Islander in the City by Pablo A. Tariman:

A BARITONE LIKE NO OTHER

Live concerts are back!

They are for the most part inspiring and sadly a few disappoints.

This concert mounted at the CCP main theater lobby by the Friends for Cultural Concerns of the Philippines under Martin Lopez (FCCP) has many things going for it.

It has an intimate venue set up which with buntings of this year’s National Artists hanging just above the stage area.

It has free antigen tests for masked audiences which makes the event relatively virus-free.

For another, you get a preview of the quality of music scholars supported by the FCCP.

The concert has a unique format with an annotation written and performed by the New York-based tenor Rogelio Penaverde, Jr.

It makes for a little enlightenment on the nature of Filipino art songs as they relate to the works of the new batch of national Artists namely Agnes Locsin for Dance, Salvacion Lim-Higgins for Design (Fashion), Nora

Villamayor a.k.a Nora Aunor, Ricardo “Ricky” Lee and Marilou Diaz-Abaya for Film and Broadcast Arts, Gemino Abad for Literature, Fides Cuyugan-Asensio for Music, and Antonio “Tony” Mabesa for Theater.

One song number in the program (Awit ng Gabi ni Sisa from Felipe Padila de Leon’s Noli Me Tangere) is closely identified with National Artist Fides Cuyugan Asencio who played Sisa in past productions.

When Penaverde opened the concert with Mike Velarde’s Minamahal Kita with pianist Madeline Jane Mabanta, you realize you need a dose of kindness to appreciate his brand of singing.

By contrast, his co-artists did fairly well. More than that, they saved the day for the annotator-singer.

Baritone Kris Gonzales with soprano Athena Marsha Macatangay.

Soprano Marsha Macatangay’s natural voice is lovely to behold and has the makings of a good coloratura.

Felipe Padila de Leon’s Awit ng Gabi ni Sisa (from the opera Noli Me Tangere) was indeed the warhorse the audience needed to balance the art songs. Myramae Meneses started on a dramatic note but the amplification was no match to her vocal power. Her voice (with bad sound system) literally shook the CCP main theater lobby.

But there was no doubt about her vocal artistry in the lyrical of the aria.

Cellist Giuseppi Andre Diestro and classical guitarist Lance Capitan were for the most part engaging. But the arrangement of those Filipino pieces was nothing musically inspired. They were not imaginatively transcribed to do justice to their specific instruments.

As for Penaverde, he remained stoic even in the duets with sopranos Myramae Meneses and Athena Marsha Macatangay (Maalala Mo Kaya and Makikiliti Ka).

Sadly, there was no trace of the “sweet-voiced” tenor who graduated from the Manhattan School of Music.

If there was a degree of letdown, there was one truly inspiring moment in the song numbers of baritone Kris

Gonzales.

When he intoned Abelardo’s Bituing Marikit, you realize at once you are in the presence of someone special. It’s a deeply lyrical baritone sound that gets better with every phrase and line. The singing along with natural

acting made his performance truly memorable. He had the audience at the palm of his hands even in his last solo number (Bato Sa Buhangin).

One has not heard a good baritone of his kind in a long, long time. It is not surprising that he ended up one of the top prizewinners in the first International Youth Opera Festival and Competition in Singapore a few

months back.

The concert ended with OPM Medley with all the guest artists participating.

The assisting artists (Mabanta and Nathan Gemina) were hampered by being so far away from the performers.

Mabanta didn’t sound collaborative but Gemina (in the last song number of Gonzales) certainly knew how to breath with the singer.

In this concert directed by Manolet Garcia, you win some, you lose some.

On another point, it is also time to screen scholars worth the FCCP support.

It is one thing to encourage talents and another thing to acquire taste.

They should go together in the screening of future scholars.

As the CCP president Margie Moran Floirendo has pointed out in her message, “The Philippines has an

inexhaustible resource of raw, untapped talents. Through consolidated efforts, we can look forward to the next generation of talents worthy of everyone’s support.”

 

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