After Pavarotti, 'phwoar tenors' bid to become next big thing

Male aficionados of classical music have long enjoyed their eye candy. There was the sight of willowy Vanessa Mae swaying her way through Vivaldi, then came the scantily dressed Bond. Recent days have seen the emergence of the crop-topped singing sensation Keedie Babb, aged just 22.

Now four singers are offering some visual thrills for women fans of "crossover" music - an expanding multimillion-pound niche where pop meets classical. The group Il Divo (male diva) have been nicknamed the "phwoar tenors" for their smouldering Latino sex appeal.

The group was assembled by Simon Cowell, the British pop Svengali, after a two year, international search. Cowell, the Mr Nasty of Pop Idol and architect of the television phenomenon X Factor, has described the group as his finest achievement. He thinks they are going to be very big.

And this weekend Il Divo look set to reward his optimism by knocking Robbie Williams off the top of the British album charts.

The critics may have dismissed them as a boy band - the Westlife of opera: part Julio Iglesias, part Europop - but the public appears to love them.

Despite having never released a single, they appeared on Parkinson - a crucial showcase for a new easy listening artist. They went on to sell 30,000 copies of their eponymous debut album in just 24 hours - 5,000 more than Robbie's Greatest Hits. So popular have they proved that an extra 100,000 copies of the album have been ordered.

Their first single, a classical arrangement of Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart will follow and the band will switch on this year's Oxford Street Christmas lights.

Cowell's search united the talents of Carlos Marin, 35, from Spain, Urs Buhler, 33, from Switzerland, Sebastien Izambard, 31, from France and 31-year-old David Miller, from America.

All four singers have had successful solo careers, Marin was a child singing star while Buhler was taught at the Lucerne Academy in Switzerland, moving on to classical after an early flirtation with rock.

Izambard is an accomplished composer, while Miller, a graduate of the Oberlin conservatory in Ohio, appeared on American Idol after singing for 10 years in the US. Their music has been described as a cross between Eros Ramazzotti and Andrea Bocelli and the repertoire includes a version of My Way in Italian.

The men are already getting used to being sex symbols. In their latest interview Buhler was playing it coy: "Girls in the UK are so much more friendly," he said. "When you meet them you are able to talk to them, just have a chat. That is very refreshing." But Marin had no such reticence. "We can't wait for women to start throwing themselves at us," he said. "We are prepared for everything. We are more than prepared."

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