Filipino tenor makes it to Metropolitan Opera

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ROSEL in his winning (singing) form.

A rather late discovery is the fact that another Filipino singer—tenor Rodell Rosel—had made it to the Metropolitan Opera in New York three years ago (2009), in Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier,” opposite no less than the revered American diva Renée Fleming and Susan Graham, and under the direction of the eminent conductor Edo de Waart.

“Singing in the Metropolitan Opera stage on opening night of my very first production is a dream come true, not just for me but also for any aspiring opera singer,” Rosel told the Inquirer. “The Met stage has the best acoustics any singer can ever hope for, and the most embracing audience one could ever wish for.”

After “Der Rosenkavalier,” in the same year, Rosel returned to the Met as Nathanael in Jacques Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” (The Tales of Hoffmann), this time conducted by James Levine.

Both productions were presented live in HD (high definition) in movie theaters nationwide and worldwide, as well as encore presentations on Public Broadcasting System.

Pressure of singing

costume for opera

Rosel admitted he felt the pressure of singing in one of the most revered opera houses in the world. “From the first rehearsal in any big company, every singer is really expected to know the role inside and out. Since we are singing with the biggest name in the opera business, the pressure to come up to the same expectations as our already established colleagues gives us more pressure to perform to our fullest and best.”

For his successful Met debut, the tenor credits his voice teachers Gianna Rolandi, Timothy Mussard and Dennis Parnell, and his voice coach Mona Lands.

He has nothing but high praises for the two conductors—De Waart and Levine. “Both conductors are the best in the business and craft. They are equally helpful, even to new and younger singers in the business like me. They made the whole experience memorable in the most pleasant way possible.”

He also cites the unwavering and generous support of his family and loved ones:

“Part of being a good singer is being a good person. When you are surrounded by generosity and support, the only way to go is up and forward.”

The last Filipino to sing at the Met was soprano Evelyn Mandac, who sang Lauretta in Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” in 1975, and the following year, sang Gretel in Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel.”

The Filipino tenor hit the front page of the Inquirer five years ago when he was named one of the grand-prize winners of the 2005 Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition grand finals.

Huge impact

“I guess I made a huge impact with the Met after that audition so that they kept me in consideration of my originally scheduled debut as Begearss in John Corigliano’s ‘The Ghosts of Versailles,’ which was postponed,” Rosel said. “The Met debut came about when the Met engaged me for the revival of ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ and a new production of ‘Les Contes d’Hoffmann.’”

After making it to the Met national auditions, Rosel landed in one of the top slots in the Palm Beach Opera Vocal Competition; the Lotte Lenya Vocal Competition; including the People’s Choice Award from the José Iturbi International Music Competition.

In 2007, Rosel was one of the principal soloists in John Musto’s “Volpone” with The Wolf Trap Opera Company in Vienna, Virginia. The opera was recorded live and released in 2009 and was nominated for Best Opera Recording for the 2010 Grammy Awards.

The Filipino tenor was born in Makati and grew up in Las Piñas.

“My parents are from Cavite (my mother from Mendez, and my father from Alfonso). My father shared his talents as a singer and guitarist in a band in his early years, and most of the classical singing background stems from my mother’s side, whose aunts sang classical romantic Filipino love songs in their spare time.”

The Filipino tenor started singing at age of 11 while still in the Philippines, and admitted singing in various amateur singing contests. “I was a contestant at the 1987 Bagong Kampeon with Pilita Corales and the late Bert ‘Tawa’ Marcelo. After moving to the US at 16, I still kept my singing on the side, and later joined a few bands playing at wedding receptions and private functions, including a long collaboration with legendary Filipino personalities Carina Afable, Norma Ledesma and Florence Aguilar, to name a few.”

Rosel’s next big engagements include a debut with Los Angeles Opera in “Madama Butterfly” (as Goro); the title role of Albert Herrring with Florentine Opera in “Milwaukee”; as well as the role of Mime in both of Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” and “Siegfried.”

Piano concert

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) will hold “Legal Legato,” a piano concert tomorrow, July 24, 6:30 p.m., at the Aldaba Recital Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.

The concert features Belgian pianist Lies Colman and Filipina soprano Rica Nepomuceno, a faculty member at the University of the Philippines, College of Music.

Call tel. 9206660 or 0926-6225097.

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