Il Divo’s Carlos Marín: Our evening with the ‘Little Caruso’

I will always remember him for Some Enchanted Evening sung in 2014, in the good company of our own Lea Salonga

Carlos Marin photographed on his birthday Oct. 13, 2021. He passed away December 19 at 53. (Photo from official FB Il Divo)

Lea Salonga with Il Divo in 2014 in Manila. (Pablo Tariman file)

CARLOS Marín, the suave baritone in the pop opera quartet, Il Divo, moved on to the stars December 19, in a Manchester hospital in the United Kingdom. He was 53.

The surviving members of the quartet—David Miller, Sébastien Izambard and Urs Bühler—confirmed the news in an Instagram post: “It is with heavy hearts that we are letting you know that our friend and partner, Carlos Marín, has passed away. He will be missed by his friends, family, and fans. There will never be another voice or spirit like Carlos. For 17 years the four of us have been on this incredible journey of Il Divo together, and we will miss our dear friend. We hope and pray that his beautiful soul will rest in peace.”

Carlos Marin with Barbra Streisand. (From the FB page of Barbra Streisand)

The cause of his death was not clear, but Spain’s El Pais reported he had been put in a medically induced coma and was intubated.

Citing a source from Il Divo’s label Universal, a report said that the singer had not been feeling well for a week while on tour in England before he was hospitalized.

The first time I saw and heard the Spanish baritone was in March 2014, when Il Divo performed at the Newport Performing Arts Theater at Resort World. The invitation was courtesy of then Entertainment editor Ricky Lo, who asked me to write about the concert for the Philippine Star.

With us in the audience were Julius Babao and his wife, Tintin.

he author (far left) with Ricky Lo (second from left), news anchor Julius Babao and wife Tintin watching the 2014 concert of Il Divo. (Pablo Tariman file)

I was brutally frank about the group’s reputation. I told Ricky I was not crazy about this opera fusion group, but since Lea Salonga was the guest singer, I would watch to my heart’s content and stop being an opera purist.

I actually skipped their first Manila engagement and was about to ignore them the second time around in Manila. But I couldn’t say no to Ricky Lo.

And so, in 2014, Manila’s music lovers heard Il Divo for the second time. I noticed how the audience loved every minute of it.

The group was apparently conceptualized to appeal to all races, and thus the different nationalities of the members of the quartet: tenor Urs Buhler from Switzerland, baritone Carlos Marín from Spain, pop artist Sebastien Izambard from France, and tenor David Miller from the US.

The group was apparently conceptualized to appeal to all races, and thus the different nationalities of the members

The evening’s repertoire consisted of songs from the musical theater, starting with Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific, and ending with Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha and You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel.

The songs were nothing new, but they remained an audience favorite through the years, and were given new arrangement to showcase the four voices and a guest singer, who happened to be Lea Salonga, who thrilled with seldom-heard high notes in Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera.

Conceptualized by Simon Cowell of American Idol fame, Il Divo  when it wowed Manila in 2014, was on its 10th year as a blockbuster crossover quartet with amazing credentials: it had sold over 26 million albums worldwide, landed number one in Billboard charts, received 160 gold and platinum sales awards in over 33 countries, and staged four groundbreaking world tours.

The concert ticket prices alone (the highest was priced at P30, 000 and the lowest at P8,000) convinced one that the singers—three classically trained and a pop singer—had a loyal following, and a solid one, at that.

For one who has covered straight operas and interviewed prize-winning opera singers for more than 30 years, I found that the prospect of hearing the pop operatic quartet was more out of curiosity than excitement.

True, the Manila leg of this recent tour was special because of Lea, with the ABS-CBN Philharmonic under the baton of Simon Chalk.

In the opening number, one noticed the small-sized orchestra had an unusual set-up with the musicians facing stage left, with the conductor beating music as though following a canned orchestral sound. Indeed, the orchestra looked small, but the sound felt as though it came from a 150-member orchestra, with thrilling effect on the capacity audience spread across the 1,500-seat Newport Performing Arts Theater.

The concert started with an elaborate overture consisting of a medley from the evening repertoire, including Some Enchanted Evening, originally sang by Metropolitan Opera bass Giorgio Tozzi, who dubbed the singing voice of actor Rossano Brazzi, who played Emile de Becque in the film version of South Pacific.

All looking tall and fresh, the Il Divo quartet made an instant impact on the audience (mostly in their 40s and above, at a quick glance) who reacted positively, making the singers realize the audience knew the songs, and they had better be good at it.

Some Enchanted Evening was a perfect vehicle for Marín, the only baritone in the group. It was arranged cleverly to showcase the individual voices of the quartet, and prove how they blended well as a group. Hence, it was quite revealing how they made something fresh and inordinately appealing out of Broadway favorites like Bring Him Home (Les Miserables), Tonight and Somewhere (West Side Story), and others.

Indeed, they were runaway winners with Con te partirò and the bilingual version of My Way (A mi manera), including All I Ask of You (Phantom of The Opera), and Memory (Cats).

The night ended with exquisite versions of Impossible Dream and You’ll Never Walk Alone, with the audience screaming for more encores.

Even as the quartet got all the deafening applause, it was also the special night of Lea Salonga.

After singing with the quartet, where she proved she could blend perfectly with a group programmed to make something euphoric out of a bottomless supply of high notes, Lea dazzled with her solo numbers Defying Gravity (from Wicked) and Fantine’s and Eponine’s signature songs, I Dreamed A Dream and On My Own respectively from Les Miserables, where she became the first Filipina to sing the roles.

With maturity, Lea had a lot more to offer than her voice. She sang the notes and acted the lyrics with delicate care, and went intense in the most heart-wrenching parts of the songs. She looked small on stage, but her acting and singing were amplified in the giant screens on both sides of the theater. Still, she was consistently focused and utterly giving to her audience. Indeed, marriage and motherhood have given her a new path on which to illumine her art and life.

With humility, Lea admitted she learned a lot from singing with Il Divo, being the first Filipino to guest with the celebrated group. One must say Il Divo could very well learn a lot from her, too.

Where did Marín get his suave baritone voice? Born in Hessen, Germany but growing up in Madrid, Spain, Marin was some kind of vocal prodigy. He cut his first album at age 8 with one Pierre Kartner as producer. The recording project was called The Little Caruso, and contained crowd favorites like O Sole Mio and Granada, among others.

He had a second album at age 10 called Mijn Lieve Mama (My Dear Mother). His early classical music exposure prompted him to take formal music lessons to be able to read notes. He lived in the Netherlands for a while and became known as “Carlos The Little Caruso.”

At age 12, he won singing contests in Spain. In his 20s, he appeared in television shows accompanied by an orchestra.

Did you know Marín had voice lessons from opera greats like Alfredo Kraus, Montserrat Caballe?

Did you know Marín had voice lessons from opera greats like Alfredo Kraus, Montserrat Caballe, and Jaume Aragall? At some point, he became known as primo baritono in several operas like La Traviata, The Barber of Seville, La Boheme, and Lucia di Lammermoor, among others.

But the entertainment world had other plans for him. He joined Il Divo in 2004.

In 2006, he got married to Geraldine Larrosa, but they parted after less than three years. He was meant to leave his earthly life in the last month of 2021.

I will always remember him for a special version of Some Enchanted Evening sung in 2014, with his group, in the good company of our own Lea Salonga.

About author


He’s a freelance journalist who loves the opera, classical music and concerts, and who has had the privilege of meeting many of these artists of the performing arts and forging enviable friendships with them. Recently he’s been drawing readers to his poems in Facebook, getting known as the ‘Bard of Facebook.’

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