By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 12-Nov-2018  ·  
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Lea Salonga with tenor Otoniel Gonzaga and conductor Julian Quirit during a CCP curtain call. The columnist's last production at CCP.

Late last month, Broadway diva Lea Salonga, 47, observed her 40th years in theater with a two-night sold- out concert at the PICC. After a short holiday rest, she is off to Hong Kong for another engagement with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and then a national tour in United Kingdom.

Pianist Cecile Licad has just wrapped her third CD on American composers and is headed for San Francisco for an all-Chopin recital. Then she will do a fundraising event in a music fest on November 27 at the Manila Polo Club before doing three concerts in Iloilo City November 29-30 and December 1 and on to Baguio City Dec. 6 and Roxas City Dec. 8.

Last October 27, Licad was the only musician among the awardees named as one of Ten Outstanding Filipinos in America (TOFA).

The truth is both Lea and Cecile have made history in their respective arts territory.

Cecile is the first Filipino to receive the Leventritt Gold Medal in New York and the first to receive the Grand Prix du Disque from the Chopin Society in Poland.

Lea is the first to receive the Tony Award in New York and the first to get the Laurence Olivier Award in London.

While Lea is observing her 40th year in theater, Cecile is observing her 50th year in classical music.

What an uncanny coincidence that both had professional debut at age 7: Lea as one of the children in The King and I and Cecile as soloist in an orchestra.

By coincidence, I followed their career since the 70s and have worked with them in concert productions.

I saw Lea (then 9 years old) as Annie in the well-loved musical at the CCP in 1980.

I saw Cecile in my first piano recital attendance in Legazpi City when she was 14 in 1975. I have since then been a regular follower of all her concerts in Manila and the provinces.

My last concert production at the CCP was with Lea and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under Julian Quirit in 2006. At that time, I was obsessed with mixing opera with Broadway by inviting Filipino tenor Otoniel Gonzaga to sing duets with her.

As it turned out, the tenor got equal audience response as Lea. At the end of every aria of the tenor, she exclaimed backstage with the tenor, “Amazing! How did you do that?”

My last concert production at the CCP with Lea and Otoniel got a rousing standing ovation. of finance after that concert is another story.

But nothing like that (mixing opera and Broadway) ever happened at the CCP in the level that these two world-class artists delivered.

While I did my last concert at the CCP early in 2006  with no less than Lea Salonga as my lead star, I am all set to mount my last outreach concerts in Iloilo, Baguio and Roxas City with Cecile Licad as the one and only attraction.

I was hooked on classical music because of her and now I am closing that chapter with a series of concerts in the Visayas and Northern Luzon.

What did I learn from working with these two great artists?

Their discipline and passion for their craft are anything out of the ordinary.

And yet how humble and grounded they are as ordinary human being.

I can see no one taking their places in the performing arts in the next ten years.

They are simply talents that come once or twice in a hundred years.

Pablo Tariman with Lea Salonga and mother Ligaya during his last production at the CCP in 2006 with tenor Otoniel Gonzaga. Dual triumph for both opera and Broadway.
Pablo Tariman with Cecile Licad during a CCP reception with fan Franco Mendoza. All set for outreach concerts in Iloilo, Baguio and Roxas City.
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