A decade and a half after reality TV judge and mega-producer Simon Cowell brought Urs Buhler, Sébastien Izambard, Carlos Marin and David Miller together to form Il Divo, the four piece multi-national vocal group remains one of the millennium’s greatest musical phenomena. With over 30 million albums sold and 160 certified gold and platinum hits in 35 different countries, the quartet pioneered the genre of operatic pop, or “popera,” in classical crossover music. In 2006, the Guinness World Records listed them as the most commercially successful classical crossover group in international music history.
When Il Divo’s newly released album Timeless, their first on Decca Gold, debuted #1 on the Billboard Classical Albums chart, it marked their astounding 8th collection to reach the pole position on that list, starting with their self-titled debut in 2004. This collection, featuring a classic mix of favorite pop and traditional standards in four languages, marks the first time that the group’s members have executive produced one of their recordings and curated the song selections. “We chose songs that have a timeless quality, many of which were part of classic movies, including ‘Smile,’ which was in Charlie Chaplin’s film ‘Modern Times’ in 1936 and was a song for which Chaplin composed the music,” Carlos says. Timeless was produced and mixed by Alberto Quintero, who has worked with Il Divo on previous recordings and also served as arranger on the recording, which features a 60 piece orchestra.
Ever committed to breaking new ground, the videos they created for the first four singles (“Hola,” “Aqui Esperandote,” “Unforgettable” and “Angels”) follow a single storyline and are all shot in the same style and take place in the same “universe”; the soon to be released “Smile” brings a stirring conclusion to the visual narrative. The band created the concept for the videos themselves (1.1 million views to date) and David co-directed them with veteran music video director Frank Borin.
Il Divo’s six continent Timeless tour – their 15th tour overall since 2004 – will include 17 U.S. dates, beginning November 18 in Miami and wrapping December 22 in Dallas. In addition to performing Timeless in its entirety and powerful new interpretations of tunes from their extensive catalog, their shows will feature a dramatic and evocative production that will include dancers, acrobats and video elements. Sebastian commented, “I am very proud of this record and we cannot wait to bring it to life onstage, and we hope that everyone who comes to our shows has as much fun experiencing songs from Timeless as we had recording them in the studio.”
Blending operatic technique with romantic and popular song, Il Divo have broken records, won every classical crossover award in existence, shared mics with fellow superstars Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, performed for multiple U.S. Presidents as well as Her Majesty the Queen on multiple occasions, and brought their perfect blend of style and content, image and music, deep talent and rich passion to millions worldwide. The group scored a #1 on the Billboard Top 200 with their 2006 release Ancora, and also hit the pole position on the Top Latin Albums and Top Latin Pop Albums charts with the 2015 collection Amor & Pasion, their first to incorporate the flavors and rhythms of Spain, Cuba, Argentina and Mexico. In addition to Ancora, four of their albums have hit the Top 10 on the Top 200 chart, including their self- titled debut, The Promise, Siempre and Wicked Game. Their 2013 Top 20 Broadway themed album A Musical Affair included performances by Streisand, Nicole Scherzinger, Kristen Chenoweth and Michael Ball.
At their outset, Urs (Switzerland), Carlos (Spain), Sébastien (France) and David (United States) were four strangers of different nationalities, each with a distinguished but very different musical background. David (tenor) was a conservatory-trained opera singer, whose most acclaimed performance was Baz Luhrmann’s “La Boheme on Broadway.” Carlos (baritone) had been a child vocal prodigy – the ‘Little Caruso’ – recording his first album at age eight, and a huge musical theatre star in Europe. Urs (tenor) played violin, clarinet, piano, guitar and drums and had even fronted a heavy metal band as a teenager before choosing the operatic/classical route. Sébastien was a talented singer-songwriter and pop star in France whose single “Si Tu Savais” had reached #1 on the French charts.
Initially, all they shared was their passion for their music, together with a certain curiosity at having been recruited into the quartet. But when they sang together, something exceptional happened. The stellar success of their first album, Il Divo (2004), which sold more than a million copies in the UK alone in its first six weeks, and ultimately topped the charts in 12 countries, left no doubt that Il Divo were far more than music industry hype. Their first world tour sold out concerts in 69 cities in 18 countries. They stirred a longing in audiences with their crossover of the classical and the popular, the multiple languages, the crescendo the operatic brings to much-loved hits and their refusal to be intimidated by the preconceptions of what was high-brow and what was commercial.
“Simon Cowell is a very convincing man, but there really was no template for what he wanted to do, and once we were in the recording studio it was up to us to find a way to make it work,” says David. “It wasn't easy: four solo singers, three operatic, one pop, four different countries, all kinds of language barriers. Simon said, ‘Here’s a bunch of songs, make me proud.’ It was a massive experiment, really.
“The thing that Il Divo brings to music in general is being outside the box and revamping something that people are already very familiar with,” he adds. “For instance, with ‘Unbreak my Heart,’ we put it in a different language, so that gave it a layer of distance from the version everyone knows. It was men singing it, which was another layer; and then it was multiple voices, which is another layer. It goes further and further out of the box, but with a melody that everybody is familiar with – so when they first hear it, they're not sure why they know this piece of music already. It's as if they're hearing it for the first time. At a certain moment, the lightbulb turns on, and they realize why it's familiar. It shows that although music can get codified, it really has no boundaries in the way it can be interpreted and reinterpreted and reconfigured, and still have a huge impact.”