Although this duet, Au Fond Du Temple Saint, is a concert staple for baritones and tenors, the song is of course from Bizet’s 1863 opera, The Pearl Fishers. It is this opera, in the 2009/10 ENO season that gives us the memorable opening from Alfie’s autobiography: “Bizet nearly killed me. I don’t blame him, it’s not his fault.” Alfie was talking about the chlorine poisoning he suffered whilst preparing for the show, which became, as it happens, one of his last for ENO – Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert was just around the corner.
Set in ancient times on the island of Sri Lanka, the opera tells the story of how two men’s vow of eternal friendship is threatened by their love for the same woman, whose own dilemma is the conflict between secular love and her sacred oath as a priestess. After the initial premiere, The Pearl Fishers was not performed again until 1886 and since the mid twentieth century has become one of the most popularly staged operas worldwide. ENO has restaged twice more since Alfie took the role of Nadir.
Lovers of Alfie Boe’s classical repertoire will also be familiar with his South Bank Award performance of this, with Bryn Terfel in 2011. Alfie has performed very little opera since then but as he caught us all by surprise on the Serenata tour of 2013, by singing Nessun Dorma, Recondita Armonia and Caruso, never say never to hearing it again one day. With Alfie, you just never know what to expect.
More than six years after it was released, Love Was A Dreamyesterday topped the UK classical charts. Looking back, the last time I wrote about this fabulous album (my favourite after Trust and the best classical album), it had just entered the top ten classical album chart, then standing at number 4, ahead of Serenata at 6 and You’ll Never Walk Alone at 7. This news is especially exciting for those of us who love this album as it’s probably one of the least known of Alfie’s albums. Recorded and released with Linn Records before Alfie signed to Decca, the album is now part of Alfie’s back catalogue under the Decca umbrella.
From Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, you really understand the depth of feeling he has for Franz Lehar and for Love Was A Dream. The opportunity to make the album came at a low point in Alfie’s professional life and clearly has an emotional connection for him, not least because Lehar was a favourite of his father. Alfie says:
That album has a real sentimental feel for me – vocally and emotionally and even technically….It was a really warm experience…one of my favourite albums I’ve done, certainly the most personal.
Anyone familiar with Alfie’s story knows that Lehar’s music is a personal favourite for him and his father, Alfred. As well as singing You Are My Heart’s Delight (track 5) for his first D’oyly Carte audition, Alfie spent many a Sunday lunchtime in the Boe household listening to Alf senior’s music and Alfie says that Richard Tauber was one of his father’s favourite singers. Tauber became particularly well known for singing the song; indeed it comes from a 1929 operetta, The Land of Smiles, written for his voice by Lehar. Here’s Alfie at the 2012 Proms in the Park:
The remainder of the tracks (click here to see the complete list) are taken from other Lehar operettas dating from 1905-1934. Tracks 2 and 9 are from The Merry Widow (1905), an operetta that Alfie performed in with ENO in 2009 although Vilia (track 2) is sung by the Merry Widow herself. Track 12 (Farewell, My Love Farewell) was the song that made Richard Tauber a star in 1922 and he then went onto originate a number of roles for Lehar – the rest of the track list comprises songs that were created for Tauber’s voice.
Love Was A Dream is, for me, the perfect album for Alfie’s voice and my favourite classical album. For me, it’s a much more romantic album than Serenata, which was promoted as his most romantic album yet (of the Decca albums, yes).
Welcome to Six Sensational Songs, a new occasional series of blog posts featuring fans talking about their favourite Alfie Boe songs and why they are our favourites. As the title suggests, each post will feature just six songs – it might seem a herculean task to choose just six but you can do it! Details of how to send in your six favourites will be given later so keep reading!
As today marks the first anniversary of thoughtsofjustafan becoming the Official Alfie Boe Fan Blog, I’ll start us off.
Keep Me In Your Heart:
None of you will be surprised that this is my first choice but this particular video is from the last date of the 2016 Together tour and was a really special night, so glad I was able to be there. I’m always asked what it is about this song that I love – and yes, at lot of the appeal comes down to one line “like the buttons on your blouse”. What can I say – I love this song and it helps that it’s from my favourite Alfie album, Trust.
You Are My Heart’s Delight:
This was the first song I ever heard Alfie sing live and I was lucky enough to be in the company of the fabulous Linda Wellington (whose birthday it is today!) on a blisteringly hot day in September. Alfie’s autobiography had been released the previous week (I first met Linda at the book signing) and knowing that this song was so personal to Alfie made it even more special. This is just one of Alfie’s appearances at Proms in the Park and, we hope, there will be many more to come.
Love Reign O’Er Me:
Never having been a Who fan or a fan of rock opera, I was dubious about Alfie singing Classic Quadrophenia – or I was until I heard this song. Spine tingling doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about Alfie singing this or any part of Classic Quad. The world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in July 2015 was one of the best evenings of my life and I know that anyone who was there feels the same.
