Philippine Opera Company is proud to present the Tony Award-winning play, “Master Class.” It runs October 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25, 2008, 8 p.m., at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, under Michael Williams' direction.
For this production, witness Cherie Gil, one of Philippine cinema’s iconic performers, in a very rare performance as the legendary opera diva Maria Callas.
Asked what made her agree to portray a very difficult role, Gil says, “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 do... To be able to acquire even just an iota of her essence would be a gift. 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.”
Playing the students in Callas' master class are Jack Salud as Anthony Candolino, Florence Aguilar as Sophie de Palma, Deeda Barreto as Sharon Graham, Ceejay Javier as the pianist Manny and Michael Williams in a cameo role as the stage manager.
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. The play 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.
Callas (1923–1977) 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. McNally’s fictional version of Callas teaches her students, two sopranos and a tenor, just what it takes to invest the music with real feeling, revealing along the way how demanding the profession of opera singing is. Although the play touches on many of the main events of 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.
In her interaction with the students, Callas also reveals her own contradictory personality--proud and egotistical yet also vulnerable and self-pitying. But, in spite of all the flaws of its main character, “Master Class,” written by a man who has been a Callas fan since his high school years, is a tribute to the dedication of a great singer and actress to her chosen art.
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