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Filipino tenor in Oper Leipzig’s ‘Don Pasquale’

 

Arthur Espiritu  (right) in  a scene from Don Pasquale.
Arthur Espiritu (right) in a scene from Don Pasquale.

By PABLO A. TARIMAN

Photos from the Facebook of ARTHUR ESPIRITU

AT 5 degrees Celsius, Filipino tenor Arthur Espiritu sang the role of the love-sick Ernesto in a well-received production of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at the Oper Leipzig, the third oldest opera house in Germany.

Espiritu, the first Filipino tenor to sing at La Scala di Milan, said the opening night went well and the cast receive a very long and warm reception from the opening night audience. “I felt that we interpreted the piece quite nicely and everything geld,” added the tenor.

The tenor said the Don Pasquale of baritone Jose Fardilha from Lisbon was fantastic and so were the Malatesta of Mathias Haussman and the Norina of Anna Virovlansky. “It was a solid cast and no one acted diva or divo which I loved so much. It was just a lot of fun and on the whole, it was just an amazing experience.”

The opera directed by Lindy Hume was accompanied by the  Gewandhaus Orchestra under conductor  Anthony Bramall. One of the orchestra’s music directors was composer Felix Mendelssohn who served in 1835 and later followed during the contemporary times by music icons Wilhelm Furtwangler, Bruno Walter, Kurt Masur and Riccardo Chailly, among others.

(Masur conducted the New York Philharmonic at the CCP in 1998.)

Facade of the historic Oper Leipzig in Eastern Germany.
Facade of the historic Oper Leipzig in Eastern Germany.

The tenor was all praise for the opera house which traces its founding in the year 1693 and has  been the historic setting of many important events in the German musical history from the time of Bach and Telemann to remarkable Wagner productions and to the world premiere of Brecht and Weill’s famed Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, among others.

“The theater is just beautiful and the acoustics are amazing!  The walls are solid wood all over and the stage has depth.  The conductor was very singer friendly and he is aware of what’s going on with the story,” enthused Espiritu.

The tenor has sung the Donizetti role three times and enjoying its challenges. “Ernesto in Don Pasquale is one of those roles especially made for tenors that can sing with not just agility but with the capacity to sing beautiful legato lines.  Palpable colorations and a good handle on his higher tessitura without pushing is a must.  What I like about it is that it involves all the elements of bel canto.  Character-wise, it is quite simple and uncomplicated.”

The tenor has also sung the killer aria from Donizetti’s La fille du regiment in his last Ayala Museum recital and received endless cheers.

He pointed out: “Donizetti has evolved throughout his career as a composer.  You will see the changes in his sound from Rita to Pasquale to La fille du regiment, to Lucia di Lammermoor and his latest works.  For example in this piece (Don Pasquale), instead of the usual harpsichord accompaniment in recitatives, he used the orchestra as the accompaniment throughout.  Hence in a way, he did away with that element.  To me, he bridges the gap between classical period to bel canto and the romantic periods.”

Arthur Espiritu made up as Ernesto in Don Pasquale.
Arthur Espiritu made up as Ernesto in Don Pasquale.

The tenor is also set to sing Edmondo in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut in Baden Baden under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle  next month. “Yes I am quite excited working with Sir Simon Rattle. Actually the production is a chance to get on the mainstream crowd with the opportunity to get heard and be on a DVD and television live broadcast with a major international TV station.”

A prizewinner of the Irene Dalis Vocal Competition, the Rose-Palmai Tenser Mobile Opera Guild Award,  the Opera Birmingham Voice Competition, Espiritu is also  recipient of the 2009 George London Award  and La Scala Award as part of the Belvedere Vocal Competition in Vienna, Austria.

He was in the Philippines last year when super typhoon Yolanda hit the country. The tenor drove all the way to Llorente town in Eastern Samar in the Philippines, hometown of his wife, Christina, to deliver relief goods he has solicited from his fundraising concerts.

He recalls that post-Yolanda travel:“It still is a surreal experience for me and my wife.  There are still so much more to be done.  I learned so much from the experience.  I used to be one of those people who just give donations and watch things unfold on TV but when my wife Christina persuaded me, I went with hesitations.  But along the way, I saw what humanity is.  There are many more good people in this world and I now truly believe that Evil only exist when Good people turn their backs and don’t do a thing.  This country must come together not only during catastrophes but every single day.”

Arthur Espiritu (first from left) in Eastern Samar
Arthur Espiritu (first from left) in Eastern Samar