videos that have come to us are beautiful, many people full of enthusiasm.
Thanks also to Eleonora Ginoble who made some excellent shots.
Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca, elegant and in excellent shape, have bewitched all the audience who have reacted with such affection.
Even the master Grani came to accompany them !!
But let’s see some amateur videos.
SHE’S ALWAYS A WOMAN
LIBIAM NE’ LIETI CALICI
NO PUEDE SER
O SOLE MIO
Gianluca goes down into the audience, fantastic
TORNA A SURRIENTO
MUSICA CHE RESTA
BRIDGE OVER TROUBLE WATER
Some joking on stage
And here are the first impressions of Penina Honig, who was present at the concert.
The first concert is now over. It was a smashing success played to a packed house. I am traveling today and doubt if I will have the time to write a full report but I will say here that there were NO Italian solos with the exception of No Puede Ser. Ignazio sang Memories and Tonight and Gian sang Bridge Over Troubled Waters and She’s Always a Woman.
Piero’s other solo was Love Story. While those are beautiful it was disappointing not to hear the two we were all hoping to hear, namely Mi Mancherai and Almeno Tu Nell’universo.The only song from Musica they sang was Musica Che Resta. It was a beautiful concert, the guys were full of energy, Iganzio was at his funniest, Piero had some silly moments and the crowd loved every minute.
Gotta run! If I have time I write a better article and send it to the new address.
I didn’t meet anyone although I did bump into Loretta in the hallway on the way home.
It seems to me that it was a great success!
I went through the photos of the Meet & Greet, I don’t know all of you personally, but some do, and I’m sure this is Loretta Foley with her son. Well Loretta, once again you managed to take the photo close to the boys and close to Ignazio! 😄
It was a very beautiful event!!
Grazie mille, Penina, for your report.
Ignazio, Piero and Gianluca, you are fantastic, your voices never disappoint.
And now go fast for the second stage of the tour: LAVAL.
That’s right, Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca: IL VOLO, are leaving for the tour and their destination is AMERICA !!!!
Finally the long-awaited time has arrived, a few more days and they will perform in their first stop in Toronto and then there will be a continuous succession of concerts in different cities.
I think I interpret that the patience of the long wait has left you, and a frenzied agitation has taken over that leads to joy, to finally be able to see them live and to be able to have the emotion of a whole concert with them.
Do you have your tickets ready ??
Please dear friends, to communicate your wishes, write me the date and the city of the concert where you will go and let me know the three absolutely favorite songs of all, which you would certainly like to listen to (they can also be solos). Pat will be able to make a list and ranking of favorite songs.
It will be interesting to find out what you would like to hear.
Are you all ready to dance and sing with Il Volo?
Are you ready for a shot, a warm hug, a sweet kiss, or to make a tug of ears at these tender brats?
How about a hug like this from Piero ???? It would be magnificent!
In this article by Antonella Esposito, the start of the new tour is announced, I translate for you:
The celebrations for the first 10 years of Il Volo’s career continue. The trio that bewitched the world, setting record sales and sell outs, from January 2020 will be engaged in a series of live events. It starts with the “North American Tour”. From 28 January to March the Il Volo boys will perform in the most important symbolic places of world music.
Touching sacred temples of art, such as the Radio City Music Hall in New York, (February 6th) Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca will delight the ears and hearts of a multigenerational audience that for a decade now has been following them with affection and admiration. In June and July it will be the turn of Germany and Poland with the addition of new stages to a calendar full of commitments. Summer will mark the return of the group to Italy, with two dates in Verona in August and two dates in September in Taormina.
November and December will sign a really important tour which today has 37 dates, without excluding any additions. Turin, then Milan, to end in the capital on December 4th. A riot of live events not to be missed. Everything is ready for the first stop, on January 28th, in Toronto, from the prestigious Meridian Hall, the guys from Il Volo will perform for the Canadian public. Fasten your seat belts, let’s go. The journey of Il Volo begins, the most important one, the Best of, proud banner of a journey that began 10 years ago and which still today tells credible stories of sacrifice, passion and gratification.
By the way, have you all heard of the beautiful IL VOLO FAN FAIRE DINNER that Jeannette Giglio is organizing for March 15th at The Palms Casino Resortin Las Vegas??
It will be a beautiful event and there will be an opportunity for you fans to get to know each other personally and maybe even some surprises !!
I have another request for you.
For those who go to a concert, please write your impressions, for better or for worse, even a few lines, which we will then publish and it will be interesting to read the differences between one concert and another.
Also tell us about the fans you met at the various concerts.
So Piero Ignazio and Gianluca are closing their bags, in a few hours they will leave.
(No offense Annie, but if I had a Granddaughter that looked like that I wouldn’t take her with me to meetthe Boys! Look at Gianluca. He knows what I’m talkin’ about. ~Marie)
(Ahh, that’s better. Just Annie and the Guys. What Gianluca? Lose something? ~Marie)
I just wanted to share my experience at the concert in Toronto on June 24, 2014. I went to the concert with my Daughter and Granddaughter, which I thought was great for all of us to enjoy the same kind of music. I had seen them last year at Molson Amphitheatre and didn’t see them as close as I would have liked, so when I found out they were coming to Toronto this year, I was determined not only to get good seats, but to do the meet and greet as well. My Daughter and Granddaughter agreed. I was not disappointed! The concert was great and we had good seats. At one point when we came back from the rest room, they were down off the stage and we almost bumped into them, when they saw my Granddaughter the did a double take, I think they thought she was cute and at that point I think I was invisible to them.
After we got to our seats, one of them ( I think Piero) yelled out, “I bet you just came back from the washroom“, of course we had, but we just waved our T shirts in the air and said that we were out there buying them, but we had a good laugh about it. Afterwards at the meet and greet when it was our turn Gianluca was holding his arms wide open for a hug, but it was not for me, but my Granddaughter and I felt a little foolish. Anyway we got autographs and pictures taken and hugs, it went by so fast I thought maybe I dreamed it all. What an experience I’ll never forget it and hope to be able to do it again. ( I saw a picture posted ATIV of Ignazio giving Piero a wallet for his Birthday and they were standing outside Luis Vuitton store which an area I’m in often and only wish I had been there then.) I hope this hasn’t been too long. I just felt I had so much to say.
Not too long Annie. Not too long at all!
Come in and share the love of life, friends and Il Volo!