The X Factor is about to hit our TV screens again as the eleventh series launches this Saturday night (30th August 2014) on ITV. Simon Cowell has returned to the judging panel, and as the whole X Factor circus begins again, it would be all too easy to hate the high-waisted ringmaster for the next version of Chico, Wagner, or God forbid, Jedward, that viewers will doubtlessly be subjected to. He may have unleashed these monstrosities on the world, but let us not forget that the music mogul has also given us artists who actually do possess talent and have achieved success in the music industry, such as Il Divo.
Four male singers make up Il Divo, an operatic pop vocal group whose career has spanned ten years and sold over 26 million albums worldwide in that time. Cowell auditioned young singers all around the world, searching for a multinational quartet which would straddle the genres of pop and classical music. It took him two years to find what he was looking for, but in 2003, Il Divo was formed when he signed Spanish baritone, Carlos Marin, French pop singer Sébastien Izambard, and the two classically trained tenors, Swiss Urs Bühler and American David Miller.
Il Divo, who sing in Spanish, English, Italian, French and Latin, released their self-titled début album in 2004. The multiplatinum-selling album featured such tracks as Spanish renditions of Toni Braxton’s ‘Unbreak My Heart’ and Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ and made it to No. 1 in thirteen countries. They’ve released five more studio albums since then, the latest of which was released in 2013. A Musical Affair is slightly different to previous albums in that it exclusively features a compilation of songs from Broadway musicals.
Il Divo have included musical theatre songs in other albums, such as ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story, but A Musical Affair is entirely a Broadway album that features the group performing classic songs from such popular shows as Les Miserables (Bring Him Home), We Will Rock You (Who Wants To Live Forever) and South Pacific (Some Enchanted Evening), as well as duetting with some Broadway stars. They sing with Heather Headley on ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’, Kristen Chenoweth on ‘All I Ask Of You’, Michael Ball on ‘Love Changes Everything’ and Barbra Streisand on ‘The Music Of The Night’. Pop singer Nicole Scherzinger also features in their rendition of ‘Memory’. All four members of Il Divo have a background in musical theatre and opera, so it was perhaps a natural leap from classical pop to an album of musical theatre songs.
The foursome embarked on a world tour of A Musical Affair in February 2014, which began in Japan and travelled to North America and Canada. They announced dates for the European and UK leg of the tour, which is due to culminate at the O2 Arena in London on 1st November 2014. They also announced some special West End guest artists who will be joining them for a selection of concert performances on the tour.
We Will Rock You star Mazz Murray joins the boys for the European leg of the tour, which kicks off in Oslo, Norway at the Konserthus on 5th September 2014. Murray is best known for her long tenure in the West End production of Queen musical We Will Rock You, where she spent seven years playing the Killer Queen at the Dominion Theatre. Her theatre credits also include roles in many other productions, both in and out of London, including Rent, Boogie Nights, Smokey Joe’s Café, Fame, Only The Lonely, Pippin, and A Girl Called Dusty. She also performs as 1/3 of the all-female vocal group WOMAN. Speaking about her involvement in the Il Divo tour, Murray said: “I’m thrilled to be joining Il Divo as they continue their ‘Musical Affair’ tour world-wide. Having been involved in musical theatre since I was a child, it’s an honour to be a part of this exciting show performing songs from the worlds’ greatest musical.”
Murray will be joining Il Divo for their European tour dates this September, performing on stage with them as they travel to venues in Sweden, Finland and Russia.
Il Divo play their first UK concert at the LG Arena in Birmingham on 18th October 2014. For this UK leg of the tour, stage star Lea Salonga will be joining them as the guest artist for their performances here. Salonga is of course best known for originating the role of Kim in the classic musical Miss Saigon, which has recently been revived in the West End and is currently running at the Prince Edward Theatre. The Filipina singer/actress received rave reviews for her performance as Kim in the original West End production, and also when she reprised the role in the Broadway production, winning an Olivier, Tony, and other theatre awards, for her performance. She was also the first Asian actress to play Eponine in Les Miserables on Broadway. She returned in 2007 to play Fantine, the role she also performed in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables at the O2 Arena, London. She has performed in many other musicals all around the world, including Grease, Into The Woods, Flower Drum Song, Baby, Cinderella, Cats, Allegiance, and God of Carnage, and has also released several albums in addition to providing singing voices for a number of Disney film characters, such as Mulan and Princess Jasmine.
Lea Salonga appears on stage with Il Divo between 18th October and 1st November 2014, performing at venues in Cardiff, Newcastle, Glasgow, Nottingham, Manchester, Ireland, Brighton and London. Speaking about the Il Divo tour, she said: “I am thrilled to be joining Il Divo as they continue their Musical Affair tour worldwide. Having such a passion for musical theater since an early age myself, I cannot imagine a more talented group to join forces with to share these timeless songs with audiences of all ages.”
Musical theatre means so much to so many people and what better way to celebrate some of its best-loved songs and shows than with such equally-celebrated voices as Mazz Murray, Lea Salonga and those four talented boys who are Il Divo.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Thursday 28th August 2014