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:: Spotlight :: Amici Forever - Putting Glamour Into Opera

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Amici Forever continue to impress as an inspiring, dynamic act that turns opera into pop together with a glamorous youthful quality to draw new audiences in their reinventing of old opera classics. From their first album ‘The Opera Band’, the five members captivated British audiences and it has built up into a worldwide entity with Australian music lovers enchanted with the musical trend that Amici Forever are forging. The classy, stylish delivery of the songs comes from their unique perspective of updating centuries-old music. Now, the latest album, ‘Defined’, sees the group develop further and they’re set for a rewarding period. I had the great pleasure of speaking to one of the two sopranos from Amici Forever, Tsakane Valentine, about their part in bringing glamour to pop opera.

Q.“Defined” is a big step forward from your previous album…

A.Yes, of course. Like everything, we have to grow in ourselves and develop. The first album was a way of introducing ourselves to the world. Now, we’ve made a foundation and it’s time to define ourselves after three years together. The growth never stops. What we’ve done with this album is take a favourite classic (even if it’s orchestral music) and arrange it to our own voices. We’re more in tune with what we’re doing now.

Q.Track 1 (La Fiamma Sacra) is the one that probably grabbed my attention most…

A.Wow, that’s great to know. That has both a classical and pop feel and it’s one of the two original tracks on the album.

Q.Did you spend much time selecting songs for this album?

A.Yes, it never stops. We’re already thinking about the make-up of the next album. You always have more songs to do but you can only place about twelve on an album. So we do spend a lot of time coming up with the list.

Q.There are two original songs on the album. Are you writing more material for the inclusion of further original songs in the future?

A.Our group is still very young in some ways. We haven’t done a lot of writing, but it is something that will come about as we develop. We want to do more original songs. The two on this album are ‘La Fiamma Sacra’ and ‘So Far Away’. We might even think about collaborating with artists you wouldn’t think of, like Moby or Outkast, to do it tastefully.

Q.The younger audience has taken to Amici Forever in a significant way. Are you surprised?

A.A lot of people come up and say that they love what we’re doing, because they wouldn’t be able to sit through a whole opera. It’s such a good thing. This world of classical crossover is expanding more and more, which is a good thing. We have a variety of people, of all ages, from various parts of the world that are starting to appreciate the music. As a performer, you feel better to reach a bigger audience.

Q.I suppose it’s no real surprise when you look at the attractive image you and Jo project on stage…

A.That could be the case for some, but we just present ourselves as us, not trying to be somebody else. By removing it from the opera world, I think it is easier. In an opera, you are playing a character. Now, we are more relaxed as ourselves instead of wearing ball gowns, for example.

Q.That’s right. You should now be seen in stilettos and mini skirts…

A.(Laughs) Yes, and biker’s clothes and jeans, etc. Talking about biker’s clothes, when we were in America a few months ago the bikers that were riding Harley Davidsons asked Jo and me to come for a ride and we had a bit of fun doing that.

Q.Do you still like to look back and study and listen to famous opera singers of the past?

A.Yes, I love opera. I’ll never be removed from the famous singers of the past. My record collection still has Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, David Bowie, etc but when I go back and listen to opera, I learn a lot more.

Q.It’s really been a great last twelve months for you…

A.Yes, it’s been a great year. It’s opened up a lot of doors for us, as performers and as individuals. It’s been an amazing experience.

Q.Has it exceeded your expectations?

A.You don’t build up this world of expectation and know how far it will go. I’d say that I didn’t imagine it coming this far. We’re all very pleased. We are all focused on this project and we gave up all our own plans to see this grow.

Q. One of the big events for you earlier this year was the Tsunami Benefit at the Royal Albert Hall. It must have been a special occasion…

A.Yes, it was wonderfully moving and just something we wanted to be involved with. We sang ‘The Prayer’ and much money was raised.

Q.Do you go home to South Africa often?

A.I go home regularly. Whenever I get two or three weeks free, I go back home to Johannesburg.

Q.What’s next for Amici Forever?

A.After the US tour in September we will release our album in the UK. Then we’re off to South Africa for the first time. I’m very excited about that. We’ll be there for a promotional tour (including a few performances) for this album, as we didn't get there for the first one. We hope to be back in Australia for a concert tour in February 2006.

Q.I heard that you and Jo will be doing a photo shoot for FHM magazine…

A.(Laughs) Yes, that will be good exposure, won’t it. It should be fun and will reach a different audience.

“Defined” is out now in Australia

The album is released in Japan on September 21 and in the UK on October 10.

NOTE:

Since this interview was conducted Nick Garrett decided to leave Amici Forever and pursue his own projects.

For more information, visit

www.amiciforever.com