Helen Quach off the podium: Caitlin Coyiuto reminisces / Marco Polo / The Mikado

SUNDRY STROKES - The Philippine Star

It was top insurance executive James Coyiuto, husband of eminent pianist Cristine and father of 17-year old brilliant flutist Caitlin, who informed me of Helen Quach’s passing in Canberra on July 31 at age 73 after a brave battle with cancer.

I vividly recall the dynamic, fiery Quach as conductor of the Manila Symphony Orchestra years ago. Much later, Quach took time off as assistant to Leonard Bernstein, conductor of the NY Philharmonic Orchestra, to wield the baton over the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra on Sept. 27, 2008, in a program at the Meralco Theater with Caitlin in Poulenc’s Flute Sonata and Cristine in Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor.

Earlier, on April 22, 2007, Quach conducted the Manila Symphony Orchestra at SSC’s St. Cecilia Hall, with Cristine rendering Grieg’s Concerto in A Minor.

Cristine and Caitlin deeply mourn Quach’s demise, having been so closely associated with her both onstage and off. In fact, Quach having become such a close friend of the Coyiutos, Caitlin in 2007, only 12 then, wrote on Quach whom she highly admired. Herewith are excerpts from her piece entitled “The Life and Times of Helen Quach”.

Living in Castlecrag in Sydney, Quach wakes up at 4:30 am for half an hour of spiritual exercises, something she does three times a day. After her prayers, she feeds her collection of wild birds.

Quach’s home overlooks the sea, sitting on the edge of a rocky cliff. She walks down a 48-step spiral staircase with her dogs for a workout.

She spends the morning studying operas including Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin and Tannhauser. Because of opera, she knows five languages: English, Mandarin, Cantonese, French and Italian. She is also learning old German to further understand Wagner.

Aside from conducting, Quach also plays the piano and sings. She says singing is much simpler than conducting an orchestra but it requires strong muscles in the diaphragm.

Why did she choose to be a conductor? From the beginning, she loved symphonies, and she was fortunate to have worked with the great Russian conductor Nicolai Malku.

What does she think of the Manila Symphony Orchestra? She says our musicians are talented, hardworking and smart. They have the ability to learn and observe, and listen to each other well.

During her three weeks in Manila, she repeatedly told colleagues with a smile that she would definitely return, saying she had good supportive friends who, most of all, appreciate and love music.

*    *    *

A new musical “Marco Polo”, An Untold Love Story” will be staged on Saturday, Aug. 10, 8 pm at the Meralco Theater. Book, music and lyrics are by eminent singer Roger S. Chua. Olivier Leonard is the executive producer.

The musical will star David Bianco, Stephanie Reese, Chinggoy Alonso and Gina Respall.

The Philippine Opera Co. sends this press release: Its Young Artists Series, Season 2, will open at the Opera Haus on Aug. 14, 6:30 pm with “Opera Sung, Opera Acted” featuring talented artists in Gilbert and Sullivan’s two-act comic opera “The Mikado”.

The series is an arts development program for the company’s young, upcoming singers under artistic director Karla Gutierrez and artist-in-residence mezzo-soprano Clarissa Ocampo; it engages the artists in more creative work, performing in scenes from operas, musical theater pieces that have crossed over into the classical arena.

What was initially conceptualized as a once-a-month, Wednesday recital grew into an innovative and enticing Black Box Series devoted to daring experiments and new visions tested through the performance of artists with open hearts and a sincere desire to hone their talent.

The major success of the first season caught the attention of critics, writers and professionals, many becoming the series’ avid fans. Under the brilliant direction of Floy Quintos, “The Mikado” will very likely win their hearts.

Set in Japan, the comic opera will star Jon Vera Perez, Al Gatmaitan, Jun Ofracio, Nomer Son, Cris Go, Paulina Yeung, Karla Gutierrez and Clarissa Ocampo with special participation of Roden Araneta. Accompanying artists are Karl Estudillo and Marvin Dizon.












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