A former Britain’s Got Talent winner is set to woo Belgium with a much-awaited appearance at Antwerp later this year.
Fans of Jonathan Antoine will be excited to hear that he is due to appear on November 19 at the city’s Queen Elisabeth Hall.
Antoine is one of the ex-winners of Britain’s Got Talent and famous for his audition on the show 10 years ago which reportedly became the world’s most viewed television audition of any performer in history.
After becoming an instant TV hit, his solo career was launched with two chart-topping classical albums in the UK and a global viral following that helped him become the youngest tenor to achieve a Number 1 selling classical album. He is widely credited with helping to make classical music more approachable for a broader audience.
In a Q&A, he explained the factors behind his rapid rise to the top and why he’s so much looking forward to performing for a Belgian audience.
Q: You found fame very early. How big a surprise was that? What was the reaction to it from family/friends?
Antoine: “It was all a very fragmented process – because the recording had happened months before its public broadcast there was actually quite a significant grace period. It was clear on the day of recording the show that the reaction had been extremely positive, and so the waiting and wondering how the broader public would react was nerve-wracking in a sense. I was at band practice with a few friends when the episode aired with my phone turned off. When I turned it on at some time past midnight it didn’t know what to do with itself, people I had only interacted with on a surface level at school were suddenly very excited to have known me.”
Q: How hard was it to cope with it all, including the media attention? Did you suffer from media intrusiveness?
Antoine: “There was only one occasion on which a reporter showed up at my family’s home, and that was before the episode even aired. I have always had a wonderful relationship with the press and media, and always found it honestly quite cathartic to give interviews. I use them as a sort of therapy in the slight hope that someone out there might feel something similar and know that they’re not alone.”
Q:Do you miss your privacy?
Antoine: “I would argue that in some ways, in our hyper-digitised ever-vigilant modern society, I and those like me – that is to say public figures – may have the most ‘privacy’ of all. I am very aware of the information about me that exists in the physical and digital space, because for the most part I have purposefully put that information out there. A lot of people are not cognizant of the digital footprint they leave behind at every corner, when you are already in a spotlight or under scrutiny it is far easier to have that awareness.”
Q: On that most viewed TV audition – is that still the case or has someone overtaken it? How did that feel?
Antoine: “I’m not honestly sure whether it ever was the case, haha! It’s a statistic that has often been quoted to me, but not something I’ve ever personally claimed. There was a point where the number fascinated me, but I never felt personally invested in it being the biggest, nor comparing it to anyone else’s.”
Q: Who are your musical heroes or heroines? What influence have they had on you?
Antoine: “Besides the obvious of Pavarotti influencing more-or-less every recording and performance that I’ve ever done, I have the remarkable pleasure of working with a lot of my musical heroes. Right now I’m working with Diane Warren, alongside whose songs I grew up, on a new album.”
Q: How do you see the Belgian market? Do you have many fans here?
Antoine: “I’m honestly not sure! I was quite surprised to receive the offer, as I don’t get a tremendous amount of mail from Belgium. It’s comforting to know that there are people coming in from across the world in that case, and I hope to meet those in Belgium who have been supporting me.”
Q: How and where do you see your career progressing?
Antoine: “I hope to be able to start diversifying, doing steadily more different things. I have a large swathe of interests and to be able to start turning those into revenue streams would be pretty good! I personally believe that as we digitize further the perceived importance of performers will likely decrease in favour of those who are able to initially conceptualise particular ideas or shows or ‘new’ combinations of things. ‘AI Prompter’ or something similar will likely be a creative job in the near future, and I’m trying to prepare for that eventuality.”
Q: Your next challenge?
Antoine: “In general I do fear that we are living in the last age of performers. The accessibility and ease with which one can create a facsimile of perfect performance will likely either erode or recontextualise the meaning of performance itself. There is an optimist in me that says that such a turn of events would place a high value on ‘authenticity’ in performance, but an equally powerful pessimist who argues that authenticity is almost impossible to value in a world where absolute truth is obfuscated. These are challenges that will likely be after my time, and perhaps this philosophising is just me running from the challenges of right now! I live a supremely blessed life, and really the prime challenge that I face is that everything costs money – when you place high value on authenticity it can become quite costly getting an orchestra together! But I will always find a way, because I value that experience that can only be had between singer and listener.”
Q: What interests do you have outside of music?
Antoine: “A lot! I sometimes feel as though I’m a collector of collections. I get very into a specific topic or physical thing and will pursue it to a particular end goal. Then some years down the line when that topic or thing has developed into something almost entirely different, I get to revisit it with the eldritch knowledge I have collected. This applies to things like guitars & guitar equipment, pokemon cards and many other trading card games, lego building, photography and many many more.”
Q: Where do you think you will be in, say, 10 years?
Antoine: “If the last 10 years have been any indicator, most things will remain the same, but the most important things will always change. Hopefully I’ll be able to buy my parents a house someday, that’s my biggest goal in life.”
Meanwhile, tickets are also selling fast for German/Spanish singer-songwriter Alvaro Soler’s appearance at Forest National, Brussels on 30 September.
Born in Barcelona in 1991, Soler first gained fame all over Europe with his 2015 song ‘El Mismo Sol’, which was quickly followed by hits like Sofia, La Cintura, Magia – the name of his current European tour – and he’s currently breaking all records with his newest song ‘Solo Para Ti’.
After two sold out Belgian shows in La Madeleine (2017) and Cirque Royal (2019), the international pop star will finally return to Brussels on September 30 with a concert in Forest National as part of his ‘MAGIA’ European Tour.
The successes he scored with his music between 2015 and 2019 can be safely called a sensation and he says he’s glad to be able to perform live again after the health crisis.
He told this website, “Isolation forced us to rediscover ourselves and focus on how magical the small things in life can be. For example, to embrace our parents or watch the sunset in the café at the corner. Apart from all the worries, I’ve experienced solidarity among strangers I’ve never seen before, and my desire to bring people together with my music was rekindled.”
He adds, “Music spreads hope and helps us to keep the faith.”
Tickets for both shows are still available at www.gracialive.be