Dream to some, nightmare to others: Michael Bolton headlining a "Three Tenors 2000" gig.

Forget those big-time opera names that sound like pasta and cheese--here comes Bolton.

With a uniquely strong voice--and hair that may have had a life of its own--Bolton has achieved worldwide fame over the years singing pop ballads.

Now, his My Secret Passion--a collection of 10 classic tenor arias--has hit No. 1 on Billboard's traditional classical chart.

Michael Bolton, "Nessun dorma!"
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Released two weeks ago, the album contains works written by operatic glitterati including Puccini, Verdi, Donizetti and Massenet, as well as a duet from Puccini's La Boheme performed with soprano Renee Fleming.

Bolton performed one of the album's tracks at the American Music Awards last month--to the glee of the notoriously uptight classical music critics, who butchered Bolton's operatic crooning.

But critics have never gotten in Bolton's way before. "I feel confident, from performing these arias live, that my audience will embrace this music," says Bolton in a statement. He claims inspiration for the record came from singing with Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti in concert.

"I've chosen arias that I believe they will appreciate, and that will speak to them for the same reasons they speak to me." (Sounds like he's been working with Luciano Mozzarella, as well.)

It remains to be seen whether Bolton's classical makeover is permanent, but the ex-popster has embraced his attempt at legitimacy. For his AMA appearance, his trademark mane was seriously cropped. (Despite the buzz cut, Bolton's late locks finished second to Garth Brooks in the "Male Musician with the Best Hairstyle" category of the fourth annual Sally Beauty Supply Best Tressed awards, announced this week.)

Meanwhile, the classical charts are starting to swell with pop-rockers-turned-Beethoven wannabes. Paul McCartney topped the charts with his Standing Stone symphony, Elvis Costello charted with his The Juliet Letters and piano man Billy Joel is currently working on his classical chops for an upcoming album.

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