By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Live Review: Jonathan Antoine’s ChristmasLand Live! Where the Magic of Christmas Comes Alive tour – Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, Florida – December 23, 2021
Rock At Night usually covers music that is typically in the rock genre. Occasionally, we cover music that might be construed as Americana or jazz. So, typically we stay true to form.
An unusual opportunity arose when opera darling Jonathan Antoine placed St. Petersburg, Florida on his North American tour. The ChristmasLand Live! Where the Magic of Christmas Comes Alive tour began in New Jersey on December 1st, traveled north to Toronto and Michigan, and finally south to sunny Florida. Appreciating this rare opportunity after a year of “getting back to normalcy”, who could resist a little holiday cheer?
If you are not familiar with Jonathan Antoine, head directly to YouTube and look up his 2012 audition video for Britain’s Got Talent. At the tender age of 17, he became an overnight sensation with his Pavarotti-like voice and shy, yet charismatic personality. Now, almost 10 years later, Antoine has produced several albums (he is actually the youngest tenor to achieve a #1 classical album) and has acquired a rabid fanbase of “fantoines”, as they are affectionately called.
Thursday evening’s performance at the Mahaffey Theater brought a mix of holiday favorites, pop standards, and opera classics to St. Petersburg, Florida. Backed by a small group of musicians behind a grand piano, strings, and harp, Antoine began the evening with “Winter Wonderland”. Singing in Italian, he performed “Caro Jesu Bambino” followed by a duet “The Prayer” with himself (thanks to a backing track). At this point, Antoine excused himself for a planned interlude as the pianist performed a few solos on the piano.
Returning to the stage, with a different suit and cape, he demonstrated his vocal range by singing Puccini’s “E Lucevan Le Stella”.
Between songs, Antoine eloquently described personal anecdotes, with a sincere yet impeccable delivery, adding intimacy to the concert. He relayed the story of “the most mysterious song on the internet”, a song recorded in the 1980s, whose origin was a mystery until this year. Additionally, he presented a Japanese daruma doll given to him by his therapist years ago and asked the audience to conjure a wish silently with him.
Antoine paid homage to America by singing “Country Roads”, tipped his hat to the audience with “These Are the Special Times”, and encouraged the crowd to sing “Volare.” After ending the evening with “O Holy Night”, the audience cheered and clapped for more—and he delivered with spades. Made famous by Pavarotti, Antoine delivered a flawless version of “Nessun Dorma”.
So even a self-declared rockster can listen to the impeccable tenor and moving voice for an evening and have total appreciation of its splendor. Antoine proved why he is considered a “rockstar” in the classical world.
Listen to ChristmasLand Platinum Edition