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CONCERT REVIEW: Il Volo

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You don’t have to search long and far on the Internet for times in which fans of Il Volo — the pop-opera singing trio that enthused a packed Saroyan Theatre Friday with a peppy, crowd-pleasing performance — rebuke the local music critic for not “getting it.” You know the online comment drill when it comes to transgressing reviewer: draw, quarter, eviscerate, turn into Italian meatballs, etc. The chief fan complaint: Critics treat Il Volo like it’s opera, and it isn’t. Don’t judge a group for what it isn’t trying to be.

And you know what? I’ll buy it. Il Volo isn’t opera. The group sings lots of songs in Italian, yes, and even some opera classics, but in no way, shape or form is this meant to represent the highly trained, specialized style that allows mere mortals to boom over full orchestras and fill 2,000-seat halls unamplified. Il Volo is pop-opera, and while its repertoire might lean toward the operatic — especially to American ears — the mentality is heavily pop, from the format (three adorable young guys wooing the audience) to the delivery (five musicians, heavily amplified and synthesized).

Using that rubric, the three singers accomplished what they wanted Friday and more. They delivered songs that the audience — many of whom got turned onto the group from PBS appearances — knows and loves. From English-language favorites such as “In the Arms of an Angel” to Italian classics like “O Sole Mio,” the guys worked their charms.

All three have sweet voices. The strongest is Piero Barone, whose red glasses give him a hipster student look. He also has the most stage magnetism; his periodic pointing and smiling at the audience was the smoothest and most effective of the three. With his vocals and charisma, I’d guess he has the best chance of breaking out of the group for a solo career.

Gianluca Ginoble, the suave one of the bunch, sang a notable cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Night and Day.” Ignazio Boschetto, who took on the role of jokester, tackled the difficult “Caruso,” an ode to the great singer. Both performers are solid, but it’s as much their youth and charisma as their actual vocals that seems to ignite audiences. (I can think of a couple of young Fresno singers with voices as strong as them who could wow a crowd when amplified.) ¬†And ignite they did: Periodic near-standing ovations occurred throughout the two-hour-plus concert, with audience members popping up here and there like prairie dogs after many songs.

Adding significantly to the impact was the sophisticated lighting and stage design, which used an enormous digital backdrop and a triptych of three smaller high-quality video screens to add to the visual punch. The concert was an example of music-video-meets-live-performance. At one point the three actually sang live vocals to a music video that had the sound turned down — perhaps the next evolution of digital entertainment. In terms of the ambiance and energy of the show, the stagecraft was spectacular.

The comic highlight was a three-man version of “Maria” in which the singers went into the audience and picked out three lucky women to serenade to while sitting on white love seats. (The woman paired up with Ginoble nearly stole the show by continuing to focus her attention on Boschetto.)

The one significantly annoying thing about the show for me was the awkward efforts at informality on stage, especially from Boschetto. He seems to be trying too hard when he turns to the drummer and mimes his motions, says, or banters with the other singers. He isn’t sophisticated enough to be suave nor funny enough to lighten the mood.

Or maybe it’s just me. I’ll be upfront: This was yet another concert — the recent Jackie Evancho outing at the Saroyan comes to mind — in which I didn’t feel in sync with the adoration of the audience. People around me seemed to be tremendously moved, while I was more along the lines of pleasantly polite. I probably could have felt the same way had I gone to the new “One Direction” movie — except most of the Il Volo fans were decades older. Both groups are “boy bands” in a way, just with different demographics.

Then again, I have to remind myself: This isn’t opera. Il Volo is about the whole package: youth, looks, charm, peppy arrangements, nice voices. In that regard, I can see why this group has taken “Flight.”

 

Responses to "CONCERT REVIEW: Il Volo"

zuze says:

yeah right I don’t think Piero is gonna go solo anytime soon he loves the group too much. And their actual vocals are the thing that brougt them the fame they have toady! And now about Ignazio. He is not trying to hard he is just himself and he doesn’t try to be to be someone else only because he is on stage. Lets not forget he is 18 and that means he is a teenager and teenage humor is not the best I should know im one myself.

Geerti Frank says:

For once a critic with substance! Thank you!

Geerti Frank says:

A critical review of the concert, but one which proves a lot of knowledge of the subject. It is quite true to stress the point that none of the singers of I VOLO has ever stated anything of singing opera. Who thinks or says so, proves only that this person has no knowledge at all.

