Arts & Culture

The musically magnificent Nelly Miricioiu is back

Nelly Miricioiu with Viva Voce singers. Photo courtesy of Nelly Miricioiu .

Flying in from nearby Hongkong Friday where she held master classes, soprano Nelly Miricioiu arrived with the widest smile on seeing her Filipino friends and fans there to meet her. Her hug was long, tight, lingering, accompanied by a British endearment, “My poppet!”

She wasn’t the least fazed that she had only an afternoon’s rehearsal awaiting her for this coming Palm Sunday concert, “Passione,” at 6 p.m. at the Ayala Museum in Makati. The minute she settled in her condotel room, she put on her homemaker’s cap, inquired about laundry service (“All the stuff in Hongkong needs to be washed”) and where the nearest grocery was.

She observed about her travels: “No matter how luxurious your hotel is, there is that unease if you’re eating all the time at the hotel café or restaurants. You tend to order too much, and that adds up. It’s like a cat being presented a plate of milk.”

When she learned that the piano at the rehearsal hall had a broken leg and couldn’t be moved, she smiled as she recalled one performance when her pianist struck up the first chords and the instrument totally collapsed. The audience had to wait more than an hour for the piano to get fixed. “Have you seen anything like it?” she asked.

Arthur Espiritu and Nelly Miricioiu hamming it up at their rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Nelly Miricioiu.

Collaborating pianist Najib Ismail spoke in a Facebook video about how wonderful it is to collaborate with Miricioiu again. “Right before playing a note, you know you’re bound for a great rehearsal. You learn something from her – being able to work on Romanian songs whose sentiments are similar to Filipinos which is very warm. Certain points in bel canto (beautiful singing) are very enlightening.”

He described her as “one of the greatest singers of any generation, and it is an honor to work with someone of that calibre and magnitude. For someone who’s so famous and dedicated to her art and is musically magnificient, there’s nothing fake about her. Everything about her is real. It’s wonderful to know that as Filipinos, we contributed to that.”

At Friday’s rehearsal Miricioiu met the Viva Voce Ensemble which will serve as her chorus. Although she wasn’t singing in full voice, the young sopranos looked amazed at her vocal capacity, shaking their heads silently in disbelief. Before they rehearsed the aria “Casta Diva,” she said, “I don’t have the music. I’m like the tenor (referring jokingly to Arthur Espiritu)—I know it by heart!”

When it was Espiritu’s turn to sing the solo “Angelo casto e bel,” she was subdued and right away complimented him “You sound so beautiful” after he sung the last note. He embraced her and thanked her for her generosity.

Camille Lopez Molina, Viva Voce artistic director, recalled how excited the group was when they learned Miricioiu wanted a choral backup in some portions of the concert. “We jumped right in and said, ‘Game!’ We’ve already done ‘Libiamo’ and ‘Casta Diva’ before so we just had to practice them to rehash. Tanya Corcuera had to study the roles of Anna in Maria Stuarda and Giovanna in Rigoletto.”

Nelly Miricioiu and pianist Najib Ismail. Photo courtesy of Nelly Miricioiu.

About six or seven of the Viva Voce members will be taking Miricioiu’s master class April 10-14 at the Mirror Studio of MusicArtes, SJG Center, 8463 Kalayaan Ave., Makati City. The classes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. are open to observers for a minimal fee of P200 (with discounts for senior citizens, students and persons with disabilities).

The 14 master class students will be presented by Miricioiu in their own recital entitled “Singers of Tomorrow” on April 18 at 7 p.m. at the Ayala Museum.

Lopez Molina opined that the soprano-maestra “is in better form this year than in 2015 but her repertoire then was more difficult. This time her program is lighter, masaya.

Meanwhile, Miricioiu prepared Filipino songs in her repertoire with tenor Nomher Nival, her student in Manila and London, acting as her pronunciation coach. He said he’s trying to make her sound “less slangy” in pronouncing Tagalog words for “Bituing Marikit,” “Minamahal Kita” and “Dahil sa Iyo.” He encouraged her to also ditch the idea of using a microphone for these songs after he heard her rehearse the Filipino numbers.

Miricioiu took the coaching well. At one point, he told her to make the letter “o” in the word “puso (heart)” more exaggerated and not make it pass for an “a”; otherwise, the word “puso” becomes “pusa or “cat.”

Joseph Uy of the Cultural Arts Events Organizer, which is responsible for making the concert and master class possible, said, “Nelly still has It!”

For tickets to what is billed as “The Vocal Event of the Year,” call TicketWorld 891-9999 or the CAEO at tel. no. 997-9483, 782-7164 or 0920-9540053, 0918-347-3027