Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Soprano Camille Lopez Molina

(Following is an article by Pablo Tariman on soprano Camille Lopez Molina who will be performing with tenor Otoniel Gonzaga and Dulce on Dec. 9 at the Philamlife Theatre, 8 p.m.

(For tickets: P3,000 for orchestra seats and P2,000 for loge please call 900-70-23 or 0906-5104-270.)

A couple of weeks from now, soprano Camille Lopez Molina will be Mother Abbess in the Sound of Music mounted by Repertory Philippines and a week later, she will be singing an Andrea Chenier duet with tenor Otoniel Gonzaga at the Philamlife Theater with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra Orchestra under the baton of Rodel Colmenar.

Although Camille is a mother of two (Beatriz Milagros, 2 and Sofia Isabel, 10 months), she just finds it tough sinking through the part of Mother Abbess in the musical. "She is a lot older, wiser, more spiritual and she is the big boss of the convent," she says. "I’m certainly not young anymore but I’m very far from being wise and spiritual and not fit to be an administrator. Acting is being so I find it really hard to act wise when I feel such an idiot inside sometimes. I’m glad I’m finally finding my way around the role but it’s still a big, big effort.

Another thing, Mother Abbess’s song, Climb Every Mountain, was written in such a low key it’s actually vocally far from being a walk in the park. It’s heavy, it’s sustained and it comes at a time when I’ve been sitting around in the dressing room for more than an
hour doing nothing but letting my voice get cold and waiting for my entrance cue."

In between her Mother Abbess rehearsals, Camille is preparing for the Andrea Chenier duet with Gonzaga.

The duet comes at the end of the Giordano opera when the lovers Andrea Chenier (Gonzaga) and Maddalena de Coigny (Camille) welcome their death by guillotine
after being sentenced by the French revolutionaries. Says she: "The duet is very beautiful, dramatic and vocally demanding the way all verismo operas are.

There are sweeping phrases and high notes galore, thick luscious orchestrations, you name it. Passionate pretty much sums it up. I’m so lucky this opportunity comes to me at a time when I already have some moxy tackling it vocally. I will probably never get to sing this onstage but at least I can say that once in my life, I sang the final duet and did it with no less than the great Otoniel Gonzaga."

The first time Camille heard Gonzaga at the CCP in the early nineties, she was easily floored. "The size, the ring, the power, the expression of the voice, the elegance of phrasing -I couldn’t forget all that. It was a voice for opera, for an orchestra, for a big
hall and it belonged to a Filipino. I truly feel privileged and super excited singing with him because it hasn’t sunk into my brain that I will share the stage with him. It’s still incredible to me that this duet is actually going to happen."

Camille started singing mezzo (middle voice) parts when she was with Prof. Fides Cuyugan Asensio at UP but she reverted to being full soprano when she went to Hong Kong as a scholar of the Academy for Performing Arts. In Vienna, a contralto teacher
assigned her "zwischenfach" (in between) roles like Eboli in Verdi’s Don Carlo and Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. But after giving birth, her voice became more flexible and open at the top.

"This has allowed me to finally be comfortable singing Ritorna vincitor (from
Verdi’s Aida) and Vissi d’arte (from Puccini’s Tosca) and a big surprise, Nedda (from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci)."

To her credit, Camille has the "best tutor and coach" she can find and at her own disposal. Her mother is choirmaster and pianist (Dr. Myrna Lopez Ascutia) and she is married to a tenor (Pablo Molina).

Having a singer for a husband she finds an invaluable asset. "At least I have someone who knows me thoroughly as a person and therefore as a singer," she tells the Inquirer.

"His observations and his advice are almost always right and I have learned so much
about singing just from our incessant discussions, analysis and theorizing about vocal technique. It’s like having a coach for free. Which isn’t to say that we’ve never had disagreements – we’ve had a lot – but in the end, I have someone who is at all times
painfully honest and whose opinion I can absolutely trust."

Warming up properly before any kind of singing is a must but sometimes she finds it alarming having to practice everyday.

At this point, she can almost see her husband Pablo shaking his head because he constantly reprimands her about warming up everyday. "But I just hate hearing
myself at home. I feel like such a cow mooing in a meadow."

