Il Divo: Soaring voices

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – They sing ballads with an operatic flavor, and Il Divo ends up celebrating the diversity of culture.

An American, a Frenchman, a Swiss and a Spanish baritone comprise the incredible quartet, and Las Vegas had a taste of their music for two sold-out nights Friday and Saturday at the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace.

“An evening to remember for the rest of your life,” said Nimfa Raagas Aguila, a neurologist from nearby Kingman, Ariz, who watched the show Saturday night. “They’re so good. I love them.”

Even though they sang mostly Spanish and Italian arias, the English songs they performed received repeated standing ovations from the crowd.

From the haunting “Mama” and resplendent “Somewhere,” to the soaring “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” Il Divo captivated the crowd with their mesmerizing vocals – and they even poked fun at themselves and the audience in an intimate performance.

It’s this connection with the people they are singing for that has been the hallmark of Il Divo, a group formed nine years ago with the help of former “American idol” judge Simon Cowell.

They call it the “in-between,” the place between opera and pop where their music resides, but it is in performing live that they draw their juices from.

“The stage is where we really come alive,” said David Miller, the American member of the group, in their profile. “When you are in the recording studio, everything is built around the melody and you tend to sit behind that. But a concert is different. You can hear the orchestra swells. You can feel the fullness. It’s a deeper experience.”

With Carlos Marin of Spain, Sebastian Izambard of France and Urs Buhler of Sweden, Il Divo has performed all over the world, before kings, queens, presidents and million of fans.

They have sold more than 25 million albums and awarded more than 150 gold or platinum discs. In 2011, they were honored as Artist of the Decade at the prestigious BRITs in London.

Taking their music to the world is their biggest achievement, said Izambard, a former French pop star, who joined the group in 2004.

At Saturday’s night concert, he told how driving to Arizona in a convertible two days ago, he suddenly ran into a downpour, and ended up soaking wet because he could not get the car’s roof back in time.

“For the first time, too, I won in a casino. So I’m staying in Las Vegas for good,” he joked.

Marin, who is single at 43, provides the soaring baritone on the quartet’s flourishes and finishes, and with his Latin good looks, is easily the favorite among women fans.

A child prodigy, he recorded his first album at eight, and later became a star on Spanish TV and stage.

“I love opera,” Marin said, “but Il Divo allows me to interact more with the audience.”

The fourth member of the group, Buhler, once sang in a rock band, but like the other three, had formal training in classical music. He earned degrees in top schools, including the Academy of School and Church Music in Amsterdam.

“To sing pop is different to singing classical,” said Buhler. “When you sing a classical aria, there is a right way and a wrong way. With pop, you can throw all of that out of the window, as it is more important to convey emotion.”

At Saturday’s concert, the first time the group has brought along a live orchestra, there was plenty of emotion.

On songs tailored for dancing, people, mostly women, were dancing on the aisles and near their seats.

“Their songs are so emotional, they give you goose bumps,” said Christie Anacta, who accompanied Aguila.

A Filipina-American, Anacta said that their songs transcend cultural barriers and personal background.

“They touch your heart,” she said. ” I don’t speak Italian or Spanish , yet I can feel it. Their music celebrates our differences and still make us come together.”

Christie Anacta (left) and Nimfa Raagas Aguila at the Il Divo concert at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas.

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