Arts & Culture

Filipino tenor triumphs anew in Rossini opera



Espiritu  with cast of CenerentolaFILIPINO tenor Arthur Espiritu – last heard as Cassio in a recent Modena production of Otello – triumphed anew as Prince Ramiro in Rossini’s Le Cenerentola mounted by Pittsburgh Opera last week of April to early May this year.

A Pittsburgh critic’s verdict:” Tenor Arthur Espiritu was superb as Don Ramiro, singing with an appealing lyric quality that matches his character’s temperament. He first appears having switched roles with his servant, who pretends to be the noble searching for a wife. Espiritu, as the servant, maintained a certain dignity, which of course provides continuity for his character when his true identity is revealed.”

Espiritu — who is flying back to Manila this week — said the opera had a wonderful audience on opening night but he had to adjust on the second night because of allergy problems. “I got through it and sang safely. The audience was very much involved and I heard lots of laughs.”

On the third performance, he was able to get most of his voice back and felt more secure. “We all had fun on stage all the same. Vivica Genaux (in the title role) was just fantastic. It was so much fun singing with her. She makes everybody around her look good and she helps you on stage. She is very down to earth and a hard worker to boot. She has this extremely solid work ethic that I love so much. How she knows about her voice more than anyone, and how she interprets her roles and how she moves. It’s a thing of beauty. Just great and I’m so honored to share the stage with such an artist like her. It is really a privilege.”

Composed by Rossini when he was just 25 years old and completed in three weeks, La Cenerentola was just within the tenor’s vocal turf.

Arthur Espiritu He pointed out: “This is the role that I normally do and it is my favorite. My voice sits very comfortable in this role and I love the character development as the opera develops. It is a vocal feat to say the least. You have to be able to sing the runs, the legato lines, and the high notes. Also, you have to be involved in a lot of the ensemble sections. It is a tour de force for a tenor. Fortunately, the body of my voice sits high and it fits well with this role.”

But singing Rossini is not at all that easy “Rossini is a composer who composes for the singers. He has the vocal lines in mind and it is so easy to be able to play with some lines and make your own mark within his vocal compositions. To be able to show your flexibility and your line — and also your ability to act — is a great opportunity. You have to be able to understand the style properly and the cadenzas and how you communicate with your conductor. There are some spaces in his works that sometimes leaves holes musically. So, you have to be able to fill those holes with your own interpretations. If not done well, it just won’t sound as interesting.”

Espiritu’s return engagement with Pittsburgh Opera is special to him for some reasons. He actually started working for this opera company as a young artist from 2005 to 2007. “This company has put its trust on me and they believed in my talents and capabilities. I owe them so much for helping me start my career in 2008. I can’t say enough good things about this company. I love going back here all the time.”

With fatherhood beckoning, the tenor had to cancel three opera engagements this year just to be with his wife who is due to deliver their first baby in a few months..“I think it is very important for me to be with my family at a very important time in our lives.”

But he is considering a few  offers like a role in Menotti’s Amelia’s Ball in Monaco with Placido Domingo conducting, a debut role as Runuccio in Gianni Schicchi with Teatro Reggio di Parma, and also Nadir in Bizet’s Pearl Fishers. He is also looking forward to his debut as Fernando in Donizetti’s La Favorita in Switzerland in the summer of 2014.

He admits marriage has put things in perspective for him. “My life does not seem to be unstable anymore now that I have to come to terms with my responsibility as husband and a father. It’s a good feeling but not always knowing what to do. Everything is happening for the first time so I hope that I become a good husband and a good father. I enjoy the idea of having a family, a home, and a goal to reach — not just for yourself but for your new family.”