Text and photos by ELIZABETH LOLARGA
Scheduled for a solo recital on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Ayala Museum as part of the Manila Chamber Orchestra (MCO) Foundation’s Young Artists Series, this music major from St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) will have a program of Puccini, Verdi, Saint Saens, Quilter, Schubert and Mozart.
Meneses was the youngest at 18 years among the 2010 NAMCYA participants to win the lone top prize for Category C (female sub-category), the highest level for the national vocal competition. Her other honors (nominee of the 23rd Aliw Award and first runner-up of the Jovita Fuentes Voice Competition) have enabled her to qualify for a Battig Music Foundation scholarship at SSC where she is majoring in voice, minoring in piano.
To think she was looking forward to a career as a violinist, her instrument of choice in her early youth. Her last violinist teacher was Dino Decena, assistant concert master of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO). She was actually in the pool of young musicians called PREDIS, a teaching program for strings at SSC that supplies instrumentalists to the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO).
Her high school glee club conductor advised her to take voice lessons. An obedient child, she did under Camille Lopez-Molina, one of the most in demand soprano and voice teacher in the country.
Meneses realizes that her coming recital is “demanding, like putting myself in a wringer,” she said. Her school requirements of exams and forums have to temporarily take a back seat as she prepares.
Center stage is nothing new to her having been guest soprano of the PPO and MSO. She has played just as demanding a role as Maria Clara in Felipe de Leon’s opera Noli Me Tangere with Dulaang UP and director Alex Cortez. The songs of Maria Clara were a challenge as they carried both high and low notes.
She draws from her experience playing Maria Clara, which she said was “too heavy, but I managed.”
Asked how she prepares for solo or ensemble parts, she answered, “I lose myself in the song, and I study what the composer wishes to impart. For me technique comes first. When I’m already comfortable, that’s when I get into the character so it becomes easier to express the music. I have to enjoy both the music and the character for the audience to also enjoy.”
Lopez-Molina described her student’s voice as lyric leggiero soprano to mean “a fine, light voice that is right for the agility, lyricism and drama” demanded by Verdi arias, for example.
Standing barely five feet tall, the diminutive soprano with powerful lung power said she is partial to Italian songs because compared to French and German, other languages she has to learn, “it’s the easiest to read and to perform.” She likes Schubert and other German lieders for lyrical music and words that praise nature.
Lopez-Molina helped the younger soprano select her program where she “can have a comfort level from where she can move higher up. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The recital is a test of nerves for her.” She added that what she looked for in a student is “what they already do well. A singer may be shy but can be expressive. Depending on the kind of music, the performer either flourishes or caves in under pressure.”
Asked if this same voice can be developed into one suitable for Wagnerian operas, Lopez-Molina said, “It’s not advisable yet.”
She explained that how to develop a voice that suits Wagner depends on mental and physical maturity. “It’s exciting to hear a potential Wagnerian voice, but I don’t know at this stage how it will develop.”
She is confident that Meneses, who is just out of her teens, has a voice that will hold well. She’s excited how it will develop as the girl also develops physically and mentally, finds and sticks to her own style.
Meneses is in awe of tenor Arthur Espiritu, sopranos Monserrat Caballe and Joan Sutherland. She looks forward to singing with Espiritu at another MCO Foundation production on Oct. 26, also at Ayala Museum.
Audiences can observe how this refreshing and new talent will become as she continues studying and concertizing at the same time. Studies abroad are not far-fetched. She dreams of a homecoming similar to Jovita Fuentes when that day was declared a national holiday.