Paving the way for FilAms to emerge in classical music

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Soprano Margarita Gomez Giannelli comes from a musical family. The late rapper Francis Magalona is an uncle.

Soprano Margarita Gomez Giannelli comes from a musical family. The late rapper Francis Magalona is an uncle.

Glorious and enchanting classical music will resound when soprano Margarita Gomez Giannelli, bass-baritone Enrico Lagasca, and classical pianist Victor Asuncion perform at the “Arias, Lieder, and Kundiman” concert on January 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue.

Margarita is a graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music in Pennsylvania, which counts among its notable alumnae coloratura soprano Fides Cuyugan Asencio and classical pianist Cecile Licad. She met her husband, who is the tuba player for the U.S. Army Band, at Curtis. They live in northern Virginia with their 10-year-old daughter who is learning to play the ukulele. She has performed the soprano solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Manila Symphony Orchestra led by Maestro Arturo Molina. She debuted as Mimì in a production of Puccini’s La Bohème and performed excerpts from Verdi’s Aïda in a celebration of Verdi’s Bicentennial at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. She has trained with luminaries, such as composer Ryan Cayabyab, classical tenor Nolyn Cabahug, and Cuyugan Asencio in the Philippines. In the U.S., one of her teachers was the renowned conductor, Maestro Giovanni Reggioli. She has received praise for her “expressive singing, riveting portrayals and powerful voice.”

“There is not a lot of visibility for classical music, not a lot of representation for us. We have a lot of people doing Broadway, and God bless all of them. In the opera world, Filipinos playing classical music are not as visible. This concert will hopefully create opportunities for classical musicians in America,” she said.

Classical pianist Victor Asuncion (left) and bass-baritone Enrico Lagasca: ‘Philippine classical music needs a boost.’ Photo by Leo Paolo Leal

Classical pianist Victor Asuncion (left) and bass-baritone Enrico Lagasca: ‘Philippine classical music needs a boost.’ Photo by Leo Paolo Leal

Enrico Lagasca, known as a soloist and chorister, regularly sings with the Choir of St. Ignatius Loyola and the Bach Choir of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church both in New York. He travels around the country singing for choirs in Texas, New Mexico, and Florida.

He said a concert is always an “opportunity to share cultural roots.” This is especially “exciting and significant to artists who did not grow up here in the United States.”

“There is a wonderful treasury of Filipino art songs that need to be performed for audiences both Filipinos and not. A gentle reminder that while Western classical music thrives, ours from the Philippines needs a boost,” he said further.

Classical pianist Victor Asuncion, who founded the FilAm Music Foundation early this year, will provide musical accompaniment to Margarita and Enrico. He was one of the young scholars of the Philippine High School for the Arts created by Imelda Marcos in the 1970s. He came to the U.S. as part of the Madrigal Singers, completed his Master’s Degree (Piano Performance) at the Manhattan School of Music, and later his doctorate in Musical Arts (Collaborative Piano) at the University of Maryland at College Park. He founded the foundation in hopes of promoting Filipino classical musicians through scholarship assistance, and performance opportunities.

“This concert is special not only because of the world-class artists performing in it but because it also features our very own art form, the Kundiman which deserves its own place on the world stage, along with the more recognizable Arias and Lieder,” said Victor. “It is a wonderful juxtaposition of an East-meets-West tradition, and our community will surely enjoy hearing all these familiar tunes.” – Cristina DC Pastor

© The FilAm 2018

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