Arts & Culture News

Curtain call for baritone Andrew Fernando (1970-2022)

Baritone Andrew Fernando in the Pilipino version of Die Fledermaus (Paniking Naghihiganti).

Distinguished baritone Andrew Fernando has died August 23, 2022.

This was learned from the Soledad and Fernando family who also announced his body was cremated August 31.

He was 52.

“He will be terribly missed,” said Lisa Macuja-Elizalde of Ballet Manila which was mounting the ballet version of La Traviata with Fernando singing the part of  Germont.

Concert promoter Joseph Uy posted on FB: “We lost another good soul.”

Writer Babeth Lolarga said Fernando’s demise is a crying loss to the music scene. “I vividly recall his rendition of Moon River at the old Kiss the Cook Gourmet and an enthralling Some Enchanted Evening in the fundraiser to free Ericson Acosta.”

Andrew Fernando as Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd in Manila and Singapore staging.

A first prize winner of the 2003 Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition in the United States, he also bagged the grand prize in the 2004 Pasadena Opera Guild Vocal Competition.

Fernando was last heard as Germont in the CCP production of La Traviata in 2011 and Marcello in La Boheme and Dr. Lavander Gas in Mennoti’s Help! Help! The Globolinks!

Fernando has performed in the Hongkong Festival of the Performing Arts as Zweiter Soldat in their 1998 production of Salome.

In Hong Kong, Fernando sang the parts of Dr. Falke (Die Fledermaus), Slook (La Cambiale di Matrimonio), Baron de Gondremark (La Vie Parisienne), Dr. Malatesta (Don Pasquale) and title role in Gianni Schicchi under the baton of Maestro Georg Tintner.

The outstanding baritone was also featured in this writer’s 1997 Bicol International Music Festival along with Cecile Licad, cellists Victor Coo and Willie Pasamba, violinist Joseph Esmilla and tenor Gary del Rosario, among others.

Andrew Fernando (second from right) in Calbayog City concert with pianist Mary Anne Espina, Pablo Tariman and Calbayog Tourism Officer Ronald Ricafort.

In 2011, Fernando closed this writer’s Western Samar Music Festival which ended in a standing ovation after his rendition of Some Enchanted Evening and Silent Night.

After along drought of opera music in Samar, Calbayog City got to hear arias from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Verdi’s La Traviata and Bellini’s Il Puritani sung with fervor by Fernando.

“I didn’t expect to watch a concert of this high caliber in this place,” said Japanese music-lover Toshikazu Nojima, who ended up buying a ticket after hearing Fernando rehearse at the Ciriaco Hotel lobby.

It turned out there were Japanese, Korean, Australian and Italian nationals in the audience composed mainly of the leading citizens of Calbayog City, such as Calbayog Bishop Isabelo Abarquez; Nicolas Chan and his mother Agueda; Calbayog Art Association head Armando Toleza and his family; Ronald Ricafort (representing Mayor Ronald Aquino);  descendants of the late music icon of Samar, José Cinco Gomez; and members  and staff of Christ The King Youth Orchestra led by Carl Bordeos.

Among the baritone’s last performance was the Manila staging of Paniking Naghihiganti (Die Fledermaus) presented in January this year by the Vibal Foundation and Teatro Opera Seriobuffa de Filipina as part of the series of tertulia to honor the late patroness of the arts, Esther Vibal of Vibal Publishing.

He was also Judge Turpin in the latest staging of Sweeney Todd in Manila and Singapore with Lea Salonga also in the distinguished cast.

The baritone in Pablo Tariman’s UP Balay Kalinaw concert series.

Moreover, the baritone was a former member of the Opera Pacific Resident Artist Program where he was seen in more than fifteen productions, notably as Doctor Bartolo in Barber of Seville, Professor Bhaer in Little Women, Marullo in Rigoletto and Kommissarius in Der Rosenkavalier.

The Los Angeles Times hailed him as the “Young singer to watch!”

In one CCP concert, Fernando dedicated his Traviata aria, Di provenza il mar, to the late baritone Gamaliel Viray. He elicited awe and stunned silence as he gave justice to a father’s lament over a lovelorn son, Alfredo.

Appearing with tenor Arthur Espiritu in the Pearl Fishers duet by Bizet, Fernando showed how well he could blend with another singer. This duet showed the baritone and the tenor at their finest vocal form.

The late baritone was also heard in the same duet at the closing concert of the Pasig Museum concert series this time with the late  tenor Otoniel Gonzaga.

Fernando also essayed the role of Padre Damaso in Felipe de Leon’s opera Noli Me Tangere.

My description of his portrayal: “There is so much to be learned in the portrayal of baritone Andrew Fernando as Padre Damaso. For one, his singing tugged at the heart (even as his character was widely perceived as repulsive) and his scheming nature was felt inward rather than on the outside. For this opera fan, his prayer scene was the most moving part of the opera and it made people reflect on the human side of this widely hated character in Rizal’s novel.”

As a stage and concert director, Fernando’s  credits include among many others fully staged productions of Les Miserables, Light in the Piazza, Into the Woods, Cinderella, Godspell for Foothill Theater Workshop, La Cambiale di Matrimonio for University of Santo Tomas, Broadway Under the Stars for The Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts, Opera Gala for Phil-Am Life Theater, Bluebeard’s Castle for Let’s Shout Out Boston, among others.

He was seen as the King of Siam in Rogers and Hammerstein’s The King and I in Los Angeles in 2017. In 2018, he made his debut with Guam Symphony Orchestra and came back the following year as soloist of Handel’s The Messiah.

Before his death, the baritone was Artistic Director of George Yang’s Klassikal Music Foundation.

Fernando’s constant advice to aspiring singers: “Feed your soul with positive things. You will need it in this very competitive industry. But most of all, always be kind to everyone. Don’t let your ambition get the best of you and be happy for your colleagues. They have been working hard as well. Be happy for them when they are successful and always share your talent generously.”