The Santa Isabel College Conservatory of Music will pay special tribute to the late baritone Gamaliel Viray with a performance of Mendelssohn’s monumental oratorio, “Elijah,” Feb. 22, at the school’s Santo Cristo de Tesoro Auditorium, Taft Avenue, Manila.
The presentation will also launch the Gamaliel Viray Music Festival, a bi-annual event to commemorate the life and art of the late beloved bass-baritone. The concert will also celebrate the 150th presence of the Daughters of Charity in Santa Isabel College.
The soloists include Santa Isabel music faculty, alumni, guest performers and students, led by Viray’s protégé, baritone Joseleo Logdat, Grand Prize winner of the 6th Yokohama International Music Competition, currently finishing further studies at Elisabeth University of Music in Japan.
“Mr. Viray has always been my inspiration,” said Logdat. “I am glad that I was the first and the last vocal performance student who graduated under him. As a person, he was always supportive of me. He will always have a place in my heart.”
Viray passed away on Oct. 19, 2010.
During his time, Viray not only appeared in operas but also acted in plays. He was a character actor in many FPJ blockbusters. He hosted radio programs promoting classical music and nurtured young and promising singers as a teacher.
He belonged to a distinguished batch of singers that includes Evelyn Mandac (the first and last Filipino to sing at the Metropolitan Opera of New York) and Otoniel Gonzaga (the first and last Filipino to sing Verdi’s “Otello.”
Gamy was one of the central figures during the rise and fall of opera in the country.
In 1979, when the Manila Metropolitan Theater had more opera productions than the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), he was Zurga in Bizet’s “Pearl Fishers,” with the Leila of soprano Eleanor Calbes.
In 1990, he was Germont in the controversial production of “La Traviata” at the CCP and Marcello in “La Boheme,” with National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio directing.
One music writer wrote of the baritone in the Daily Globe thus: “Next to the Violetta of Donna Maria Zapola, the Germont of Gamaliel Viray registered with such authority that echoed in his singing. He once again showed that confident singing he earlier revealed as Zurga in the 1981 production of ‘Pearl Fishers.’ Tinio’s translation of ‘Di provenza il mar’ sung with such fervor by Viray is another good argument in favor of opera translation.”
A finalist in the Concours International du Chant in France and the Francisco Vinas Vocal Competition in Spain, Viray was Marcello in the CCP production of “La Boheme,” with the Rodolfo of tenor Harry Theyard, who is identified with the Metropolitan Opera of New York.
He was Papageno in the 1981 CCP production of “Magic Flute” under Sarah Caldwell; and Count Almaviva in “Marriage of Figaro,” which was mounted by the then newly born but short-lived Opera Company of the Philippines.
He made his American operatic debut with the Opera Company of Boston as Burundai in Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Invisible City of Kitezh,” directed by Caldwell.
It may be recalled that in the Boston Opera, while he was singing an aria, demonstrators outside were chanting anti-Marcos slogans.
Soprano Rachelle Gerodias—who worked with Viray in three opera productions, the Tinio version of Puccini’s “La Boheme,” “Gianni Schicchi” and in the world premiere of Fr. Manuel Maramba’s “Lord Takayama Ukon”—remembers the late baritone: “He was very important to me because it was the Rolando Tinio adaptation of ‘La Boheme’ at the CCP, which was my very first opera production. We had two sets of cast: a junior and a senior one. I was Musetta in the junior cast and Tito Gamy was the Marcello in the senior cast.
“In ‘Gianni Schicchi,’ I actually performed with him as his daughter, Lauretta, while he played the title role of Gianni Schicchi, to whom I sang the famous aria ‘O mio babbino caro.’ I remember his portrayal of that role very well. I thought he was the perfect Schicchi, and singing Lauretta with him was such a great honor and pleasure for me.”
The other performers in the Feb. 22 performance of “Elijah” are sopranos Maribel Miguel-Ararao, Sheila Manga, Gayle Norombaba and Krissan Manikan; male alto Poli Laurito; tenor Nomher Nival; and baritone John Pitas.
They will be joined by the Gamaliel Viray Festival Chorus composed of Santa Isabel Music Guild, faculty, alumni and friends; with Antonina Sipuatco-Jostol, Santa Isabel alumna and graduate of Piano Performance from Manhattan School of Music as collaborating artist.
The oratorio will be conducted and directed by Raul Navarro, Santa Isabel alumnus and graduate school coordinator of the University of the Philippines College of Music.
Call 5249723 or 0917-8407566.