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Nelly Miricioiu: First-rate musician and human being

 

 

By ELIZABETH LOLARGA

Photos courtesy of JOSEPH UY

Nelly Miricioiu after the opening night of La Boheme.
Nelly Miricioiu after the opening night of La Boheme.

To listen to Nelly Miricioiu, the soprano from Romania who is now a British citizen, is to fall in love with her. Fall hard for her.

She will have a one-night concert, “Nelly Miricioiu Live in Manila,” on March 6 at 8 p.m. at Meralco Theater, Ortigas Center, Pasig City, with Najib Ismail as assisting artist in a program of arias by Verdi, Puccini, Bellini, Rossini, Chausson and Respighi.

She will also conduct a bel canto masterclass for 13 young classical music singers who she handpicked based on the videos they had sent her. The classes, all open to the public, will run from March 9 to 11 at the Ayala Museum, Makati Ave., Makati City, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Culture and Arts Events Organizers (CAEO) associate Joseph Uy first heard about Miricioiu in San Francisco, California, in 1986 when she replaced soprano Katia Ricciarelli as Violetta in La Traviata.

He had heard and seen more than a hundred Traviatas. “Yet I will always remember her portrayal. She was the perfect Violetta. Until now I can still hear inside my ear her pleading, the hopelessness in continuing to live in her voice,” Uy recalled.

In another production he said, “You could almost hear a pin drop in the house after her farewell. People were sobbing. No one applauded after her ‘Donde Lieta’ in the third act of La Boheme. They didn’t applaud immediately. They were sobbing, so caught up with the drama.”

During rehearsals for La Boheme.
During rehearsals for La Boheme.

Miricioiu is one of the finest artists in the world, Uy opined. “Like most great artists she is humble. Humility explains why they succeed. Music transcends that humility and touches the heart of her admirer. She wants to come back here because the Philippines is close to her heart.”

When inviting music stars like her, Uy says he has young artists in mind and how much they can learn from her. “Our music lovers will have a chance to hear a world-class artist. Our goal is simply to break even, for the performance to go well. I will be the happiest man in the world when that happens,”he said.

An emboldened Uy invited Miricioiu to visit the Philippines. Without hesitation she said yes, telling him, “I still have friends who are like family to me.” Among them is writer Pablo Tariman.

Tariman’s recollections are still vivid. His jaw dropped when he first heard her “spectacular voice” on Sept. 29, 1980, at the Cultural Center Main Theater. She sang “Una voce poco fa” from The Barber of Seville and “Addio del pasato” from La Traviata with an orchestra led by Redentor Romero.

He said, “I thought I was seeing Maria Callas in that performance. After her ‘Pace, pace Mio Dio’from Forza del Destino and ‘Regnava nel silenzio’ from Lucia di Lammermoor, I thought, she isn’t just a singer but a goddess of music. When I debuted as an impresario at the Manila Metropolitan Theater in August 1984, I knew only Nelly could make my debut memorable.”

Critic Rosalinda Orosa described her as “a gift of the Gods” in a front-page review in Philippine Daily Express. Tariman said, “Nelly was the talk of the town for weeks after those performances. I followed her engagements by mail and by monitoring world news. It was a matter of time before she conquered La Scala and Covent Garden. She was a first-rate artist and human being.”

Back stage of San Francisco Opera after La Traviata.
Back stage of San Francisco Opera after La Traviata.

He said, “After hearing her and writing endlessly about her, I watched her house rehearsals with pianist Carmencita Sipin where. At that time, Romania was under a dictator. Nelly decided not to go back to her homeland during that phase of her career. She decided to defect in Manila. Since we have diplomatic relations with Romania, she wasn’t accepted here. For months she was in the house of lawyer Honorio Poblador who helped me mount that Met concert.”

From 1980 to 1981, he and Miricioiu bonded with sopranos Conching Rosal and Irma Potenciano in the Poblador residence with lots of singing and laughter. When she flew to Europe in 1981, she was a smash hit as Violetta in Glasgow. She opened the Edinburgh Festival in the title role of Manon Lescaut and later, debuted at the Covent Garden as Nedda in Pagliacci to great acclaim. Later, she was accepted as British citizen with help from one of her fans, Lord Avebury, Queen Elizabeth’s cousin.

Throughout her triumphs in Europe, Tariman stayed in touch. He received a tape of Lucia di Lammermoor. He said, “Her voice dominated the Tariman household for many years.”

Although he hasn’t met Miricioiu personally, pianist Ismail said, “My heart goes pitter patter. I’m trying to cope with the fact that the concert is near. Last year’s rehearsal with Sumi Jo was unforgettable. Her amazing technical skill and musical sincerity left a wonderful impression on me. She was very engaging in her rehearsals. For the coming rehearsals with Ms. Nelly, I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I expect that like any wonderful artist, her professionalism and dedication will shine through.”

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

Tickets to the March 6 concert are available at Ticketworld, tel. 891-9999 or call CAEO at 782-7164 or 997-9483, c.p. nos. 0920-9540053 or 0918-3473027.