It's a long way from Italian TV to "American Idol." But when they take the "Idol" stage on May 19, the members of teenage tenor act Il Volo will have made that trek in just two years.
With a single serendipitous performance on Italian vocal competition "Ti Lascio Una Canzone" (Leavin' You a Song), the trio -- Piero Barone (17), Ignazio Boschetto (16) and Gianluca Ginoble (16) -- secured an international recording contract and a dream team to guide its career.
After "Idol," the boys will appear on CBS' "The Early Show" on May 21. These performances support the May 17 release of their self-titled Geffen debut, produced by hitmaker Humberto Gatica and longtime champion of Italian music Tony Renis. International touring kicks off in June with a simple goal: global domination.
While the release is "a priority in every country," Geffen chairman Ron Fair says, he harbors particularly high hopes for the United States. "Mario Lanza was one of the biggest matinee idols," Fair says. "He was like Elvis, yet singing legit operatic pop. The dark, handsome Italian guy is an iconic part of American culture. And well, here's three."
Il Volo's story starts in May 2009, when Renis caught the teens' preternaturally mature version of Neapolitan classic "O Sole Mio" on "Ti Lascio." Best-known for his 1962 hit "Quando, Quando, Quando," the native Italian has since served as a writer/producer for Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. "At first I thought it was fake," Renis says. "Three kids, 14 and 15 years old, singing like a 45-year-old man. At the same moment, I visualized everything."
After contacting the teen trio, Renis started to assemble a team. Grammy Award-winning producer Gatica has helped guide similarly big-voiced, classical-leaning artists like Josh Groban to international pop success. Michele Torpedine, Bocelli's representative for 16 years, stepped in to manage the act. Then Renis called his longtime friend and lawyer, the late Peter Lopez, who paid a visit to Fair.
"[Lopez] opened the YouTube link on my computer and stood behind me while I watched. I pressed the space bar not 10 seconds into it and said, 'I'm doing it,' " says Fair, who then contacted Interscope Geffen A&M chairman/CEO Jimmy Iovine. "Within the span of 30 minutes, he greenlit it.
"After hearing the boys sing, renowned rock manager Steve Leber (Aerosmith, AC/DC) came out of retirement to share management duties with a special eye toward touring. "Il Volo has that same mystique and charisma as the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and AC/DC," Leber says. Il Volo will play a series of headlining dates in the United States, Canada and Italy throughout the end of the year, as well as open for Matthew Morrison of "Glee" and Marco Antonio Solís.
With a name to fit their ambition -- Il Volo means "flight" -- Barone, Boschetto and Ginoble possess the youth, looks, charm and, most important, the voices to match. The hope is that they'll transcend their built-in constituency of doting grandmothers and classical apologists and win the youth vote
."A cultural shift has already taken place with shows like 'American Idol,' " Fair says. "The whole ethos of musical talent is part of young people's lives now. They can hear the Black Eyed Peas on the radio but can watch TV and really appreciate a great singer or pianist."
The "Il Volo" track listing was carefully assembled by Gatica and Renis to strike the right balance of traditional, classical and pop fare. "If there were too many traditional songs, you'd flip it over and say, 'Ah, nice little boys from Italy,' " Gatica says. "And that's not what I wanted."
In addition to a customized arrangement of the song that launched the trio's career ("O Sole Mio") and Italian classic "Un Amore Cosi Grande," the album features two new Diane Warren originals, "La Luna Hizo Esto" and "Painfully Beautiful"; "Smile," made popular by Nat "King" Cole; and "Per Te," originally performed by Groban. A Spanish-language version of the album will include seven additional Spanish songs.