She says having a mother who is also a musician has also its interesting moments and she keeps them. But being mother and musician in the same field, she confides, it can be really difficult to treat things more objectively. She is sure of one thing though.

"Those moments can be triumphant, exasperating, absolutely fun and totally exhausting but they’ll never be boring and thanks God, my Mom and I share a sense of humor."

On the other hand, she learned the value of commitment from her Mom. "She would always say: if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it the best way you can. There’s no such thing as doing or giving too much."

Camille thinks there are other ways of preserving your voice other than avoiding cold drinks and having a good rest. "The best protection I give my voice is avoiding getting neurotic about my throat. I always try to just relax and bring my sanity and survival
instincts to the fore. I’m a great believer in mind over matter."

Camille Lopez sings Vissi d’arte from Tosca and Vicino a te from Andrea Chenier with Otoniel Gonzaga with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Rodel Colmenar on Saturday, December 9 at the Philamlife Theater. Soprano Rachelle Gerodias sings the Carmen duet with Gonzaga while singer Dulce will reprise The Prayer with the Filipino tenor. Two-time NAMCYA winner Christopher Oracion plays the Traviata
Concertwaltzer and Carmen Fantasy in between arias.

For free ticket delivery, please call tel. 9007023 or cell 09065104270.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jonathan de la Paz Zaens
Bass-Baritone Singer Berlin, Germany
"There are singers and singers, but only a few have a gift for interpretation that goes beyond what the text and music signify." Pablo Tariman wrote this in The Inquirer concerning Berlin-based, Filipino bass-baritone singer, Jonathan De La Paz Zaens, on the release of his CD, "Kundiman, Philippine Art Songs".Jonathan de la Paz Zaens earned his Bachelor's Degree in Voice, cum laude, from the University of the Philippines under Prof. Andrea O. Veneracion and his Master's degree in Voice from the Academy of Arts in Berlin, Germany under Prof. Dr. Herbert Brauer.Engagements have brought him to the Prague State Opera and Prague Estates Theater where he sang the Mozart roles of Leporello from Don Giovanni and Guglielmo from Cosi fan tutte. Other guest appearances include: Dulcamara from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore and Alidoro from Hasse's La Sorella Amante at the Neukoeliner Opera Berlin. The Abbot from Britten's Curfew River at the New Opera Stage Berlin and King Xerxes from J.C. Bach's Temistocle at the Berlin Chamber Opera.He has recently ventured into contemporary opera, singing for the Berlin Festival 2002, the roles of Malaspina from S. Sciarrino's Die Toedliche Blume and Luzifer in K. Stockhausen's Michael's Jugend aus Donnerstag aus Licht. For the Salzburg Festival 2003, he sang the baritone part in the world premier of Stockhausen's Duefte-Zeichen.The Berlin based Bass-baritone is also a much sought interpreter of Oratorio (sacred) Music, performing regularly the bass solo parts in: J.S. Bach's St. John and St. Matthew Passion, the Christmas Oratorio, the b-minor Mass and his cantatas; Mendelssohn's Elijah and Paulus; Handel's Messiah; Hyden's Creation; Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle; Saint-Saens' Oratorio de Noel; Dvorak's Stabat mater and the Requiem settings of Brahms, Mozart, Faure and Verdi.Jonathan is a prize winner of the 7th Sylvia Gesxty International Coloratura Voice Competition and a Finalist of the 13th Jonathan Bach International Competition.A former member of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Jonathan joined the group in their 1989 world tour, covering the United State, Europe, Mexico and Southeast Asia. He was also the Philippine representative to the World Youth Choir in Norway (1993) and South America (1994).In 2008, Mr. Zaens was in Manila to perform in a concert called Virtuosos 2008 at the CCP, where he performed with fellow classical artists, soprano Camille Lopez Molina, mezzo soprano Clarissa Ocampo, and tenors Nolyn Cabahug and Randy Gilongo, countertenor Mark Anthony Carpio, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, visiting French bass baritone Jerome Correas and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. (Photo below shows his mom, Mely, on the piano in one of his performances in Manila.) He impressed the crowd, critics called him a Virtuoso. He not only impressed with his singing but also because he was very good-looking and charismatic on stage. Floy Quintos called him the Piolo Pascual of classical music.Jonathan released a CD entitled Kundiman, Philippine Art Songs. This CD was produced by Sundro Keller and recorded in St. Paulus GermendeGrosser Saal in Berlin and features kundiman compositions of Nicanor Abelardo, Francisco Santiago, Mike Velarde Jr. and Resurreccion Bunyi with musical arrangement by Ryan Cayabyab, and piano accompaniment by Abelardo Galang II. Zaens' way with words and phrases blend with the music with magnificent results and brings back to life this treasure trove of now nearly forgotten Phillipine art songs.Jonathan's mother, Mely, is a music teacher herself. She narrates that Jonathan's interest in singing began at a very early age, when he and his brother sang in a choir. The choir master recognized Jonathan's talent and encouraged her to enter him in some competitions. One thing led to another, and Jonathan went on to sing with the UP Madrigal Singers, and to graduate with a voice degree from the University of the Philippines. He then went on to Germany on a scholarship, which stopped after 18 months. Jonathan had to support himself doing odd jobs, but he never gave up his dream of singing. With help from his brother, a physical therapist in America, he persevered. One day, Jonathan saw an ad for a singing competition, and he approached this German professor to ask if he would prepare him for the contest. The professor told Jonathan to sing, then said that he would think about it. A week later, the professor called and said that he would teach him at a rate of Euro 175 per lesson. Jonathan almost choked, and said all that he could afford was Euro 75. The professor agreed, and Jonathan went on to win. They were two winners, out of almost 150 contestants. This launched his career as a singer in Europe, and the achievement of his dream. His mother explained that, even with the success he is enjoying, Jonathan's hard-work and discipline continues, with hours of daily practice, even when he is not performing.Jonathan de la Paz Zaens--an overseas Filipino with world-class talent, overcoming personal hardships with support of his family, and achieving his dream!

