By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files
THE most visible Filipino soprano these days is Rachelle Gerodias and so far, she is one of the few local singers with international exposure.
Seven years ago, she debuted as Liu (Turandot) at the Volksoper Wien in Vienna, Austria and sang in the New Year Concert with Sarajevo Philharmonic. Later, she was Susanna in Marriage of Figaro in Singapore and last year, she was Rosina (Barber of Seville) at the International Opera Festival at the Daegu Opera House in Korea. She got to reprise the same role in the recent staging of Barber of Seville which was well-received.
Earlier, she got to have a first crack at her first Verdi role as Violetta in La Traviata also at the CCP.
Last year, she debuted in Moscow in an all-Pilipino program at the Glinka Museum with Najib Ismail. She teamed up with Rene Dalandan in a well-received New York recital. She further promoted Pilipino songs in the world tour of "Aawitan Kita." She debuted in Beijing, China as representative of the Philippines in the first Asean Summit Culture and Arts Festival held at the National Center for the Performing Arts.
Now the latest news is that she is going to sing Zerlina in Mozart's Don Giovanni in November this year for the second time at the International Opera Festival at the Daegu Opera House in Korea.
Gerodias has indeed come a long way.
Some 25 years ago, she was just a promising student at the UST Conservatory of Music and being nurtured by her teacher, Gloria Coronel. Her graduation recital a couple of years later was an indication she was going to be special.
Five years after, she debuted as Rosita (Musetta ) in the Rolando Tinio version of Puccini's La Boheme at the CCP and even got to sing with the great Filipino tenor Otoniel Gonzaga on the very same stage where Placido Domingo sang Tosca opposite Eva Marton in 1979.
She credits Coronel for handling very well her formative stage. "If there is one voice teacher who knows me and my voice very well, that would be Professor Gloria Dizon-Coronel. She is like a second mother to me. She taught me everything that I needed to learn to become a good classical singer."
Her latest Mozart opera is again a debut role. "Yes, it's my first time to sing Zerlina and first time to do Don Giovanni," she said. "The challenge for me now is that the role is for a soubrette. This is the type of roles I was doing when I was much younger. But since I have been doing a lot of more mature roles now like Violetta, Liu, Rosina, I will need to go back to that voice. That will need some time to adjust."
The last time she sang a Mozart opera was in 2006 and she has since then waited for another chance to sing a Mozart role. "I think this would be perfect since I have never done Don Giovanni. It's always good to be able to do Mozart. It's very good for the voice and it's a great chance to learn interesting characters. I am also excited to do this production of Don Giovanni because I'll be working with an international cast again with an Italian director and an Italian conductor."
Gerodias said she had fun doing Rosina as she had with her Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. "The characters of Rosina and Susanna are somewhat similar although they are actually very different characters. They belong to very different social classes but they are both very young and in love. Both are funny and genuine characters. I just love making the audience laugh. You get such positive energy on stage. Plus when you perform with a wonderful cast, it's all just a load of fun on stage."
According to her, there were three major challenges for her when she did Rosina. "The singing style of Rossini was very special because this is the bel canto style where you have to sing the coloratura really clear and fast or else the whole thing will just fall apart. The second challenge is the acting and playing on stage. There's a lot of comic timing involved in this opera especially in the recitatives. This needs a lot of rehearsal and rapport with your fellow singers. There are really difficult parts where we need to deal with the music, the singing, the ensemble and the acting while running around on stage especially in the finale of act one and the quintet in Act Two. And with all of that happening on stage, of course, we need to be completely together with the conductor. The third challenge for me was the Italian. There were lot of passages there that required speed and good enunciation of the language. In some ways, they sounded like Italian tongue twisters."
When she does another bout with Italian in Don Giovanni in Korea, Gerodias, she makes sure she does what she has always believed in.
"I always try to give my all not just for myself but for my audience and my colleagues," she pointed out. "That's why I always invite my family and close friends. I want them to enjoy the performance and feel proud. I want them to be inspired. And for those who are there just to appreciate the music or was just invited by friends, my goal is for them to get excited to see more performances like this. I want them to feel that they need to see more operas and appreciate the local artists. I want the audience to be proud that we have local talents worth watching."
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")