MUSIC producer and reality TV megastar Simon Cowell is loved and hated in equal doses, but one thing cannot be denied – he is able to spot a good thing and turn it into a multimillion-dollar success story in a heartbeat.
In 2004 he backed four extraordinary voices under the name Il Divo. Since then, French pop singer Sébastien Izambard, Spanish baritone Carlos Marín and American tenor David Miller, Swiss tenor Urs Bühler have together gone on to release no fewer than seven albums and six DVDs, and have enjoyed three sell-out world tours.
In celebration of Wicked Game, the group’s latest Sony Music release, Il Divo, along with a full orchestra, are taking their brand of cool classic crossover music on the road once again, and Cape Town is set to welcome them on Wednesday evening at GrandWest Arena.
Keen to have their voices heard, Il Divo made sure that Wicked Game was a disc filled with each of their diverse personalities and influences.
“Our previous albums were very much Simon (Cowell)-inclined, but during the recording of this album he was so busy he couldn’t help but be less involved,” Miller says.
“His people worked on the final mix, but we had an opportunity to explore and trial new ideas, and because of that each song on the new album was elevated to a whole new level.”
Originally intended for a 2010 release, Wicked Game spent a considerable period of time being fine-tuned from an initial collection of more than 30 possible inclusions.
“We put all the tracks forward to our record company, as we were happy with every single one,” Miller explains. “Our work was done. From then on out it became an issue of which worked best as a collection.”
Recorded in Sweden and the UK, Il Divo’s latest album contains some titillating and diverse renditions of evergreen classics, from Roy Orbison’s Crying and Tim Rice’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina through to Francesco Sartoli and Lucio Quarantotto’s Time To Say Goodbye (Con Te Partirò)” and Chris Isaak’s perennial gem, Wicked Game, which lent the album its title. “What landed up finally being included are 10 very confident tracks,” Miller affirms.
Obtaining permission to do a respectful rendition of the title track also took some doing.
“We tried, for quite a considerable period of time to secure the rights to Wicked Game and kept getting letters of rejection,” Miller says.
“Until we came along, Isaak had never allowed the song to be coved. Fortunately for us, though, his mom is fan of ours and convinced him otherwise – as long as we translated the lyrics into Italian, which we willingly did.”
In keeping with Il Divo’s multinational identity, the quartet continues to perform in English, Italian, Spanish, French and Latin. But taking songs that are already loved by millions and turning them into something entirely new is what these guys do best.
“Our principal challenge is always to keep it fresh,” Miller explains.
“The overriding commitment, though, comes from us engaging the text and finding the opportunities within each song where we can project our voices and ultimately do justice to it.”
Their collective respect, coupled with years of formal training in various musical disciplines, talks to Cowell’s ability to isolate talent and have it translate, no matter the language, right around the world.
With sales in excess of 26 million albums and more than 150 gold and platinum awards in a staggering 33 countries, Il Divo are clearly adored everywhere their music’s released. At last year’s Classic BRIT Awards in London, the group’s contribution to music was acknowledged when they received the Artist of the Decade award.
“Whether we’re performing any of the three acts of Verdi’s La Traviata or Sempre, Sempre (a piece derived from Stabat Mater by Hayden, a 13th century Latin hymn) from our latest album – each time we take on a piece and succeed with it, it simply helps add another dimension to our already varied repertoire,” Miller says.
As for what the show holds for lucky ticket holders, Miller says they’re very excited to share the new album with their South African fans.
“I love singing these songs. Each song insists that we are all entirely present and project in the moment. If we do only that, nothing can go wrong.”
l Tickets for the Il Divo and Orchestra Concert World Tour are R375. To book, call Computicket at 0861 915 8000.
Doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm sharp.