View From The Wing – La Sonnambula in Munich
by Pablo A. Tariman

Leading Filipino tenor Arthur Espiritu made his auspicious debut at Munich’s Gärtnerplatztheater October 8 as Elvino in the Bellini opera, “La Sonnambula” with soprano Jennifer O‘Loughlin as the well-received Amina.

Tenor Arthur Espiritu during the opening night curtain call. Warm audience and a good critical notice.

Tenor Arthur Espiritu during the opening night curtain call. Warm audience and a good critical notice.

German music critic Robert Braunmüller of the Abendzeitung said Espiritu “doesn’t fall behind the soprano O’Loughlin who makes an astonishingly perfect Amina. The tenor is a real discovery and one should look forward to his Don Ramiro in Cenerentola. His tenor voice has a light metallic blend. His high notes are sure, his technique elegant and controlled. When the two sing the seemingly endless Addio at the end of the first act, one wished it would never end.”

Under conductor Marco Comin, the Bellini opera was staged atPrinzregententheater with Michael Sturminger making his Munich directorial debut after his stage productions at Opernhaus Zurich, St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre and the Bregenz Festival.

Tenor Espiritu who just sang a highly acclaimed concert version of Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Meralco Theater last August 25 said the opening night was so much fun.

He told Arts News Service: “The audience was very appreciative of us and it was great to be able to take them in our story. They were right with us all night. I was very happy with their warm reception of me. I was a bit nervous in the beginning but I got into it the moment I started the Prendi, la nel ti dono. Our conductor did very well and kept everyone together. It’s very hard to manage a Bellini opera especially because each singer has different mannerisms in singing. His way of putting the ensembles together (duets, quintets, trios, and especially with the chorus) was a strict and calculated approach. He is a great manager. I just had to work within his framework and fill in as much as I could. We preset the cadenzas and the ornaments so that everyone would know how we phrase. “

Tenor Arthur Espiritu as Elvino with  soprano  Jennifer O'Loughlin  as his Amina.

Tenor Arthur Espiritu as Elvino with soprano Jennifer O’Loughlin as his Amina.

The lead tenor role in La Sonnambula was the second for Espiritu who has a five-night engagement including the opening night with good words for his Amina. “Jennifer O’Loughlin was wonderful. She was more than capable of singing Amina. I must say it is a very challenging role for any soprano.”

The Prinzregenten Theater designed by Max Littman has rich history when it opened in with a production of “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” by Richard Wagner in 1901.

The tenor said the theater was modeled after the famous Bayreuth Theater. “It’s a bit smaller than the Theater in Bayreuth but it is a twin of that theater. The acoustics were just wonderful. The walls are concrete and it was a very friendly house. The stage is quite wide me the pit for the orchestra was very deep. On the whole, it is really a beautiful theater. “

La Sonnambula was last heard in Manila at the Manila Grand Opera House in the late 1940s with Maestra Mercedes Matias Santiago as Amina. Its opening night with President Quezon in the audience was marred by brown-out with the performance resuming after midnight.

The tenor has kept a hectic schedule in the European opera circuit singing the Duke in Rigoletto with Oper Klosterneuburg, Ferrando in Theater Basel’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” with debut appearance in Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz’ Brigitte Fassbaender production of La Cenerentola which opens November 5. “It is so wonderful to sing in places that still has so much culture. To Europeans, opera is so much a part of their culture that people go and buy opera tickets to support the arts. I feel very lucky to be able to be in a society that still embraces this art form.”

Asked what he tries to achieve in every performance, Espiritu said: “I am very hard on myself most of the time that when people try to compliment me, deep down inside me, I’m thinking of the details of my performance. One by one, I analyze what I have just done and of course I will realize some parts that did not exactly go where I wanted it to go. But, to answer the question, I try to be in the moment and I try my best to tell the story as organically as I can. I try to plan ahead in my head and visualize what I wanted to do and when it’s time to go on stage, I try to immerse myself in the character.

Pablo Tariman with tenor Arthur Espiritu during the presscon for La Cenerentola.

Pablo Tariman with tenor Arthur Espiritu during the presscon for La Cenerentola.

Also thinking about the notes I got from the director and the conductor and implant them in before I go on stage. So it would come out as one whole picture. If something does not go according to plan in the music or the other character decides to go outside the box, I just react to it and stay in that moment in time. As if it’s real life. So, in short, I don’t try too hard to put too many layers in my thoughts. I just focus on the task at hand and hope to God that it would be good. It has to be as organic as much as possible. People in the audience can see through you. They can also feel if you are nervous or inhibited so you must communicate to them as honest as you can.”

The tenor is all set for his debut with Frankfurt Opera next year in Puccini’s Gianni Schicci.

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