We catch up with British singer Alfie Boe, whose tour of Britain, Australia and the United States stops here at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Byham Theater as part of the Cohen & Grisby Trust Presents series.
Mr. Boe is winner of a special Tony for "La Boheme" on Broadway and star of a PBS staple during fundraising weeks, the "Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert" at the O2 Arena in London. After the "Les Mis" triumph, the singer extended his performance as Jean Valjean during a five-month residency at the Queens Theater in London and saw his "Bring Him Home" album reach No. 9 in on the U.K. charts.
A classicist who left the Royal Opera House in 2002 to join director Baz Luhrmann for "La Boheme on Broadway," he dabbles in many musical genres. "Song to the Siren," a duet with Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, appeared on Mr. Boe's 2012 album "Alfie," which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Chart.
Mr. Boe answered a few questions via email while on tour:
How do you describe yourself as an artist?
I always describe myself as a singer. I don't want to be put in a box because I want to sing everything as long as it's great.
I know I'm the millionth person to ask you about being discovered when you were working as a mechanic, but there must have been other tales to tell that led to your diverse career.
Yes, as everyone says, it was an overnight success story of 18 or more years. To be honest, there have been many disappointments and roadblocks along the way, but I'm so excited about the way things are finally falling into place for me.
Bringing operas to Broadway houses makes so much sense, but it happens rarely, and you made such a success of "La Boheme" as envisioned by Baz Luhrmann. What was that like?
"La Boheme" on Broadway was a magical time for me. Working with Baz was truly inspiring, and, yes, operas should be performed wherever they can be. They really don't have to be in opera houses at all.
That made you a Tony winner, but what kind of a recognition boost did you get from the broadcasting of the "Les Miserables" concert?
The "Les Miserables 25th Anniversary" at The O2 in London was life-changing for me. It was such an amazing show, and the role of Jean Valjean was incredible to play. That night at the O2 is a night I will never ever forget.
It's another big year for "Les Mis" with the movie coming out -- are you looking forward to seeing how they pull it off?
Of course, and I wish them all the luck with the film.
Do you feel like you have a signature role or song now, or do you enjoy being known as an artist with a diverse repertoire?
I love what I'm doing. I love singing great songs and telling those stories to my audiences.
How do you go about engaging with the audience? How different are audiences, say, here or in the U.K.?
I like to make my audience feel like it's a show just for them -- I even bring them up on stage with me. If I could, I'd have everyone on stage! Audiences vary from town to town and country to country, but I have to say, I'm loving the reaction here in the United States.
What kind of program can we expect in Pittsburgh?
Well, it does change a little every night. But you certainly can expect to hear some songs from my "Alfie" album, which I did on the PBS special "Live From the Royal Festival Hall, London." Of course, "Bring Him Home" will be in there somewhere. Besides that there will be a nod to my classical days with some beautiful Neapolitan arias and then a hint of where I'm going musically -- some country and some surprises I'm sure. Can't wait for Pittsburgh.
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960.