Filipino tenor Arthur Espiritu—last heard as Cassio in a recent Modena production of “Otello” and as Prince Ramiro in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” mounted by Pittsburgh Opera last month—is all set to debut with the ABS-CBN Philharmonic under the baton of Gerard Salonga on June 5.
The event is called “Best of Opera,” presented by Resorts World Manila and directed by Anton Juan.
It will see Espiritu collaborating with other Filipino talents such as sopranos Camille Lopez Molina and Rachelle Gerodias; baritones Noel Azcona and Andrew Fernando; and distinguished foreign guest artists.
On Espiritu’s latest foreign engagement, a Pittsburgh critic wrote: “Tenor Arthur Espiritu is superb as Don Ramiro, singing with an appealing lyric quality that matches his character’s temperament. He first appears having switched roles with his servant, who pretends to be the noble searching for a wife. Espiritu, as the servant, maintains a certain dignity, which, of course, provides continuity for his character when his true identity is revealed.”
Espiritu said the opera had a wonderful audience on opening night, but he had to adjust on the second night because of allergy problems. “I got through it and sang safely. The audience was very much involved and I heard lots of laughs.”
On the third performance, he was able to get most of his voice back and felt more secure. “We all had fun on stage all the same. Vivica Genaux [in the title role] was just fantastic. It was so much fun singing with her. She makes everybody around her look good and she helps you on stage. She is very down-to-earth and a hard worker to boot. She has this extremely solid work ethic that I love so much. How she knows her voice more than anyone, how she interprets her roles and how she moves; it’s a thing of beauty. I’m so honored to share the stage with an artist like her. It is really a privilege.”
Composed by Rossini when he was 25 years old and completed in three weeks, “La Cenerentola” is just within tenor Espiritu’s vocal turf.
“This is the role that I normally do and it is my favorite,” he said. “My voice sits very comfortably in this role and I love the character development as the opera develops. It is a vocal feat, to say the least. You have to be able to sing the runs, the legato lines, and the high notes. Also, you have to be involved in a lot of the ensemble sections. It is a tour de force for a tenor. Fortunately, the body of my voice sits high and it fits well with this role.”
But singing Rossini is not all that easy. Espiritu said: “Rossini is a composer for the singers. He has the vocal lines in mind and it is so easy to be able to play with some lines and make your own mark within his vocal compositions. To be able to show your flexibility and your line—and also your ability to act—is a great opportunity. You have to be able to understand the style properly and the cadenzas and how you communicate with your conductor. There are some spaces in his works that sometimes leave holes musically. So, you have to be able to fill those holes with your own interpretations. If not done well, it just won’t sound as interesting.”
Espiritu’s return engagement with Pittsburgh Opera is special to him for some reasons. He actually started working for this opera company as a young artist from 2005 to 2007.
“This company has put its trust in me and they believe in my talents and capabilities. I owe them so much for helping me start my career in 2008. I can’t say enough good things about this company. I love going back there all the time.”
With fatherhood beckoning, the tenor had to cancel three opera engagements this year just to be with his wife who is due to deliver their first baby in a few months.
“I think it is very important for me to be with my family at a very important time in our lives,” he said.
But he is considering a few offers like a role in Menotti’s “Amelia Goes to the Ball” in Monaco with Placido Domingo conducting; a debut role as Rinuccio in “Gianni Schicchi” with Teatro Reggio di Parma; and also Nadir in Bizet’s “Pearl Fishers.” He is also looking forward to his debut as Fernando in Donizetti’s “La Favorita” in Switzerland in the summer of 2014.