A masterful trumpeter; A fiery baton-wielder/ Lyric Opera’s formal debut

SUNDRY STROKES - The Philippine Star

In a concert entitled “A Trumpet Calls” and held at the F. Santiago Hall, Belgian trumpeter Manu Mellaerts immediately asserted himself as a master of his instrument in Johann Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto in E Flat Major. He drew opulent, diversified tonal colors which were projected with utmost clarity and evenness.

Loud, firm, majestic sounds ensued in the opening and closing allegro movements; languidly and exquisitely soft and flowing ones in the andante; spirited and playful in the scherzo. The tall, dignified soloist held the audience spellbound as he exhibited technical virtuousity and soulful expressiveness, unravelling hitherto unknown capacities and resources of the trumpeter. Mallaestre, of Belgium’s La Monnaie Opera, is undisputedly a musical artist of the rarest talent.

He had total rapport with Thanos Adamopoulos, music director of the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra, who wielded the baton over the Manila Symphony Orchestra for the concert. There were curtain calls and an insistent clamor for encores.

Although the MSO had obviously been reduced in size, it nevertheless conveyed its usual energy, vitality and responsiveness to the conductor’s cues. The young musicians, evidently inspired by the intense, fiery Adamopolous, eloquently etched the charming infinite variations in the single theme of the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony in D Major (“Haffner”); the strings briskly played the florid, rococo (baroque) Menuetto; the swiftest tempo was appropriate in the Presto because Mozart had wished it “as fast as possible”!

Infusing fire and passion in the musicians, the baton-wielder made them rise to the tremendous challenges posed by Schubert’s “Symphony in C Major”, known as “The Great”. Emphatic, direct, expansive in manner, Adamopolous reflected robust urgency in the opening Allegro non Troppo.

The interaction and dialogue among the orchestral sections, and the overwhelming, thunderous tuttis, which often climaxed the extensive passages, created a tremendous impact on the listeners. Adamopolous graciously asked individual ensemble members, led by concertmaster Gina Medina-Perez, to take highly deserved vows. But the major share of the applause was meant for the electrifying conductor.

*      *      *

The Lyric Opera of the Philippines made its debut in a recital titled “Curtains Up!” at the Lopez Museum mini-theater which had a rather dark stage. Featured were tenors John Glenn Gaerlan, Randy Gilongo, Sherwin Sozon, sopranos Patrice Pacis, Kay Balajadia and Ana Feleo.

With varying timbers, tonal colors, dynamics, registers and emotional depths – all of which reflected long  training and experience – the engaging singers delightfully rendered arias from operas, songs from operettas and Broadway musicals. Gaerlan interpreted La donna e mobile from Verdi’s Rigoletto; Balajadia, Despuis le jour from Charpentier’s Louise; Gilongo, Dein ist mein ganzes herz from Lehar’s Land des Lachelns; Feleo, Seguidille from Bizet’s Carmen; Pacis, Quando men vo from Puccini’s La Boheme; Sozon, Addio fiorito asil from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly; the ensemble in Love Unspoken from Lehar’s Merry Widow.

All the singers demonstrated impressive volume in the fortissimos, sustaining power in the high notes, and winning stage deportment. Feleo looked like Carmen; acted like Carmen; sang like Carmen. Further, she must be singled out for a firmer, more rounded, more pleasant timber; Sozon, likewise, for the same reason.

In the second, lighter portion, the entire cast, more relaxed, showed again varying degrees of emotive ability and vocal qualities. Pacis, so to speak, remarkably let her hair down as she sang and acted in Something’s Coming from Bernstein’s Westside Story. Feleo was again striking in her distinctive fashion. Gaerlan was movingly emphatic in This Is the Moment from Wilhom’s Jekyll and Hyde.

Many hours of strenuous rehearsals must have been behind the highly gratifying performance which had brilliant pianist Peter Porticos as assisting artist.

In sum, the recital was an auspicious debut of the newly formed Lyric Opera of the Philippines.

Before the program proper started, film clips showed countless books, paintings, artifacts, maps, etc. in the Lopez Museum tracing Philippine history, art, culture through the centuries, from pre-colonial times to the present.











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