Saturday, March 13, 2010

Master Class, with Cherie Gil as Maria Callas, returns this July-August

What I thought of her performance: [She] was overwhelming in “Master Class,” offering a haunting, crystalline performance that, with barely a raised voice, branded the role of a ruined Maria Callas as hers--spectacularly, indisputably hers--for many moons to come.

In a year of bold star turns, hers had the unique distinction of effacing the image of Gil the movie star, enshrining in its place Gil the consummate theater actress. Lavinia had become La Divina.

For my annual round-up (2008), Master Class, directed by Michael Williams, was in the shortlist of the year's best productions, and its star my choice for Best Actress in a Play: The glamorous actress had a tricky high-wire act to do: play Maria Callas as a character, not an impersonation, while casting off her own outsize persona as the local movies’ eminent queen of mean. She delivered--nay, conquered.

Which is my long-winded, self-absorbed way of saying--if you could buy tickets to the much pricier Cats, you shouldn't find it hard to spare some for this masterful Master Class. Mark these dates.

* * *

The Philippine Opera Company's acclaimed production of Terrence McNally's Tony-winning play, “Master Class,” featuring television, film and stage actress Cherie Gil, will return to the RCBC Theater on July 29-August 15.

POC first staged the show in Manila with Ms. Gil as the legendary soprano in 2008.

The complete dates are July 29, 30, 31, August 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15, 2010; Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m., and Sunday performances at 3:30 p.m.

For more information or possible fundraisers, call POC 632-8928786. Look for Doris. Or visit

“Master Class,” which opened on Broadway in 1995, 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 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.

Callas was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice, and great dramatic gifts. An extremely versatile singer, her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini; further, to the works of Verdi and Puccini; and, in her early career, to the music dramas of Wagner. Her remarkable musical and dramatic talents led to her being hailed as La Divina.

Born in New York City and raised by an overbearing mother, she received her musical education in Greece and established her career in Italy. Forced to deal with the exigencies of wartime poverty and with myopia that left her nearly blind on stage, she endured struggles and scandal over the course of her career. She turned herself from a heavy woman into a svelte and glamorous one after a mid-career weight loss, which might have contributed to her vocal decline and the premature end of her career.

The press exulted in publicizing Callas's allegedly temperamental behavior, her supposed rivalry with Renata Tebaldi, and her love affair with Aristotle Onassis. Her dramatic life and personal tragedy have often overshadowed Callas the artist in the popular press. However, her artistic achievements were such that Leonard Bernstein called her “The Bible of opera,” and her influence so enduring that, in 2006, Opera News wrote of her: “Nearly 30 years after her death, she's still the definition of the diva as artist—and still one of classical music's best-selling vocalists.”

1 comment:

exie abola said...

I thought Cherie Gil was awesome, too. Will try to watch her perform again.

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