Cagayan de Oro professor 1st Filipino featured in full Italian opera in 16 years

Mike Baños

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Cagayan de Oro professor 1st Filipino featured in full Italian opera in 16 years
'I was cast as Dottore Bartolo, one of the most difficult roles in Rossini’s repertoire,' De Guzman recalls

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Professor Cipriano de Guzman Jr. of the Liceo de Cagayan University Conservatory of Music, Theatre, and Dance in Cagayan de Oro City made his Italian opera debut on September 23 and 24 in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) at Teatro Savoia in Campobasso, Italy.

It has been 16 years since a Filipino last performed in a full opera production in the birthplace of opera; prior to De Guzman, Filipino-American tenor Arthur Espiritu featured in 2007.

“While I was taking a masterclass with Italian opera great Maestro Alessandro Corbelli (one of the most popular Italian baritones), he and Artistic Director Nicola Ziccardi chose the cast for Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Opera Molise. I was cast as Dottore Bartolo, one of the most difficult roles in Rossini’s repertoire,” De Guzman recalled.

BASILIO AND BARTOLO. Sathya Gangale as Don Basilio (back) and Cipriano de Guzman Jr. as Don Bartolo. Zhenyu Li

“The aria A un dottor della Bartolo is one of the hardest opera buffo arias for bass-baritone, since it was to be sung in the vocal passagio range while singing multiple words at a very fast tempo. It’s like firing a machine gun of words by the singer.”

He credits Maestro Ziccardi, his vocal coach since August this year, for offering him the role, which challenged his abilities as an artist.

“Still he believed in me and I conquered my fears,” said De Guzman.

De Guzman likewise acknowledged bass-baritone Matteo D’ Apolito (a great singer and musician who performed Bartolo numerous times) for his mentorship, Greek soprano Diamanti Krisotaki, who helped him with his recitativos and text, and Italian bass great Giovanni Battista Parodi, who assisted the entire cast during the music rehearsals and aria interpretation.

Not the least, he acknowledged mezzo-soprano Luisa Mauro, Chevalier de Ordre de Mérite du grand-duché de Luxembourg (Knight of the Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg), his voice teacher at Luxembourg Ecole de Musique Mondorf-les-Baise, who prepped him vocally and mentally with pianist Stefano Nigro and Maestro Umberto Finazzi of Accademia La Scala.

The Barber of Seville is an opera buffa (Italian comic opera) in two acts composed by Gioachino Rossini with an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini. The libretto was based on Pierre Beaumarchais‘s French comedy The Barber of Seville (1775).

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MAESTRO. Cipriano de Guzman Jr. (right) in a scene from Teatro Savioia’s ‘The Barber of Seville.’ Rosella de Rosa

Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music, and has been described as the opera buffa of all opere buffe. After two hundred years, it remains a popular work.

According to Philippine music historian Dr. Antonio Hila, some of the notable Filipino opera singers who performed in full opera productions in Italy were Luisa “Isang” Tapales; National Artist for Music Jovita Fuentes (in a matinee performance as Rosina in The Barber of Seville in Milan’s Teatro Lirico), Mercedes Matias-Santiago (who also performed in  Il barbiere di Siviglia in Milan), Jose “Pepito” Mossesgeld Santiago during the American Commonwealth Period, and Dalisay Aldaba, who performed to critical acclaim at operas in Italy, France, Spain, England, the US, the Far East, and the Philippines from 1947 to 1967.

The Filipino Baritone

A teacher of voice and theater, and dubbed The Filipino Baritone, De Guzman made waves in Japan in August 2016 when he bagged second prize at the 10th Yokohama International Music Competition at the Tokyo Gotanda Cultural Center. This was followed by his first prize win in the American Protégé International Vocal Competition at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall in New York City in December 2016, and special prizes at the 8th Tokyo International Competition and Osaka International Music Competition.

This was followed by another top prize in the senior/professional open category at the 17th Roma International Music Competition, Grand Prize Virtuoso at the Parco Della Musica in Rome, Italy in December 2018.

He was a two-time recipient of the  National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Ani ng Dangal (Harvest of Honors) – in 2018 and 2019. The award is for natural-born Filipino artists who reaped top honors in international events for architecture and allied arts, cinema, dance, dramatic arts, literary arts, music, and visual arts. He was also a nominee in Malaysia’s 2019 BOH Cameronian Arts Award for Best Solo Vocal Performance.

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BELT IT OUT. Cipriano de Guzman Jr. (left) in a scene from Teatro Savioia’s ‘The Barber of Seville.’ Rosella de Rosa

Most recently, he won the 2022 Aliw Awards for Best Male Performance in a Concert, and was also nominated for Best Classical Performer.

Come November 10 and 12, De Guzman will be performing with Lyric Opera of the Philippines and Hong Kong Opera Tutti in the double-billed opera Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the St. Cecilia Auditorium of St. Scholastica’s College in Malate, Manila. The Filipino cast will be conducted by Maestro Horst-Hans Bäcker, professor of composition, conducting and music history at Liceo Conservatory of Music, and noted classical music composer and conductor.

Cavalleria rusticana is an opera in one act by Pietro Mascagni to an Italian libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, adapted from an 1880 short story and play of the same name by Giovanni Verga. Considered one of the classic verismo operas, it has often been performed in a so-called Cav/Pag double-bill with Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo. –

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