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Swiss tenor climbs to divine heights

Il Divo are storming the charts (Il Divo) il divo

Swiss tenor Urs Buhler is enjoying newfound fame as one member of Simon Cowell’s new venture, Il Divo – a highly successful pop opera quartet.

This content was published on January 3, 2005 - 19:28

Il Divo’s album of the same name entered the British charts at number one in November and has already gone gold in Norway.

The foursome, whose name means divine performer or male diva, sing operatic arrangements of popular romantic music. Their first hit was a version of Toni Braxton’s classic “Unbreak my Heart”.

Il Divo was formed after two long years of auditions around the world. It is made up of four thirty-something singers: American tenor David Miller, Carlos Marin, a baritone from Spain, self-taught pop singer Sebastien Izambard from France, and Lucerne-born Buhler.

Most people would jump at the chance of worldwide fame and fortune but Buhler - a classically trained opera singer who had been working in the Netherlands for seven years - told swissinfo that he had to think twice about the move.

This was despite having had his own rock band as a teenager.

Chance of a lifetime

“Finally I decided this is a once in a lifetime chance to do such a big and high profile project,” said Buhler.

“Even though it is pop, I can still sing with my classical technique… so I thought well, let’s go for it.”

The band’s soaring vocals, slick styling and undisputed good looks have hit the right note with the public – especially women.

Apart from their success in Norway, Il Divo have also made it big in Britain, where they had the tenth biggest-selling album of 2004. It entered at number one in November, knocking Robbie Williams off the top spot.

The London-based group plan to release their album in continental Europe early next year.

Part of their success is down to the invention of a new genre that has variously been described as “opera boy band” or “popera”.

Philosophical

But despite this sudden rise to fame and all the media attention, Buhler is staying philosophical.

“We started off very well, possibly it’ll self-destruct or just go down from now on and we’ll have disappeared in a year,” he said.

“We just try to give it out best shot and do the best work we can,” added Buhler.

Il Divo is the brainchild of Simon Cowell, a highly successful British pop music producer who is famed for his nasty putdowns in shows such as Pop Idol in both Britain and the United States.

He describes the band as the act he is most proud of and has said – with uncharacteristic modesty – that the band has taught him a lot and that he is “slightly in awe of their talent”.

Mr Nasty

But despite Cowell’s rather infamous reputation – he once compared one Pop Idol contestant to “Mickey Mouse on helium” - Buhler admits that he had actually never heard of the producer before Il Divo. Of the four, only the American David Miller knew who he was.

“I have absolutely no experience of that reputation,” Buhler told swissinfo. “He’s not nasty to us at all.”

“He just had this idea. He looked for us, he brought us together and he wants us to make a musical dream come true for him.”

Buhler is hoping that the band will be able to build on its success by releasing another album next year.

“We all hope that we’ll finally be able to go on tour, sing live on stage and sing big gigs because that’s what you’re working for as a musician - to perform on the stage.”

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

In brief

Urs Buhler, 33, was born in Lucerne in Switzerland. At 17 he began singing in public with Conspiracy, a hard rock band.

After attending the Lucerne Academy for School and Church Music, Buhler studied at the Amsterdam Conservatory.

Before Il Divo, Buhler spent seven years in the Netherlands singing oratorio and performing with the Netherlands Opera.

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