Baritone for any season

Baritone Zip de Guzman in Japan

For a former turon and lumpiang shanghai vendor in the Pasig market, baritone Zip de Guzman has come a long, long way. Last month alone, he won the Espoir Prize in the lieder category at the 18th Osaka International Music Competition.

There were no declared first, second and third prizes, making him the lone winner. He bested singers from Japan, Hongkong, China, Canada, the United States and Australia. This was the third and final round. De Guzman earlier won the first and semi-final rounds in Kobe, Japan.

This month alone he is scheduled to appear as a guest performer at the Hiroshima City International House Festival on Nov. 5 in the morning. Immediately after he goes offstage, he will run to JMS Aster Plaza (Cultural Center) on the same day for Cavalleria Rusticana. Following that, he will be one of the featured artists at the International Concert in Wakayama City, Japan, on Nov. 11 before he flies to Manila for a few weeks to give a vocal masterclass.

This year he feels he is more than blessed. He finished his masters in music in vocal performance with the highest award, the St. Cecilia Award, or almost equivalent to summa cum laude in the Philippines, at Elisabeth University of Music in Hiroshima. He had been under the tutelage of famous Japanese baritone Hiroharu Orikawa. De Guzman, 33, was on full scholarship of the Loyola Memorial Scholarship Grant and Japan Association of Catholic Universities Scholarship.

De Guzman on his graduation for his master's degree with his mother and sister at Elisabeth University of Music.

But it wasn’t all that easy. He reflected on the challenges he underwent as an overseas student with a very limited budget: “To earn money for my competition expenses, I worked part-time as a construction worker, dishwasher, preschool English teacher and private English tutor. Whatever was lacking in my expenses so my accompanying pianist and I could reach our destination and pay for the registration I always borrowed from a Bumbay (5-6).”

Asked if he was joking, de Guzman answered, “I’m serious. I’m still paying the Bumbay until now, but with the extra money that I’ve won, most I donate to charities and to churches I’ve helped in the past.”

He feels he has much to be grateful for. Which baritone can claim a past such as his? He recalled selling turon and lumpia in his barangay in Bambang, Pasig, when he was in elementary school. In high school, his family was able to get a post on the second floor of the Pasig Public Market where he would sell soft drinks with ice every Saturday. The post was on the staircase of the market leading to the third floor bazaar.

This background fuels the fire in his belly. He spoke about his plans: “I want to get as many performance experiences as possible and finish my doctor of musical arts soon so I can go back home and share all these experience and knowledge to help young Filipinos.”

De Guzman performing.

He continued, “I want to be an inspiration, a symbol to the youth, someone who once sold lumpia, turon, ice drop, ice candy, mangoes in my younger days and dreamed of becoming a professional opera singer. Having grown in a poor community, I learned cooking, baking and other basic survival skills to go to school.”

Before a performance, he calms his nerves by “praying really hard, thanking the Lord and asking for the help and guidance of angels and the Holy Spirit. Usually, before a performance or a competition, while other singers are singing their lungs out vocalizing, I am in one corner of the room doing my own make-up and hairstyle.”

Of the many great baritones in the world, he admires the famous Welsh, Bryn Terfel. He had a chance to work with Terfel’s conductor and accompanist, Maestro Gareth Jones, who was also his accompanist and one of his vocal coaches during his classes in the United Kingdom.

He credits his formation as a singer to his professors at the University of Santo Tomas: Irma Potenciano, Randy Gilongo and the late bass Jun Francis Jaranilla. He was also coached by Arthur Espiritu, Abdul Candao, Noel Azcona, Dr.Antonio Hila, Josie Bailen and Park Byeong-in.

He has attended international masterclasses with Nelly Miricioiu, Heldentenor Dennis O’Neill, CBE, Gioacchino LiVigni of the National Opera Center in New York, James Vaughan, who is director of Teatro Alla Scala Milano, Nancy Yuen, Michela Bertagnolli-Febvre, baritone Dae San No, tenor Gian Luca Passolini, bass Dag Schantz of the Stockholm Opera and Florence Guignolet of the Conservatoire Rayonnement Regional de Paris.

Poster announcing international concert featuring de Guzman in the lineup.


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