Arthur Espiritu soars in ‘The Poet Speaks’


Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

A standing ovation for Arthur Espiritu and Najib Ismael.

The sixth of this month will linger long in the head and hearts, like the “last song syndrome,” of those who watched tenor Arthur Espiritu as he breathed life into the lyrics of poets and the music of the masters.

The Ayala Museum lobby in Makati City was filled with sparkling anticipation as the perfumed set and casually dressed culture vultures took unnumbered seats. The glass-walled, tall-ceilinged museum had been there for some time as venue for launchings of Jaime Zobel de Ayala’s de luxe books; it has hosted fashion shows of the likes of Josie Natori and Inno Sotto and similar worthy endeavors that enrich the city’s cultural life. But as venue for a concert like MCO Foundation Inc.’s “The Poet Speaks?” Now we’re talking!

The US-based Espiritu has consistently enthralled the operatic and fine music crowd with his prince-like stance, his “beautiful legato”, a critic once wrote. These qualities were present that enchanted evening when he interpreted art songs and cycles of poetry. Handel’s music from the opera Semele comes with lyrics of besotted god Jupiter offering his mortal lover Semeleall the loveliness that his powers could execute for her: “Wher’er you walk / Cool gales shall fan the glade / Trees where you sit / Shall crowd into a shade …/ Where’er you treat / The blushing flowers shall rise / And all things flourish…”

Complementing Espiritu’s fascinating performance was Najib Ismael’s virtuosity on the keys. Music critic Pablo Tariman said, “On the whole, the recital of tenor Arthur Espiritu with pianist Najib Ismail gave us a clear magic relationship between the four elements of a song recital: the poet, composer, singer and accompanist.”

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February 8, 2013 11:30 pm  Tags: , ,   Posted in: Arts and Culture, Vera Files

100 Responses

  1. Ellen - February 8, 2013 11:54 pm

    Comments by Pablo Tariman in FB:

    What this concert teaches us is that singing is not showing off: it is getting to the heart of music and poetry. You noticed the voice and piano has equal role.

    It is too early to say this but into the second month of the year, I’d make this recital one of the worthy candidates for Vocal Event of the Year. The few song recitals I enjoyed in Manila through the years were the ones of Evelyn Mandac with Lourdes de Leon Gregorio in the 80s and tenor John Aler with pianist Brian Ganz in the 90s

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