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‘Opera Gala Manila’: A vocal roller coaster ride

Subtitled “Desire. Agony. Rapture.,” the coming concert “Opera Gala Manila” has all the big and grand things associated with the art form that comes with singing, orchestras, theaters and emotions. Imagine the exciting prospect of Manila’s great voices singing Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries” with a full orchestra.

Nov 30, 2018

Elizabeth Lolarga


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Camille Lopez Molina

Subtitled “Desire. Agony. Rapture.,” the coming concert “Opera Gala Manila” has all the big and grand things associated with the art form that comes with singing, orchestras, theaters and emotions. Imagine the exciting prospect of Manila’s great voices singing Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries” with a full orchestra.

Camille Lopez Molina, Viva Voce Lab artistic director, assured that the audience for the Dec. 15 event at 7 p.m. at the Ayala Museum are “in for a vocal roller coaster ride! We are so excited to get on that stage and have everybody join this party—fantastic music, fabulous voices, glorious musicmaking!”

Soprano Anna Migallos said, “The words ‘desire,’ ‘agony’ and ‘rapture’ describe perfectly the emotions that opera expresses—the emotional peaks and abysses we all experience. In opera, we don’t do small. Productions can be small, depending on financial and logistical limitations, but the music and the singing stay the same. So does the emotion.”

Lopez Molina continued, “When we presented the repertoire to director Floy Quintos, he assigned us to choose three words that define what the concert is about. Opera galas are always special. We are doing arias and ensembles that are certainly well-known and loved and we have long fantasized about doing. We invited friends who are gung-ho about this music to sing with us: Margarita Gomez Giannelli, Abdul Candao, Noel Azcona, Christopher Arceo and Greg de Leon will be joining the fray, with Anna, Nomher Nival, Tanya Corcuera, other Viva Voce singers and Aleron. We are super excited, especially since we will be singing with the Manila Symphony Orchestra.”

Noel Azcona

Corcuera said, “The audience can expect a thrilling evening of passionate music-making, of works not often performed in Manila, by Filipino artists at that. These masterpieces, grand in scale, feeling and vocal demands, concretize in aural form the very bowels and lofty heights of human emotions, the kind we often hide, ignore or suppress in our everyday lives.”

She added, “Filipinos are often put off by opera, thinking it is beyond their understanding or appreciation, but nothing could be farther from the truth. These works are visceral, exhilarating, and real. ‘Opera Gala Manila’ is a remarkable opportunity to savor these warhorses in the flesh, to relish the liberating emotional release, to have fun, and support Philippine art.”

Baritone Noel Azcona explained how with the concert, the country could again take its place in the arena of international opera. He narrated, “Back in the golden days of the Fifties to the Seventies, the Philippines was a hub of opera in Southeast Asia. We had countless patrons, philanthropists and music lovers who adored the powerful music of opera and sustained the art not only by financing these wonderful works. People used to go in their gowns and suits just to hear and witness the shows. There was glamour in it. There was love in it.”

He recalled the days when “we had beautiful halls and theaters to stage them, numerous musicians, singers, ballet dancers who were well compensated. Now, since we all but lost the Metropolitan Theater, Philamlife Auditorium and other theaters and with the introduction other genres of music, opera has become hard to sell and to profit from. The answer is simple—we need money and people who love opera.

Anna Migallos

Asked how to promote it, he answered, “By staging this concert. We’ve been doing it a lot, slowly but surely, but again we need more resources to sustain it. Every time I sing in Singapore, I envy their way of handling the art. Advertising is so big that people flock to the ticket booths. There’s this great respect for artists, singers and musicians. All is handled very well down to the last detail. I wish we have managers and financiers who care greatly about opera.”

Migallos concurred, saying, “From a business perspective, it isn’t ‘financially smart’ to invest in opera. But that’s a short-term perspective. It won’t make money at first, but if we grow our audience, take it to the schools so children can learn to appreciate it during their formative years, eventually operas will make money, artists will earn a decent living off it. We all possess the means to enjoy it because we are all emotionally equipped to love it. But it requires concentration. It challenges the listener, the audience to engage. We can’t promise that everyone will love it, but we want you to feel welcome to come and try it.”

“Opera Gala Manila” is a fundraiser for Viva Voce Voice Lab which has been training singers for more than eight years already.

Lopez Molina said, “We have grown. From our first students, we now have fellow teachers and performers. We have been around, and it feels much longer because we have done a lot. Several have studied overseas and obtained their master’s degrees and come back. We have made valuable connections with teachers here and abroad. Above all, we are blessed to have friends and colleagues who sincerely believe in what we do and who unstintingly and wholeheartedly support us, who continue to give us so many opportunities to grow and flourish. The time is ripe for us to be a formal organization.”

Asked why they changed their name, she said, “We chose Viva Voce Voice Lab because a lab is where people study, learn, observe, experiment, research, collaborate, fail, succeed. Our motto is ‘Know your voice, free your voice, love your voice.” In a nutshell, learn to use your voice (technique), incorporate all the other elements of performance (diction, interpretation, movement, stage craft, etc.), then sing your heart out!”

Migallos added, “We took a while to launch because the voices were still developing and opera requires a lot of money to put up. In a country that has yet to develop an appreciation for and a love of opera, it is a challenge. Opera does not defer to economic realities. In scale and cost, it is the probably the most excessive of all art forms. The demands on everyone involved in opera are excessive. From the musicians and singers to the staging, design and acting, all require a lot of money and a lot of talent.”

Tanya Corcuera

Asked if they have had to compromise to keep on singing by crossing over to popular standards, Migallos replied, “I do get to do what I love most of the time. But there have been compromises, especially when I was younger and eager for any chance to perform. I would rather not sing crossover. I don’t find it very fulfilling, particularly because it sells opera and opera singers short. Opera has some of the most beautiful, most moving, most soulful music among all the genres. It is arguably the most challenging as well. Crossover music does not give us the opportunity to use the skills we are trained for.”

Without trying to sound snooty, she compared it to playing “Happy Birthday” on a Steinway or a Stradivarius or driving a Ferrari in traffic instead of on a racetrack. “It does the job, certainly,” she said, “but it’s capable of so much more.”

As for operatic voices doing crossover, Lopez Molina opined, “No matter the genre, the principles of healthy vocal production remains the same. So even though we are known to be classically trained and centered on opera, we commit to what every genre demands. We do our best to adhere to healthy singing, which isn’t just classical. For example, when we had to sing the backup for several pop singers for an inauguration several years back, we sang pop. When the group had to sing Seventies style pop songs in Ballet Philippines’ ‘Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko,’ we sang Seventies style pop. When we had to do music theater – and we have done quite a few productions – we went and did it.”

“The commitment is the same,” she said. “Nothing is as satisfying as a job well done. Singing a song the way it should be sung doesn’t just apply to classical but to all genres. With proper training and an open mindset, this isn’t a compromise at all. It’s just serving the music the best that you can, with what tools you have in your vocal toolbox.”

For ticket inquiries, text or call Roxy Aldiosa at 0927-245-5242.#

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