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After five years devoting his time in Manila either teaching voice, as well as studying and performing with top classical singers of the country, Bicolano tenor Raymond Roldan has finally returned to Naga City to teach music and voice in Colegio de Santa Isabel.

Roldan's most recent achievement is when he completed a course in Italian Opera Art offered by the Cursos Internacional de Canto Francisco Viñas in Barcelona, Spain, under the tutelage of famous soprano Magda Olivero. There he also competed in the prestigious Francisco Viñas International Singing Competition, with more than 200 participants throughout the world, and received positive comments from the Panel of Judges, who praised his singing by declaring: "Definitely, you have the right kind of voice."

Roldan, who has been very lucky so far in the field of classical music, debuted his first solo international performance at the World View Festival at Sacramento, California, USA, with the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra as the soloist of Lucio San Pedro's Sa Dalampasigan. His singing has been heard in more than ten countries from three continents. He also joined several international voice competitions, including the Mary Garden International Competitions in Aberdeen, Scotland, where he came in as one of the six finalists. He was the winner of the 1990 National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) in CCP.

He is also considered as one of the most promising classical singers of his generation. He has studied with Fides Cuyugan-Asensio, Jai Sabas-Aracama and Ramon Acoymo, all voice professors of the University of the Philippines College of Music. He has also studied with American mezzo-soprano Kimball Wheeler, American soprano Linda McGuire, Spanish soprano Maria de Malibran and Germany-based Filipina Andion Fernandez, all sopranos of international caliber.

It all started in 1995, when Roldan was invited to sing in one of the UPCC's performances in Alegria Lounge by the late Dean Reynaldo Paguio, then the music director of the UP Concert Chorus. By then Roldan was determined to study music in Manila, but was still undecided whether to study in UP or UST. Dean Paguio's offer of a music scholarship simply tipped the scale.

"I was the UPCC's tenor soloist for more than two years," Roldan narrates. "It was being a member of the group that I honed my talent in music performance. We were used to performing at least three to four concerts per week! It was a lot of work. Sometimes we had to memorize a really difficult work in just week. It wasn't just music-we had to dance, too. We did religious and secular concerts, performed zarzuelas. We did almost everything, from Bach to Bacharach!"

Before long he has been invited for solo performances. Most recent was Philippine Opera Company's The Toy Maker, a children's opera. He has also done the role of Alfredo in Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata several times.

Why come back here, then? "It's not that I have actually abandoned my dreams to make it big in the international scene," Raymond declares in his usual mild-mannered way. "I have been invited to join the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan next year. I also have standing invitations to audition in Manhattan School of Music in New York, San Francisco Conservatory in California and Curtis Music Institute in Philadelphia. But I have my reasons."

Saving for the future? "Maybe," Roldan smiles. "Manila isn't that practical anymore: the traffic, the dangers that one has to face every day. Cellular phone calls cost the same whether you're here or in Manila. The transportation between Naga and Manila has improved a lot. And plane fares aren't that expensive anymore."

He plans to found a music theatre company in Naga City. "A zarzuela company doing original Bicol music. I have been trying my hand in these things, and now seem a great time to start it. I have always believed in Bicol talent. I hear a lot of promising voices, and most of them don't know they have it. Now if only we could harness these talents to pursue a higher purpose. Music, after all, is art. Art reflects how we humans feel and perceive our existence. I think it's time the Nagueños be exposed to a different genre, a higher level in performance. We are a very musical people. It's time to discipline that gift and find out that a musical performance doesn't have to be mediocre to be Bicolano."

Thus the stay in Naga seems justifiable. "It seems right," Roldan insists. "After all the good things that has happened to me, I feel that I owe my birth place a big favor. Now it's my time to share."




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KAIBA News & Features, P.O. Box 6126, Naga City 4400.  email:  Tel No. 0917 8122107 Copyright © 1999  KAIBA News & Features. All rights reserved.  Revised: August 17, 2002