They are one of the worlds’ most sought after male quartet, four charming UK male vocalists who infuse charm and joy into their singing. Il Divo, a multi-national classical crossover vocal group composing of singers Urs Bühler, Carlos Marín, David Miller, and Sébastien Izambard are coming to Montreal this Monday November 25th at Theatre St-Denis and they are ready to once again make waves with their “The Christmas Collection” classical / pop lineup of operatic repertoire imbued with Holiday spirit and cheer!
*** The quartet will also make an appearance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto, on Tue Nov 26th 2019.
To learn more about Il Divo please visit their official website: www.ildivo.com
Interview with Il Divo
MLPBS / Gen’s Delights had the chance to have an exclusive interview with each of the members of this group and uncover the mysteries of opera and beautiful singing:
Urs , Carlos, David and Sébastien , welcome to Montreal! Thanks for taking the time to answer some of my questions for Mountain Lake PBS:
1 .Sébastien:Your initial background is in POP, do you find it challenging (technically or otherwise) to make a switch back and forth between more classical / opera pieces and do you find that one style is more demanding than the other?
It can be very challenging! In fact, in pop repertoire you do not sing using much vibrato. It is a very different technique, whereas in opera you have to use a strong / loud vibrato. It is indeed challenging to learn to adapt and adjust yourself to the others and also learn and integrate different languages.
I found it quite difficult at first to adjust to the other guys with their big operatic vibratos, however we don’t sing any true opera pieces. We also had to learn to sing with a microphone and that makes recording pop songs challenging.
I find singing in an operatic way is more demanding in terms of proper breathing technique, correct pitch, harmonizing and listening to one another. As four singers, on stage we have to come together as one and be in tune with each other.
2. Urs : Before joining Il DIVO , you were pursuing a solo freelance career in the world of opera, what were the most marking changes you had to make by joining the group ? Do you miss certain creative aspects of your previous solo work?
Starting with Il Divo, for me as a classically trained opera singer meant a complete change on so many levels. Not only did I have absolutely no experience in the pop music business or in the record industry, I also have never sang or recorded in a studio, I have never really sang with a classical technique with a microphone in a TV studio or on a live stage.
These were all techniques or ways of doing things that I had to learn and adapt to. Singing in Il Divo requires a much broader spectrum of abilities with your voice than to actually sing pure classical music that only requires one technique that is either right or wrong. With that one technique you have lots of abilities to bring light and shade and bringing different colors to your voice, but the technique stays the same. With our group we have to use many other facets like singing with more air or with a microphone which certain aspects took me years to master. I am constantly still learning and working on my voice, on stage with ear monitors, stage sounds, different acoustics, adjusting to the different stages in various venues we perform every night. On a sonic level not technical one it took a lot of adaptation.
Yes, I do miss singing opera, (although I am singing with three great opera singers that I had the opportunity to work with for the past 15 years with whom I am singing very beautiful and passionate repertoire). To me classical music and singing will always be the highest art form of singing. The experiences I have had singing with some of the world’s greatest orchestras and conductors, soloists and choirs, that is something that I look upon with a lot of gratitude , pride and joy as the high points of my career. It is just different from Il Divo. I do not want to come off as saying classical music is great and pop is not, they are just different styles.
When we talk about other pop artists who are not classically trained, their music has to reach the heart and soul of the listener and it is not as much about as being correct about what you do. In opera this is very important . I used to sing Baroque, classical repertoire: Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Mozart and yeah, I find that it is much more about being expressive in pop. I found this difference challenging and if there is something I miss about opera it would be that.
3 Carlos, I understand that the group accommodates individual musical projects , are you working on any projects ? The members of your group are all from different backgrounds. What is the importance given to integrating cultural elements into your show?
Yes, the good thing about being together for the past 15 years is that we have made a deal that every time we have some free time we can do our own solo stuff. Personally, I have put together a Las Vegas type show with dancers and a twenty members orchestra on stage and I do a mix of Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Elvis Presley and a lot of songs that I have sung ever since I started singing when I was 8 years old until I started with Il Divo. I have already toured in Russia, Japan, Spain and Germany. The next solo project I am working on will come out as an album next year that will be tied to a new show. These projects are what I do in my free time instead of fully resting and taking in the sun!
For the next second question, yes, we are four different singers, I think that is the magic of Il Divo , we have four different backgrounds and are from four different countries , myself Carlos I’m from Spain , Sebastien from France, Urs from Switzerland and David is from America, I think that is what makes Il Divo unique , we just put together four different cultures, four different ways of thinking and feeling the music. Three of us have come from an operatic background. Sebastien is from the pop world, myself I have done musical theatre, opera and pop , you just put everything together and that is the real magic that we have right now and of course that is what we always try to put into each single show , we try to show our own personality .