REVIEW: OPERANEWS MARTIN: LE VIN HERBÉ with Bicolano Baritone Jonathan Zaens

MARTIN: LE VIN HERBÉ Piau, Böhnert, Bartsch, Wiedemann; Davislim, Buhrmann, de la Paz Zaens, Hartmann; RIAS Kammerchor, Scharoun-Ensemble, Reuss. Text and translation. Harmonia Mundi HMC 901935-36 (2)RAVISHING REFINEMENTDaniel Reuss leads a deluxe performance of Martin's Le Vin Herbé, a mesmerizing take on the Tristan legend.
Piau, Böhnert, Bartsch, Wiedemann; Davislim, Buhrmann, de la Paz Zaens, Hartmann

If the idea of an aurally ravishing but decidedly non-Wagnerian telling of the Tristan legend interests you, then Frank Martin's mesmerizing dramatic oratorio, Le Vin Herbé (1940), is a must-hear, especially in this deluxe new recording from Harmonia Mundi, sensitively conducted by Daniel Reuss. In adapting the tale, Martin (1890–1974) used as his starting point Le Roman de Tristan et Iseut (1900), whose author, Joseph Bédier, in turn used sources for the original Celtic myth that actually predate Gottfried von Strassburg's thirteenth-century Tristan, which was Wagner's primary source. This deliberate attempt by Martin to get as close as possible to the ethos of the original material resulted in a mysteriously iridescent score that is a unique synthesis of the ancient and the modern. It's couched in Martin's characteristically shimmering, highly chromatic style, which uses the twelve-tone system, but only to the extent that it suits his expressive purposes. Since his building blocks are triads and their derivations, the resulting music hovers tantalizingly on the porous, shifting border between tonality and atonality, massaging the ear with its lushness. In the mix, we can hear both the French (mostly Debussy) and the German (early, pre-atonal Schoenberg) influences on the Swiss composer, but Martin's synthesis is among the most distinctive and attractive of all twentieth-century composers.

