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Arts and Culture

Why Filipinos will like ‘turandot’

Pablo A. Tariman - The Philippine Star
Why Filipinos will like âturandotâ
Project manager Dennis Marasigan; Rustan Group of Companies chairman and CEO Zenaida Tantoco; Cultural Center of the Philippines president Margie Moran Floirendo; and Ambassador of Italy to the Philippines Marco Clemente
Photos by ALEX VAN HAGEN

In the Turandot presscon, someone pointed out that opera is so hard to nurture in a place like Manila.

True.

Opera is not part of culture of Manila.

Not true.

In the middle 1920s, Filipino opera singers like Isang Tapales and Jovita Fuentes made their debuts in Italy as Madama Butterfly.

Thus far, two Filipinos have made their debuts at La Scala di Milan – bass baritone Jose Mossesgeld Santiago-Font as Sparafucile in Rigoletto in 1932 and tenor Arthur Espiritu as Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte in 2007.

(It maybe recalled that Espiritu was given rock star treatment in the Tomb Scene from Lucia di Lammermoor at the CCP also directed by Maestro Vincenzo Grisostomi Travaglini with Prince Sisowath Ravivaddhana Monipong as assistant director.)

Pavarotti’s teacher, Arrigo Pola, taught in Manila in the middle ’50s where he sang with Filipino singers like Remedios Bosch Jimenez (mother of Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas) in the opera Il Trovatore and Celerina Pujante (mother of National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab) in the opera Aida by Verdi.

So why should Filipinos watch Puccini’s Turandot at the CCP Dec. 9 and 11, 2022?

The Italian tenor singing Calaf — Alessandro Liberatore — is a student of Pavarotti who sang in Manila in 1994.

“My teacher Pavarotti taught me not just vocal technique but respect for the opera as art form and its audiences,” added Liberatore.

Singing Liu is soprano Rachelle Gerodias who once attended a master class of the revered Italian diva, Mirella Freni. Her Korean husband, Byeong In Park, is singing the part of Ping while Filipino baritone Greg de Leon sings the part of Mandarino.

Princess Turandot in Manila will be sung by Korean soprano Lilla Lee whose other specialties are the major roles in  Verdi’s Lady Macbeth and Puccini’s Tosca.

Lee said her favorite Turandot is Birgit Nilsson with the Calaf of Franco Corelli.

Lee said her most memorable Turandot was singing the role at the famous Arena di Verona with the Verona Philharmonic in Italy.

Lee  revealed the role is difficult because it involves not just difficult singing but it requires good acting as well.

She pointed out the Turandot role requires good Italian technique while it demands good acting to be able to portray the authoritarian yet dignified profile of the princess.

Guest conductor Maestro Valentino Favoino; director, set and costume designer Vincenzo Grisostomi Travaglini; Ervin Lumauag who plays Pang, Grand Administrator; Alessandro Liberatore who plays Prince Calaf; assistant director Prince Ravivaddhana Monipong Sisowath; Rachelle Gerodias who plays Liu, A Young Slave; Ivan Nery who plays Pong, Grand Intendant; and Byeong In Park who plays Ping, Grand Chancellor

The Korean diva pointed out: “Vocal technique, charisma and elegance should all blend together to send a special message to audiences. Your singing voice should never be drowned out by the orchestra. The part is complicated because the character requires a performer to be elegant but also cold and alluring as a princess. She also grew up in a very sheltered environment. I was trained very hard by various directors who taught me Turandot is more than just about technical virtuosity or brutal personality.”

Lee grew up in Korea and moved to Italy for further studies. A graduate of the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory and the Novara Conservatory, she won several competitions including the Iris Adami Corradetti Competition in 2009.

Also in the Turandot cast is tenor Nomher Nival as Emperor Altoum and baritone Greg de Leon as Mandarino.

The opera ensemble will come from the members of the Viva Voce Voice Lab under Camille Lopez Molina with the Tiples de Mandaluyong. Dancers will come from the Alice Reyes Dance Philippines.

Maestro Valentino Favoino will lead the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

Believe it or not, there are Filipinos who previously excelled in leading Turandot roles.

Soprano Evelyn Mandac, the first and the last Filipino soprano to sing at the Met, was a distinguished Liu. She sang the part with the Princess Turandot of the legendary Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson at the Seattle Opera. (Nilsson is also favorite Turandot of Lilla Lee).

A compelling reason to watch Turandot is the closing aria, Nessun Dorma, which has acquired pop appeal thanks to the Three Tenors sensation composed of Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.

Ever heard of a royal suitor risking his life and limb just to get the nod of Princess Turandot?

Well, the suspense with a lot of ensemble singing will once more be reenacted when Turandot opens in Manila this Dec. 9-11.

After the long pandemic, when theaters were closed for almost three years, Turandot is certainly manna from heaven.

“We should all celebrate for surviving the pandemic through this grand opera,” Nedy Tantoco of the Rustan’s Group of Companies and CCP president Margie Moran Floirendo said in their presscon remarks.

* * *

Turandot in Manila was made possible in cooperation with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Embassy of Italy, Filipinas Opera Society Foundation, Inc. and Rustan’s Group of Companies. The two-day opera gala is sponsored by LCS Group of Companies, San Miguel Corporation, Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corporation, BPI and Danny Dolor. For inquiries, call Lulu Casas (09175708301; 5592); Rustan’s Gateway (8931-2460); CCP Box Office (8832-3704) and TicketWorld (8891-9999).

OPERA

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