Notes from the heart: Christian Bautista performs in ‘Ballet and Ballads’
By Jv Ramos
Christian Bautista’s non-stop presence on the radio, theater posters and advertising billboards, concert listings and television shows since he began his showbiz career in 2003 makes one think that he has presented all of himself out there.
But the truth is, there’s more to this charming man who’s known for his soothing voice and boy-next-door looks.
For starters, this singer – acclaimed as Asia’s Romantic Balladeer – has a degree in landscape architecture. He admits it’s the professional field he most probably would be in had he not enrolled in a theater workshop after his college days. Indeed, unlike many who are done with learning after receiving a diploma, Christian opted to explore possibilities as a performer, simply because it intrigued him.
“That’s where I discovered that I’m happy on stage,” says Christian who, surprisingly, is admitted introvert. “Gan’un ako before and after the show, pero kapag nasa entablado, iba na (I’m quite reserved before and after the show, but when I’m on stage, I’m different).”
When the theater bug bit Christian, he went on to act in Trumpet’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Joseph the Dreamer in just one year, which alarmed his parents a bit, for they were aware how insufficient the wages in theater could be.
“Kinausap nila ako. Paano na ‘yung landscape architecture? Sa teatro, mababa kasi talaga ang bayad. At noong time na ‘yun, wala pa masyadong opportunities (My parents spoke to me. What will you do with your degree in landscape architecture? They were concerned because theater didn’t pay much. And during that time, there were limited opportunities in theater).”
This, however, didn’t discourage Christian. To be able to continue his time at the theater, he continued taking on what he describes as “raket” (side jobs) that had to do with performing (in college, he would be invited to sing at weddings) to earn extra cash. He worked hard and soon a big break in the form of a singing competition came along.
Singer-turned-talent manager Carlo Orosa saw Christian in a theater stint and suggested that he join ABS-CBN’s Star in A Million. “Sabi ko ‘Okay, raket’ and so sumali ako. Nagustuhan nila ako. Nakapasok sa semi-finals, pero natalo ako nu’ng grand finals. Pero du’n ko na-feel talaga na this is where I want to be (I thought of the singing contest as a good side job, so I joined. The audiences liked me. So I made it to the semi-finals. I lost in the grand finals but that’s where I felt that this was where I wanted to be)!”
The world of entertainment was happy to embrace Christian who is managed by Carlo Orosa’s Stages. One opportunity kept leading to another, and before he knew it a string of opportunities came pouring in. Christian was soon recording his own music and topping the music charts locally, as well in the other parts of Southeast Asia; holding concerts here and abroad alongside other well-known singers; endorsing products ranging from food and clothing to watches and telecommunications; starring in feature films and television programs; and of course, returning to his first love – musical theater.
In 2008, he played Tony Wyzek in Stages’ production of West Side Story, and, in the next few years, took part in Ballet Philippines’ Rama Hari (2012), Resorts World Manila Newport Performing Arts Theater's Cinderella (2013) and Atlantis Productions’ Ghost: The Musical (2014).
Asked if he has more fun being a concert artist or a thespian, Christian notes that both are wonderful and give him fulfilment. “Pantay sa akin (Both are equally fun for me). Kasi sa theater (In theater), you are a different person, and you’re infusing your character sa different person na iyon (in that character you’ve been assigned to portray). It’s not really to entertain the audience, it’s how you make them understand the story and your role. So iba ‘yung fulfilment nu’n (So the fulfilment in theater is different). Sa concert naman (For concerts), oh man! You gotta entertain them. They have to have a good time, and after the show, they have to talk about it so that they can watch your next show.”
So which of the two is more demanding for him? Christian again answers “equally” but explains that he prefers the preparations required for theater. “One months, two months – ‘yun lang ang gagawin mo ((getting into character and acting it out is all you have to attend to). By the end of that, alam na alam mo na (you know your character through and through).”
“As for concerts, it’s dictated by so many things,” he notes. The multi-platinum singer mentions factors such as venue, budget, the band playing and others. “So many! And, in this country, you have to rush it (the preparations) and put it all together, pero instant ‘yung gratification mo kasi ‘yung audience andiyan na (but the gratification is immediately felt because you’re in front of the audience the whole time). One song you do, sisigaw na sila, and you just get so high kaagad (they cheer you on and you just get so high immediately).”
Currently, Christian is preparing for Ballet Manila’s longest running series Ballet and Ballads, which wonderfully blends the world of dance and musical concerts. Invited by the prima ballerina and BM artistic director herself, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, Christian will render songs to live music played by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra. In some of those numbers, Ballet Manila’s dancers will capture the songs’ stories through movements. The Valentine production goes on stage on February 10 and 11 at 6 p.m. and on February 17 and 18 at 3 p.m. at Aliw Theater.
“I’m familiar with the concept,” the singer comments, then jokes, “But I’m just gonna do the ballads, guys. Don’t you worry!”
Knowing how much repetition is needed to master a short dance sequence, Christian holds a high regard for ballet dancers. “What (ballet dancers) do is just so impressive. The training, the discipline on how to hone your body, to perfect it in the right angle, the right centimeter and right degree are just mind-blowing. The precision is just fantastic.”
Aware that his balladeer voice easily lends itself to melodies of romance, the theme of many of the featured dance pieces in Ballet & Ballads, the singer is eagerly awaiting how this edition of Ballet Manila’s popular series will turn out. “I’m excited that I’m part of it,” he shares.
Lisa is equally enthusiastic about this first-time collaboration. “I have never worked with Christian before but have heard good things about him. I also have seen him perform onstage.”
She shares that this might even lead to other projects with Asia’s Romantic Balladeer in the near future. “Christian’s appeal as a musical theater artist and romantic pop balladeer and his star power will hopefully draw a new audience to the ballet which is in line with fulfilling our mission of bringing ballet to the people and more people to the ballet,” Lisa concludes.