Carlos Marín, of the Multinational Quartet Il Divo, Dies at 53

A Spanish baritone, he joined singers from France, Switzerland and the U.S. to become worldwide stars of the genre sometimes called popera.
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Carlos Marín, a Spanish baritone who rocketed to international fame after the impresario Simon Cowell chose him to be a member of Il Divo, the multinational quartet whose slick pop music delivered in operatic style sold millions of records and filled arenas, died on Sunday in Manchester, England. He was 53.
Il Divo announced his death on social media. “It is with heavy hearts that we are letting you know that our friend and partner, Carlos Marín, has passed away,” the group wrote in a post on Twitter.
The post did not specify a cause, but Mr. Marín had been admitted to a Manchester hospital earlier this month with Covid-19, and on Dec. 9 the group announced that it was postponing remaining dates on its 2021 tour of Britain “due to illness.” A recent post on Il Divo’s Facebook page asked fans for prayers and good wishes for Mr. Marín.
“I am devastated Carlos Marín has passed away,” Mr. Cowell wrote on Sunday on Twitter. “He loved life. He loved performing and always had so much appreciation towards the fans who supported the group from Day 1.”
Mr. Marín was born on Oct. 13, 1968, in Rüsselsheim, a German city southwest of Frankfurt, and was something of a child prodigy. Nicknamed “the Little Caruso,” he recorded his first record, in the Netherlands, under the name Carlito when he was 8.
When he was 12, his family relocated to Madrid, where he studied at the Royal Conservatory. He also won several television talent contests.
He began making a name for himself in opera and musical theater, appearing in productions of “Les Miserables,” “Man of La Mancha,” “La Traviata” and more. The opportunity to be part of Mr. Cowell’s group, though, changed the direction of his career.
“I had opera bookings until 2008,” Mr. Marín told The Sunday Herald Sun of Australia in 2005, “but decided the risk to get involved with something like this was worth it.”
Around 2001, Mr. Cowell, who would soon become known to American television audiences as a judge on “American Idol,” started thinking of forming a male singing group along the lines of the Three Tenors — José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti — who had been merging opera and pop for a decade.
He began searching for singers, sending scouts to the world’s opera stages. But by early 2003 he was growing frustrated, unable to find the voices, physiques and personalities he thought could work in the genre that is sometimes called popera. As Mr. Cowell told the story to The Daily Mail of London in 2004, it was Mr. Marín who changed the picture.
“A year and a half ago, I thought it was never going to happen,” Mr. Cowell said. “I gave it three months, and then I got a visit from Carlos Marín, a 35-year-old Spaniard. A star had walked into my office. He was very charming and, when he sang, every hair on my neck stood up.”
Soon he had paired Mr. Marín with Urs Bühler of Switzerland, David Miller of the United States and Sébastien Izambard of France. The group performed and recorded songs in multiple languages — Spanish, English, Italian, French — and hit a sweet spot for a huge number of fans. Il Divo covered pop songs, songs from musical theater and classical and religious songs, all of them done in a style that some found sigh-inducing but that others, especially critics, found manipulative and cheesy.
“The singers looked in their shiny designer suits to have burst from the cover of a Harlequin Romance novel,” Chris Lee, reviewing a sold-out show at the 6,200-seat Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles, wrote in The Los Angeles Times in 2006. He called the quartet “a virtual United Nations of steamy hunkitude.”
That same year, when Il Divo performed with Barbra Streisand at Madison Square Garden, Stephen Holden of The New York Times was not impressed.
“While this multilingual, multinational quartet of singing mannequins assembled by the diabolically market-savvy impresario Simon Cowell belts in tune,” he wrote, “they have the emotional spontaneity of robots in tuxedos.”
Mr. Marín, though he was an experienced opera singer by the time he joined Il Divo, came to prefer the group’s music to the opera stage.
“With opera you have to act,” he explained to The Business Times of Singapore in 2014, “but you cannot really whisper something beautiful.”
“Singing is my way of saying what I feel, my way of life,” he is quoted as saying on the group’s website.
In the mid-1990s Mr. Marín played the Beast in a Spanish production of “Beauty and the Beast.” The role of Beauty role was played by a French singer named Geraldine Larrosa. The two married in 2006, though the marriage ended in 2009.
Information on Mr. Marín’s survivors was not immediately available.

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