Top tenor Alfie Boe

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NOT many teenage boys in the fishing port of Fleetwood, Lancashire, dreamed of a career as an opera singer.

But not many teenage boys in Fleetwood grew up with a dad who played his favourite operatic arias to his nine children during the family Sunday lunch.

Alfie Boe preferred football, girls and rock music.

But something must have rubbed off from those afternoons around the dining room table because today, at the age of 37, Boe is one of Britain’s favourite opera singers.

And in May he will bring his voice to the island to perform in the Villa Marina Royal Hall with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Morgan.

At the age of 14, he joined a local amateur operatic company, encouraged not so much by the chance to sing as his sister’s promise that it would be a good way to meet girls. He never saw a live musical show until he starred in one, singing tunes from the big West End shows.

His first one he performed as a teenager was the showstopper from Les Miserables that forms the title of his new album: Bring Him Home.

At 16, having sung his way through the shows, he joined the chorus of amateur productions of Carmen and Il Trovatore in Preston.

Already, locals with an ear for talent began to suggest that the gifted teenage tenor might even go professional.

‘I really wanted to,’ said Boe, ‘but I didn’t know how.’ Instead, at 17 he began work as an apprentice mechanic in the local TVR car factory, where he spray-painted cars as they came off the production line.

To relieve the boredom, he would often sing along to the radio for some of his workmates, while at weekends he performed on the club circuit, singing ballads, show tunes and pop standards.

At the time Alfie had no idea where his musical future, might lie. ‘It could have been pop,’ he admitted, ‘or even musical theatre. I had no idea I could possibly become an opera singer – probably because of my background.’

Yet that’s exactly what happened, thanks to a customer at the factory who worked in the music industry and hearing Alfie’s already impressive tenor voice.

The mystery man – who Alfie has never yet managed to track down since that day – told him the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company was auditioning for a tour and that he should apply.

So the apprentice mechanic soon bought himself a copy of The Stage and Television newspaper, made the journey to London and got the job!

For 12 months he toured the country singing Gilbert and Sullivan classics, before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London.

Supporting himself with jobs that included a stint doing security at London rock venue the Shepherds Bush Empire, Boe graduated and continued his training at the elite finishing school of the National Opera Studio.

He then heard that Oscar-nominated film-maker Baz Luhrmann, director of the film Moulin Rouge, was holding a London audition for his New York stage production of La Boheme.

‘I was at a five-hour Wagner production at the Royal Opera House and I sneaked off during the 40-minute interval and literally ran across Waterloo Bridge to the audition,’ he recalled. ‘Then I ran back afterwards – and got back into my seat 10 minutes into the second half.’

His decision to leave the course to star on Broadway did not go down well with the opera establishment and was a difficult decision for him to make.

After the nine-month Broadway run finished, Boe decided to stay on in America and tour with Boston Pops, singing musical theatre songs from the 30s and 40s.

In 2006 he released his debut album, Classic FM Presents Alfie Boe. It was followed in 2007 by two more albums, Onward, featuring works by British composers John Rutter and Karl Jenkins, and La Passione, an album of his favourite Neapolitan songs.

That same busy year, Alfie toured the UK with the Fron Male Voice Choir and was nominated for a Classical Brit, where he lost out to Paul McCartney.

Then, in 2008, he embarked on his first solo tour of the UK, was nominated for two Classical Brits and returned to the Coliseum, where he had already appeared in Midsummer Night’s Dream and Kismet, in The Merry Widow and Der Rosenkavalier, before going back to the Royal Opera House in Elektra.

The following year he released his fourth album, starred in a WNO revival of La Traviata and reprised his role as Rodolfo in Sir Jonathan Miller’s ENO production of La Boheme.

Highlights of last year include two operas for ENO – The Pearl Fishers and Katya Kabanova and Romeo et Juliette at Covent Garden.

In October, at the request of Sir Cameron Mackintosh, he took on the lead role of Jean Valjean in the sold-out 25th anniversary concert performance of Les Miserables at the O2 Arena in London.

In fact he is currently sharing the stage with Manx starlet Sam Barks (see lead article on page 19) who plays Eponine.

Boe now lives in London with his actress wife Sarah and their two-year-old daughter Grace.

Ticket for Boe’s Manx show start at £45.

They are available now via the Ticket Hotline on 600 555, at the Sea Terminal Welcome Centre or online at www.villagaiety.com

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