At a time when creating an audience for homegrown classical music is a challenge, New York-based crossover artist Rogelio B. Peñaverde Jr. visited Manila recently to perform sold out shows at the Main Theater Lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines on September 15 and at the Performing Arts Center of the Far Eastern University in Manila on September 17.
Featuring Filipino love songs, the show entitled “Minamahal Kita” was conceptualized by Peñaverde and produced by Friends of Cultural Concerns of the Philippines under its current president, Martin Lopez. Peñaverde was enthusiastically and warmly received by his audiences young and old as he stayed faithful to the correct style of singing kundimans – a careful balance between cultured singing and crooning as demanded of him by authorities of the genre and his mentors Julie Mendoza, Maestra Salvacion OppusYñiguez, and Professor Gloria Dizon-Coronel.
He was in his usual top form and demonstrated the sweet yet penetrating voice that the New York Times and Opera Magazine collectively praised him for. (He did run into a bit of technical hiccup at the CCP where the sound system did not aptly pick up his intellectually nuanced singing.)
At the FEU show in particular, young people gushed equally between his renditions of the timeless Madaling Araw by Francisco Santiago to the more contemporary Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang by Ogie Alcasid. “I like mixing genres and periods when I perform because it gives the younger generation a bridge for appreciating the classical repertoire. It also makes me more relatable. I think these are important as I do my own small part in trying to create and sustain an audience for the classical arts,” Peñaverde said.
“Minamahal Kita” marks the first full in-person show that Peñaverde has done since the pandemic. His last performance in December 2019 was in the lead tenor role of Belmonte from Mozart’s Die Enthführung Aus Dem Serail with Taconic Opera of New York. Dan Montez, the company’s artistic director, who also happens to be a celebrated lead tenor at the New York City Opera during its golden age, hails Peñaverde as “one of the best Mozart tenors I’ve heard and seen, and I’ve heard and seen many.”
This echoes the compliments of Metropolitan Opera of New York conductor, Steven White (with whom Peñaverde debuted the role of Ferrando from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte produced by the Martina Arroyo Foundation) who praised Peñaverde for “singing Mozart exquisitely and beautifully”.
Peñaverde is back in New York where he is donning his pop alter ego, Ilustrado, as he continues production of the Pearl Drive Project, an anthology of his own compositions which debuted this year at the iconic Mercury Lounge in Manhattan — a hallowed music institution that has launched the likes of of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Ed Sheeran. He will also be featured in a classical concert of songs by New York composers alongside Korean soprano Yu Jung Bae.
“I’m immensely blessed in my musical journey and I’m deeply thankful for my continued calling to co-create with the Divine,” Peñaverde said. A dedicated advocate of our musical heritage, a passionate spirit with a humble soul, a crossover artist par excellence, we wish Peñaverde all the best as he continues to make the country proud.