Friday, August 06, 2010

A Real Master Class

This story revolves around American soprano Maria Callas whon gave a series of master classes at New York’s Julliard School of Music that were well-attended by fellow artists and devotees as well as its faculty and students. Ms. Callas was internationally famous for reviving bel canto singing, the dramatic intensity of her performances and her tempestuous personal life; at the time of these classes, Ms. Callas had not performed in public for a number of years --- her singing voice was in decline, by then --- and these classes enabled her to guide and inspire a new generation of singers as well as gain the confidence she needed for a brief comeback a few years before her death. All of the master classes were taped; years later, a handful of them were released as a three-CD set interspersed with Ms. Callas’ own recordings of the arias being taught. Terrence McNally drew from these classes for his own MASTER CLASS which won the Tony Award for Best Play of its season.

This play gives us an insight on how Ms. Callas helps her students shape their arias, phrase by phrase; The play was amazingly done you won't expect it to be boring. They gave you the familiar Callas of the headlines, instead --- vain, insecure, quick to sense a rival --- a diva who strides onstage announcing that she is here to work and then spends much of the evening talking about herself, complaining about the facilities, upstaging her students while undermining their confidence and lapsing into lengthy, bittersweet reveries triggered by certain arias. (Very little teaching gets done, here.) If you admire, revere or worship Ms. Callas, you may well be appalled over the imbalance between the woman and the genius.

Cherie Gil who admits wasn't a singer herself ; this role was meant for her as Mr. McNally’s Callas never sings (unlike the real Callas who vocalized alongside her students), Philippine Opera Company chose a really great actress and director Michael Williams.Supplying the dark good looks, the flashing eyes, and the testy, regal bearing composed of fire, not ice. She was just amazing made it so entertaining .Through for the few notes she did sing were as rich and ringing as her constant declamation (MASTER CLASS being one long recitative).

The play’s three students are facets of singers rather than singers, themselves: one soprano is a complete ninny potrayed by Florence Aguilar graduated magna cum laude in voice from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music. She was part of the Singapore Lyric Opera’s twin bill production of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci and of the Philharmonic Chamber of Choir of Singapore’s Bach’s Mass in B minor and I Love My Love concerts conducted by Maestro Lim Lau and Johannes Prinz respectively.

Another is a future diva who turns on her teacher.(what did she expect when she signed up for class? to be the next Maria Callas perhaps ) excellently played by Ana Feleo who is an Aliw Awardee for Best Actress in a Musical for 2007. She received her music education at the College of Music, University of the Philippines under the tutelage of Professor Emeritus Fides Cuyugan- Asensio. She pursued further coaching with W. Stephen Smith at Juilliard School of Music in New York last 2008 when she prepared for her biggest break in her operatic career when she played the role of Musetta in “La Boheme”. , who alternates with Kay Balajadia-Liggayu graduated from the UP College of Music with a degree in Bachelor of Music, major in Voice. She was a national champion of the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) in 1996. She has performed in various opera, musical and zarzuela productions. Recently she was featured as soloist in the Las Pinas International Bamboo Organ Festival 2010.

And an overly confident tenor sends Ms. Callas into a near-swoon. Which was excellently played by Juan Alberto Gaerlan completed his Professional Diploma Studies in Western Opera at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts where he graduated with distinction. He has made numerous performances here and abroad and was last seen as Rodolfo in POC’s and CCP’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme”. who alternates with Al Gatmaitan who is under the tutelage of Ronan Ferrer at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music. He has appeared in various theater groups such as Dulaang UP, PETA, Spazio Teatro and Teatro Calabria in Italy. He has been part of several telenovelas in ABS-CBN and recently appeared in the highly acclaimed movie

Lastly let's not forget about Francis Amora who plays Manny who has a Bachelor in Music graduate in Piano Performance from Philippine Women’s University Conservatory of Music and is currently taking up his Masters in Piano Performance in UST Conservatory of Music under Prof. Raul Sunico.

Master Class will run at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater, RCBC Plaza with 10 performances on July 29, 30, 31, August 6, 7, 8, 12,13, 14 and 15, 2010. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 3:30PM.

Master Class is supported in part by the Yuchengco Group of Companies, Robinsons Luxuria of Robinsons Land Corporation, Lyric, Lifestyle Network, Make Up For Ever, Odyssey Music and Video and 105.1 Crossover.

For tickets, please call Philippine Opera Company at 892-8786 or 881-7168 or TicketWorld at 891-9999. For more information, please visit

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