In 1994 Alfie Boe was crowned the greatest. It was a metaphoric crown; the West London Karaoke Championship don’t do real crowns. Not even paper ones. But it was good enough. He won for a scorching rendition of Elvis’ ‘Suspicious Minds’; the locals in the pub that night hadn’t seen or heard anything quite like it. Since then he’s bagged a few more awards, including among others the Clonter Opera Prize, the John Christie Award, the Silver Clef for Classical Music, and a Tony. He’s proud of them all, too. But Elvis is Elvis.
Alfie grew up – in Fleetwood, to a family of nine children – listening not only to Elvis, but to his parents’ favourite singers – Richard Tauber, Karl Denver, Slim Whitman, Maria Callas – then later, as he developed a lifelong penchant for classic rock and blues, the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. All of the music that has inspired Alfie over the years has influenced his singing, his ambition and his artistry. And after years of formal opera training – at the D’Oyly Carte, the Royal College Of Music, The National Opera Studio and the Royal Opera House – he reached a point where he wanted to stretch his wings and sing for new audiences.
He took flight in 2002, leaving behind his education to play the lead in Baz Luhrmann’s production of La Bohème on Broadway. Many – critics, opera managers, singers and directors – said it was a controversial staging and that he was making a wrong move. “They were always questioning, ‘Why are you doing this La Bohème on Broadway?’,” says Alfie. “And I said, ‘Why not?’ That was always my answer. ‘Why not?’” They didn’t see Broadway as a legitimate opera stage, and objected to the production’s use of microphones for voice enhancement – although more often than not, Alfie’s mic would actually fall off, and he’d end up singing acoustically. He never told Luhrmann; nobody could tell the difference anyway.
Alfie wasn’t concerned about the British opera establishment’s misgivings. When he was a kid in Fleetwood, in between attempts to catch fish for dinner off the back of the fish lorry, he would stand on the beach and look out to sea, dreaming of America. And here he was in New York, a leading man on Broadway, performing to an audience that included the likes of Tom Hanks and winning a Tony award in the process. Besides, this was Luhrmann’s mission, and was, he said, exactly what Puccini intended – for the work to be played to whoever wanted to experience it, “from the street sweeper to the King of Naples.”
Luhrmann had found a kindred spirit in Alfie, who had for some time been wanting to do the same thing. “Europe is much more relaxed and open to classical music, because it’s something they’ve grown up with,” he says. “In Italy, operatic songs and classical Neapolitan songs have been played to kids from a very early age. It’s party music for them; everybody dances to it at street festivals, everybody, not just the rich geezers who can pay for seats at the opera houses.”
Alfie had dabbled with bringing opera to different audiences a few years earlier, having been employed as ‘Opera Dude’ on ex-Inspiral Carpets’ keyboardist Clint Boon’s solo albums and tours. And after Broadway, there was no turning back – he travelled America singing musical theatre songs from the 30s and 40s on the Boston Pops tour, released albums inspired by his favourite Neapolitan songs and his late father’s favourite composer Franz Lehar, toured the UK with the Fron Male Voice Choir, and was nominated for a slew of Classical Brits, as well as performing in countless operas for, among others, the ENO and the Royal Opera House.
And in the past year, Alfie has also conquered the West End. After slaying 38,000 enraptured fans as Jean Valjean at the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary 02 concerts, the relentless standing ovations he received there continued throughout his five-month run at the Queen’s Theatre, where Alfie transformed the role, bringing a powerful new experience to musical theatre stalwarts. 2011 also saw Alfie enjoy Top 10 success with his first Decca album Bring Him Home, which has so far sold a quarter of a million copies, while the infamous video of him singing ‘Nessun Dorma’ in Matt Lucas’ kitchen enjoyed a similar number of YouTube hits. His Desert Island Discsappearance – in which he paid tribute to Elvis, Bob Dylan, and those singers and bands that have inspired him throughout his life – caused tears in the studio (as he discussed his relationship with his father) and outrage from the opera establishment (for confessing he didn’t much enjoy being an audience member).
His new album, Alfie, further showcases his versatility and ambition, particularly with his Robert Plant team-up on Tim Buckley’s ‘Song To The Siren’. Meanwhile, Alfie is working on his autobiography, which will be published by Simon & Schuster in late 2012, as well as writing his own material, which he plans to develop while touring the UK, America and Australia over the coming months. “I’m enjoying writing my own songs,” he says. “When I first started in college years ago, I didn’t know how to read music; learning by ear was the only way I knew, and I think that way of learning is more emotional, because you depend on your natural instinct, rather than your technical one. I try to retain that spirit now. Because if you know the rules, you stick by them. If you don’t know the rules, you’re breaking them all the time.”
Alfie Boe’s new album, ‘ALFIE’, was released 31st October 2011 on Decca Records and has since gone Gold in the UK.
|October 2, 2012||Dallas, TX||More Info|
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|September 16, 2012||London||More Info|
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|October 13, 2012||Chandler, Arizona||More Info|
April 14, 2013
AlfieBoeWow Belfast, what an amazing end to my #storytellertour you've been a rocking crowd. Thank you so much, love you all. A x
April 14, 2013
AlfieBoeIt's finally here, the last show of the Storyteller Tour. I've had such an amazing time. Thank you all for your support. A x
April 13, 2013
AlfieBoeSo good to be back in Blackpool yesterday. What a super crowd. Thank you for having me. A x http://t.co/bdMiC7KPJw
April 12, 2013
AlfieBoeReally looking forward to my second show at the Opera House in Blackpool this evening. Last night was amazing! A x
April 11, 2013
AlfieBoeJust found a few extra tickets for tonight's show at the Blackpool Opera House. Call Box Office. A x
April 11, 2013
AlfieBoeSo good to be back in Blackpool, tonight's going to be an amazing show. A x