Even to the most rock/pop centric music fan, there is something about an operatic tenor’s voice that moves the spirit. Jonathan Cilia-Faro knows this well, going from a rough childhood to becoming one of the top selling artists in Europe and Canada. With a string of 12 successful albums, 4 inspirational and 12 classical crossover, plus the top selling Christian album in Europe, Reborn, Jonathan is primed to take on the US with his blend of musical styles. Even though his training led him to become a classical performer, he has toured with a series of Gospel concerts and is on his way to do the same with jazz and swing.
Jonathan recently completed a music video in Italy with Don (Donny) Most, actor (Happy Days), director and singer of big band/jazz tunes who spoke recently with the Los Angeles Beat here; and they just completed recording a CD with Grammy Award-winning producer Tom Brooks, who has produced 6 Platinum and 18 Gold Albums. They played a successful show at NYC’s popular Metropolitan Room a few weeks ago. Jonathan sat down with The Los Angeles Beat and talked about his life, his love of music and his plans to show that there can be a successful blend of several musical styles.
A: I started to sing at the age of nine years old at the choir of the orphanage where I was living; and the nun recognized in me the talent of singing and she started to teach me how to sing properly, until I started to train professionally to develop my gift.
Q:You’ve had an interesting life. So music literally saved your life?
A: Yes. Music cam like I described, before a very early age. I was raised in a Catholic environment, all religious songs and music gave me hope and gave me a message. I always found in music the right counselor; somebody watching over me. So I found in music the right reason, the right hope why I should pursue my life and try to discover more about music. Then I started to listen to Mozart, Beethoven and all classic music. I found in the history of these artist’s lives trouble; they did not have an easy life too. I felt like somebody understanding me, I wasn’t the first kid to get into trouble in life, so music realistically changed the form of my childhood.
Q: From opera, you crossed over into jazz, swing and even some popular styles. Is it a nice blend of music for you?
A: I believe music does have limitations. I am classically trained so I know how to use the voice. I never call myself a jazz singer, but I can sing jazz. I am very versitle about how the music is in general. But I love this kind of music, it inspires me every day. I really believe that we can merge jazz and opera and this is what we are doing right now with my new friend Donny Most.
Q: What was it like to film your music video with Don Most?
A: I think it’s the most amazing experience I’ve had in my life. I grew up with Happy Days TV; and my dream when I was alone in very difficult times, I was watching them like a dream, it was good for me and my career . And after 30 years—I was seven years old when I was watching Happy Days—to see Donny Most in front of me, making me smile, making me happy; he brought me back to those happy days. It was a very very beautiful experience.
Q: On your new recording with Don Most, it was produced by Tom Brooks, who is a top musician with Alan Parsons as well as a Grammy Award winning producer. How was it to work with him?
A: I met Tom Brooks when I was sixteen years old in Italy. We became friends because we used to sing gospel music in Italy. We became very good friends, I grew up with him and his music. This year I realized another dream of my life, to put together my music producer Matteo Ciffeli, multi-platinum award winning producer in Europe, with Tom Brooks. So I put together the two most powerful producers and they saw me grow up, so I think it was a mutual, very very loving experience, because Tom told me ‘I will never expect in life to see you here in America, producing this wonderful project with (Don) Donny Most’. We all agree, my team, that this project is simply a gift from God.
Q: I understand you are a master chef. What’s your favorite dish to cook?
A: I know how to cook very well, because I grew up with my grandfather, so I was the cook. I needed to cook to survive. He was just into eating cheese and bread. Onion and bread and cheese was my my grandfather’s daily meal. But I had a nice woman in my neighborhood, she loved to cook for the community. When I could, I spent hours and hours watching this woman, watching her like she was my grandmother; and I stole all kinds of things and I memorized how to cook it so I could make better food in my house with my grandfather. This became literally my hobby; and then I realized I started to cook for everyone when I started to live alone at my early age, sixteen or seventeen. This became my passion , people knew that word-of-mouth and some very famous friends of mine, they started to invite me ‘Let’s cook this, let’s cook that’ and then they proposed me a TV program to cook and sing and I said ‘Why not?’. Music, wine and taste, they go together.
If you come Saturday (we laugh) I will cook ravioli. It is homemade pasta filled with ricotta. Fresh, homemade ricotta! Also, I know how to make ricotta myself. It’s really hard to make fresh ricotta here in America because they don’t sell non-pasteurized milk—I don’t know why! They sell drugs that are almost illegal and yet they don’t want people to sell milk! I like for ravioli the ricotta and for dessert I’m very strong making Apple Strudel.
Q: Would you have liked to sing with the Three Tenors?
A: If you’re talking about Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras and Plácido Domingo, yes. It would be a fantastic experience. Unfortunately Pavarotti is no longer alive, so I would like to be the thirdTenor, with Domingo and Carreras, yes.
Q: Do you think the United States will embrace your unique musical style?
A: I really believe there’s a season for any kind of style. We’re in a season where people want to go back to symphonic music and in a more classical direction; and at my age I really feel it is the right time to merge two generations, the ones who start to sunset and the ones who start to rise. Sometimes the style, we are going back to the 70’s with a passion, we are going back to the old traditions. American people will be very intrigued about my music.
Q: How did the performance at the Metropolitan Room in New York City with Don Most go?
A: It was a couple of weeks ago that I had the priveledge to share the stage with Donny and also to jusde the people’s reaction to this wonderful music experimental project. The reaction was amazing! The people did not expect an operatic voice in a brass band sound. The expression on the face of the people was very very excited and confirmed to me and Donny, “YES!!’. We made a wonderful merging of music.
Q: How do you see the future of your life and your music going?
A: My idea is to build up something that will encourage younger generations. I want to be a pioneer of this kind of music and I want to work for the next ten years to try to project myself into a career where I can inspire young people, young artists; and tell them about finding the dream. With my production team our idea is, if we find a new young artist, we want to help this artist to shine. I want to be a philanthropist of music, because I don’t want my music to die with me someday. I want somebeody else to embrace my music during my life so I can enjoy and we can have more work to do and grow up together.
One thing somebody brought up the other day, I think it is a beautiful way to see the artistic mind, the artistic life. I will read it to you, I put it down and I believe it. ‘I believe there are two kinds of artists. Both are climbing a mountain to reach success. The media only sees one artist climbing, just one side of the mountain. So I want to say to somebody, a moment will follow my career, but that is why I believe we need to invest in the new artist. The single artist is just as talented, as brave climbing alone in the shadows, watched by no one. But both reach the top of the mountains. What I want to say to the press, everything we are facing; I want the public to decide who gets attention, who they like , who is worth our time and our money. This is my idea—if you like it, you can make it better’.
Q: Thank you, Jonathan. Ciao.
Jonathan Cilia-Faro wants to prove that music is, well……music. He feels that not only can several genres be brought together, but that disparate groups and generations of listeners can grow to appreciate the various styles of music. With his collaboration with Don (Donny) Most, both singers have shown that it’s all good music.