Nelly Miricioiu, soprano
Najib Ismail, piano
Invito alla danza
Le Temps de Lilec
Frédéric Chopin-Pauline Viardot
Cine m-aude cantand
Canta puiul cucului
Dragu-mi-i mandro de tine
Oh, cielo! Dove son'io!-Ah! dagli scanni eterei... from Aroldo
Come in quest`ora bruna from Simon Boccanegra
Bel raggio lusinghier from Semiramide
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 Pasig France,
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.
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.