Il Volo is living the teenage dream
Gianluca Ginoble, like his buddies in the teen pop-opera sensation Il Volo, would at the tender age of 18 seem to have it all. With the looks of a young, perfectly coiffed Tony Curtis, a closet full of slim Dolce & Gabbana suits, and stage gigs with the likes of Barbra Streisand and his idol Placido Domingo, he has already done more in his life than a lot of people three times his age.
While other teen pop stars meet early success by, say, vomiting on-stage and relieving themselves in janitors’ mop buckets, it’s refreshing to find Ginoble staying down-to-earth. The Straight reaches him while he’s on a rare break in his small hillside home of Montepagano, just a few minutes’ walk from the coastal city of Roseto, in the Abruzzi region where he grew up the son of a truck driver.
“We toured from March to July through Latin America and the U.S., so it’s nice right now to be with my friends, hanging out, going to the beach every day, and playing soccer,” the polite, affable young baritone says in a mellifluous Italian accent.
Il Volo’s rocket-ship ride to worldwide stardom started about four years ago, when Ginoble was just 14. All three members were competing in an American Idol–like show in Italy called Ti lascio una canzone. Producers Michele Torpedine (who took care of Andrea Bocelli’s career) and Tony Renis were blown away by the mature sound of their voices and had the brilliant idea to hook them up, like a boy-band Three Tenors. There’s a guy for every taste: Ginoble is the dark and romantic baritone, Piero Barone is the serious tenor in funky red spectacles, and Ignazio Boschetto, also a tenro, brings the big-voiced, dimpled charisma. Think Bocelli sound with One Direction looks, if the latter had a penchant for Italian designer suits.
That three kids in their teens make it their pastime to sing Italian ballads and opera—including their breakout, a reworked “O sole mio”, which they performed on American Idol—might seem unusual to North Americans, but Ginoble says he grew up around the classics in his hometown.
“Now I listen to Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars, but my grandpa’s my inspiration,” explains Ginoble, who had no formal training. “I started listening to this kind of music with him when was I three years old: Pavarotti, Domingo… When I was 15 or 16 I started to listen to other music—I liked Perry Como and Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. I’m still singing every day these kinds of songs also.”
Whereas the trio’s million-plus-selling debut album featured its voices on traditional ballads and rearrangements of opera standards, the just-released We Are Love: Special Edition ventures further into pop-music territory, with soaring, classically arranged versions of everything from Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” to Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and even One Direction’s “Little Things”. It’s Il Volo’s goal to reach an ever-younger audience—which they’ve already achieved in Latin America, Ginoble reports with glee.
“I have two kinds of lives when I go to the U.S. and Canada and when I go to Latin America,” he says. “In Canada and the U.S., we have a lot of adults in our audience—I would say 60 percent mothers and 40 percent daughters. But in Latin America—when we’re in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela—it’s 80 to 90 percent teenagers, screaming fans singing our songs, waiting outside our airport or our hotel. It’s crazy! This is so good, to bring these young people out when we sing this kind of music.
“We can’t sing like Justin Bieber, it’s just not possible. We are young, though, we are teenagers. We hope to do this in more cities, eventually. We just need more time.”
When the young divos hit town this weekend, they will perform a lot of the new songs—and, as always, a strong contingent of pieces in Italian. Those are part of the troupe’s core appeal, and another way to stay close to its roots.
“You lose everything if you think, ‘I am the best,’ ” Ginoble stresses. “Barbra Streisand, Placido Domingo—everybody told us to work hard and stay humble. And of course we have our families who every day are telling us, ‘Don’t forget where you started, when you were dreaming to be a singer.’ ”
Ginoble may insist on remembering where he comes from, even as he tours from Australia to Singapore to Argentina, but that doesn’t mean he can’t lay on the star-wattage charm. As we’re about to end the conversation, and he heads off to a quiet night in Montepagano, he suddenly says to this journalist: “You sound very young. Like, you’re about 20—am I right?”
He may have won just half the globe’s hearts by now, but it’s clear he won’t stop till the entire world’s enraptured.