Alfie Boe (Tenor)
Alfred Giovanni Roncalli Boe was born 33 years ago in Blackpool, a seaside town in the north west of England and brought up in nearby Fleetwood. As the youngest of 9 children, little did Alfie’s parents know that the baby of the family would grow up to be one of the finest British tenors of his generation. His mother of Irish and father of Norwegian descent respectively, loved classical music. On Sundays the family would sit around the dining table whilst Alfie’s father would listen to his favourite tenor, Richard Tauber. Alfie would sit patiently waiting to be excused so he could go and play football. Many years later he realised the immense effect those Sunday afternoons would have on his life.
At 14, encouraged by his sister, “and the possibility of meeting girls”, Alfie joined an amateur operatic society. The first week he got as far as the front door, but nerves got the better of him and he turned around and went home. The second week his trip was more successful and stepping through the door he entered a whole new world. His love affair with opera had begun. In his late teens Alfie took a job as an apprentice mechanic at the local TVR sports car factory in Blackpool. During the day he was shunted to the corner of the factory and left alone to listen to his beloved classical music. He would, quite often, entertain his workmates by singing his favourite arias and it was on one of those occasions that he was overheard by a customer. The gentleman worked in the music industry and suggested that he should go to the D’Oyly Carte touring company who were auditioning for new members. Out of over 1,000 hopefuls Alfie landed the job.
He toured the length and breadth of the country with the company, but his desire to learn more compelled him to move to London and enlist at The Royal College of Music. After graduating he continued his studies at the National Opera Studio and then went on to the Royal Opera House Young Artist’s Programme. It was when Alfie was at the ROH that he received a call that was to change his plans. Baz Luhrmann, who had spent two years looking for one of the leads for his controversial Broadway production of Puccini’s La Boheme, approached Alfie for the role. Luhrmann noted, “We came to London to hear a young tenor called Alfie Boe who turned out to be absolutely extraordinary. I couldn’t believe the luck we had.” Alfie jumped at the chance to work with Luhrmann and his leap of faith lead him to winning a Tony Award which sits beside his John McCormack Young Voice and Lyric Tenor of the World Audience awards. He toured the U.S. with La Boheme and fell in love with the country. He met and made many friends in New York and one person he will always be eternally grateful to is vocal teacher Bill Schumann. “He’s the guy that changed my whole approach to singing. He not only opened my ears but my eyes too,” Alfie reveals.
In early 2006 Alfie signed to the label Classic FM Presents, a label designed to act as a springboard for fresh, new talent. The label was an offshoot of the biggest Classical radio station in Europe. Alfie’s eponymous debut album was released in November 2006 to a fanfare of acclaim and established Alfie, not only as a firm favourite of Classic FM listeners, but also grabbed the attention of the classical world. In January, of the following year, Alfie signed to one of the oldest Classical labels in the world, EMI. Within less than 3 months his second album, ‘Onward’, was released. The album was recorded with the renowned Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Not only was Alfie delighted to be performing works by British composers such as John Rutter and Karl Jenkins but to have them write special arrangements for the album was beyond his wildest dreams. Howard Goodall also stepped up to write a special arrangement for ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’. ‘Onward’ went straight to No.1 in the UK classical chart and established Alfie as a household name in the UK.
Alfie enjoys the recording process, and for him, it helps take his beloved opera to the masses, but he’s never far from an opera house. 2007 saw him touring the UK and Ireland and also performing in a sell out run of Kismet for English National Opera at The Coliseum, London conducted by Richard Hickox.
2007 proved an extremely busy year for Alfie. After the release of ‘Onward’ he went straight on tour. He was also nominated for a Classical Brit Award for ‘Best Album’ sharing the category with Sir Paul McCartney and Sting; he performed at the Royal Albert Hall with Lesley Garrett and Sir Willard White and graciously accepted the role as Ambassador for HRH’s Arts and Kids Foundation which saw him performing at Clarence House for Prince Charles. In late 2007 Alfie released ‘La Passione’, the second album release of that year. The album, which Boe had longed to record, is a collection of traditional, mainly Italian folk songs that have stood up to the test of time. The repertoire includes ‘O Sole Mio’, ‘Funiculi Finicula’, ‘Santa Lucia’ and the wonderful ‘Caruso’. “The songs featured on ‘La Passione’ have been passed through many generations. They are songs of the street musician, the cantautore and the social protester. They are instinctive songs about loves lost and won, about grief and about the agony of leaving home – ‘per la gente’ written by the people for the people,” Alfie explains.
Boe is one of the hardest working opera artists and 2008 was once again brimming over with activity. He continued to promote La Passione with key TV and live appearances in the diary including his debut tour with the Philharmonia Orchestra. The ever growing list of concerts, spanning the Country in 2008, can be found at www.alfieboe.com. His 2008 Festival appearances included Llangollen, Chester, North Devon and Kings’ Lynn. Orchestral engagements included concerts with the RPO, Manchester Camerata, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the RLPO. The spring also saw Boe returning to the English National Opera at the Coliseum, in a new production of Lehar’s engrossing opera, The Merry Widow. Boe took on one of the main roles as Le Camille de Rosillon alongside Amanda Roocroft, Roy Hudd and Richard Stuart.
Running alongside The Merry Widow, Alfie also played The Italian Tenor in der Rosenkavalier at ENO. Later in 2008 Boe returned home to his beloved Royal Opera House in Covent Garden to perform The Young Servant in Elektra, conducted by Mark Elder. Alfie was nominated in two categories at this years Classical Brit Awards – the only Artist with two nominations.
With three top selling classical albums under his belt, Alfie Boe continues to be in great demand on both the concert and operatic stage. His 2009 festival appearances include Kenwood, Grassington, Rochester and Lichfield. He has just completed performances as Rodolfo in Sir Jonathan Miller’s new production of La Boheme at ENO and this Autumn will see his return to WNO as Alfredo in David McVicar’s production of La Traviata, and the release of his new album.
His operatic roles include Alfredo, Tamino, Don Ottavio and Rodolfo. After performing Rodolfo in La Boheme at Glyndebourne, he went on win a Tony Award for his performances on Broadway as part of Baz Luhrman’s controversial La Boheme production for which he also won the John McCormack Young Voice award and Lyric Tenor of the World Audience award.
His further engagements include the title role in Albert Herring (Glyndebourne), Lysander in A Midsummer Nights Dream (ENO, La Monnaie), Ferrando in Cosí Fan Tutti (Opera National du Rhin), Caliph in Kismet, Camille du Rosillon in The Merry Widow, Italian Tenor in Der Rosenkavalier and Rodolfo in La Boheme (ENO).
His future opera engagements will see Alfie return to the English National Opera to sing Nadir in a new production of The Pearl Fishers and also his return to the ROH.
In concert Alfie has performed with the Philharmonia Orchestra, RLPO, LPO, Ulster Orchestra, RPO, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Kristiansand Symfoniorkester and Boston Symphony Orchestra. He works regularly with conductors including Richard Hickox, David Parry, John Wilson, Timothy Redmond, Oliver von Dohananyi and Edward Gardner. Future concerts include engagements with the Halle, RPO, CBSO, Ulster Orchestra and RSNO.