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Ten Tenors, Two Nights, One Flagler Auditorium

| January 24, 2011

The voices matter more than the names.

The Ten Tenors are a bit like the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices. Few people can name them or pick them out of a lineup: Ben Stephens and Thomas David Birch aren’t any more familiar to most than Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But if the tenors’ global influence isn’t in the same league as the justices’, their popularity leaves the brethrens’ in a library basement’s dust. Since their breakout year in 2002, from—almost literally, a suburb of the Australian Outback—the tenors have performed before some 90 million people, eliciting the sort of face-scratching adulation and have-my-baby squeals usually reserved for the slicker deities of rock and pop and earning the ultimate endorsement from the empress of cultural consumption: a gig on Oprah, whose “Ultimate Australian Adventure” just last week featured the dectet singing “Waltzing Matilda.” Barefoot, on a beach, of course.

Which should have had the Ten Tenors warmed up just right for Flagler County’s beaches (though they’re leaving the Australian summer for an unusually cold Floridian winter): the group is beginning its 11-date North American tour with two performances at the Flagler Auditorium in Palm Coast Tuesday and Wednesday evening (Jan. 25 and 26). They actually cancelled several of their tour dates, but kept Flagler.

“The first time they ever came to the United States, we were on their tour,” says Lisa McDevitt, director of the Flagler Auditorium. “We’ve had them every single year since 2002. So we’ve kind of adopted them. And this is the first time in history that we have done two nights in a row.”

The 1,000-seat auditorium is almost—but not quite yet—sold out for both nights. Tickets are still on sale ($42 for adults, $32 for students).

“This tour is the power of ten and that really sums it up—I mean, they’re just so powerful, and we’re really blessed that they love us. They keep coming back to Flagler,” McDevitt says. “They’re infectious. They’re very personable. When you see all ten of them up there in their tuxes, they’re adorable.” Another difference between the tenors and the justices, none of whom could moondance, which is why the tenors usually turn the auditorium into a raucous bar without the booze.

The tenors are nothing if not about bending every which way to please. They’re as comfortable doing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and such inane leaps of pop as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and Meatloaf’s “I would Do Anything for Love” as they are belting out classical opera arias cribbed off the Three Tenors’ repertoire or soft-rocking through “It’s a Wonderful World,” “Great Balls of Fire” and medleys of Beach Boys, Bee Gees and the 1980s’ eternal flames.

“We want you to forget the glorious setting of this beautiful theater. Forget about the fact we’re wearing these suits and we’re incredibly sexy,” Stewart Morris, the taller, balder and boldest of the bunch, tells audiences before giving them his big rule: act like you’re at a football game (soccer or American football, either way). The send-up of classical concert etiquette is intentional, because everything about the Ten Tenors is a send-up of sorts: they’re a G-rated version of Saturday Night Live spoofs of rock acts, starting with their name.

Most people remember the Three Tenors: Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras, who, starting with a live, worldwide performance at the 1990 soccer World Cup in Italy (with Pavarotti doing his “O Sole Mio”), gave the classical concert and recording world one last big bounce before its big decline. They popularized opera for the masses even as music critics dismissed them as too kitschy. But they launched a brand. By 2000, there were The Irish Tenors, The German Tenors, Three Mo’ Tenors (a black troupe) and The Tatty Tenors, also from Australia. And there was the Ten Tenors.

If the world was happy with three, wouldn’t it be happier with 10? The original 10 were music students at the at Griffith University’s Queensland Conservatorium of Music near Brisbane on Australia’s east coast. They were a bit bored by the stiffness of their musical regimen. They needed money. They got together the way the original Cercle du Soleil performers got together in Quebec—pretty much as sidewalk performers. The act caught on. So did the brand. There’s very little resemblance between the original 10 and the current 10: more than 30 tenors have put in stints in the group, with likely many more to come as the group continues to tap its popularity in Europe and the United States.

Like few among American venues, the Flagler Auditorium is among the tenors’ recurring points of reference: a beacon of a stage  that must, like Brisbane’s ocean-lapping shore, hint of the familiarity of home.

Tickets for the Ten Tenors’ “Power of Ten” concert are available at the Flagler Auditorium box office for $42 for adults and $32 for students and children. The box office and the auditorium are located inside the campus of Flagler Palm Coast High School, 5500 East Hwy 100 Palm Coast. Call 386/437-7547 or visit the auditorium’s website.

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