Il Divo, |
Il Divo &
The Christmas Collection
OK, class: pop quiz! What do you get when you combine an American, a Spaniard, a Frenchman and a native of Switzerland? The correct answer is Il Divo, a relatively new vocal group that has taken the international music scene by the sheer force of the singers' exceptional voices.
If you are looking for the ideal Christmas gift for any music lover on your list -- one that's guaranteed to please -- you won't go wrong with one of their two CDs now available in the United States.
The first, a self-titled album called simply Il Divo, was released in the fall of 2004. The Christmas Collection just hit the music stores. A third album, Ancora, is available now as an import and is due to be released in the U.S. in January. (All three are now available through Amazon.com via Rambles.NET, of course, so you can let your fingers do most of your Christmas shopping.)
The concept behind Il Divo was launched several years ago by Simon Cowell, of American Idol fame, and his Syco Music group. A two-year worldwide search was held to find some of the best classically trained voices who could perform semi-classical and popular pieces with an operatic flair. The result exceeded all expectations. Il Divo -- literally "male diva" -- was born and almost overnight climbed to the top of the charts. Their music is many things, but above all it's pure romance.
The quartet of extremely talented singers seems to revel in semi-anonymity. The only names appearing on the albums are David, Sebastien, Urs and Carlos. I had to search the Internet to learn their full names. There is no one dominant voice and they intertwine with such clarity and sensitivity that sometimes it's hard to tell if two, three or all four are singing at any one time. The quartet alternates solos and duets. When all four voices blend into a chorus, the result is an unbelievable sound. You know you are in the presence of greatness. Their diverse nationalities, and the fact that they sing in several languages, reinforces their universal appeal.
I've long been a fan of The Three Tenors and The Irish Tenors, and I easily put this group on a par with them. Others feel Il Divo leaves the older groups in the dust.
The 13 tracks on Il Divo are a mixture of classical, semi-classical and standards. It opens with the Toni Braxton hit "Unbreak My Heart" ("Regresa A Mi"). Sung by Il Divo, it sounds positively operatic. "Mama" is a sentimental tribute for all she has done. The old standard "Unchained Melody" ("Senza Catene") sounds like something out of an Italian opera.
It's hard for me to pick a favorite from this recording, but as a long-time fan of Frank Sinatra, I'll have to go with Il Divo's version of "My Way" ("Mi Manera"). Their treatment of Paul Anka's words takes Sinatra's signature anthem to a whole new level.
The Christmas Collection includes nine tracks of pure seasonal listening pleasure. There are 10 tracks on this disc, but for the life of me, I can't figure out how "Over the Rainbow" made it into a collection of such holiday standouts as "O Holy Night," "Ave Maria," "Silent Night" or "White Christmas."
This is one CD you'll want to play daily between now and Dec. 25. It definitely is Christmas music as it was meant to be sung. If this doesn't get you in the yuletide spirit, nothing will.
Whatever Il Divo recording you might give to your friends and family (or yourself) this holiday season, they'll thank you all year long. Look for many more recordings from Il Divo in the future; with talent like this, they will be in demand for a long time.
by Bill Knapp