Therefore I appreciate this comment here. We all have likes and dislikes. For me it is acceptable if the writer perhaps prefers a different kind of music personally. Mr. Munro though is superior enough to accept different preferences. Thank you for that!

As a long time fan of IL VOLO I appreciate their singing very much and try to support them wherever it is possible. The singing of Gianluca, Piero and Ignazio touches my heart and soul. With this they even enriched my life tremendously! I learnt to use the modern technical and social communication instruments. Now I have a large group of friends all over the world who share my love and interest in IL VOLO! A very satisfying success – achieved byGianluca, Piero and Ignazio, a group of young singers from Italy!

Linda says:

Hi Mr. Munro — I am delighted with your very forthright review of IL VOLO. You, in my opinion, should have dodged the bullet of fan protectiveness — probably except for your view of Ignazio’s humorous goofiness. I expect the humor of your peers at that age never seemed all that funny to you, even when you were that age. It’s just not your thing. I get it. However, I like that you felt free to let us know that very thing. It also shows that this is what your “first impression” of them is, and that is not a problem for me. Not everyone is instantly in tune with them. I know I wasn’t. But I WAS drawn to give them more than one look, and now, I am delighted that even though I think their management insists on overly loud amplification (it is actually quite painful to me, so much so that I will not be able to go to any concerts at all, until someone figures out that these guys do not NEED such horribly loud amplification), they are bringing music that is true music, and these kids are not screamers or any other thing but true vocalists, who are bringing awesomely beautiful music back into the mainstream, and drawing teenagers into loving it, which is a miracle many of us have been praying for, for quite some time. I am thrilled that they are singing arias from great classical traditions, including opera, for their audiences. If not for IL VOLO, I would never, ever, have heard these gorgeous pieces. So – I said all that, to say, again, thank you for a very well-written review of a concert you actually went to!! Cheers, and hope your day is a good one.

Roberta Carlson says:

What ever happened to constructive criticism? Perhaps it doesn’t sell papers. This reporter has an overall positive experience, but his criticism is brutal and damaging. Perhaps he states it well, when he says, “Or maybe it’s just me”.

Beverly Olson says:

Spot on, Roberta!

Linda Grubbs says:

I attend the operas and was just as impressed with the voices of these young men….far more than just “nice voices”! My husband and I are 70 and thoroughly entertained. I wish Il Volo all the best!!

Ruthie says:

Linda ~ I’m so glad you wrote what you did. I too am a senior & I love those boys. They are a remarkable group & have been since they began as 14-15 year-olds and have been growing steadily ever since.
Your husband could never be construed as a teenage girl so it proves that their likeability goes beyond that group to all kinds of people, including us older ones & of both sexes. I own their CDs & have bookmarked many of their videos. I agree that the music is played too loud but maybe the mgrs will learn & turn it down. Thanks for your comments.

Sheridan Martin says:

I understand that this reviewer doesn’t particularly care for Operatic Pop, and I agree that Il Volo’s voices are overamplified at concerts (which, by the way, they don’t really need). However, to dismiss the special quality of these beautiful voices iis ridiculous. Barbra Streisand doesn’t ask teenagers to sing with her in her concerts because they are mediocre. Placido Domingo doesn’t record with teenagers becuse they are mediocre. And, oh yes, Placido Domingo considers himself their number one fan. They are charming and, yes, they are silly at times, but young men their age seldom, if ever, have such incredible voices, and most people their age don’t put in the kind of practice they are willing to put in to progress. I did get the feeling while reading this review that the reviewer begrudged the fact that the packed (sold-out) audience loved the show.

Kailee Fu says:

Sheridan: I agree with your comments completely! This reviewer only said Il Volo singers have “nice voices”! Did he really pay attention to Piero, Gianluca and Ignazio singing, or only reluctantly glanced at them? He seemed to have dismissed Jackie Evancho’s concert he mentioned, as just “So-So” as well! Maybe Mr. Munro doesn’t think much of Josh Groban, IL Divo, Andrea Bocelli as well! Or maybe he just doesn’t care for teenagers, young artists, assuming they can’t have real talent?
Oh, well! This reviewer did give, however, quite an accurate description of the actual concert, the audience’s reactions. This is respectable writing. I accept his “personal opinions” are different from all IL Volo fans’ sense and sensibilities, who love these three young, loving, caring, sincere and most talented singers! Thank you, Mr. Munro for sharing your feelings, in contrast to the audience around you, who were “tremendously moved” by Il Volo!

