View From The Wing
FILIPINO TENOR DEBUTS AT FRANKFURT OPERA
by Pablo A. Tariman
Filipino tenor Arthur Espiritu made his auspicious debut in the new building of Frankfurt Opera Saturday night in an evening of three Puccini operas that lasted a little over three hours.
Billed as Il Trittico, the operas were Il Tabarro (The Cloak), Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi where he sang the role of Rinuccio.
Manila’s opera lovers usually associate Gianni Schicchi with the well-loved aria, O mio babbino caro (“Oh my beloved father”).
Frankfur Opera’s production of Il Trittico I debuted in 2008 and it became an audience favorite resulting in a third revival.
The tenor found the hall very voice-friendly. “The acoustics were great! I must say it is a very good theater to sing in. The audience loved all three pieces. Puccini really knows what he is doing in Il Trittico. The audience last night was very enthusiastic and I think Frankfurt audiences are so nice and receptive.”
Espiritu worked under Maestro Jakub Hrûsa in a production directed by Claus Guth in a third revival re-staged by Corinna Tetzel and Alan Barnes.
Continued Espiritu: “Maestro Jakub Hrûsa was great. He kept everyone together. This is his first Il Trittico and he handled it valiantly. Such a tough task to conduct all three operas in one night. Moreover, this production is a revival, so the director is obviously not here to stage it. It was instructed to us by an Assistant director. Allan Barnes was very precise with the staging and he was so nice to us the whole time.”
He was all admiration for the Michele of Zeijko Lucic and the the Suor Angelica of Elza van den Heever. “It was the two powerhouse singers of the evening that just carried the show. Lucic was amazing. You can see his Rigoletto at the MET on HD if you want to know him a bit more. And also Elza van den Heever as our Suor Angelica.What an amazing voice and talent.”
Although his role as Renuccio is not associated with any popular aria, Espiritu found his role musically challenging.
He pointed out: “What I found challenging in Rinuccio is that musically, it’s quite difficult. There are meter changes and you really have to count all the time. You can’t rely on what you hear in the orchestra. And also what the conductor cues you. You have to be right on time. As for the aria, “Firenze come un albero fiorito”, it is written so weird that there is no punctuation at the end of the Aria that one would feel like there has to be an applause cue but no. Puccini wrote it in a place where Rinuccio introduces Gianni Schicchi. So, no tenor glory there. After singing high tessitura lines and all those difficult passages that ends in a held high B flat, it continues on to the next scene. So, no glory for Rinuccio, sadly. But, I can honestly say that it was a fun role to do. I felt that I was in the story and part of the development. However, I’m on stage about 90% of the time.”
The Gianni Schicchi role is his second Puccini opera after singing Rodolfo in La Boheme. “ I love singing Rodolfo. I can truly relate to it and it has a special place in my heart. Not so much Rinuccio, because I don’t really relate to the character as much. Beautiful music but nothing about the role touches me. It is a vocal feat and a lot of fun to sing, but it is not substantive enough for me.”
For another, he finds it too short but very funny and entertaining. “It just speaks for itself. Greed is subject to Karma. But I had a wonderful time with really great and professional colleagues. Everything worked well together on opening night. I’m glad I was a part of it.”
The next performance is on March 20.
After Frankfurt Opera, Espiritu is will have three performances of La Boheme in Magdeburg and another repeat of La Sonnambula in Munich where he sings Elvino.
The last Filipino tenor to sing at Frankfurt Opera was Iloilo-born Otoniel Gonzaga who was soloist of the opera house for several seasons.