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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MUSINGS FOR MARCH 2008 (article first published : 2008-04-14)

I before E except after C is what I was taught at school while studying English (in order to spell correctly, eg the word receive) but its a case of E over O according to MY say-so that is, if were discussing two highly attractive male singers, namely AlfiE and AlfiO, both of whose recently-released albums I added to my collection just a few weeks ago.

In the case of the former, it was as a result of purchasing a truly fabulous double-album CD early on in the year titled The Number One Classical Album for 2008, with 40 tracks showcasing the talents of dozens of different singers, choirs, cellists and violinists. Among these was the strikingly strong-faced Alfie Boe, whose rendition of Core ngrato was good enough that I immediately made enquiries about him which resulted in my locating the marvellous album La Passione.

This includes a superb array of Neapolitan favourites, most of them familiar, if only for their music. For, as Alfie himself says, so many numbers of this genre are instantly recognisable, even if only from an ice cream commercial, many of them so ancient and steeped in tradition that often theyve been passed along from one generation to another without any knowledge of who wrote them. There are pieces that have been performed in the most glamorous of opera houses but also on ordinary street corners, many of them dating back to when classical music first began.

Well, our Alfie, with an E, as opposed to Alfio, with an O (more about whom follows) can certainly lay claim to several highlights in his career, one of which was being nominated for a Classical Brit Award for Best Album, sharing the category with Sir Paul McCartney and Sting! Hes also performed at Clarence House, where he graciously accepted the role as Ambassador for HRHs Arts & Kids Foundation. But Alfie began his studies at the Royal College of Music and, as he immersed himself in the history of the beautiful classical arias, he says he became hooked. He left home to join the DOyly Carte Touring Opera Company - but that wasnt sufficient for the young man who wanted to learn his art THOROUGHLY. So he set off to enrol at the Royal College of Music in London and, after graduating, joined the National Opera Studio and went on to the Villar Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House.

His first real break came when he was discovered by the legendary Baz Luhrmann, whod spent two years seeking the PERFECT singer to play one of the main leads in his controversial production of La Boheme on Broadway. This performance won for Alfie Boe a Tony Award which he was proud to place next to his John McCormack Young Voice Award as well as his Lyric Tenor of the World Audience Award.

The La Passione album is worth every cent of its purchase price and Im now extremely keen to add to my Alfie Boe collection by seeking out his other albums, Onward, A Living Prayer and Stranger in Paradise.

However, I cant wax QUITE as enthusiastic about AlfiO, whose surname also begins with a B - B for Bonnano. Id caught a brief glimpse of this delectable hunk of manhood on SABC3, singing extracts from a few pieces from Tranquillita, and also talking about his admiration for the legendary Luciano Pavarotti, telling how hed once met his hero in his dressing room after attending one of his idols performances and being swept by an urgent desire to rush home in order to put pen to paper to jot down a number in praise of the famous singer. Well, this he accomplished, and indeed its a beautiful piece which hes called Voce Pura (Pure Voice) and which forms the final track on this, his first release.

Alfio hails from Sydney in Australia and, much like contemporary Italian singer Patrizio Buanne, he talks of hearing the legendary Neapolitan ballads played throughout his youth by his family which appears to be a large one, since he thanks (in his sleeve notes to the album) his 13 nieces and nephews for forming a choir at the drop of a hat as a contribution to making his dream come true with the release of this CD. (I was also fascinated by a remark he made in thanking someone name Paul Paoliello, who he says is a genuine nice guy, who tells it like it is - but also comments This is what you get when you cross a South African with an Italian)!

Theres a fairly pleasant spread of numbers on Tranquillita, including some of the well-loved standards such as Quando Quando Quando, Il Mondo and Amore Scusami (though I greatly prefer Patrizio Buannes version of this last); there are some original pieces that showcase this young mans talent for writing poetic verses: technically, the fellow cant be faulted. However, in my humble estimation the quality of his singing falls just a tad short of more seasoned recording artists in this genre. Without wanting to be TOO harsh on a good-looking young male who obviously has promise, at THIS stage I feel hes still at the Pop Idol stage. Were he to be afforded an opportunity such as that of a contestant in a Project Fame type of set-up, where a little more coaching and exposure to competition were to be made available, that might well improve his chances for more success in the future.

In conclusion, to go back to the earlier reference to The No 1 Classical Album 2008, this REALLY is a double-CD worth buying! Reasonably priced (I purchased my copy from CNA for R159.95) its opened up a whole new world of even MORE talented performers Id not heard of, and the great thing is that the sleeve notes provide a small photograph of the cover of each individual album from which the selected track has been chosen, thus providing yet more CDs to investigate for possible future purchasing. - Happy Listening! - Bev Pul




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