Angela Tinnelly says:

Although their voices are unprecedented for such a young age, I don’t think they could have never made it out of their country as solos. I truly love and admire them, Buy & listen to their music. Follow them.on u-tube and where ever, but, like Humberto Gatica so profoundly put it, “three voices, one soul” Together they are complete. Solo, they could not last.I cannot imagine some of their present songs sung as singles instead of the three, Maria for instance sung by GG and then all three.What a difference. I hope they never break up, the real musical world needs them
.

Loretta foley says:

Mr. Monroe. Did you ever consider that Ignazio loves life, love his partners, loves singing to an audience & just is a totally happy person. He has a tremendous sense of humour which you totally missed. He has the whole package a voice out of this world, a handsome face as well as a beautiful smile that can dazzle anyone & he freely smiles to let people know how happy he is. Did you not notice Mr. Monroe he smiles even when he is singing?? & when he sings with his partners he smiles at them as well.
Mr. Monroe I guess you don’t understand if a person is a happy person.
These Il volo young men are the best singers on the planet, they give joy, happiness, sincerity & themselves when they perform & only ask that we all appreciate their effort & enjoy the performance they gave.
All three young men are equally top singers singing solo or together
Mr. Monroe give yourself some culture & listen to them singing more often on a CD & the next time IF you see them again you can give them a better write-up than calling them “sweet” voices. They are class AAA voices, mature, vibrant & wholesome in singing & also in personalities. Each one is a top singer in their voice quality & power & it amazes me that you would call their voices “sweet” when they clearly have voices that sound as if a 30 or 40 year old is singing. They have power, control & strength & as well as beautiful voices these young men come from good families & aren’t just kids off the street.
Educate yourself Mr. Munroe, yes your review was better than Vancouver but truly you still didn’t completely “get” it. Do some more research Mr. Monroe.

IN says:

We are still in awe of the Magnificent performance we witnessed by Il Volo last Friday night! We have been to many venues at the Saroyan over the past decade, I believe that their performance has surpassed many!These talented young men are not to be compared to each other or any other could of, would of, local singers! They are unique and exquisite! I studied the audience and noticed something I had not seen at any other venue at the Saroyan, middle aged men standing and clapping, with their eyes frozen to the stage! The back drop that included past wonderful and comical times in our American History (a time way before these young men were even born!) included photos of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, just to name a few! It was as though the audience transcended to all the happy and positive times in American History, while listening to the voices of angels! When I first read the above review I had hoped that these young men at such a venerable age did not read it ( I am not an authority though I have raised two young sons!) and take the criticism to heart! Than I thought about all the people I chatted with at intermission, after the venue and since the venue, including friends, a few dignitaries and one night acquaintances! Here are some of their comments, “I wished the night would not end,” “Fantastic performances”, “Awesome”,”Spectacular,” “Voices of angels”, and the list goes on! I have never seen an audience get up so many times for standing ovations! No one could steal their show! It’s only my opinion, that the young lady that Ginoble picked for his Maria was a little embarrassed with all the attention, and was trying to direct it to Boschetto and his Maria! I hope they do come back next year we can’t wait! We feel blessed to witness these amazing young performers, they have heart and soul and are loved by many! BRAVO!

Mediahack says:

I agree with Loretta!

Mr. Monroe does need an education about happy people! Mr. Monroe should get a pair of red-framed spectacles to start the process! I think Mr. Monroe would look cool in a pair of red-framed spectacles and appeal to a younger demographic!

Now I want to read Vancouver, to see how the entire city differed from Mr. Monroe’s review of the concert!

Maggie Griffith says:

Mr. Monroe I agree with Loretta, your review was from an older man. The three young men have worked hard to accomplish and bring their careers to the level it is.

As for Ignazio his voice is strong and he smiles when singing as he is a happy man.
My love to all three of them. I’m 80 years young and love the three boys, I wish them
the best.

Regards,
Maggie Griffith

K. Konas says:

If you can’t tell the difference between Il Volo and One Direction, you shouldn’t be a music critic.

