Arts & Culture

The return of good online recital

Soprano Jasmin Salvo with pianist Gabriel Paguirigan. Good collaboration. Photo by Manila Pianos.

The Independence Day offering of Manila Pianos Artist Series featuring soprano Jasmin Salvo and pianist Gabriel Paguirigan last June 12 is a breath of fresh air in the area of virtual concerts.

The past year was just clogged with shows that no longer challenge the musical imagination. You end up restless than inspired.

Some presentors open virtual shows with a long opening remarks of the head of the institution. By the time he is done, you have given up watching and has turned to other virtual platforms.

It is bad enough that artists are performing without live audience. It is extreme punishment doing your best to an empty hall because you are performing live but streamed to your audiences in many places.

Soprano Renee Fleming, who had her share of virtual concerts during the pandemic, observed,“It’s so different to perform without an audience. It’s a little bit sad, really. You don’t have the response, you don’t have that sense of sharing. Because we’re actors, we have to remember what that felt like and know that the audience will be there with us. And maybe even a bigger audience.”

The distinguished soprano admitted she expected to be out of work for a year and that she considers tough.

Soprano Renee Fleming in recital in Toronto. She has learned to cope with concerts with no live audiences. Photo by Malcolm Cook.

But what about the young promising artists?

Moreover, the soprano says the outpouring of creativity during the pandemic points to “the power of the arts to bring us together.”

In Metro Manila, you get a lot of canned concerts and virtual masterclasses from the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The effort is good enough but the way they are presented leaves the viewer wanting to shift to another platform.

You can’t blame them if they’d rather stick to the New York Met shows and La Scala live streaming.

These days, you need imagination to galvanize audiences weary from the lockdown.

But sometimes, less is more.

That is the case of the recent recital of soprano Salvo with pianist Paguirigan.

After they have plugged the program, the recital just unfolds and then you find yourself flying on the wings of song.

Without opening remarks.

Without rundown of sponsors.

On the wide screen with just the piano and the artists, you are transported to another world.

And the program is just what good taste is all about.

Titled “Metamorphosis,” the song recital lives up to its name.

Opening with Purcell’s Music for A While, Salvo intoned the piece with just the right coloring – light but daring – and so apt for the period.

Followed by Purcell’s I Attempt from Love’s Sickness, the transition allowed for a better appreciation of three contrasting Handel pieces –Ah Spietato, Cara Selve and Oh Had I Jubal’s Lyre.

The first two were like poetry buried in despair and the last a vocal celebration with the soprano showcasing her well-polished runs.

Vivaldi brought back moments of quiet solace in Sposa son Disprezzata interpreted with coloring of deep melancholy.

The Obrador numbers thrilled but the most poignant one, Del cabello mas sutil – went straight to the heart.

The singer had the advantage of being accompanied by Gabriel Paguirigan whose sensitivity is not lost on both the singer and the audience.

This was particularly uplifting in the last two numbers, Delibes’ Le filles de Cadix and Abelardo’s Mutya ng Pasig.

Of course there is complete silence after the recital.

Even if there was no live applause at the end, the recital showcased good taste. It was our luck that there were good internet connections that night.

How did these artists survive during the pandemic?

Soprano Salvo said she taught voice and basic piano to keep herself busy. She has also learned to save and determine her priorities.

Now with a degree in music major in vocal performance, she can only recall the frustrating moments of trying to study with unpredictable internet connections.

Now she is all praises for teachers who survive online teaching especially her voice teacher, tenor Lemuel de la Cruz who was determined to give her all the good rudiments of singing.

Impresario Richard Sy-Facunda and his artist
series. Indefatigable.

Richard Sy-Facunda, the man behind the Manila Pianos Artist Series, says online concerts are actually good for their audiences.

For one, they don’t have to beat traffic and cope with parking problems in the venue.

From his experiences thus far, it is twice as hard for performers to do a taped video than going live. “We survived by simply accepting the fact that we can’t make money out of these online endeavors. “The main purpose of the Manila Pianos Artist Series was to make sure that the Filipino musicians can be heard. When the pandemic started, we made sure they have a venue and an audience in lieu of the regular engagements they used to have. I like the dedication they give to these recordings. They communicate with the music first hand and every recording session is musical passion unleased.”

With the pandemic not sure of ending, Sy-Facunda said going back to normal will be a slow process.

For now, the presentor is preparing for a festival of Bach piano concertos set for December with the soloists to be accompanied by the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra under Jeffrey Solares.

This impresario is actually wearing many hats.

He is the presentor, he is also the video operator, sound engineer and the photographer doing the poster layout himself.”

True, the future of music doesn’t look so bleak with this indefatigable impresario doing a lot for music single-handedly.

How you wished cultural institutions can be a bit more discerning.