In the midst of their Double Platinum World Tour, The Ten Tenors made a dash-around-Australia trip home for Mother’s Day.
They were pleased to be home in Brisbane, where it all began for the first line-up of these “rock stars of opera”; and we are proud as punch to have them.
There is no doubt that The Ten Tenors are going from strength to strength. Fifteen years after their humble beginnings at the Queensland Conservatorium and an untold number of tenors later, they have sold over 3.5 million tickets across seven continents and have a highly successful catalogue of recordings. They clearly know their audience well and they deliver their product with the energy of keen young men and the nonchalant charm and confidence of the Aussie bloke. The expectation here might be that with the combination of classical and rock repertoire, one or the other must be playing second fiddle; that you were either going to hear rock songs delivered with round vowels and precise diction or classical arias in nasal pop voices with a rock-inspired backbeat, but neither is the case here.
The balance between the genres was right on target and the show was well structured for the audience. Most of the classical repertoire, primarily in Italian and German, was placed early in each act with the more familiar pop and rock crowd-pleasers to follow. Even the style of presentation teetered skilfully along the fine line between a formal and reserved classical concert and a rock-show feast of moving coloured lights – as much a product of the design and direction as it was the performers themselves. However, what defines this group most genuinely are the individual talents on stage. They are obviously well choreographed to move in strict formation, but are just as obviously encouraged to make the performances their own. The rapport and camaraderie that they have with each other on stage is endearing, and their jovial interactions with the audience are even more so. When appropriate, the classical and modern repertoire a-like were delivered with humour and playfulness.
The vocal prowess of the Tenors, (presumably not all truly tenors), is undeniable. Their voices blend beautifully and vocal parts are well balanced both in full-flight choral singing and as support to soloists. The unity of the group and their technical precision is impressive. The show is littered with plenty of soloist sections which appear to be distributed quite evenly among the Ten. Though there were many impressive virtuosic moments for one or another of them, there was never any feeling that anyone was considered the front-man or lead-singer and the guys were always generous with their congratulations of each other’s star moments.
The classical repertoire of the evening included comedic light opera as well as the staple tenor arias, and of course, their feature pieces ‘Ave Maria’ (a delicate and sumptuous arrangement) and Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’. Of the modern selections the ‘Michael Jackson Medley’ (complete with just the right amount of choreography) and Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ were crowd favourites, second only to their enthusiastic version of Meatloaf’s ‘Anything for Love’. The highlight of the evening for me however, was Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, another example of their great choral arrangements. I could take or leave the Australiana section, but I imagine that it goes over particularly well overseas and at least they present interesting arrangements of their patriotic choices.
Though I understand the limitations of a practical tour, both financial and logistical, I was disappointed to hear so much of the music delivered by conspicuously absent instruments via the electronic keyboard or the accompanying backing track. I concede that the grandeur of the show might have been compromised by an arrangement of only the trio of instruments on stage and that more musicians might be impractical; but I would have preferred to see the show with an orchestra or at least enough of a band to help fill out the live sound and better disguise the electronic substitutions.
Many young men have passed through the ranks of The Ten Tenors (included man-of-the-hour on The Voice, Luke Kennedy) but the branding of this group is so strong it seems the change of cast never misses a beat. I do get the disconcerting feeling though, that either they’re getting younger or I am getting older, or perhaps it is a little of both! Never the less, I would expect this concept group to last many years to come, as their appeal spans generations of mums and daughters alike; and admirably, fathers and sons too. The Ten Tenors produce a wholesome and entertaining musical experience that is not to be missed. I recommend that the next time “our boys” are back in town you book early (and don’t forget to book at ticket for Mum too!)