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A Master Class by a world-class Filipino

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By Charmaine Deogracias, VERA Files

When the Cultural Center of the Philippines launched master classes last year as part of their artist education program, it was honored by no less than world-class Filipino artist, Arthur Espiritu. Not only was it CCP’s first voice masterclass offer, it was also a rare first to have a tenor conduct a masterclass.

A voice master class which is an expert’s one-on-one coaching session with advanced students in performance and technique, is most often conducted by sopranos. But for the Philippines and the Filipino artists, Espiritu gamely trained students from different conservatories who were mostly sopranos.

Melissa Corazon Mantaring, Head of Music Division of the Performing Arts of CCP’s Artist Training said it was a privilege and an honor that a sought- after, internationally-renowned tenor took time out to train the country’s potential opera singers in their first master class for voice.

“It is deemed a need to actively train artists under an arts education department which takes charge of bringing audiences for the arts. We really need to educate the public in the arts and culture of the country to make art matter for every Filipino,” Mantaring said of the rationale of CCP to offer master classes along with other training programs.

Among those who joined the master class was Raymond Roldan, 40. He said, he doesn’t want to miss the chance of learning from one master tenor as tenor teachers are so rare in the Philippines. Espiritu to him was the “real thing.” Aside from the new concept of support he learned, his best lesson was to be encouraged that he can still do it despite delving late in to classical singing.

But for Elaine Marie Vibal, 22, a fifth year student from the University of the Philippines College of Music, while it was initially intimidating for a master with that stature listen to her perform, but it was a delight for her to learn how to sing her favorite aria in a different technique.

Espiritu himself has trained in young artist programs with leading opera companies including Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Pittsburgh Opera, Opera North, and Utah Festival Opera. He earned his Artist Diploma from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and earned both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Music from the University of New Orleans.

He is a winner of the distinguished 2009 George London Award and also a recipient of the La Scala Award as part of the Belvedere Vocal Competition in Vienna, Austria.

His credits include Teatro alla Scala, Piccolo Teatro di Milano and Opera Fuoco (Paris) and principal role debuts with Theatre St. Gallen in Switzerland in the 2009-2010 season. This Fil-Am talent had been applauded in the main stages of the Pittsburgh Opera, Theatre du Champs Elysees, The New Israeli Opera (Tel-Aviv), Brucknerhalle (Linz), Concerthaus Oulu (Finland), La Verdi Sonfonia in Milan, Gotham Chamber Opera, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Connecticut Opera, Opera North, Ashlawn Opera, Opera Memphis.

Commitments all over the world make an Espiritu performance in the Philippines rare and not to be missed. On Feb.6 (weds.) at 7 p.m. he will be at the Ayala Museum on Greenbelt 4 with Najib Ismail on the piano for a recital dubbed, “The Poet Speaks.”

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for truth.)

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