Saturday, July 17, 2010

Philippine Opera Company's "Master Class" opens on July 29

Philippine Opera Company is proud to present the Tony Award-winning play, MASTER CLASS, about the legendary opera diva Maria Callas.

Terrence McNally’s Master Class was first produced by the Philadelphia Theatre Company in March 1995. It opened at the Golden Theatre in New York City in November of the same year. 

MASTER CLASS is based on a series of master classes given by the renowned opera singer Maria Callas at the Juilliard School of Music in New York in 1971 and 1972. 

Maria Callas (1923–77), was the greatest dramatic soprano of her generation and also a controversial figure. Her restless and tempestuous personality often led her into disputes with opera managements and feuds with rival singers. However, she was adored by her fans and was the subject of constant media attention, including gossip about her jet-set life with the wealthy Greek shipowner Aristotle Onassis.

Although Master Class does delve into the triumphs and tragedies of Callas’s life, its primary focus is the art of dramatic singing. As McNally’s fictional version of Callas teaches her class, she explains to her students, two sopranos and a tenor, just what it takes to invest the music with real feeling, revealing as she does so how demanding the profession of opera singing is. She also reveals her own contradictory personality—proud and egotistical yet also vulnerable and self-pitying. In spite of all the flaws of its main character, however, Master Class, written by a man who has been a Callas fan since he was a teenager in high school, is a tribute to the dedication of a great singer and actress to her chosen art.

Although the play touches on many of the main events of Maria Callas’ life, it is not in essence a biographical portrait. Rather, it is an exploration of the nature of artistic creation, as applied to operatic singing and acting. Maria makes clear that art is serious business that cannot be done by half measures; it demands total commitment on the part of the singer/actress. Being an opera singer can never be an easy career; the singer must give everything to the demands of her craft. This means intense discipline over a lifetime.

Witness one of Philippine cinema’s respected actress CHERIE GIL in a very rare performance as the opera icon Maria Callas.

Asked what made her agree to portray a very difficult and controversial role? “I read the script over and over and constantly ask myself what I got myself into? Maria Callas is larger than life and always known to be the epitome of discipline, having an intense passion and love for her art. I was compelled to get to know her though I knew it would be a very difficult show to fill. Perhaps, I personally was looking into seeing my own art through her eyes and finding a fresh start to loving my craft all over again.” says Cherie.

Directed by Michael Williams, MASTER CLASS features Juan Alberto Gaerlan as Anthony Candolino and Al Gatmaitan (alternate), Florence Aguilar as Sophie de Palma, Ana Feleo as Sharon Graham and Kay Balajadia-Liggayu (alternate), and Francis Amora as the pianist Manny.

Juan Alberto Gaerlan completed his Professional Diploma Studies in Western Opera at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts where he graduated with distinction.  He has made numerous performances here and abroad and was last seen as Rodolfo in POC’s and CCP’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme”.  
Al Gatmaitan is under the tutelage of Ronan Ferrer at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music. He has appeared in various theater groups such as Dulaang UP, PETA, Spazio Teatro and Teatro Calabria in Italy. He has been part of several telenovelas in ABS-CBN and recently appeared in the highly-acclaimed movie musicale, Emir.

Ana Feleo is an Aliw Awardee for Best Actress in a Musical for 2007. She received her music education at the College of Music, University of the Philippines under the tutelage of Professor Emeritus Fides Cuyugan- Asensio. She pursued further coaching with W. Stephen Smith at Juilliard School of Music in New York last 2008 when she prepared for her biggest break in her operatic career when she played the role of Musetta in “La Boheme.”

Florence Aguilar graduated magna cum laude in voice from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music. She was part of the Singapore Lyric Opera’s twin bill production of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci and of the Philharmonic Chamber of Choir of Singapore’s Bach’s Mass in B minor and I Love My Love concerts conducted by Maestro Lim Lau and Johannes Prinz respectively.

Kay Balajadia-Liggayu graduated from the UP College of Music with a degree in Bachelor of Music, major in Voice. She was a national champion of the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) in 1996. She has performed in various opera, musical and zarzuela productions. Recently she was featured as soloist in the Las Pinas International Bamboo Organ Festival 2010.

Francis Amora is a Bachelor in Music graduate in Piano Performance from Philippine Women’s University Conservatory of Music and is currently taking up his Masters in Piano Performance in UST Conservatory of Music under Prof. Raul  Sunico.


The play takes the form of one of opera diva Maria Callas's famous master classes in voice in 1971.

Maria Callas is a glamorous, commanding, larger-than-life, caustic, and surprisingly drop-dead funny pedagogue of a voice master class.

Callas makes snide comments about other opera singers …. and alternately dismayed and impressed or even demands passion and fervor from three student vocalists who parade before her.

The action sometimes shifts when, she retreats into recollections about the glories of her own life and career.

Included in her musings are her younger years as an ugly duckling, her fierce hatred of her rivals, the unforgiving press that savaged her early performances, her triumphs at La Scala, and her affair with Aristotle Onassis.

It all culminates into a monologue about sacrifice taken in the name of art.

MASTER CLASS will run at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater, RCBC Plaza with 10 performances on July 29, 30, 31, August 6, 7, 8, 12,13, 14 and 15, 2010. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m.

MASTER CLASS is supported in part by the Yuchengco Group of Companies, Robinsons Luxuria of Robinsons Land Corporation, Lyric, Lifestyle Network, Make Up For Ever, Odyssey Music and Video and 105.1 Crossover.

For tickets, call Philippine Opera Company at (632) 892-8786 or 881-7168 or TicketWorld at (632) 891-9999. For more information visit Email address:

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