Opera still inspires this millennial

Tenor Radnel Ofalsa, 22, is this year’s top winner of the Jovita Fuentes Vocal Competition but he admits his earlier fascination for pop singing.

When he discovered opera, his idols changed and so did his repertoire and his teachers.

Tenor Radnel Ofalsa. All set for May 21, 2018 recital with pianist Mary Anne Espina.


For now, his favorite tenors are Spanish legend Alfredo Kraus who has sung with the legendary Maria Callas and Filipino tenor Arthur Espiritu who is the first Filipino tenor to sing at La Scala di Milan. “Kraus makes everything sound so easy and you could really feel his sincerity to music – nothing more, nothing less. Of course, our very own Arthur Espiritu because of his understanding of the character and the music and his versatility. I also love Juan Diego Florez because I really think that he is the perfect Rossini tenor.”

Romanian opera icon Nelly Miricioiu –who has enthralled Manila audiences five times -- has both sung with Kraus and Espiritu.

Also a top winner of the National Music Competition for Young Artists, Ofalsa believes millennials who are into opera have something special in their chosen path.

“Sometimes I feel odd with my contemporaries who are into pop music. I feel I cannot talk openly about my chosen career especially in the area of interpreting music composed hundreds of years ago. But I see millennials who are into classical music as lucky. Because they were raised in a country with a high level of appreciation for popular music and yet they can still see the challenge of this musical art.Because it is not easy to look into other forms of musical art and find the beauty in it,” he said.

Radnel Ofalsa as young member of jury of a competition. This early, he realized that in opera, nothing comes easy.


What does he see in opera singing that he cannot see in pop singing?

The young tenor said, “I love the level of discipline, the daily practice, thefrustrations, and everything before the performance proper. Because without the hard work, the art would be less meaningful and less fulfilling. I think that is what opera demands from us. You cannot reach a level of excellence without blood, sweat and tears. On the other hand, members of my generation only follow the trend and what is popular. Come to think of it, during the time of the great composers, the music that we call classical today are their popular music back then. Which only shows that the majority would always follow what has evolved through time.”

In the beginning, he thought he was made for pop singing because his mother loves to listen to them and his sister is a member of a choir.

With the help of the late film director Gil Portes, he entered the UST Conservatory of Music and studied with Prof. Eugene de los Santos. “One very important thing that I have learned from my teachers -- especially from Sir Eugene (de los Santos) -- is to pay attention when it comes to details. Because it would make a lot of difference in the wholeness of the interpretation and the performance.”

Of his May 21 recital at the UST Conservatory of Music on May 21, the tenor admits having a tough time with Rossini’s Cenerentola aria. “For me I had a lot of frustrations learning Rossini’s Ecco ridente in cielo. Studying the runs were far more difficult than I ever imagined it to be. Hence it requires a lot of patience and hard work. I’ve been practicing it since the start of the school year. Up until today I’m still experiencing a lot of hit and miss situations. Also, the contrast between the cavatina and the cabaletta of the piece should differ not just in tempo but in so many ways.”

Radnel Ofalsa (fthird from right first row) with fellow winners and jury of this year's Jovita Fuentes Vocal Competition in Roxas City.


Another killer aria in his May 21 recital is Ah mes amis from Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment. “Apart from hitting the high C’s, I had a lot of difficulty in maintaining the tempo because I always tend to go fast because I feel that it’s too tiring to sing it slower. The challenge here is not to push so much.”

On the other hand, “incomparable” is the only word he can find for his collaborating pianist, Mary Anne Espina.

A member of the UST Liturgikon Vocal Ensemble, Ofalsa reflects on the lessons he learned from joining competitions.

“I learned that good music will not come to you as easy as that. And that if you want to achieve something, you have to give it your best.”

Photos from Facebook page of Ofalsa.

(The venue of the May 21 (4 p.m.) recital of tenor Radnel Ofalsa is at the Alberto Magnus Building, UST Conservatory of Music with Cloi Daphne Sogano as guest soprano and pianist Mary Anne Espina as collaborating artist. Recital open to the public.)

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