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From popstar to opera star

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Joined: 19 Jan 2004
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    Posted: 21 May 2010 at 11:45

From popstar to opera star... how Darius Campbell bounced back from scathing reviews to score leading role in Carmen


By Nicole Lampert
Last updated at 10:11 AM on 21st May 2010

Fighter:%20Darius%20Campbell%20has%20landed%20the%20role%20of%20Escamillo%20in%20%20%20Sundays%20performance%20of%20Carmen%20at%20the%20O2

Fighter: Darius Campbell has landed the role of Escamillo in Sunday's performance of Carmen at the O2

Darius Campbell Danesh is like a fly that refuses to be swotted away.

He’s faced public ridicule on Popstars, being dropped by his record label, and heading up an ill-fated musical of Gone With The Wind which was mauled by critics and closed within two months.

But almost ten years on from his jaw-droopingly embarrassing rendition of Hit Me Baby One More Time on Popstars, Darius is not only still making a career in showbusiness but is actually doing rather well.

On Sunday he will make his first major opera performance at the O2 arena in Carmen playing the arrogant and macho toreador Escamillo.

At 29, he will be the youngest person to perform the role in a professional opera ever.

And he is also one of the few people in the world who has taken on opera without any proper opera training.

The role follows on from his win on ITV1’s Popstar to Operastar and is yet another string to his bow.

He is also fulfilling a life-long dream, having played in the chorus of the Edinburgh Opera performance of Carmen when he was a wee 12-year-old boy.

‘I never really thought I would be allowed to do this,’ says the singer. ‘There is normally a whole process of training which one must undergo just to be able to get into the audition room for an opera like this. To be given this opportunity really is an honour and a dream come true. It is a privilege which is not wasted on me.’

Darius says the show’s producer Raymond Gubbay chose to take a punt on this failed popstar because, ‘He said I seemed very focused. He said when dedication and tenacity meets opportunity you can get great achievement.’

What a delicate and candid way of summing up the Darius story. The Edinburgh born son of an Iranian doctor and Scottish mother, Darius found instant fame on Popstars for all the wrong reasons.

Although he had undoubted talent, his arrogance, kooky love of LA-style psycho-babble – ‘there’s a lot of love in the room’ - and his obvious ambition made him an instant figure of fun.

His pay-off to Popstars' judge Nigel Lythgoe that he would have a double platinum album by the time he was 30 seemed like a joke.

However he is a fighter and a year after the infamy a seemingly more contrite Darius was back on the reality show scene to come third on the first Pop Idol. 

That was indeed followed by a platinum selling album, produced by U2 maestro Steve Lillywhite.

But time, generally, is not a good friend to the reality popstar and shortly after his second album failed to do as well he was dropped. Did that mean the end of Darius? Of course not.

Soon he was back; first on the West End stage as the youngest actor to play Billy Flynn in Chicago and then came the £6million Sir Trevor Nunn National Theatre production of Gone With The Wind.

Unpopular:%20Campbell,%20pictured%20with%20Jill%20Paice%20as%20Scarlett,%20was%20%20%20mauled%20by%20the%20critics%20for%20his%20performance%20as%20Rhett%20Butler%20in%20the%20Gone%20%20%20With%20The%20Wind%20Musical%20

Unpopular: Campbell, pictured with Jill Paice as Scarlett, was mauled by the critics for his performance as Rhett Butler in the Gone With The Wind Musical

‘Dreary and unspectacular…Danesh gives a stilted impersonation of Clark Gable,’ said a typical review.

Did that knock Darius down? No. Not for a second.

‘I was really lucky with Gone With The Wind,’ he insists. ‘I got some great reviews. The show was criticised for being too long. And anyone who, like us, was affected by the credit crunch can say that if they put all their hard work into an endeavour they can hold their heads up with pride.

‘I take all reviews with a pinch of salt. All I was hoping for was that my family, friends and fans enjoyed it; you can’t keep everyone happy. That’s something I’ve come to realise as I’ve got older; that the most important thing is that you’re happy.’

There is something admirable in someone who can pick themselves up after so many public knocks. But it seems that setbacks to Darius are like water off a duck's back.

You don’t have to dig deep to find that the old Darius confidence – and his love of convoluted sentences  – are still as much in evidence as they were ten years ago.

Perhaps his quirks are what make Darius still a figure of some interest – at least he’s got a bit of character unlike so many of the sickly sweet pop stars of today.

Ask him a question and it's impossible to get a short answer. He thinks about each word he utters, his large brown puppy eyes  deep in thought, but his sentences go off on so many tangents and the words get so big that he ties himself up in circles.

So when I ask him where he gets his confidence from it takes some effort to find the actual answer: he learned from his Popstars humiliation never to worry about what other people said.

The edited version of his answer goes a bit like this: ‘When I started on my – it seems like such a cliché to use the word journey – on my path of being gainfully employed in the entertainment business, after I left my studies and started a new part in my life, at first I was knocked off my feet and hit the ground on my a**e basically. I learned some hard lessons very quickly at the beginning.

Big%20break:%20Campbell%20with%20his%20fellow%20Pop%20Idol%20finalists%20Gareth%20%20%20Gates,%20Zoe%20Birkett,%20Hayley%20Evetts%20and%20William%20Young%20in%202002

Big break: Campbell with his fellow Pop Idol finalists Gareth Gates, Zoe Birkett, Hayley Evetts and William Young in 2002

‘I discovered perception and reality; the idea that it’s a business and you are a commodity to your record label. Because my fall at the very beginning was so public it put me in a position where I had to assess who I was and what I wanted and what was important to me.

‘And what was important to me was working really hard, growing as a young man and as a performer and trying to be the best I could. And I am really grateful for all the experiences I have had.’

Earlier this year Darius decided to change his name. Having grown up as Darius Danesh Campbell, the Scottish part of his surname was dropped by his first record label.

Love%20interest:%20Campbell%20with%20Natasha%20Henstridge,%20whom%20he%20%20%20reportedly%20split%20from%20recently%20

Love interest: Campbell has reportedly split from fianceé Natasha Henstridge

He has now dropped the Danesh – preferring to be known as Darius Campbell – following the recent illness of his maternal grandfather. The idea he should completely drop the surname he was famous – infamous – with seems a little strange.

He insists it is because he wanted the Scottish part of him to be more on show as Darius is such a foreign name. 

When I question why he could not simply revert back to the double barrel name he was born with he refuses to really answer; he is always polite but will only let you probe so far before becoming positively obstructive by talking round and round and on and on about nothing.

When I ask whether it's true he has split from his fiancée, American actress Natasha Henstridge, most famous for her role in Species, I get a lecture for about five minutes about why he's not going to answer that question ending with, ‘but thank you for asking’.

Darius, who has been training with opera coaches daily for his latest role, says next up is a new record. He is in talks with several record labels and looking forward to hitting the charts again.

And I don’t doubt that we will be seeing even more of the ambitious Darius who tells me; ‘I am a believer that if someone says it can’t be done it’s because they can’t do it. I believe that if I train hard enough then I have fulfilled my condition in life which is to be a performer and be the best that I can at any given time.’ Watch out world.

Darius will star in Carmen for one performance only at the O2 on Sunday at 2.30pm. For tickets call 0844 856 0202

Daily Mail


Edited by Bren - 21 May 2010 at 11:45
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