As the handsome Il Divo boys and glamorous Katherine Jenkins get together in a double-act, spring is in the air and, as BARBARA HODGSON hears, anything can happen...
AS you read this, Il Divo might, just might, be enjoying a “little holiday”. At least that was the plan when I spoke to Carlos Marín, one quarter of the singing sensation who have rocked (if that’s the right world for classical stars) the crossover world into operatic pop for the past nine years.
When I caught up with him a few weeks back, the Spanish baritone and the rest of the multi-cultural group – French pop singer Sébastien Izambard, and tenors Urs Bühler, from Switzerland, and American David Miller, had just returned from a month courting fans in Japan.
“It’s quite hectic,” he says with understatement, “but we are all really lucky, working all around the world.”
Since the talented foursome was created in 2004 by the Midas touch of Simon Cowell, Il Divo have enjoyed staggering success, their multi-national make-up reflected in that international fan-base who are to thank for album sales of more than £26m.
Little wonder then that they’re all out to keep the momentum going, with their new greatest hits album being followed hot on the heels by another UK and European tour, this one teaming up with classical star Katherine Jenkins and bringing them to Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle in April.
They’ve crossed paths with the mezzo soprano several times at musical events in the past, but this will be their first time performing together in public (although they had a little taster session last month on the ITV1 special Steppin Out with Katherine Jenkins).
“We’ve known her for about nine years – we’ve met several times on other TV shows – but never sung together,” explains Carlos. “She’s a very nice girl. She’s single and I’m single. You never know what’s going to happen,” he jokes.
“What happens on tour stays on tour!”
Katherine, who also made her debut in 2004 and has barely stopped since – her most recent tour including a concert at The Sage Gateshead just before Christmas, will share duets with the quartet while both artists will perform their own classical interpretations of popular songs accompanied by a full orchestra.
On the same date – November 26 – that Katherine released her first festive album, This is Christmas, Il Divo released The Greatest Hits.
The timing, says Carlos, was just right for them to do so; an opportunity for their raft of new fans to catch up on what they missed earlier.
“It’s amazing – we have more and more fans,” he tells me, in his charmingly accented English.
“At a recent show more than half were fans new to Il Divo. It’s absolutely fantastic.
“We thought this is the time to release our greatest hits, as we have so many new fans who never had the ability to buy other records.”
Album tracks range from their take on Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love to an Italian version (they also sing in Spanish, English and French) of My Heart Will Go On, the Titanic soundtrack made famous by Celine Dion, and besides all the “most obvious Il Divo songs” there are four new tracks too.
Also to keep fans happy, they’ve produced a special box set of seven CDs, five DVDs and a book.
This month, after that short break, they’ll be back at work recording before the tour kicks off in March.
Il Divo tour extensively across the globe and recently completed the final South American leg of a 10-month and six continent fourth world tour.
“We’ve never stopped really,” says Carlos.
“It’s fantastic. We’re really happy about it.”
No one, he agrees, could ever have guessed at the level of success that awaited the singers when Cowell signed them up.
But many may not realise that he, for one, had years of hard work behind him before he was apparently plucked from obscurity.
He was, it seems, always destined to be a singer and has performed for audiences since he was six.
“My first record was made when I was eight,” he points out.
“I’m now 44 so it’s quite a long time!”
Born in Germany, he didn’t settle in Spain until a young teenager.
“When I was seven we travelled to Holland. When I was eight I decided to make records and continued until I was 12.” After making LPs, the ‘Little Caruso’ moved to Spain “when I was 13 or 14”.
“I was on TV shows in Spain, winning a lot of singing competitions.”
There followed a lot of experience in musical theatre and across the musical genres: pop, rock and opera.
“I got very lucky; I’ve done everything a singer can do.”
It’s that kind of determination to keep on learning that has fuelled Il Divo and the group of initial strangers have forged a strong bond over the years.
“I’ve discovered things with Il Divo, apart from knowing how to share songs with others,” says Carlos.
“All (the other) three are fantastic singers and in my own technique as a singer of pop and operatic songs I’ve learned a lot of things when on stage on tour.
“I’ve never stopped trying to improve myself. It’s 150% – not that I’m ever happy with things. I’m too much a perfectionist. I always know I can never reach the highest level. I always look for something else.”
In years to come that something else might be a new vehicle for a more mature voice. His rich baritone could change towards hitting higher notes, so he has ideas for other career possibilities.
“Maybe in the future I can be a tenor. Maybe after Il Divo I’ll go back to opera and make a debut as tenor in a Wagner opera – who knows.”
A singer’s voice matures as he gets older and is at its peak around the age of 42 or 43.
“That’s how I feel right now.”
And, feeling as good as he does, fans can rest assured he couldn’t be happier about life as he’s living it now with Il Divo.
“When we started we never thought we would go so far, have sold over 26m records, had so many tours.
“And we’ve been meeting so many actors,” he adds – mentioning Robert de Niro and Al Pacino – “and politicians.”
He laughs: “We were in a dressing room in New York when someone knocked on the door, the door opened and there was Hilary Clinton saying ‘I’m a huge fan of yours’ – and then Bill Clinton!”
He was hugely impressed with the singer and actress Barbra Streisand with whom the group appeared as special guests in her 20-concert North American tour.
“We’re always working really hard, looking to keep Il Divo voices fresh and give to the audience something new, especially to a new audience.”
Il Divo and Katherine Jenkins play Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, on April 14. Go to www.metroradioarena.co.uk or call 0844 493 6666.