If I told you that a bunch of girls would scream for a trio of operatic singers at the Plaza Theatre, you'd probably shake your head and ask if my next move was to sell you some swamp land near Marfa.
Well, you'd better buy it because a bunch of young females, as well as middle-aged and older men and women, bought into Il Volo Tuesday night at the old movie palace.
About 1,920 of them in fact, or about 80 shy of a complete sell-out.
Not bad for a group that's been together three years, whose members are 17 and 19 years old, who sing in Italian, Spanish, English and French and whose repertoire ranges from Neapolitan classics to American show tunes.
Il Volo, or "the flight" in their native Italian, are the teen pop answer to Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli and even the Three Tenors.
They are young men with mature voices, voices, by the way, they're still growing into.
Tuesday's show, part of their second North American tour, was their El Paso debut. The audience seemed to include a lot of people from the other side of the border, where the group's self-titled debut album was a big seller, and American fans who know them from their performance of "O Solo Mio" last year on "American Idol" or last February's PBS fund drive airings of "Il Volo Takes Flight," recorded last October in Detroit.
While it may seem improbable that people would flock to see a young, so-called popera group, it made perfect sense Tuesday night.
For one thing, they've got big voices, especially muscular tenor Piero Barone, a 19-year-old Sicilian who made power and finesse look as easy as breathing. You should have heard how easily he modulated between three notes during a solo performance of "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story," better known as the theme from the 1970 movie "Love Story."
That was exhilirating, deemed worthy of a standing ovation by the crowd.
In the slimming Sicilian Ignazio Boschetto, who'll turn 18 on Oct. 4, the group has both a honey-voiced tenor and a goofy kid with a sweet disposition. There was plenty of scripted banter and somewhat forced cute humor in their 100-minute set, and the disarming Boschetto was usually in the middle of it.
But when he had the spotlight on a solo version of "Memory," the signature song from "Cats," he sang his heart out and earned a standing O from the crowd.
The babe magnet is 17-year-old Gianluca Ginoble, he of the movie idol eyes and '50s-style teen heartthrob looks. He engendered more shrieks than any of them and tried his level best to strike his cool poses, but he couldn't help but flash his radiant smile or even giggle a bit, as he did after some girls screamed during a quiet moment.
Ginoble's baritone lacks Barone's power and Boschetto's sweetness — that will develop with training, if he chooses — but it's easy on the ears. In addition to seductive charisma, well-suited for musical theater, he has a natural ability to sell a song, as he showed on a solo version of "Maria" (from "West Side Story").
These assets seem to come naturally to them, whether they're singing solo, trading verses or combining their voices into soaring harmonies, as they did on a show-stopping version of their hit "Il Mondo." At times, they almost drowned out the restrained instrumentation of their backing quartet.
There were stilted campy moments, mostly staged routines, including a not-so-subtle plug for the tour sponsor, a popular Italian mineral water brand trying to break into the American market.
Their voices, while impressive, are still developing. There were a few missed notes and very few sour ones, but that'll improve with experience.
There were a few surreal moments, too, such as watching Charlie Chaplin's Hitler bouncing a globe off his bottom in "The Great Dictator," part of a Chaplin montage that played as they sang "Smile," a tune he wrote for "Modern Times" in 1936 (with lyrics added by other writers 18 years later).
But this obviously well-financed and well-managed (by Bocelli's manager) young trio looked like it was having fun all night, and the feeling was mutual, especially when they got the crowd on its feet (and a few females rushing the aisles), singing along to rousing versions of two Neapolitan standards, "Funiculi, Funicula" and "O Solo Mio," that are more than 100 years old.
It's hard to believe that a '90s-style teen pop group with voices like the junior Three Tenors could get girls screaming — and one little one on stage — with a couple of songs that most in the crowd probably would turn a deaf ear to had it been sung by anyone else.
Hard to believe, I know. Maybe there really is swamp land near Marfa.