Monday, December 18, 2017
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Il Divo fills glamorous pop-opera niche

TAMPA — Il Divo is a big night out. The Three Tenors, of course, are the role models for the Euro-pop-opera foursome that performed Friday night in the first of two concerts at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Devised nine years ago by Simon Cowell, the group fills a marketing niche that also includes such disparate performers as Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, the Gipsy Kings, even Sting in his symphony orchestra show. Their concerts are a good excuse for women to dress up a bit and for guys to show their sensitive, romantic sides.

The formula seems to be working. The multicultural, multilingual Divos — tenors David Miller from the United States and Urs Buhler from Switzerland, Spanish baritone Carlos Marin and French pop singer Sebastien Izambard — drew a crowd of 1,942, about 80 percent capacity, to Morsani Hall, not a bad place to hear them. Many of the concerts on their massive world tour, with four months alone in North America, are in arenas.

Il Divo occupies the "gray middle area" between pop and opera, said Miller at one point, which has led the group to sing musical theater numbers, such as a powerhouse rendition of Don't Cry for Me Argentina, a highlight of the evening. Though at least Miller has a strong opera background, the group is much more pitched toward pop, with two vaguely classical arrangements, Dove L'Amore (from Barber's Adagio for Strings) and Senza Parole (from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata), getting fairly tepid responses from the audience. More successful were versions of Roy Orbison's Crying (Llorando), Chris Isaak's Wicked Game (Melanconia) and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Sameness — one barrel-chested anthem after another — was sometimes a problem, with Nella Fantasia and Unchained Melody seeming to blur together in one long crescendo.

For all their matey swagger and glam outfits, Il Divo is greater than the sum of its parts, because three of the singers came across as pretty pedestrian in the charisma department, unless you were in the mood for Izambard's mawkish Frere Jacques sing-along. Only Marin, with his tanned, craggy good looks, has real star quality, displaying some gravitas yet not taking himself too seriously. He is the group's only bachelor, which kind of got beaten into the ground with his request that the "beautiful ladies" in the crowd dance for him during the salsa-inflected La Vida Sin Amor. "Tampa . . . not a dancing town," Miller said when only a few women took up the offer.

Il Divo's show, which features a 20-plus-member orchestra, is heavy on pulsating lighting, video imagery and lots of stage smoke. The visual effect is like a series of spacey screen savers for your computer.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

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