Abdul Candao stars in ‘To a Distant Beloved’

Tenor Abdul Candao with pianist Najib Ismael at the Ayala Museum.


Austria-based tenor Abdul Candao is preparing for another homecoming concert with the romantic title of “An die ferne Gelibte (To a Distant Beloved)”. Asked if it is meant to acknowledge the Beethoven composition or if he is addressing a real beloved, he stated, “All of the above!”

He performs on Dec. 3, Sunday, at 6 p.m. at the Ayala Museum lobby in this production by the Cultural Arts Event Organizer (CAEO). Pianist Najib Ismail will be his collaborating artist.

Candao, first prize winner in the vocal category in the 1983 National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) in Manila where he was then part of the seven-member vocal ensemble Kayumangging Kaligatan under the late National Artist Ernani Cuenco, described his life in Europe.“I have gotten tired of auditioning, of always trying to prove that you are the right person for the job. At the moment I am very happy with teaching at home mostly actors and people doing musical theater. And basically I like just being in Vienna where there is an endless possibility of experiencing world-class performances.”

His past teachers include Irma Potenciano at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music and later at the Vienna Conservatory of Music, KS Waldemar Kmett, Walter Berry and Vahan Mirakian. After graduation he played the role of Baron Huebner in the Austrian musical Elisabeth at Theatre an der Wien. Since then, he has sung in operas, operettas and concerts in Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the US.

Abdul Candao with his former voice teacher Irma Potenciano


Among his acclaimed roles are Cavaradossi, Faust, Ferrando, Graf von Luxenburg, Max, the Prince in Rusalka, Prince Sou Chong, Radames, Zarewitsch and recently Don Jose in Bizet’s Carmen.

Whenever he comes home, he and Ismail go food tripping. Candao explained the role of food in his well-being: “Food, like music, is one of the most essential elements to feed the soul. And when the soul has been fed, everything is in harmony. In short, I am here to make music, to eat and to see family and friends.”

For Sunday’s concert, he has lined up his favorite Brahms songs, compositions by Francesco Cilea, Leopoldo Silos and Cuenco.

As the concert date approaches, Candao, whose age is, as he put it, “as young as my voice will sound,” tries to avoid talking a lot and drinks plenty of water.

Friends and musical collaborators Ismail and Candao enjoy a generous home-cooked fare.


He stands by what he had said in an earlier interview with this writer that “‘Nessun Dorma’ and ‘The Prayer’ alone don’t make for an opera singer.”

He added, “I hear so many budding young classical singers in Manila. As a matter of fact I was one of the judges at the finals of the NAMCYA last Wednesday at the Cultural Center of the Philippines which, by the way, reminded me so much of the time when I was just starting. There is just an enormous amount of talents here and (what I saw) was just a fraction. Every one of them has a chance of making a career in Europe. They just have to know and focus exactly on what they want, learn languages, be disciplined and be ready to sacrifice a lot of things.”

For tickets to “An die ferne Gelibte,” call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or the CAEO at tel. nos. 782-7164, 997-9483, 09209540053 and 0918-347-3027.

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