Soprano Stefanie Quintin, who will be featured in a special Valentine concert with tenor Arthur Espiritu at the Ayala museum, is still basking on the positive reviews she got for her appearance in the title role in a one-act chamber opera, Mila in Hong Kong early this month.
Critic Peter Gordon of the Asian Review of Books wrote Mila was evocatively sung by Filipina soprano Stefanie Quintin. “She is the most intricate part and the only one which allows much in the way of character complexity. She is, indeed and probably not coincidentally, the only character in the main section of the opera with a name. “The husband (‘Sir’) and wife (‘Ma’am’), sung by bass-baritone Joseph Beutel and soprano Amanda Li, are cutouts against which Mila lives out her anguish.”
Mila written by Candace Chong is set in contemporary Hong Kong with Mila (Quintin) as a Filipina domestic helper trapped in a dysfunctional, bi-racial family.
Composed by American composer Eli Marshall, the opera featured the Asia Society ensemble of singers with the contemporary music integrating pots, pans and bottles to evoke the sounds of the kitchen where Mila predominately stays.
New York-based chamber opera expert Neal Goren conducted the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble.
Quintin told Vera Files she was invited to audition by Goren middle of last year. After two months of waiting, she got the part. “Fortunately, I have performed and premiered quite a significant number of contemporary music compositions. I sent my audition videos via email and waited two months for the confirmation. I have been checking my email every single day just to see if I got the part! I consider myself lucky.”
The opening night went very well. “It was great! It was nerve-wracking before the lights went on. But the moment we stepped on stage, we immediately shifted to our characters and spontaneously reacted to each other’s lines — deeply engaged in the scenes. To our delight, the audiences in the four performances were receptive. A lot of sniffing can be heard from the first scene until the end. The story hit home to most of the audience, since most of them were employers of domestic helpers and Filipino domestic helpers.”
Quintin first read the libretto August of last year when they had a workshop in Hong Kong. “The first thing that came to my mind was ‘How will I develop my character in such a short period of time?’ But when we started staging the opera, everything made sense to me. The way Candace Chong wrote it and how she visualized each scene through words, gave clarity to each character’s weaknesses and goals. Thereby giving the audience a chance to relate and identify with the characters.”
The soprano found Marshall’s music suitable to her voice. “The music was beautiful yet challenging. We have to sing microtonal melodies accompanied by a chamber ensemble with percussion instruments that were tuned using a quarter-tone scale, and two pianos that were tuned a quarter-tone apart. The composer gave me the liberty to interpret his work, and he also gave me a chance to create Mila’s character by writing music that was apt for my voice. Prior to writing the final score, we had conversations regarding my repertoire, the kind of music that I want to perform, my musical influences, and taking into consideration the capacity of my voice. He’s the kindest composer I’ve ever met.”
The soprano admitted she was anxious weeks before the first music rehearsal last year. “I can’t focus on preparing for the role because my voice was not functioning well, I was physically and emotionally tired, and I lost confidence in myself. But as soon as we started rehearsing, I gained back my confidence and I started trusting myself again. It is really empowering when you are surrounded by colleagues who are encouraging and supportive of each other.”
In preparation for the role, the soprano did some research on the status of domestic helpers in Hong Kong. “I had to know the hardships that they face every day in the workplace, their problems with their employers, and how they live with guilt for not having the chance to see their own children grow while they are abroad taking care of other people‘s children. Internalizing this guilt (even though I don‘t have a child yet) is essential in developing my character.”
Quintin will perform in a special Valentines concert, “A night of Love” on Saturday, February 10, 2018, 7 p.m. at the Ayala Museum with Espiritu, tenor whom she had the chance to sing a La Sonnambula duet last year.”
our first rehearsal for our duet ‚Prendi la nel ti dono’ from La Sonnambula
where he was really in character and I was just my normal self. He helped me go
into my character as we sang our duet. The way he acted on stage really made me
feel Elvino‘s love for Amina!”,” she recalled her first collaboration with the foremost
Filipino tenor,” she recalled her first collaboration with the the foremost Filipino tenor.
“A night of Love” will also feature soprano Mheco Manlangit and pianist Gabriel Paguiriganin.
Quintin’s coming engagements include guest appearance at the Las Pinas Bamboo Organ Festival February 22-28, 2018 and another engagement at the Baroque Festival where she will sing with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sofi Jeannin.
(For tickets for “A Night of Love,” please call TicketWorld at 891-9999 or the CAEO at tel. nos. 782-7164, 517-3763,0920-954-0053, 0918-347-3027 or 0920-465-5725.)