Alfie singing Elvis is frequently one of my most popular subjects and the day that we heard Suspicious Minds at Carfest South in 2013 still ranks in top five Alfie concerts. The 45 minute set was absolutely perfect for the setting and Alfie had the crowd, not to mention Chris Evans, completely in the palm of his hand.
Jimi Hendrix’s Angel was a song I had never heard before Alfie’s Storyteller tour but as with nearly everything else that Alfie sings (there are exceptions, but not many), I fell in love with the song. We haven’t heard this since Storyteller and maybe that’s right as it fitted in perfectly with that tour – but I do miss it. If you’re reading this Alfie, please bring it back, just once!
It was a struggle to choose just six songs and you might have noticed that there are actually eight songs in the videos as some videos contain two songs (not cheating, I promise!). I’ve chosen Alfie’s duet on Brindisi with Lesley Garrett as the chemistry between them makes the song. And Alfie nearly missing his first note due to laughing is worth another look every time. Not everyone likes opera Alfie but I would dearly love to hear him singing this live. It’s not unthinkable – he’s given us Nessun Dorma, Recondita Armonia and La Donna e Mobile in recent years after all.
Now, I’m sure that you’ll all have your own choices so if you want to share them with us, please fill in the form below. You’ll need to choose six songs, they can be live or recorded but if you want a particular video to accompany your choices, please mention it. Please also tell us why you have chosen them.
Number four in this year’s Alfie Boe Best Ever Song poll is a non mover from 2015 which means that it is time for Alfie’s most famous song, Bring Him Home (thanks Alfie for sharing):
Appropriately, the number four position in the 2016 poll coincides with the week that Les Mis celebrates its 31st birthday – Happy Birthday Les Mis! And additionally, a Les Mis medley to include Bring Him Home is the lead track on Alfie’s forthcoming duet album with Michael Ball.
One of the reasons for the first best song poll was to showcase songs other than Bring Him Home and as the long list of nearly forty songs shows, I think we’ve done that. Of course the problem with that is I find it really difficult to write anything at all about Bring Him Home. So, instead of my thoughts, let’s go back to what Alfie said about it in his autobiography:
It is such a spiritual song, it’s so special. When Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil wrote it they must have been so excited…It is a prayer, it’s actually called The Prayer, it’s not officially called Bring Him Home and I treat it as such every time I sing it. I pray. That’s what makes it work.
Interestingly, when I interviewed Alfie for the Club 24601 series in 2015, although he mentioned Bring Him Home as being a great song, he actually picked the Soliloquy as the song with the greatest emotional and vocal range.
Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, is available here:
As Lorraine Kelly says, amazing to hear such passion in such a fantastic voice – and early in the morning too! Alfie was of course promoting his debut album, Classic FM Presents, an album that he doesn’t seem to be keen on, judging by his autobiography but is one that I listen to often. I still think of myself as incredibly lucky to have heard Alfie sing Nessun Dorma on the Serenata tour two years ago – you could have a pin drop in all the arenas in which Alfie appeared.
Apart from the voice, the other things I love about this video are Alfie’s attire – an early indication that operatic arias and suits are not inextricably linked in Alfie’s mind – and how much he looks like Declan Donnelly throughout. It seems to me that the likeness grows during the singing but of course that could just be me projecting…I pretty sure I’m not telling you anything new when I say I think Dec is cute too. Check out Alf and Dec if you don’t believe me.
Fans have been speculating about what Alfie will do after he leaves Les Mis at the end of February and aside from Alfie Boe Live from Scarborough in June, the ideas generated so far have been centred around tours and albums. Today, however, it seems as if Alfie may go into a different Broadway show which will see him in New York until August! Alfie’s management have not been able to confirm this as yet so once more we wait and see. As ‘soon’ as more news becomes available, you’ll be the first to know.
This startling piece of news comes to us from Alfie himself via a podcast from Clint Boon on iTunes.
Alfie and Clint Boon worked together many moons ago with The Clint Boon Experience and the albums that Alfie features on are available here. Always fun to hear about ‘behind the scenes’ on recordings – as Alfie mentions in his book, the first time he heard himself on the radio was as Opera Dude on a Clint Boon Experience single. Interesting chat about a possible future collaboration too – bring it on!
Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, is available here:
…with Michael Ball at his Musicals Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. Alfie and Michael had recently struck up a friendship after appearing together in the ENO production of Kismet. As anyone who has seen / heard Michael talk about this production and / or read Alfie’s book, My Story will know, Kismet was not a particularly happy experience for all concerned. As mentioned in an earlier On This Day post, Alfie almost leapt into the public’s consciousness with an appearance on Michael Parkinson’s chat show but as with so many other things it became yet another ‘nearly’ moment.
However, all was not lost as the burgeoning friendship between Alfie and Michael led to Alfie’s guest slot at the Prom – as far as I know his only appearance at the Proms proper (rather than Proms in the Park).
Michael is not a classically trained singer but he makes a lovely job of duetting with Alfie. And if you want to hear what Michael had to say about ENO and Kismet, here is him talking on the Jonathan Ross show in 2007 (the Kismet talk starts about 7.15):
Wouldn’t it be lovely to hear Michael and Alfie sing together again?