R. Smith says:

This review did not go far enough in terms of a critique, in my opinion. The reviewer tried too hard to appease the fans. The voices of these three young men are very good, but if people think they are world-class, they are wrong. They must not have listened to trained singers. I went to the concert, and I do not think the three voices even blended that well. And I could not even hear Ignazio Boschetto in some of his lower notes. Would people still say these men have “the voices of angels” if they were not young and handsome? Would they pay an absurd amount of money to go see three middle-aged chubby men with the exact same voices? I do not think so. It is all about the looks and the production values.

mildred grossman says:

As far vocals go these young men are fantastic, they well developed for their
ages. I have attended an audition for the Metropolitan, I have auditioned for
musicals and an opera myself in New York and I have heard very good voices.
These young men have incredible tonal quality. Ignazio’s tenor quality comes
once in a life time. He masters the passion in Caruso. Gianluca flawless baritone
voice does Sinatra better than Sinatra. Piero singing Where Do I Begin is the best
rendition I have ever heard of that song. These are not the ordinary. So be to the
critics, you can’t do it.

Ginny Post says:

You seem to think of Piero as a “winner” capable of going solo & Ignazio & Gianluca as “also ran” guys. Many critics think Mario Lanza was better than Caruso & Pavarotti, but listen to him sing at the age of 19. Ignazio at the age of 18 is just as good a singer. Yes,Piero does have a beautiful, booming dramatic tenor voice, but he sometimes has difficulty reaching a high C & does not have the range of leggiero/lyric singer Ignazio (C3 to C5). Anyone of these boys is capable of going solo & Ignazio has already received offers. Both Gianluca & Ignazio are leading men types & will probably eventally be movie stars.

Ginny Post says:

If any of their “off-the-cuff routines fall short, management, not the boys is to blame. All of their skits should be written by professional writers & carefully choreographed. The idea that the boys should be spontaneous & just be given an idea & just “run with it” is plain stupid. These boys are still babies & in fact may not have the comic flair or acting ability to carry it off. They should be working with a drama coach & stage director on all their skits.

R. Smith says:

On this point I agree, Ginny. There is no excuse for awkward banter when the rest of the show is so well produced. Yes, they are cute, but that only goes so far.

Victoria V says:

I flew 2000 miles one-way, drove another 31/2 hours to Fresno with my daughter, and spent $600 for 2 front-row seats to see Il Volo live in concert. My young grand daughter has listened intently to Il Volo’s music since she was born. Could we give credit to this young, talented and passionate Italian trio for uniting three generations? For 65 years, I have loved music, in most forms, from opera to country. I don’t require anyone to analyze a performance for me, especially not a professional critic. ( In fact, I have never understood why anyone is paid to give me their opinion of music, art, or even food. I am pretty sure that I am the best judge of my own personal preferences.) The Fresno audience appeared quite capable of deciding whether or not it was entertained by Il Volo; and as evidenced by reactions throughout the two-hour performance, the folks were completely thrilled by it.

IN says:

Victoria V. Thank you! I agree with you entirely!! You put it all so eloquently! We are so happy that you traveled to our city, and came so far to see and hear II Volo with us on that Magical evening. Your granddaughter is blessed to have such a wonderful grandmother, and a woman that speaks her mind! God Bless to you and yours!

Eleanor MacPherson says:

My husband and I attended Il Volo here in Montreal this past weekend. The critic is allowed his views but these young boys are not trying or pretending to be opera stars. They are singing songs they enjoy and giving their own spin on it.

They are entertaining and were well worth the price we paid for our tickets. It was a fun filled evening of enjoyable music. They are young men no longer under parent guidance or chaperone as they are now of age. Ignacio is just spreading his wings he is 18 he has plenty of time to mature. Piero seems very grounded and the most lyrical. Gianluca has a very good stage presence. Together they make up a great singing group that is pleasant to the ears and to the heart. They are young Italian men with a special appeal.

Annis says:

I subscribe to all the positive comments on this post, and applaud Victoria for her comments about critics. I haven’t been able to attend a concert, but there is something about those lads’ voices that really touches my heart. I have not listened to a singer or one group singers so consistenly since I was a teenager. What can I say, except that it makes me extremely happy to watch or hear them sing, and that is a very good thing. Thank you, Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca. I’ll never meet you in this life, but you have helped my days tremendously. May blessings and success be yours, and may you keep that freshness and wonderful enthusiasm for your talent and your craft.

Bernie says:

I am 80 years old. I saw il volo on pbs the first time and have enjoyed them tremendously I have their DVD’s and music on my cellphone so I can “plug in’ whenever. I think other comments are correct. They don’t need ear splitting amplification. There is something about them so genuine, and so happy about their singing they make me happy and they make me smile. I would love to go to Italy to hear one of their performances.

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