Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Soprano Nelly Miricioiu captivates Manila in return performance

Soprano Nelly Miricioiu with pianist Najib Ismail

Nelly Miricioiu, soprano
Najib Ismail, piano

Ottorino Respighi
     Invito alla danza
     L'ultima ebbrezza
Ernest Chausson
     La Colibre
     Le Papillon
     Le Temps de Lilec
Frédéric Chopin-Pauline Viardot
     Le Danse
Tiberiu Brediceanu
     Cine m-aude cantand
     Canta puiul cucului
     Dragu-mi-i mandro de tine
Giuseppe Verdi 
     Oh, cielo! Dove son'io!-Ah! dagli scanni eterei... from Aroldo
     Come in quest`ora bruna from Simon Boccanegra
Gioacchino Rossini
     Bel raggio lusinghier from Semiramide
Vincenzo Bellini
     Col sorriso d'innocenza from Il Pirata
Manuel Velez
     Sa Kabukiran
Nicanor Abelardo
     Mutya ng Pasig

Soprano Nelly Miricioiu’s successful concert wasn’t just a triumphant return of the diva since captivating Manila audiences more than 30 years ago. The one night event was also remarkable as it was able to bring forth to the Meralco Theater those who have witnessed her previous performances three decades ago along with those from the younger set (including myself) who were either too young or weren’t even born back then.

RAd and Nelly Miricioiu

Resplendent in her metallic peach colored gown, Romanian-born Nelly Miricioiu, presented in her concert various songs and arias that aren’t regularly performed in here. The first half of the concert featured songs by Ottorino Respighi, Ernest Chausson, Frédéric Chopin-Pauline Viardot, and Tiberiu Brediceanu. She performed the set of songs grouped together by composer ending with a heartfelt rendition of a trio of compositions by Romania’s Tiberiu Brediceanu. She made sure to note that the Romanian song Cine m-aude cantand share the same melancholia with some Filipino tunes. When singing the songs from her homeland, it felt to me like she will always be proud to sing these despite the oppression she felt while still residing in her home country. I remember her saying fondly during the press conference (well, it felt like a lunch among good friends and colleagues), that the Romanians are a happy people, but the communism made them lose their smile.

Nelly Miricioiu

The second half of the concert was devoted mostly to arias by Giuseppe Verdi, Gioacchino Rossini, and Vincenzo Bellini. Nelly Miricioiu mentioned before performing these arias that her opera recordings are from those that aren’t frequently staged. Compared to the first half where she appeared more relaxed, she became more intense with the arias as if she was in an actual opera production. She conveyed a great range of emotions that even those seated at the farthest seat from the stage could still feel the passion undiminished. Her intensity remained unabated as she did four such difficult arias in a row without any substantial breaks. And that’s when the strain in her voice started to creep in. It was also when I really wished that she could’ve let collaborating pianist Najib Ismail do a solo first as she let her voice rest for a bit.

Barry Kirk and Nelly Miricioiu

My fears were unfounded because none of the strain showed when she started singing the two Filipino songs, Manuel Velez’ Sa Kabukiran and Nicanor Abelardo’s Mutya ng Pasig that brought the house down. She exuded such radiance during Sa Kabukiran, unable to contain her joy since she has waited more than 30 years to sing this in Philippine soil. I was seated in the front row and I could see how heartfelt was her last lines of Mutya ng Pasig that says Kung nais ninyong ako’y mabuhay, pag-ibig ko’y inyong ibigay! (If you want me to live again, give me back my love!) It made me remember what she said during the press conference that while she thinks that she is most popular in France, the Netherlands, and in the US, she feels most loved in the Philippines. The last line of the song might be a fervent plea for the return of her love but it was Nelly who poured out her love to the audience.

Nelly Miricioiu and Barry Kirk

For encores, Nelly performed the most well known aria of the night, Giacomo Puccini’s Vissi d’Arte from Tosca and the Visayan song Ay! Kalisud. It was amusing when she urged the audience to sing the chorus of the latter song along with her, but there were only a few who did since most didn’t have an idea of what the song was in the first place.

The concert ended on a high note with the audience showering Nelly with thunderous applause and standing ovations. As the event wrapped up, I couldn’t help but remember what Nelly said during the lunch/press conference that really got stuck in my head; she mentioned that she is coming full circle, returning to the Philippines with her husband Barry Kirk this time, and that no matter what, after this concert, her life surely will be changed forever. And I wouldn’t be surprised that there were some members of the audience on that night whose lives were changed as well.

I’d like to thank Joseph Uy, Angel Reyes-Nacino and the MCO Foundation, Allan Andres, and also to Babeth Lolarga for making everything possible. It was very unfortunate that due to illness along with a foot injury, I completely missed the series of masterclasses that Nelly conducted the week following the concert. Thankfully, I was able to catch the first of two recitals by the students who participated at the masterclass. And because of my indisposition, I wasn’t at my finest form and couldn’t focus clearly on the performances. But I think that’s the magic of Nelly Miricioiu. I would overcome illness and a swollen/sore left foot just to see her before she left the country.

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