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Opera guy opens his mouth, listeners open their hearts

June 17, 2007|Christine N. Ziemba

PAUL POTTS, 36, has turned into the talk of YouTube's opera-loving set -- and is winning over a few more fans of the genre in the process -- all thanks to reality TV.

Even Hollywood's own king of snark, Perez Hilton, couldn't help but link to this feel-good story of the Welsh cellular phone store manager who wowed the judges of "Britain's Got Talent" last week -- including usually negative show producer Simon Cowell -- by singing the aria "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot." (Go to latimes.com/entertainment to view the YouTube video.) When Potts first steps onstage, the judges look skeptical, and the audience seems to be bracing for another William Hung-like "She Bangs" performance on "American Idol." The singer has a face for radio: He looks a little like Mark Addy's character in "The Full Monty" -- a bit rotund, a tad hapless -- and his suit doesn't quite fit.

But when he sings the first strains of "Nessun Dorma," the audience is whipped into a rock concert frenzy, as if the Beatles -- or perhaps Luciano Pavarotti himself -- stepped onstage. The camera pans the crowd to capture a few tears being shed, and one of the judges, British actress Amanda Holden, admits to getting "goose pimples." All the while, Potts' charm and shyness are capped by a crooked smile with a Letterman-esque gap.

For those not familiar with "Britain's Got Talent" -- or its U.S. counterpart "America's Got Talent" -- think of the reality TV show as a cross between "The Gong Show" and "American Idol." In Britain, the competitors are vying for 100,000 pounds and a slot to sing before Queen Elizabeth at the 2007 Royal Variety Performance, an annual benefit show.

Now while some are skeptical of Potts' TV packaging as just a salesman (seems that he's had formal opera training), masses from around the world are pulling for this opera underdog. Hmm. Could be a new reality TV show in there somewhere.

-- Christine N. Ziemba

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