Review: Il Volo at The Kennedy Center

 

I’ve always known that the mix of pop music and classical singing is one of the most popular music styles in Italy. What I didn’t know until last night’s Il Volo concert was that it is “Fan Girl” (Fan Woman, Fan Grown Man…) levels of popular. Numerous standing ovations, countless screaming fans, and more than one mid-show selfie told me I was not in Kansas any more; and the energy, excitement, and passion of Italy was clearly brought to Washington, DC for one wildly entertaining night.

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Making their Kennedy Center debut, the Italian pop opera trio might have been nervous, but you never would have been able to tell. They packed their 90-minute performance with breath taking technique and a school boy excitement that kept both the Italian and English speakers in the audience laughing. Starting with an impressive lightshow, the orchestra rock band fusion put the party into full motion with the album titled single “Grande Amore,” but the applause changed into deafening cheers as one by one, Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto, and Gianluca Ginoble appeared.

Immediately they launched into a rapid-fire set of popular Italian hits, including the Dean Martin staple “Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu (Volare).” Toe tapping from the start, you couldn’t help but dance in your seat. Breaking into duets and solos, they rotated through “Memory” from Cats, “Il Canto,” and “Beautiful That Way” taking the audience through a full range of emotions. A range also represented in the personalities of each member. Ignazio was the goofy, fun loving type who reminded me of a mixture of Ben Platt (Benji from Pitch Perfect) and the now all too grown-up Matthew Lewis, while Gianluca was all about playing the cool Italian, constantly winking and waving at the many adoring ladies in the audience.

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But it was Piero, the pop opera Justin Timberlake of the group, who couldn’t help but stand out from his fellow singer. His interpretation of Puccini aria “E lucevan le stelle” was simply stunning and on more than one occasion his Plácido Domingo-like tambour caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end.

Clearly close friends with each other and the members of their band, the trio threaded a delightfully and purposefully accented banter through out the show. Their hat tip bit to The Godfather’s Sicilian accents went off the rails when Ignazio ended up with too much bread in his mouth to be able to deliver a few famous Marlon Brando lines, causing Piero to nearly collapse to the floor in laughter.

Sometimes electing to sit along the front of the stage, they sang of love arm-in-arm in “Eternally” or “Unchained Melody” (during which several couples in the audiences put their arms around one another and swayed to the beat); and at other times they stretched the corners of the stage into the audience such as with the high energy “Delilah.”

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And I certainly have never seen anything more Italian than their triumphant faces after the end of particularly long and/or high ending notes than when an audience member handed each a bouquet of a dozen red roses. Grazie, bella. But it was Piero and Gianluca’s tribute to Frank Sinatra (Gianluca’s idol) and Luciano Pavarotti (Piero’s idol) in the duet of “My Way” that really stole the show for me. Their sincere, nearly matching version of the classic duet showed just how much music has meant and continues to mean of this wonderfully talented trio.

By the end of the night, I had no doubt they would find much success as they continue along this 35-city tour of the U.S. and it seems now only inevitable that I’ll be checking out their album, Grande Amore, whenever I’m in need of a big, fun, schmaltzy, Italian pick-me-up.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Il Volo played for one night only on February 19, 2016 at The Kennedy Center – 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC. For future performances and information: call (800) 444-1324, or check out the Kennedy Center’s calendar of events.

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Em Skow
Ever since she can remember, Em Skow has been transfixed by the performing arts and sought to submerse herself in them in any way she could. She started singing in choirs in elementary school, added theater productions in middle and high school, picked up an English Creative Writing Bachelor's degree and a photography passion in college, and, now - a good handful of years later - is keeping each as a part of her life here in D.C. By day, she's a Communications Professional. By night, she's a PR and Corporate Communications masters student at Georgetown University; Soprano & Communications Manager of the 18th Street Singers; and Theater Reviewer for the one and only DC Metro Theater Arts. All-in-all, a self-professed theater, choral, arts nerd, and she likes it that way.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like you are a new Il Volo Fan. They are simply awesome. No one out there today, of young singers, compares. I just wish they hadn’t come here this time of year. I would have gone to a different venue to see them.

  2. You did a great review. Their latest CDs are always playing when in my car,driving my husband crazy! Aren’t they adorable? I have been a fan for 5 years. They’ve done at least 3 PBS specials and more in the plans,I hear.I have 3 friends who are are going to see them,one last night. I’m very jealous!! We’re all in or near 80s !!

  3. Thank you for the lovely review of “our boys” as we seasoned fans fondly call them. Yes, they were just young boys from different parts of Italy who love to sing and so they competed in contests around Italy. On one televised contest Piero Ignazio, and Gianluca were competing when the producer decided to have them sing together the ages old Napolitano song, O Sole Mio and the rest is history! These boys had captured the world and there was no turning back. They have grown into beautiful young men with hearts as big as their voices. They remain humble, love their families first and music second. Their parents are to be applauded for their proper upbringing and for the sacrifices they have made for their sons to share with the world the most talented young men music has ever known.

  4. Thank you, Em Skow!! This is a great review, and I especially appreciated your take on Piero’s aria, “E Lucevan le Stelle”! I believe he is that good, and I look forward to him reaching his goal of singing in operas, one day (I hope soon!). They each have major talent(s), and it is a delight to see it recognized, finally. There have been other reviewers here in the USA, who simply did not “get” them. So very glad you do!! You are in good company, as they have many friends in high places in the industry who agree 100% with you!

  5. Again, your review reveals that your are impressed by our guys. Thank you for your great review. I had the good luck to attend 3 concerts in the Chicago area, my 4th one this friday, February 26th. Since the first PBS special from Detroit, we have followed their amazing development, and in every presentation, they are getting better and better. They are a rare mix of talent, gifted voices and humble disposition, plus good looks. Il Volo pleases different audiences. When they sing in Italian, English, Spanish, French, etc. fans just love them from all over the world.

  6. So very nice to read a review from a music lover that not only appreciates the work and talent that goes into the music, but also the work and talent that goes into the whole production. The goofiness, compassion, drama to portray a particular piece. Em recognized them for the artists they are! Thank you Ms. Skow ?

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