View From The Wings – 7
BRAZILIAN BARITONE FERNANDO ARAUJO: ‘YOU GO TO OPERA TO EXPERIENCE MAGIC’
by Pablo A. Tariman
Just a few days before singing Marcello in La Boheme in Manila October 18-19, Brazilian baritone Fernando Araujo suddenly remembers distinguished Filipino pianist and music teacher Emilio del Rosario as the one who inspired him to go deeper into music.
“I believe he was the best piano teacher in the United States for teenage pianists,” he recalls. “I was fortunate to study with him. He was a great inspiration. He was the one who advised me not to go back to Brazil and instead to proceed to Indiana University and pursue my other interest which was singing. I studied voice under James King and lied under Wolfgang Holzmair. Prof. Del Rosario prepared me for that and for this great support, I will always be forever grateful to him.”
Araujo said he has met Brazilian cellist Antonio Meneses who was gold medalist in the 1982 Tchaikovsky Competition through his piano teacher, Menahem Pressler. (Meneses happens to be the father of pianist Cecile Licad’s son, Otavio Licad Meneses.)
Known for his opera roles as Papageno (Magic Flute), Figaro (Nozze di Figaro), Marcello (Boheme), Escamillo (Carmen) and Rigoletto, Araujo has colorful singing career the highlights of which include performances at the Verbier Festival, at the Philharmonie in Munich, at the Auditório Nacional de Madrid and concerts under the baton of Dennis Russell Davies and Maestro Fabio Luisi.
Although his Boheme role doesn’t have easily recognizable arias like the parts of Rodolfo, Mimi and Musetta, Araujo said there is a lot to enjoy in the part. “Marcello is a very passionate character and he is in love with Musetta. It is not only a platonic love and I like to think it is a very physical one and this shows all the time in his singing. There is elegance in this Puccini opera but mostly it has fire. Marcello has no memorable aria but he is on stage all the time and he is some kind of catalyst for the drama. He is the one consoling Mimi in her desperate moments and at the same time more down-to-earth than Rodolfo.”
The baritone said the Manila engagement is his fourth production of the part of Marcello and it should augur well for a more nuanced performance. “It would be nice to share my wealth of experience in this role. Artists have a lot to share with his audiences and not just the voice. The pain, love and joy, the sorrows almost always find their way into the music. We are fortunate we have music to express our life experiences. In this sense, every musician is an asset to bring life to the music. With my role as Marcello, I am sure it will bring strong emotions, open new doors and a lot of goose-bumps to a lot of people.”
Araujo said he believes in the magic of opera. “When opera was in flower during the time of bel canto and the castrati, people turn to opera to have extraordinary experience. I think the same is true today. You go to opera to experience magic. Otherwise, you just stay at home and watch TV. Opera can transcend present-day technology to bring home the message of the composer.”
He cites what he always tries to achieve in every performance. “When I perform, I do my best so I can communicate joy, reflection, contemplation and everything that will uplift them from day-to-day life. You have to give them that special spark that will enable them to like opera even if they are not used to it. “
Araujo said he was raised in an Italian-Brazilian family in Sao Paulo where his great grandfather immigrated in the early 1920s. He remembers him as a charismatic man of many talents, with a passion for artisanship and a love for opera. “His large collection of recordings covered the great Italian singers and orchestral works of Bach and Mozart. Listening to this music and singing to it as children often do is what I grew up with and it touched me to the core. My hard-working parents felt my need to play an instrument and bought me a … yellow piano.”
He added it was force of destiny that brought him to the United States where he was inspired by his first Filipino piano teacher who advised him to study at Indiana University where he met his piano teacher, eminent pianist Menahem Pressler.
Singing Rodolfo in this latest Manila Boheme is American tenor Scott Ramsay who has essayed at least 35 opera roles. Portraying the role of Mimi is Filipina soprano Margarita Guannelli while soprano Myramae Meneses sings Musetta with baritone Nonon Baang as Colline, Greg de Leon as Schaunard, Michael Bulaong as Benoit and Raymond Yadao as Alcindoro with the 18-member ensemble of Viva Voce.
Baritone Jonathan Velasco conducts under the direction of Anton Juan.
(Tickets to the October 18-19 performances of La Boheme are available at all SM ticket outlets and also at Music Artes at tel. nos 8958089;5193603; or 09189085088 or A-Team at 09189216835.)