Friday, August 29, 2014

And then along comes Stephanie

Stephanie Aguilar, resplendent in her Mel Orlina gown whose color is on the soothing side of teal, on Aug. 20, the night of her professional debut concert at the Ayala Museum lobby

Her dream is to play the title role in Puccini's Madame Butterfly. Her reason is simple yet true: she wants to sing what is one of the most beautiful and passionate arias, "Un bel di vedremo." And why shouldn't this girl-woman with the voice of an angel sing of a love that waits but waits in futility?

This observer is willing to wait, too, in order to watch Stephanie "Teepee" Aguilar achieve a depth to her singing, a sign that she may have had a firsthand experience of love, of abandonment or something close to it and a willingness to do the ultimate sacrifice for someone. Or she can give the lie that she has undergone that experience. If it's the latter case, then thumbs-up for her acting chops, something an operatic singer also needs to be equipped with.

So far in her debut as solo professional singer she acquitted herself in a Puccini aria from Turandot where she sings the part of Liu, the slave in love with a prince. Liu is tortured to extract information, another of those over-dramatic elements that happen in a tragic opera. As Teepee gestured towards the end how she was about to be pierced by Turandot's henchmen, we feel that next shock of pain.

Our personal favorite is her interpretation of Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise." This one has no words/lyrics, except for "a single vowel of the singer's choosing, " according to the program notes. (By the way, the Manila Chamber Foundation must also congratulated for the pains it takes to produce instructive souvenir programs and translations of songs from their original German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, even Bisaya in Antonio Molina's "Oras nga labing mangitngit" or "Dark Hours).

Teepee was one of the voice students who was in Sumi Jo's master class at St. Scholastica's College in February this year. The evening before the class, the Korean soprano enthralled the Samsung Hall audience with her own take on "Vocalise" that, of course, gave one a vision of the rapture that follows a yearning for the Divine. The student truly learned from a master.

In an earlier interview with the blogger, Teepee described her "surreal feeling" when she shared the stage with the soprano superstar. "I only had YouTube videos as references of what she sings like. Then there she was, shaking my hands, hugging me, giving me compliments, telling me how I can better my singing."

Wilson Go, an avid voice music fan and who, with his pal Edward Yap, led the standing ovation for Teepee, exclaimed as he gestured from head to diaphragm, "Perfect instrument! Imagine how she'll sound like when she reaches 35!"

We can only agree and expect to be more astonished by her ripening.

Taking a grand and graceful bow at the close of her performance. Jade Rubis Riccio (far left), Stephanie's fellow soprano who served as page turner for accompanying artist Farley Asuncion that evening, joins the applause and ovation. Teepee obliged with two encores: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and "Mutya ng Pasig."

Signing a souvenir program Photos by Babeth Lolarga
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