CLASSIC FILIPINO KUNDIMAN SONGS AS THEY SHOULD BE SUNG
It is always refreshing to hear our classic kundiman songs sung by a lyric soprano who not only has the beauty of voice but the artistic intelligence and good taste to come up with a clean interpretation which lets these immortal melodies capture the attention of and beguile the listener, instead of employing all sorts of bravura embellishments and interpolated high notes which needlessly call attention to the voice itself instead of the very selections.
Such ideal was there in great measure in the kundiman concert performed last August 14 by a talented young Filipina soprano, Ma. Michelle Sullera, whom the Filipino community in Barcelona was fortunate to host and hear at the San Agustin Church.
The wonderful program contained not only the classic kundiman selections (such as Anak Dalita, Bituing Marikit, Mutya ng Pasig, and Ugoy ng Duyan) known to Filipino lovers of the operatic voice, but also, popular standards (including Maalaala Mo Kaya, Saan Ka Man Naroroon and Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal) now considered veritable Philippine classics, equally appropriate for pop singers as well as those with classically trained voices.
Ms. Sullera’s impressive resumé includes performances in such classic operas as Madame Butterfly and The Magic Flute, and yet, her wonderful interpretations of these Filipino masterpieces displayed her genuine love and appreciation for these songs, and thus she did not try to perform any of them as one would a bravura Puccini or Verdi aria.
Instead, she displayed a voice of adequate power and a tender, caressing quality, as well as a smooth legato and perfect enunciation of these immortal lyrics (a far cry from the case of many other sopranos, including world-famous ones, who sometimes mangle the words in their attempt to “wow” the audience with their brilliant technique).
While her voice’s great strength was in the middle register, all the high notes were solidly hit and capped a masterful rendition of the songs. Thus, even in the famous Sa Kabukiran, she intelligently sang it not with the usual coloratura pyrotechniques but offered a more lyric, gentler interpretation which smoothly conveyed the lyrics’ homage to the beautiful idyll of pastoral life.
I also salute the soprano’s innate musicianship, which allowed her to deliver a topnotch performance throughout the evening despite her suffering from an apparent illness (not at all seen in the quality of the voice) and what seemed to be a certain lack of musical coordination with the accompanying pianist in the beginning selections. This was one instance when the soloist needed to take charge of the musical interpretation, which the experienced Ms. Suller was able to achieve.
Consul General Eduardo José de Vega and Michelle Sullera after the concert
Kudos as well are due the organizers of the event, for being able to convey the proper ambiance for the evening, with their solid research on the background of these selections, as well as wonderful declamation of Spanish-language verses by Rizal. For indeed, these kundimans owe as much to our Western-influenced artistic ethos as much as they do our innate Filipino sensibilities. I hope one day to be able to hear the talented Ms. Sullera perform the Canto de María Clara and again demonstrate to Filipino and foreigner alike the incomparable beauty of the Philippine cultural traditions and expression
Cónsul General Eduardo José de Vega, Consulado General de Filipinas en Barcelona