Recording Excerpts:
Act II, Scene 4: "Dans le fourréclos de ronces"
Act I, Scene 2: "La nef tranchantles vagues profondes"
Act II, Scene 4: "Celui qui par belle courtoisie m'a donné cet anneau d'or"
In direct contravention of Wagner, Martin emphasizes restraint, evoking discreet (as opposed to outsized) passions from a primordial world unlike our own. In addition, as befits an oratorio, much of the story is told via narration, delivered by both soloists and chorus (here, the superb RIAS Kammerchor). This contributes further to a framework for the story that is somewhat detached and historical but no less moving. In this recording, the soloists, chorus and instrumentalists all seem perfectly attuned to Martin's blend of sumptuous harmonic language and subtlety of expression. Soprano Sandrine Piau (Iseut) and tenor Steve Davislim (Tristan) have the vocal control and musicianship to caress their vocal lines, even the high-lying, forte passages. In Iseut's scene in Part III, when her emotions are as storm-tossed as the ship in which she sails, Piau sustains her cushiony vocal shimmer even as she yearns and frets. Davislim is particularly fine in Tristan's agitated Part II soliloquy, during which he grapples with his conflicting emotions upon discovering that King Mark has come upon him and Iseut asleep in the forest but refrained from slaying them. Soprano Jutta Böhnert cleanly conveys Brangane's anguish and despair without a hint of shrillness, and bass-baritone Jonathan E. de la Paz Zaens has an appealing lightness in his upper range, which serves him well in King Mark's aria. As Iseut's mother (and the first soloist to appear in the piece), mezzo Ulrike Bartsch sets the artistic tone perfectly: her admonition to Brangane regarding the potion is fervent and lyrical, yet refined. Reuss provides leisurely pacing in the choral passages, giving the listener every chance to savor those well-worth-savoring sonorities, but the conductor also knows how to whip up the adrenaline level when necessary, without sacrificing a jot of accuracy from the ace instrumentalists of Scharoun-Ensemble.


Noel Espíritu Vellasco, International Tenor

Tenor Noel Espíritu Velasco, hailed as "one of the Philippines' national treasures" and winner of the Pavarotti International Voice Competition, the Liederkranz Foundation Wagnerian Competition and the New York Oratorio Society Solo Competition, has received critical acclaim and public accolades worldwide.

In opera, Mr. Velasco was Artist-in-Residence and Principal Tenor of Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston for eight seasons, and has sung at the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, Paris' Opéra Comique, Opera Orchestra of New York, Houston Grand Opera, Welsh National Opera, Opéra de Montpellier, with lead roles in La Bohème, Lucia di Lammermoor, Carmen, Rigoletto, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Tosca, Magic Flute, Abduction from the Seraglio, Der Rosenkavalier, La Favorite, La Sonnambula, Guglielmo Tell, Poliuto, Stiffelio, Il Pirata, Luisa Miller, Giovanna D'Arco, Le Coq d'Or, Benvenuto Cellini, and Dom Sébastien.

His concert work includes the Verdi, Mozart and Berlioz, Dvorák and Rossini Stabat Maters, Orff's Carmina Burana and Catulli Carmina, Britten's War Requiem and Serenade, Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Handel's Messiah, Samson and Praise of Harmony, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Mass in C, Bach's Magnificat and St. John Passion, and Puccini's Messa di Gloria, with L'Accademia di Santa Cecilia, London Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra at Kennedy Center and Festival Casals, Festival International de Radio France, Gstaad AlpenGala Concerts (Switzerland), Ural State Philharmonic (Russia), Houston Symphony, Florida Philharmonic, Florida Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, under Rostropovich, Frühbeck de Burgos, Robert Shaw, Hans Graf, Rudolf Barshai, James Judd, Jahja Ling and Claus Peter Flor.Equally at home on the recital stage, Velasco has performed over 300 recital concerts worldwide. Velasco has also sung duo recitals with his wife, mezzo-soprano Gigi Mitchell-Velasco, in Manila, Honolulu, San Francisco, Little Rock and throughout their home state of Rhode Island.


