Arthur Espiritu debuts in Romeo et Juliet

Last La Boheme engagement of tenor Arthur Espiritu at Magdeburg Theater.

Are opera productions going back to normal?

After six months of lockdown in Manila, tenor Arthur Espiritu gets back to the opera stage with a role debut in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet at the Magdeburg Opera House in Germany.

The role simply suited him. “The part settled nicely in my voice,” he told Vera Files. “With my age and growth of my sound, it’s getting to where it needs to be. It’s way different than singing Rossini or any bel canto roles indeed.”

The theater is no stranger to him. Earlier, he has done La Boheme and Cosi fan tutte in the same theater. “I am excited about this role debut.”

Before the Gounod opera, the tenor had a much-acclaimed Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, the last opera mounted at the CCP before the lockdown.

Tenor Arthur Espiritu's youtube account of his Manila travel ordeals before leaving for Germany.

When the quarantine protocols started in March, Espiritu had lost four engagements but it allowed him a long overdue reunion with his family in Manila.

He recalled: “I coped quite well. Thanks to the pandemic, I’m able to spend more time with my family and I am so happy that I was able to connect with my wife and kids. Although, with four contracts cancelled, it wasn’t a good situation for us economically.”

With all the travel requirements, it took him a week before he could fly to Germany. It was an agonizing week of looking for hospitals where he could get health clearances required before departure.

When he got to Magdeburg, the situation he found quite relaxed. “But the people are observing the rules. Most are well informed about when the masks should be on and when the masks can be off. The government does a good job of implementing the rules. Although some are not wearing masks out in the outside open-air setting, they put it on when in a grocery stores or any indoor settings.”

This medieval city with a population of 235,723 as of 2016 is where you can find the famous Magdeburg Cathedral which is the burial place of the Holy Roman emperor Otto the Great.

The Magdeburg opera house in Germany.

As expected, the staging took into consideration the corona-related requirements.

“We have to be at least two meters apart. In a rehearsal room of more than three people, we have to wear face masks while singing. Rehearsals are going well so far. I am now in a process of deciding for myself whether I should sing with mask on. Maybe during the shows, I can take them off but I have to be two-three meters away from the other singers, especially on ensemble scenes with the chorus. The chorus will be in the back isolated from the front part of the stage. Audience has to also be two meters away from each other. So, they gutted the chairs in the audience. It will be around 40% capacity at best. The orchestra will have plexi glass between them.”

In his Magdeburg role debut, his Juliet is a prizewinning soprano Raffaela Lintl who has sung Rusalka, Desdemona (Otello) and Liu (Turandot), among others.

Bulgarian conductor Svetoslav Borisov conducts the Magdeburg Philharmonic with its opera choir and ballet ensemble. Borisov took masterclasses with the eminent Kurt Masur who once led the New York Philharmonic in one performance at the CCP in 1998.

The tenor describes of his opera colleagues thus: “Raffaela Lintl is a great colleague. She has all the capabilities. It’s good to have people to work with that are down to earth and real. Maestro Borisov is quite nice and is very easy to work with. He knows where he is going with the music and I’m able to grasp what he wanted to do and he reciprocates it by honoring some of the ideas I have with the role and what I wanted to do as far as my singing is concerned. It is going to be traditional staging with real sword fights choreographed by Johannes Wollrab. I am truly excited about this new experience.”

Earlier, Manilans had an exciting preview of the Gounod opera when Espiritu sang a Romeo et Juliet duet with soprano Stefanie Quintin in Manila last year.

(Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet opens at Magdeburg opera house on October 3. Members of the artistic team are as follow: Conductor: Svetoslav Borisov ;Director Karen Stone ; Set Designer, Costume Designer: Ulrich Schulz ; Dramaturg Thomas Schmidt-Ehrenberg; Chorus Director Martin Wagner , Philipp Schweizer ; Juliette Raffaela Lintl ; Roméo Arthur Espiritu /Benjamin Lee . For tickets call Box office: +49 (0)391 40 490 490)


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About Vera Files

Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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