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'World's First Opera Band'  Blends Arias, Classics With Electronica

Amici Forever is a quintet of young, classically-trained singers who incorporate pop and dance music elements into traditional and contemporary opera. Billed as "the world's first opera band," the group has successfully blended familiar arias and other classical pieces with electronica.

The members of Amici Forever became close friends while training and performing in operas on many of the world's greatest stages. Although the two women and three men look and dress like a rock group, their debut album, The Opera Band, is defined as a classical recording with a pop approach.

Soprano Jo Appleby, tenor David Habbin and bass baritone Nick Garrett are from England, while soprano Tsakane Valentine is from South Africa and tenor Geoff Sewell hails from New Zealand. While all were serious classical students, they acknowledge rock and pop influences that range from Elvis Presley to classic rock of the 1970s.

The first opportunity to test their musical collaboration was singing the British national anthem at a 2003 major rugby final in the U.K. before a European television audience of millions. Soon after that appearance, Amici Forever was offered a recording contract with Arista Records.

The Opera Band album is a mixture of classical music by traditional and contemporary composers. One newer piece, Canto Alla Vita is a modern classical love song with a Latin rhythm.

Amici Forever performs lesser-known works by composers Dvorak, Elgar, Bizet and Mozart. A piece by Handel is re-created with thumping bass and percussion. The Opera Album also contains the theme from the World War II television series, Band of Brothers, written by the late pioneering classical crossover composer, Michael Kamen, as well as a version of Unchained Melody, a 1965 Top Five hit for the Righteous Brothers.

"There are a lot of diverse musical styles on this CD: a bit of opera, a bit of classical and a bit of pop, but the main link between them all is the classical-sounding voice," says Amici Forever's bass baritone Nick Garrett.

The group will be appearing on several international television programs, and will start a major European tour on June 1. Their debut album The Opera Band remains in the Top Five on the classical album chart in the U.K.