‘This show is very personal to me’

As applications for Brillanti Musical Theatre open and this season’s Brillanti Dance comes to a spectacular end, creator and host Joseph Chetcuti explains why the popular talent show is so important to him.
Joseph Chetcuti with the judges.

He might be best known as the host of popular shows like Nies ta’ Veru and Arani Issa, but before he became a television personality, Joseph was a classically trained violinist as well as a lawyer. His dream growing up was to be a professional musician, but life had other plans. While studying for his law degree, he started hosting shows and playing the violin during others like Xarabank, and the rest is history. Creating Brillanti, a talent show which showcased classical musicians last year, was his way of helping others achieve the dreams he had to put on hold.

This year’s edition, called Brillanti Dance, follows a group of dancers vying for the final prize of €15,000 in cash. The competition, spread over 14 episodes, will come to an end with a grand finale on June 2 on the stage of the stunning Teatru Manoel, when the panel of international judges will choose who best fits the title of Brillanti.

“This show is very personal to me. I spent my childhood studying the violin, so I know exactly how many hours of hard work go into learning a musical instrument or to dance at a certain level. In our country, we tend to give a lot of importance and exposure to pop singing, which is all well and good, but I feel that other performance artists need to be acknowledged too,” says Joseph.

“Sadly, their hard work goes mostly unrecognised and many, like me, end up being known as the backing musician or dancer to a pop act. In my case, I became known as Chiara’s violinist, because I accompanied her when she sang The One That I Love.

The longer we discuss Joseph’s motivation for creating Brillanti, the more I detect a hint of frustration. “When I played with Chiara, I showed one percent of what I could play. I’d have much preferred to be known for playing classical music, which was and still is my biggest passion. If I were to be given one hour to live, I’d spend it playing the violin until my last breath,” he confesses. However, it also becomes increasingly clear that his unfulfilled dream is what drives him to help others in every way he can.

“These artists deserve to become household names doing what they spent their life training for, just like pop artists do,” he continues. “We started with classical musicians last year, because that is the world I come from, and this year it is dance in all its genres. Both last year’s jury and this year’s were impressed with the amount of talent in a small country like ours.”

This year’s judges specialise in the various dance genres the competitors train in. Andrea Attila is an Italian choreographer and dancer who rose to fame on Italian TV’s Amici di Maria De Filippi. Patrick Odametey, known as P-Dog, is a popular Hip Hop dancer who was crowned World Champion in Hip Hop Freestyle in 2009 and has been competing and teaching ever since.

At the head of the jury is Brenda Lee Grech, a Maltese dancer based in London. She specialises in ballet and contemporary dance, and has taught and performed at prestigious dance schools and in theatres all over the globe. She also plays The Swan in the Netflix hit series Peaky Blinders.

“The logistics involved in bringing together three judges who have weekly commitments in different countries were a nightmare, but luckily they were all very happy to be part of the show,” shares Joseph. “Producing a show of this calibre is not easy at all, but when you see the gratitude of the competitors and the camaraderie between them, it makes it all worth the endless headaches.”

Joseph admits that dedicating a whole primetime show to classical music last year and to dance this year was a bold move. “We took a big leap of faith but were surprised by how well both editions were received,” he says. “Last year, I was so concerned that viewers would be bored by three minutes of classical music every time someone performed that we started breaking up the performances in half by inserting a short clip interviewing the contestant.

Eventually, we had to remove these short interruptions because of the overwhelming number of requests by viewers who just wanted to hear the music. I must admit I was surprised, but to me it proved that everyone can enjoy these art forms.”

Following the success of the first two editions of Brillanti, the show will return next year with a new theme. This time, the focus will be on musical theatre, which combines singing, dancing, and acting. The winner will receive €15,000 in cash, the second €6,000, the third €4,000, and the fourth, fifth and sixth will each win €1000. “These cash prizes are not only a way of showing the participants that they are taken seriously, but that money can also make a huge difference to their prospects of furthering their education abroad,” explains Joseph.

When asked what advice he would give to aspiring artists, Joseph doesn’t hesitate. “Follow your dreams and do not live with regrets. I once received a card from a fan that said ‘If you spread your dreams before you like a stairway to the sky, no star you ever reach for will ever be too high’. That phrase stuck with me and it spurs me on whenever I feel discouraged,” he concludes.

To apply for Brillanti Musical Theatre, visit www.brillanti.tv or phone 9922 9011.

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