“Verdi’s Opera Extravaganza” marked the bicentennial of Verdi who is regarded as Italy’s greatest opera composer.
The performances alone of the two most seasoned singers in the cast would have merited the hearty applause of Verdi himself. Camille Lopez-Molina rendered Pace, pace mio dio (Peace, peace O my God!) from Forza del Destino, with dramatic intensity and force, and O don fatale (O fatal gift) from Don Carlos wherein she movingly expressed grief and remorse. In the arias, Camille conveyed amazing volume, a refined technique, and singular poise.
Baritone Noel Azcona magnetized the audience in Di Provenza il mar, il suol from La Traviata wherein as Germont, he enjoins his son Alfredo to forget Violetta, and instead revel in the beauty of his fair Provence, pleading with emphatic gestures and smooth legatos while maintaining a father’s dignity.
In Credo from Otello, Azcona as Iago, declaring his belief in a vile, cruel God, arrogantly strutted about, injecting an element of realism in his posturing while magnificently sustaining the top notes.
Camille and Noel sang the duet Mira d’ Acerbe lagrime from Il Trovatore, the vibrancy and resonance of their voices in glorious unison.
The younger singers, up-and-coming and exceedingly promising, were soprano Myramae Meneses, tenor Nomher Nival and contralto Tanya Corcuera – all three demonstrating their own ability to retain high notes firmly and securely. Myramae and Nomher sang Un di felice (Rapturous moment) from La Traviata as Violetta and Alfredo. With exquisite timbre, Myramae infused her portrayal with grace and delicacy, Nomher held his high notes admirably, his voice firm and controlled.
In La Donna e Mobile (Woman is fickle) from Rigoletto, he projected elan and verve. Eventually, he will achieve even greater success with a rounder timber and a fuller volume.
Tanya Corcuera asserted a very strong and imposing stage presence as she sang persuasively Morro ma prima in grazia from Un Ballo in Maschera (The Masked Ball). At this stage of her development, Tanya will most certainly acquire the darker, richer hues expected from a contralto. In this regard, I recall the black contralto Marian Anderson, performing here years after her very first engagement at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in the very same opera Un Ballo in Mashera. Her tremendous fortissimos soared, enthralling the listeners at St. Cecilia’s Hall. Tanya’s voice, in time, will surely grow stronger and more resonant.
The compact and cohesive Manila Symphony Orchestra, conducted with sensitivity and perception by Arturo Molina in the Overture to La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny), assisted the singers with consistently meticulous attention.
The quartet from Rigeletto’s Bella Figlia Dell’Amore (Fairest Daughter of the Graces) had soprano Myramae, contralto Tanya, tenor Nomher and baritone Azcona in a rivetingly lively vocal dialogue, their contrasting tonal colors and volumes delightfully complementary, to the discernment and appreciation of the listeners.
Camille joined the quartet in an encore of La Traviata’s Libiamo ne Lieti calici (A Bumper We’ll Drain), the five singers re-creating the gaiety and abandon inherent in the world’s most loved Drinking Song – with the Viva Voce in the background.
The 25-member mixed chorale Viva Voce, consisting of voice majors from Manila conservatories, opened the concert with Va pensiero from Nabucco, and closed it with Aida’s Gloria all’egitto ad isside (Glory to Egypt and to Isis), singing to the blaring of trumpets a triumph in war. The chorus injected the “Gloria” with robust vibrance befitting an “extravaganza” of surprises and exciting moments in grand opera, leaving the audience exultant.
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As an aside, the F. Santiago Hall has a raised platform at the rear of the stage for a chorale ensemble. This gives added convenience to both the cast and the listeners while enhancing the view and the acoustics.