Soprano Fides Asensio (née Santos-Cuyugan) was born on August 1, 1931, in Lucena, Philippines. She was the daughter of Jacinta Belza and Dr. Gervasio Santos Cuyugan, the first Philippine government scholar. She began her musical training in 1938 when, after her family moved to Manila, she was enrolled at the Philippine Women's University grade school where she studied piano and music theory.
In 1947, Fides enrolled at the College of Music and Arts, where she studied with Dean Felicing Tirona. Her graduation recital landed her on the front page of the Manila Times, which proclaimed "A star is born". The programme included Zerbinetta's Aria from Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, an aria which, to this date, has never been sung by another artist in the Philippines. After graduation, she received a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (the first Filipina singer ever admitted). At the Institute, she performed The Telephone and the composer, Gian Carlo Menotti, commented "It's as if I composed this work for her."
After her marriage in 1954 to Manuel D. Asensio, Jr., she returned to Manila (where she would be the reigning coloratura soprano for three decades) and made her professional opera debut as Adele in Die Fledermaus at the Far Eastern University Auditorium. Two years later, she sang the role of Sisa in the world premiere of De Leon's Noli Me Tangere with the Manila Symphony.
Until the late 1960's, Fides Asensio appeared in numerous Filipino operas, including the world premieres of Santos' Mapulang Bituin, Pajaros' Binhi ng Kalayaan, and Kasilag's Dularawan. Her repertoire also included roles from conventional opera, including Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Susanna in Il Segreto di Susanna, and Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
From 1969-1974, Asensio hosted "Sunday, Sweet Sunday", a one-hour show where she performed in major musical works. It was also around this time that she added two new roles to her repertoire: Violetta in La Traviata and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro.
In the late 1970's, Asensio began to direct operas for free in Manila since there were very few directors at the time who were interested in opera. During this time, she also wrote the librettos for Kasilag's Larawan Ng Kababaihan: Maskara at Mukha (debuted in 1980) and Feliciano's La Loba Negra (debuted in 1984). Both of these works were staged to great popular and critical acclaim at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila.
In 1986, Fides Asensio formed "The Music Theater Foundation of the Philippines" (MTFP), a non-profit organization dedicated to promote, stage, and give scholarships to young classical performers. Two years later, in 1988, she was appointed Chairman of Voice and Music Theater Department at the U.P. College of Music, a position she held until she retired in 1997. After her retirement, she was granted the title of Professor Emeritus by the U.P. Board of Regents. She continues to teach, and among her students are tenor Salmyeno Malaki (who performs in Los Angeles and San Diego), soprano Andion Fernandez (currently under contract with the Deutsche Staatsoper), and tenor Lemuel Cuento (currently under contract with the Vienna Staatsoper).
In 1989, Asensio began hosting a second television series, "A Little Night of Music." The show is still being produced and she continues to host and perform.
In 1992, Asensio began working on the libretto for Paguio's Mayo... Bisperas ng Liwanag for the Philippine Centennial. The opera, which is based on Nick Joaquin's short story "May Day Eve", had its world premiere at the Camp Aguinaldo Theater in Manila on November 15, 1997. The premiere was a great success and Asensio translated the libretto into English for staging in Aberdeen, Scotland, in April 2000.
On April 15, 1999, Asensio created the role of Grandmother Sakuro in the world premiere of Tamura's The Magic Staff. The performance, which was staged at the Meralco Theater in Manila, may have made history when Fides appeared with her granddaughter, Nicole, who was also appearing in the production.
Although her career has focused mostly on classical theater, Asensio once ventured into film when she appeared (and was nominated for best supporting actress) in the epic "Oro, Plata, Mata." She is also known for her many outreach programs. She has toured Filipino communities in North America as Julia in the zarzuela Walang Sugat (1979), as Sisa in Noli Me Tangere (1988), as a soloist in Ana Maria (1991), and as a soloist in On Wings of Song (the history of the Philippines) in 1995. Her most grueling your, though, came in late 1998, when she appeared as Anastacia in Mayo... Bisperas ng Liwanag in major cities across the U.S.A. It was the first time audiences had seen an unabridged Filipino opera, and it was a great success in the 10 major U.S. cities where it was performed (including Detroit, Chicago, and New York).