Italian crooner Patrizio Buanne hopes to spice up the love lives of Tampa Bay residents with an intimate evening of romantic melodies at the Straz Center on Friday.
The 35-year-old singer, who has sold more than 4 million albums in the past eight years, is quickly winning over a legion of fans.
“I'm not a household name, yet,” Buanne said. “But people are definitely getting to know me and recognize me wherever I go.”
Although he calls Vienna home, Buanne hasn't spent much time in Austria since the release of his first album in 2005.
“It was released in England and went straight to gold,” Buanne said. “I've basically been on tour since then in Europe, Australia, Africa, Japan and the United States. It's been a beautiful journey.”
Born in Vienna, Buanne was a youngster when his parents opened an Italian restaurant.
“I used to love singing along to my parents' vinyl records of Italian music,” he said. “While other kids were playing [soccer], I was pursuing my passion for music.”
He began entering and winning talent shows at the age 11, cementing his desire to become a professional singer.
“My parents didn't think singing was a serious job,” Buanne said. “They wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. But I was determined. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Early on, Buanne said he was drawn to the 1950s and '60s music of Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones and Dean Martin.
“They had such big, expressive voices,” he said. “I wanted to sing like that. I didn't want to join a boy band or a rock band. I wanted to perform timeless music, music that speaks for itself.”
He got his break at the age of 17 when he was asked to perform for Pope John Paul II in Wroclaw, Poland. The song, half in Italian and half in Polish, was written for the opening Mass of the Pope's visit, attended by 85,000 people.
After graduating from high school in Vienna, he moved to Rome where he continued to pursue his musical career while studying languages in case he needed a back-up profession.
Buanne is now fluent in six languages, an accomplishment that's proven advantageous in communicating with audiences on his world tours.
Buanne eventually caught the attention of record producers in 2004 when he collaborated with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on a collection of romantic Italian songs he loved as a child.
His debut 2005 album, “The Italian,” recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in London, went to the top 10 on the pop charts in the United Kingdom and subsequently was certified as platinum in South Africa and New Zealand and triple platinum in Australia.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “After that, I started touring all over the world.”
Buanne performs 25 to 75 concerts a year, including two sold-out concerts at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater in 2007.
“I'm a romantic singer, so I'm not a fan of big arenas,” he said. “I prefer to play clubs of 500 people or smaller venues of 3,500 or so.”
Those attending his concert Friday can expect to hear a range of popular music styles in both English and Italian, including Patsy Cline's hit, “Crazy,” Frank Sinatra's “Fly Me to the Moon,” Rosemary Clooney's “Mambo Italiano,” Jimmy Fontana's “Il Mondo,” Humperdinck's “A Man Without Love,” Mario Lanza's “Come Prima,” and an Italian version of Crowded House's “Don't Dream It's Over.”
But with his smooth baritone, Buanne manages to make the music uniquely his.
“Some of my biggest fans are people of Italian descent,” Buanne said. “They call me the 'Ambassador of the Italian Songbook.' ”
As a rule, Buanne said he doesn't like being compared to other singers but there is one comparison he doesn't mind.
“Some people have told me I'm the male version of Celine Dion,” Buanne said. “I'm very flattered. She's a wonderful singer. I'd love to record with her one day.”