Ahead of their gig in Abu Dhabi, Time Out gives the lowdown on pop-opera foursome Il Divo, with a little help from member Sébastien Izambard
It’s easy to think of Simon Cowell as ‘that nasty guy from the TV’, but it’s worth remembering that he’s also a sharp businessman. Not only does his empire cover winners from American Idol and its British equivalent The X-Factor, it also encompasses Il Divo, the globe-trotting pop-opera combo he created in 2004. With more than 150 gold and platinum discs in 33 countries, the group – which comprises Spanish baritone Carlos Marín, Swiss tenor Urs Bühler, American tenor David Miller and French pop singer Sébastien Izambard (pictured, second from left) – have definitely proved their worth. Here’s everything you need to know about them, ahead of their appearance in Abu Dhabi next week.
They’ve outlasted the stigma of Simon Cowell’s name. ‘Simon has opened doors for us in a fantastic way,’ says Sébastien. ‘Sometimes the connection with him can take away credibility because of the reality shows and how quickly their winners can disappear. But we’ve been together for six years now. We’ve managed to show everyone that it’s not just the ‘Simon factor’ that’s allowed us to make it through.
Il Divo aren’t doing much to break cultural stereotypes. ‘David, being American, is very representative of his country in what he thinks. The same goes for me, being French – although I’m not too arrogant! Urs has a very Swiss way of thinking: everything has to be very tight and organised. And Carlos is like the fire of the group, the fuego as they say in Spanish. When he sings, it has to be loud, sometimes very emotional – and his personality shows really well on the records.’
Sébastien doesn’t want you to mistake them for opera singers. ‘People often think we sing opera but we don’t,’ he says, ‘we sing pop songs in an operatic way. We provide a different way of listening to pop songs for people who want to hear different, strong voices.’
They’re preparing some surprises for Abu Dhabi. ‘We sit down with our record company and Simon and a list of songs, and we brainstorm a setlist. Then, we try the list we’ve chosen in the studio and decide what works best. I think Abba was Simon’s suggestion, while [Leonard Cohen’s] ‘Hallelujah’ is a song that I’ve suggested for years because it has such a subtle, beautiful melody. We do have a tendency to add songs to our performances that aren’t on the records – that’s something you’re going to find in the Abu Dhabi show. We’re going to present some stuff like ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and some other surprises.’
Sébastien loves a bit of Bowie. ‘If I could only listen to one album for the rest of time it would have to be something by David Bowie, probably The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie was the first concert I ever attended, when I was five. My mum took me. I can’t remember it, but my first concert could have been worse, eh?’