He used to sing arias while he washed cars, but now he’s one of the world’s most popular opera singers. I chat to Alfie Boe about performing in his birthday suit and preparing to entertain the Queen
Alfie Boe is, in a word, charming. A happily married father of two with a voice to die for and looks to match, it’s no wonder he caused such stir when he arrived on the opera scene 18 years ago. Since then, opera’s enfant terrible has won a Tony award, captured fans as Jean Valjean in the Les Misérables anniversary concerts and released six albums.
The DVD of his latest tour is just out, and his baby boy, Alfie, is just three months old – but the 38-year-old singer’s soft Lancashire burr betrays no sign of tiredness. Brimming with enthusiasm for the tour, he says, ‘It was a wonderful time in my career to be on the road.’
The tale of how he was discovered is well documented. Alfie was 17 and working as an apprentice mechanic in Blackpool when a client with connections in the music industry overheard him singing opera arias while polishing the cars. He suggested the lad went to London and audition for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, which Alfie duly did. And so a star was born.
Alfie muses, ‘Opera is a crazy little world. When I first started working, I did feel intimidated by the conductors, the directors, the prestige of the venues. But when you’re young, you do feel like that. You have to stamp your own authority and make your own mark in this world.
‘I don’t class myself as an opera singer. I just want to be a singer. There are only two types of music – good and bad.’
Alfie chuckles loudly and often throughout our chat, particularly when I ask about those full-frontal nudity scenes in La Traviata. Then he positively roars.
‘It was actually a scary performance. I had to walk across the stage totally naked, pick up a pair of trousers and put them on. But my hands were shaking so much I couldn’t do up the buttons on the fly. Then they changed the scene slightly so all they saw was my backside, which was very toned – perfect and round. I spent a lot of time in the gym trying to look right for that! I’ve let it all go now.’
Alfie will be part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations in June, but performing with rock’n’roll royalty Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin has been one of his biggest career highlights so far.
‘He turned up at the studio with his long blond hair, his leather jacket, his cowboy boots… he was so cool. And then he stood in the studio next to me and started warming his voice up by singing Stairway To Heaven, and I was thinking, oh my goodness, please say you’ve recorded this.’
Despite ‘desperately’ missing his wife, Sarah, daughter Grace, aged four, and baby Alfie while on the road, Alfie says there will be more tours to come. ‘I’ve loved every single minute of Bring Him Home,’ he says. ‘Every audience was special.’
But what about life after records and singing – is he ever going to stop?
‘There will be a point when I will slow down, buy the bar and restaurant I’ve always wanted and sit on a beach somewhere. A beach bar in California. That’d be really cool.’
Now that’d be a beach bar worth stopping for a drink at…
Alfie Boe’s sell-out Bring Him Home tour is out now on Blu-ray and DVD
Interview first published in the Lady magazine