Alfie Boe - The People's Tenor

As a rising tenor Alfie Boe sang in local music society concerts while working as a car-body mechanic before achieving success – and his first CD release.

So far, so amazing, but what makes Alfie Boe’s story so exciting is that the tenor’s new CD comes with the enthusiastic support of Classic FM. So enthusiastic, in fact, that the radio station has put its name to it: Classic FM presents… Alfie Boe. The station is passionate about sharing classical music with the widest number of people possible across the UK, and Alfie is a rising star whose voice and personality cross barriers effortlessly.

As station manager Darren Henley explains, he is somebody music lovers just have to hear: “Alfie has such a wonderful voice, we wanted to share his talent with as many people as possible, so we thought we would support this superb British tenor ourselves!”

Classic FM magazine caught up with Alfie as he prepared to record one of the arias, Puccini’s E Lucevan le Stelle’, for his debut album.

How did a lad from Fleetwood, Lancashire, get into opera?

My father was always playing legendary German tenor Richard Tauber’s records. At first, I just wanted to go and play football but the older I got the more I appreciated Tauber’s voice. Later on, my sister started going to an amateur operatic society and she asked me along. I went inside and saw this girl I fancied, so I stayed. I went every week after that, and that was it – I was hooked on singing.

Everyone needs to earn a living and you became an apprentice car-body mechanic with TVR Engineering in Blackpool. How did you keep your singing up?

I was 19 when I auditioned for, and landed, the role of Tony in the Preston Musical Comedy Society’s production of West Side Story. Then, one day, I was in the TVR factory singing along to a tape I had of West Side Story. The owner of the car I was working on was in the music business and he said, “They’re auditioning for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company – with your voice you should go for it.” I did the audition and won a place!

D’Oyly Carte Opera Company offered you another season and you also had a West End producer at your door, but you chose to go to the Royal College of Music. Why?

I’d never really studied opera or singing and I thought I should. After three years – during which I won first prize in the John McCormack Golden Voice competition [aged 23], came second in the Lyric Tenor of the World competition in Munich and, while there, snapped up first prize for Audience Appreciation – I transferred to the National Opera Studio. I was pleased: they only take around 12 singers a year.

After training at the National Opera Studio, you sang at Glyndebourne before joining the Royal Opera House’s Young Artists Programme. How did you go from there to singing on Broadway?

Baz Luhrmann, the director of Moulin Rouge, was putting on La Bohème on Broadway. His people came to London to audition me. I was watching Wagner’s Parsifal, which has long intervals, so I nipped off in one of the intervals, sang for Baz Luhrmann, then raced back in time for the next act!

You got the part of Rodolfo and the opera won a host of Tony Awards, but how did it feel to leave the Young Artists Programme?

It was a tough decision but I don’t regret it. I’d make the same decision again. Sometimes in this life you have to take risks to get where you want to be.

And now you’re recording your debut album. How does it feel?

I’ll never forget the moment I got the telephone call from Classic FM inviting me to record an album. Next thing I know, people are asking me to choose snaps of my ugly mug for an album cover! It feels like one minute you’re listening to Richard Tauber with your dad and the next, you’re recording in front of an orchestra. I’m pretty nervous – but loving every minute of it!