When the 20-year-old of a group calls himself the “papa,” you know this isn’t your average operatic supergroup.
Il Volo, the Italian trio that started out as teenage sensations, has matured into young men with fans all around the world. Since meeting five years ago at a televised Italian music competition, the group has joined forces to bring operatic pop and Italian standards to the masses.
At 20, tenor Piero Barone is the group’s oldest member. His bandmates, tenor Ignazio Boschetto and baritone Gianluca Ginoble, are both 19. When they began singing together, they were 15 and 14. Now veterans of the road and stage, the group has completed a concert series with Barbra Streisand and recently won the Billboard Latin Pop Albums Artist of the Year award.
Still, for their tender age and heavily female fan base, don’t call Il Volo a boy band. Barone said it is their love of music, not their age, that brought them together.
“We are not a boy band. We are just three young professional singers,” said Barone, in a phone interview from Italy. “We write music and compose music. Our days are all about music.”
And while their singing style is described as “operatic,” they’re not opera singers, either.
“We don’t sing opera. We are three young guys who sing Italian classical songs,” he said. “We sing classic songs in a fresh way and pop songs in a classical way. That’s what Il Volo does.”
Their first breakout hit was the Neapolitan favorite “O Sole Mio,” which they performed together on the TV show “Ti Lascio una Canzone,” where they met. After the nine-week reality competition ended, the three singers joined forces, and the rest is Billboard chart history. They’ve released four albums and crisscrossed the globe, performed on the “Today” show and appeared on the series finale of “Entourage.”
“When we went on the Italian TV show, we didn’t expect to meet the other guys who became the trio,” Barone said. “I thought the TV show was just a beautiful experience and then I would go back home. Then, when we met each other, our lives changed completely.”
The singers, who all still call Italy home, admit that a plane is their real home these days. They’ve been traveling nonstop since their first self-titled album in 2010. That includes eight shows as the special guest of living legend Streisand in late 2012. One small problem: Barone said he didn’t know much about the Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award-winning performer.
“I have to tell you the truth, when we received this communication that Barbra Streisand wanted us on her on tour, I personally didn’t realize who Barbra Streisand was,” he said. “I knew who she was, but didn’t know what she did in her career. When I watched her movie ‘Funny Girl,’ then I realized who Barbra Streisand was. That was after two concerts with her, so then after the fifth concert I told her, ‘Now I can tell you are my idol.’ ”
Like their new idol, Il Volo has had no problem making fans of all ages. The group’s music would suggest an older fan base, but their fresh faces have helped to bring a new generation to the music.
“When we start together, we said that this kind of music was listened by people over 50 or over 60. Because, of course, that generation loves this kind of music,” Barone said. “Our goal with this was to bring this kind of music to the young generation. As we did when young when we heard the first classical Italian song, we fell in love.
“The young generation doesn’t have the opportunity to listen to this music. So we are three young guys who try to bring this kind of music to the young generation. Now audience composed of people from 3 years old to 90 years old. We have three generations.”
But, interestingly, the group is less famous in their homeland than in other parts of the world. But it’s something Il Volo members are trying to remedy. Barone said they have their first Italian concert slated for July 20. It has already sold out, so they recently added a second date for July 21.
“You know, we had a great success all around the world, but not that great in Italy,” Barone said. “In Italy we are becoming bigger and bigger day by day.”
Since meeting in 2009, Barone said, the group has grown stronger each year. And he is relieved they’ve made it past their early teens to have their voices mature.
“The worst age, dangerous age, is 14 and 15 years old,” he said. “For a young guy the voice changes a lot. Our voices, they can still change now, they can be better. Il Volo has grow up, our repertoire and our voices changed because we are not the three young guys from five years ago.”
Last fall they released a Christmas album. And they’re working on a new album to be released later this year. But for now, Il Volo is focusing on their new tour of the United States and Canada. Their June 5 Gallo Center show kicks off the tour.
“When I was young, I was just listening to the music. My goal was to live the music. My goal was to become a musical teacher, but this is like a dream come true,” Barone said. “We really can’t wait to come back in the U.S. and Canada for our new tour in June.
“We know the concert for Modesto is already sold out and I am sure I am going to love Modesto.”