For the second time around (the first was in 2014 with Lea Salonga as guest performer), Filipinos had a chance to be enchanted by Latin fuego sensations Il Divo, the multinational vocal quartet that pioneered “popera,” the genre of operatic pop or classical crossover music.
The April 6 Manila concert leg held at the 1,000-pax Meralco Theater was brought here by PLDT Home Fiber and Pulp Live World. It is part of Il Divo’s massive 2016 Amor & Pasion World Tour (launched last March in Mexico City) which consists of over 100 shows across 29 countries and 92 cities. Amor & Pasion is the group’s seventh studio album that was released in 2015.
First brought together in the U.K. by musical visionary Simon Cowell in December 2003, Il Divo is composed of Swiss tenor Urs Buhler (born 1971), German-born Spanish baritone Carlos Marin (born 1968, the oldest in the group), American tenor David Miller (born 1973) and French pop artist Sébastien Izambard (born 1973).
The group's name is the Italian word, in the singular, for "divine performer," a name that represents the unity of their voices.
Their repertoire is a musical mix of opera (opera singing and classical music) with themes of genres like music, pop, boleros, themes, folk, tangos, sacred music, Latina, and interpreting versions of legendary and emblematic songs rewritten for the group.
The nearly three-hour (including a 20-minute intermission), 29-song concert started with an elaborate overture consisting of a medley from the evening repertoire performed by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gerard Salonga (Lea’s brother).
Soon after, the quartet (clad in Armani suits) made their grand entry, enthralling the audience (mostly in their 40s) with the song “Besame Mucho” followed by the Spanish rendition of Gloria Estefan’s resonant “Don’t Wanna Lose You” (“Si Voy a Perderte”).
In between songs, the group also regaled the crowd with their jokes (Sex in marriage is like Coke, in the beginning it’s “regular,” later it’s “light” and, as the years go by, it’s “zero”) and pick up lines (“If being sexy is a crime, then you’re going to prison”).
Urs, who plays the electric guitar, also narrated that he once played for a rock band called Conspiracy in the 1980s. Carlos also performed with ease on the piano while Sebastien played a concertina (a small accordion) during a sidewalk scene.
Using Spanish (the language that could flow easily from all four) or Italian in just about every song sung that night, the ladies in the audience swooned with the verve and powerful Latin sensuality of their music as they seduced the crowd with the sultry rhythms from their collection of songs full of love and romance from Spain, Cuba, Argentina, and Mexico.
They include the haunting, Jorge Luis Piloto-composed ballad “Abrazame Fuerte” (“Hold Me Tight”); “Isabel” (“Elisabeth), a classical Spanish crossover song adapted for the quartet; the Carlos Eleta Almaran-composed “Historia de un Amor” (“Love Story”), a song that tells of a man's suffering after his love has disappeared; “La Vida Sin Amor” (“Life Without Love”); “Si Tu Me Amas” (“You Love Me”); “Regresa a Mi,” the Spanish version of the Toni Braxton original 1996 hit “Unbreak My Heart” and the group’s debut song; the Bryan Adams original 1995 hit “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” (theme song from the film “Don Juan DeMarco”), rendered in Spanish as “Un Regalo Que Te Dio La Vida”) and the popular Julio Iglesias/Willie Nelson 1984 iconic hit song “To All the Girls I've Loved Before,” rendered in Spanish as “A Las Mujeres Que Amé.” For the mothers in the audience, they performed “Mama.”
The group’s rich Latin repertoire includes traditional tangos (the Carlos Gardel-composed “Volver” and the standout “Por La Cabeza”), classic mambas and smoldering boleros such as Cuban Cesar Portillo de la Luz’ 1946 “Contigo En La Distancia" (“With You in the Distance”).
Rendered in English was the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice composition “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” from the album Evita and the 1978 musical of the same name.
For the first time in the group’s career, the show incorporated costumed dancers, some of whom they danced with while performing “Sway” (“Quien sera”). They also rendered a touch of Gospel music with the Spanish version of the Leonard Cohen-composed and the late Jeff Buckley-popularized “Hallelujah” (“Aleluya”), the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard performed that night.
David’s solo aria “Nessun dorma" ("None shall sleep"), from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s frequently performed opera Turandot (one of the best-known tenor arias in all opera), drew a standing ovation from the crowd, another memorable performance.
Each member also performed a solo song for the first time in an Il Divo show. Carlos Marin, for one, performed the Frank Sinatra original English version of “New York, New York” (also the theme song from the 1977 Martin Scorsese film of the same name).
Carlos Marin sings “New York, New York”
The Spanish version of another Sinatra original, “My Way” (“A Mi Manera”), a Pinoy videoke staple, was also performed by the group.
For their final encore, they sung the English version of the Italian song “Time To Say Goodbye” (“Con Te Partiro”), first made popular by the Italian classical crossover tenor Andrea Boccelli and English soprano Sarah Brightman.
Il Divo truly was divine this one glorious night, dishing out passionate music injected with Latin charisma, passion and romanticism in a more intimate setting.