For the Christmas tour, it’s fantastic, each of us are telling a personal story from our childhood what we were doing with our families and it is very funny to hear all our stories and see how different we all are in the mind but how similar we are in song , this is what you can see in the show , Il Divo is just one unit , the last chorus sounds so epic and that is what we always try hard to show!
4. David,how much time is invested each day into voice training? Would you have any recommendations or tips for aspiring singers? How important is learning proper breathing or other vocal techniques? What is a bad or destructive habit that you often see singers fall prey to?
Typically when I am on tour we have between 3 and 5 performances every week, I find that this itself is a complete vocal training! I spend between a half hour to an hour liberating up my voice, going through voice exercises , trying to find the right balance between power, flexibility and agility . I tend to warm up using my opera repertoire rather than Il Divo repertoire, I find that always going back to my roots is always the best and most helpful way for me to find my core and apply it to everything: Jazz, rock and roll, opera it doesn’t matter, as long as I have my core engaged, my vocal pillar of what my voice can do, then I can sing pretty much anything safely. Having 3 or 5 performances a week is like going to the gym regularly and has its benefits in contrast to just doing a power workout and having to recover for three days afterwards. Everything kinds of builds onto itself. After going three week into a tour I find my groove and just enjoy the rest of the tour.
The second question is tough to answer. It really depends on the person and type of singer. I don’t think I feel quite at ease giving advice to other pop singers, I did spent 4 years working in a vocal laboratory during my college years at the conservatory and I fully understand how the classical voice and vocal mechanism work. I have no shortage of advice to dispense from that standpoint.
One universal truth that goes across all forms of singing is: Be yourself, if you are someone that is in love with opera, go for it and invest your heart and soul into it. It doesn’t guarantee your success … but at least you would have gone through the process of exploring your passion and that is always the first step. Once you have done that then you are on the right path to finding fulfillment as a singer. Maybe on your path you will discover that your voice is better suited to a different genre like musical theatre or Rock and Roll, the most important thing is finding your passion which will lead you to finding happiness and fulfillment as a singer.
Breathing is everything, it is the foundation of all singing. Being a classical singer, it’s the most important thing, just figuring out how to use your entire mechanism. How to take a breath in, that is so big that it literally pushes all your organs in your stomach out in front of you or to the side and making space for enough air to carry out all these massive phrases or virtuosic high notes, you just need to have a support system underneath you. I went to the conservatory for 5 years , apprenticeship for 2 years, 10 years as an opera singer and 15 years as a Divo and I am still learning new things about breathing, it’s a never-ending process…
Last questions, I think its not a bad habit per say, but most singers do not realize the amount of hydration necessary for their vocal chords to be healthy, well lubricated and supply. I remember my voice teacher used to say “when you pee , pee pale” in other words, drink so much water that you basically have no color in your urine ( Hahaha ) this was something that I always took to heart and I always drink liters of water per day and I always have a water bottle in my hand. Some singers just never develop this habit.
Another good habit to develop is getting enough sleep. Deep restful sleep is imperative to the singing mechanism, so if you are someone who likes the night life, you are robbing yourself of the repair mechanism. A lot of singers enjoy going out after a performance, laughing, shouting, going out with your friend, having a cheeky drink or two and going home at 2 or 3 am – you have just lost some of your golden hours of sleep to be able to repair yourself. Personally, when I am on tour, as soon as a show is over, I am back in my hotel room and getting ready for bed because I know I have got to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.
I think in terms of an actual functional bad habit that singers don’t always know about and often do, is just clearing their throat. Even the basic “ah hem” is one of the worst things that we can possibly do . Somewhere along the way in school, I learnt from my voice teacher that it is actually better to clear your throat using fast strong air exhales (haa haa ) because the gruff coughing actually slams your vocal chords together and causes more phlegm to form due to friction and abrasion. The lining of the chords will secrete more mucus because it feels like an injury has occurred and thus continuing a vicious cycle throughout your performance …
As a recap: drink a lot of water, get plenty of replenishing sleep and avoid hacking abrasive coughs to clear your throat!
Thanks to all the members of Il Divo for taking the time to answer my questions
You can catch their Montreal Concert this Monday November 25th at Theatre St-Denis :
Tickets on sale at the Theatre St-Denis Box Office
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