Plenty of strings to Alfie Boe
THE nation's favourite tenor, Alfie Boe, has graced some of the most prestigious stages in the world as the leading light in the most high brow of opera performances.
But don't ever ask him to sit through one.
"I love being up on stage, singing and swaggering about, but I'd never go to Glyndebourne," says Alfie, pictured right. "If I have to sit and watch opera, I'd probably fall asleep!"
That's partly why, having trained at the leading establishments and performed everywhere from Covent Garden to the West End, he finds it incredibly refreshing to get out on the road and sing the other music he loves.
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He enjoys the process and audiences can't get enough.
So although he has only recently played Plymouth Pavilions, he's already announced his return to the city on Sunday, March 31 next year.
The fact is that his Bring Him Home tour was a massive success story for Alfie in 2011.
He sold out all 23 dates on the tour and shifted getting on for 700,000 copies of debut album Alfie and the Bring Him Home follow up, as well as finding time to fit in a critically acclaimed six month West End run as Jean Valjean the 25th Anniversary run of Les Miserables.
"I'm not opposed to singing opera," says Alfie, "but the fact is that there is so much more music out there which is just as good and I want to bring to the fore."
As he's one of the most chatty and charming of interviewees I feel at ease complaining that I wasn't the only one disappointed that apart from a stunning rendition of O Sole Mio, which then morphed into the Elvis rock'n'roll version, there wasn't much opera in his set.
"That was because the show was called 'Bring Him Home' and I was performing the tracks from the album," he explains. "But if you had asked nicely in Plymouth I'd have done more arias for you.
"People in Swindon shouted out what they wanted, and I sang it for them. A cappella.
"My band didn't play because we hadn't rehearsed it."
His 'band' was a 30-piece orchestra, he always refers to them as that, just as he refers to concerts as 'gigs'.
To Alfie it's all one and the same.
While he has huge admiration for the classical tradition and the discipline and hard graft involved, he hates the rigidity and restriction it implies.
"I have been on stage performing in some opera or another and I'm aware of people in the front row studiously studying their scores to see if I'm doing the correct phrasing, or properly following the written dynamics. That's not what it should be about. Music is about communication."
He admits, though, that it's not easy to transfer straight from singing classical to pop:
"English classical singers are trained to articulate words very clearly to be understood, though in other languages it doesn't happen to the same extent. So when you sing pop you have to really relax your pronunciation, and in fact when you sing rock'n'roll you have to adopt an American twang: it's almost like learning a different language."
At the same time, if you analyse punk and traditional classical music he'll tell you that the construction of the music is very similar.
"The composers we consider classical now were just the pop musicians of their day."
That's particularly well documented in the case of the genius Mozart, who lived fast, overdosed on drink, drugs and women, and died young and penniless.
"There's loads of brilliant contemporary classical music around," says Alfie, "and by classical I mean classic music that will stand the test of time in the same way as Beethoven and Mozart's has."
He considers music by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to be prime examples – there were tracks by them in his Pavilions set – but there are plenty more besides. And he finds the term 'crossover' slightly irritating.
"I think it's about crossing over audiences rather than genres.
"It's not just about bringing pop fans to opera music, but it also works the other way around."
Tickets to see Alfie Boe at Plymouth Pavilions next year are now on sale.