It's ZA-ENS, by the way, not ZEYNS or the Frenchified, nasal ZONS. I made sure to ask him that at the beginning of the interview. Jonathan may have made a big name for himself in the rarefied classical-music world of Berlin, Germany, where he's been based for 16 years now. But he remains a Bicolano at heart, and has never thought of giving up his Filipino citizenship.
The first time I wrote about him here, it was in the context of the beautiful CD album of Kundiman songs that he recorded and launched in Manila in February. The album was hailed as “stunning” by the Inquirer's resident classical-music expert, Pablo Tariman; I posted three tracks in this blog, and many of you were also smitten.
Jonathan's back in town for a month to do a series of concerts with the Madrigal Singers, of which he was a member before he got a Voice scholarship in Berlin. An interesting back story: he was a graduating student of the Philippine High School for the Arts--an Imelda pet project--when the EDSA Revolution broke out. In the confusion that followed, he and his peers were sent home, and they were able to march down the aisle and claim their diploma only many months later.
Even before he joined the Madrigals, the choir's founder, Professor Andrea Veneracion, had taken a liking to the then-boy soprano whose adolescent voice was rapidly changing. With the famed Madz, Jonathan was painstakingly honed for bass-baritone parts; he toured the world and, with his co-choir members, helped scoop many medals from international choral competitions.
One of his signature numbers was Bring Him Home, from Les Miserables. When he came home some days ago and learned that Professor Veneracion was sick and confined in a hospital, Jonathan visited his beloved mentor and sang Bring Him Home by her bedside. He then reprised the song, still in honor of Professor Veneracion, at a reunion concert with the new set of Madrigal Singers at the CCP two Sundays ago. Needless to say, it was a spine-tingling performance.
Their next concert is on Sunday, September 21, 7 p.m., at the Philamlife Auditorium in UN Avenue (for tickets, call Chichi Abella 0917-8824400). Jonathan is also performing in Naga City on Oct. 4, and in the Visayas in the next few weeks. If he's appearing someplace near you, don't miss it. You simply have to hear Jonathan Zaens live.
Even in normal speech, his deep, dark voice is a pleasure to hear. Here, watch him talk about his years with the Madz, his life and career in Germany, the genesis of his Kundiman CD, why tenors get more love in the opera world, etc.
PLUS: As some of you have requested, here are more tracks from Jonathan's Kundiman: Philippine Art Songs CD (piano accompaniment by Abelardo Galang II).
1. Madaling Araw, Francisco Santiago, arranged by Ryan Cayabyab
2. Habang Buhay, Miguel Velarde Jr., arranged by Eudenice Palaruan
3. Cancion Filipina, Francisco Santiago, arranged by Eudenice Palaruan
4. Magbalik Ka, Hirang, Nicanor Abelardo, arranged by Ryan Cayabyab