For Darius Campbell appearing on Popstar to Operastar feels like coming home. “It really appealed because my parents are huge opera fans. I fell in love with opera at a very young age because my dad always played it in the car.”
As a youngster Darius dabbled in the world of opera when he appeared in the Scottish Opera production of The Trojans – albeit a non-singing role. He adds, “that was my first professional musical experience.”
He decided to explore the world of opera further and “busked it” at an audition for Bizet’s Carmen. Without any classical training he managed to secure a part in the boys’ chorus.
He says: “That was it. I was caught hook, line and sinker by the idea of treading the boards.“
Darius, 29, recalls that after that his parents told him to choose between seriously pursuing an opera career or returning home to continue his education. He says, “after the first performance, my parents said to me, ‘if you want to do this professionally, you’ll have to train and it’ll take priority over school. Otherwise, you can come back to Glasgow and stay in school then go to university.’”
The Scottish singer, who has had five top ten singles in this country, continues that, “I had a huge decision to make. So after a lot of agonising, two days later I went back to Glasgow to go to university and play in a rock band. I was heartbroken to leave opera, but at the time it was the right decision for me.”
Darius says, “that was 15 years ago, and I’d never have dreamed for a moment that now I would be revisiting the world of opera. I’d never have thought the opportunity would arise to train with the world’s greatest opera singers. It’s an incredible privilege. I feel very humbled by it.”
Darius rose to fame after appearing in ITV’s Pop Idol show and his debut single “Colourblind” went straight into the charts at number one.
The singer, whose first album went platinum, is particularly delighted to be mentored by the world-famous tenor, Rolando Villazon. “Working with Rolando has been a dream. He’s a larger-than-life character with very expressive eyebrows. His personality and vocal ability fill the room. I can’t think of a better person to train me as a singer and a performer. He’s arguably the greatest tenor of his generation.”
Darius carries on by asking: “What have I learnt? Where do I start? Having never had classical training before, it’s been a big wake-up call. It’s been a shock to find there’s a world of technique and military discipline and work ethic out there that exceeds anything in pop.
“Some of the methods have just made me laugh, like trying to improve your technique by attempting to put your fist in your mouth and make a vibrating sound. How does that work? It requires such a lot of practice. I take my hat off to opera singers who devote a lifetime to learning how to sing just two notes!”
So how does Darius view the prospect of performing an aria on live TV in Pop Star to Opera Star? “Without any hesitation, I can say this is the biggest challenge of my career. Opera singers train for seven years to sing an aria like ‘Nessun Dorma’. It’s like becoming a surgeon. I’ve got three weeks to do it. No pressure, then!”