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Saturday 20 September 2014

Il Divo bring the music

Il Divo
The O2, Dublin

Published 27/02/2009 | 00:00

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Carlos Marin steps forward to sing a solo during classical group Il Divo's performance at the O2 in Dublin earlier this week.

Several years ago, Simon Cowell applied his pop wiles to the dusty world of classical music and the result was Il Divo.

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Purists were naturally appalled at the sight of four male stripogram-alikes belting out opera standards in the style of an upmarket karaoke party -- but to the wider public, the prospect of a classical act who looked as good as they sounded was irresistible.

The bryl-creamed quartet are recently returned from a year-long layoff and, judging by their reception at the O2, they haven't arrived a minute too soon.

"Good evening Dublin," says silky-voiced Spanish baritone Carlos Marin as a 40-piece orchestra tunes up behind him -- prompting deafening hormonal shrieks. You half expect a barrage of lacy underwear to knock him off his feet.

To be fair, classical devotees who accuse Il Divo of soiling the opera songbook are wide of the mark -- there's very little opera in what they do.

Rather, they reinterpret popular ballads -- tonight they are songs by Leonard Cohen, Simon and Garfunkel and Toni Braxton -- as slush-glazed, big lunged anthems.

You can picture Cowell sitting his recruits down in front of a video of Celine Dion wrapping her tonsils around 'My Heart Will Go On', and instructing them to follow her lead, albeit with less of the gentle understatement. For all their catalogue-model pouts and deep-fry tans, Il Divo aren't pretenders.

Tenor David Miller earned his chops at New York's Metropolitan Opera; Sebastien Izambard was a pop star in France when he got the call from Cowell; bizarrely, Swiss-born Urs Buhler frittered away his youth fronting heavy metal bands.

And when they combine their voices, the results are certainly roof-raising.

But in the final analysis this performance has more in common with a Westlife concert -- the chocolate-box sentimentality, the baying hen parties -- than anything that could properly be described as classical music.

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