Jessica Duchen: Il Volo may be many things, but opera they are not

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It makes a pleasant change from gangsta rap, I suppose. Three singing Italian boys in leather jackets looking suave. Teenage girls the world over screaming and fainting. Turning teenagers on to opera, they say. Whatever will those clever marketing people think of next?

This Svengali-led recording act are expressive; they seem to be enjoying themselves; they do a passable imitation of high notes in "O Sole Mio"; they're not bad for their age. But that's not what Il Volo is really about.

Instead, watching their videos, you remember what it was like to be a teenager who indulged in wild daydreams about Latin lovers in the sundrenched Mediterranean.

So this has nothing to do with opera. It isn't even "crossover", any more than Katherine Jenkins is, or Hayley Westenra, or any of those other singers who are not crossing over from anything because this is all they do.

Sure, some opera singers do cross over and can do so magnificently. Rolando Villazón sings leading roles in the great international opera houses and also makes albums of movie songs. Bryn Terfel can sing anything he likes, from Wagner to rugby anthems. Actual opera involves not only singing but acting, becoming a character, working with a director and a conductor and – please note – no microphone within a 10-mile radius. If Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca fancy having a shot at that, fine, let them try.

Il Volo is not opera. Il Volo is a machine for the artificial creation of dreams. They're turning teenage girls on to opera, runs the legend. No, they aren't. They're just turning teenage girls on. And making them, or their parents, pay for the downloads.

Jessica Duchen is opera critic for 'The Independent'

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