Alfie’s My Story is available here (the ‘winter’ cover is also available):
As we approach the 38th anniversary of Elvis’s death, it seems a good time to revisit Alfie’s special relationship with the King himself. Fans of Alfie know that one of his longest standing musical influences is Elvis Presley; in his autobiography, My Story, Alfie mentions that he first started listening to Elvis through his brother Joe who was a big fan. He remains a fan to this day, choosing Burning Love as one of his tracks on James Watt’s Radio Stoke One on One interview in November 2014. This made me very happy as it’s one of my favourite Elvis tracks – would love to hear Alfie sing this:
Other suggestions for Elvis songs we would like to hear Alfie sing are:
Blue Suede Shoes
Wonder of You
Love Me Tender
Now I’m sure all the ladies reading this will be imagining Alfie singing Love Me Tender right now! Maybe followed up with One Night With You! Writing this, it occurs to me that there must be an Elvis song for any and every occasion – he had some repertoire.
Now, as we sadly don’t have Alfie singing any of these songs yet, here’s the next best thing and a playlist of Alfie Boe Singing Elvis (feel free to comment with any other videos you’d like to see there):
I can’t leave this Alfie and Elvis fest without once again recounting Cecelia’s story of meeting Elvis at the tender age of 5…on running up to him she got a kiss and a hug, swoon! Upon meeting Alfie at an HMV album signing a couple of years ago she showed she hasn’t changed a bit in the intervening years by running across the room to hug Alfie (and did I mention that she gave Alfie a kiss the first time she met him?). Gotta love Cecelia – to read her fan story, click here.
Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, is available here:
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…at the Coliseum in the ill-fated ENO production of Kismet or as Alfie calls it in his autobiography, My Story, “the horror”. According to Alfie, the production was a nightmare of a project. The only good thing was the chance to appear on Michael Parkinson’s chat show to sing the show’s most famous song, Stranger in Paradise:
I remember seeing Alfie on the Parkinson show but I was not remotely interested in either him or his voice at that time; it must have been the combination of Alfie, the beard and Les Mis (not to mention the puffy white shirt) that hooked me! I believe this is also how Alfie and Michael Ball became friends…and if that hadn’t happened, Michael would not have been able to recommend Alfie for the role of Jean Valjean for the 25th anniversary concert of Les Mis. So, everything happens for a reason, even if that reason remains a bit unclear at the time!
If you saw Alfie in Kismet, leave a comment with your thoughts on the production – thank you x
Onward, released in 2007 was Alfie’s first album with EMI and the track list reflects the religious theme that the label wanted Alfie to record. Reading his autobiography, My Story, Alfie had definite ideas about the arias that he wanted to sing (Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Verdi’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Requiem) but EMI instead chose the populist route of Lord is My Shepherd,Amazing Grace etc. These are beautifully sung by Alfie but I think the label really missed a trick in not going with Alfie’s choices. Having said that, Onward was nominated for Best Album at the Classical Brit Awards so what do I know? The following clip is from Songs of Praise, I Wonder As I Wander, one of a couple of Christmas tracks on the album:
From the recent thoughtsofjustafan survey, Onward is one of the less well owned albums (72% of respondents own it) and this could well be that some fans are not religiously inclined and do not want to buy an album of (mainly) hymns. Alternatively, it could be that it dates from Alfie’s pre Les Mis days and is therefore less well known. Again, having said that, most of the songs here (click here for the complete track list) also appear on Alfie’s later You’llNever Walk Alone which recently came back into the Classical Top Ten and stayed there for several weeks.
To those who are in the former category, I would say that you definitely do not have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of Onward. Alfie’s voice soars over each song and as with most of his music, I struggle to think of anyone else singing them now. As a man of faith, I think he brings something extra to this album for that reason – it was interesting that he chose Be Still, My Soul as his faith song on Good Morning Sunday in 2014. It clearly means a lot to him. He also sang this particular hymn on Songs of Praise, The Big Sing in 2012:
In my view, the most successful tracks are Britten’s Balulalow, Rossini’s Cujus Animam and the sheer beauty of Alison Krauss’s A Living Prayer which opens the album. For different reasons, all three tracks showcase the depth and strength of Alfie’s voice as well as his classical training and technique. In his book, Alfie says that he would like to re-record A Living Prayer as he felt they couldn’t do it justice due to time constraints during recording; wouldn’t it also be lovely if he also revisited Cujus Animam?
Although from reading Alfie’s story you might think that this is Alfie’s least favourite album (or at least least professionally satisfying), the material is amongst some of his most regularly performed repertoire from his early recording career. That is probably because of the religious nature of the tracks and Alfie has appeared at a fair amount of concerts and TV programmes with a religious feel; The MoTab Christmas Concert, Songs of Praise and The Festival of Remembrance spring to mind.
I find that I don’t listen to Onward as much as I do other Alfie albums although I do find that as each of Alfie’s albums has it’s own voice, there is often a space in my life that Onward fits into perfectly. If peace and solace is what you need, Onward is a pretty good place to start. Click on the image below to order:
Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, is also available: