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Review: Nina Campos, with Guest Gerald Santos, In Concert at Pinto Art Museum

‘Canzoni Alla Luna’ was presented by Jeffrey Campos, in cooperation with Pinto Art Museum.

Review: Nina Campos, with Guest Gerald Santos, In Concert at Pinto Art Museum (L-R) Gerald Santos, Nina Campos, and concert director Andrew Fernando

Antipolo, Philippines--A summer night couldn't be more propitious: an amphitheatre sitting loftily atop rugged Antipolo terrains adorned with humongous homalomenas, philodendrons, and alocasias growing uninterruptedly, a buzzing crowd of guests gushing over the museum's Castillan-influenced architecture jutting into the night sky, and an impressive lineup of performers headlined by one of the most exciting classical singers to have emerged in the past decade joined by an international musical theater artist-guest who has won countless hearts with his dashing good looks and smooth, dramatic voice.

Above this exciting scenario, the May 1 moon, to which the concert title "Canzoni Alla Luna" was attributed, was conspicuously nowhere to be found. Occasional glints of lightning from afar posed some man-against-nature conflict that many outdoor theater protagonists are most vulnerable to. Thankfully, the show proceeded with nary a glitch, save for some tiny winged creatures that seemed to be basking in their share of the bright stage lights.

The show was prologued by Jeffrey Campos, concert star Niña Campos' father and concert producer, who brought a heartwarming backstory to the night's concert and intention. Mr. Campos, in an emotionally charged recollection, shared a meeting with Pinto Art Museum owner Dr. Joven Cuanang, which eventually led to the night's fund-raising concert at the museum for its art program and aid victims of the recent typhoon Odette, which ravaged many parts of Visayas and Mindanao. He also noted it was upon the insinuation of broadcaster Julius Babao and his wife, Kristine Bersola (spotted in the audience that night), who were at Niña's concert in Batangas last Christmas, that a live concert with a bigger audience, when the pandemic restrictions ease up, would be fitting.

"Canzoni Alla Luna" (Songs to the Moon) opened promisingly with "Libiamo" from La Traviata courtesy of Ivan Nery, Sheila Ferrer, and Pops Dominese-Nagaño, who also served as support vocals for Ms. Campos. Mr. Nery's handsome tenor seemingly cleared up the skies and dynamically ushered in a potentially riveting repertoire of opera selections, art songs, kundiman, OPM, musical theater, and pop hits that director Andrew Fernando ambitiously concocted. The concert's theme of global awareness for unity, hope, love, and art could not have been any more of a fitting statement for such an ambitious endeavor in these difficult times.

On cue, Aliw awardee Ms. Campos, donned in a gold-embroidered off-white Filipiniana and billowy platinum hair, came floating down like the proverbial full moon singing "Je Veux Vivre" as she descended from the stairs leading to her performance throne. Campos' operatic trills ripped through the silent skies and reverberated magically among the villa walls surrounding the auditorium echoing what Maria Callas once said: "A trill generally is a state of emotion." The night had barely started and Campos' emotions had already swept the audience off their feet.

The highlights of Ms. Campos' vocal prowess and bravura came shining through in the next three numbers: the kundiman "Ano Kaya ang Kapalaran?," the OPM pop hit "Huwag Ka Nang Umiyak," and "Papa Can You Hear Me?" The two Tagalog numbers showcased the soprano's flair for the wistful, while the latter moved the audience to near-tears. Her rendition of Barbra Streisand's classic, which she sang as an homage to his grandfather on his death anniversary, punctuated her nostalgic trio with a bang.

Shifting the mood of the show was Gerald Santos, a multiple Aliw awardee himself and "Miss Saigon" UK alumnus, who has been enlivening the pandemic-stricken live entertainment industry in the past years with "The Great Shift" concert (2021) and "I Will, The Musical" (2022). Santos' smooth crooner voice complimented the aptly chosen "Moon River," while the specially arranged "From Now On" (The Greatest Showman) successfully juxtaposed his pop and Broadway sensibilities. Mr. Santos had never been this smooth, engaging, and expressive, maximizing his voice to an unforgettable showcase.

To wrap up the musical theater segment, Mr. Santos was joined by Ms. Campos for a beautiful duet on "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (The Lion King). The superb lighting (John Batalla) provided the necessary ambiance to the number (and the rest of the show) reflecting the musical's colors onto the villa walls below, which served as the stage's environmental design. Ms. Campos then went back to her business of captivating the audience with numbers "I Could Have Danced All Night" (My Fair Lady) and "Minsan Ang Minahal Ay Ako" (Katy). Once again, Ms. Campos moved the audience to tears with the "Katy" torch song, which she jestingly shared had become an unofficial song during "funerals for National Artists." With her dramatic soprano, Ms. Campos unconsciously marked the song as a prelude to the show's ending. The silence that arrested the whole venue after this number proved the singer's mastery at dramatic interpretation.

To close the show and reiterate its theme and message, Ms. Campos was finally joined by Mr. Nery, Ms. Ferrer, and Ms. Dominese-Nagano for the reassuring "I Will Be Here," and the ever-relevant "We Are the World," where Mr. Santos rejoined the star and the company. The song's lines "There are people dying / Oh, it's time to lend a helping hand" had never been this urgent, desperate yet hopeful. The show then closed majestically with "Nessun Dorma'"(Turandot)--a perfect cap for the night's musical adventure sending the audience into a frenzied applause.

Overall, Mr. Fernando's choice of a repertoire of overly popular songs would have fallen flat due to familiarity and predictability; however, this was not the case with "Canzoni"' His decision to weave and ground these disparate songs together on the theme interspersed with Ms. Campos' personal experiences made for one engaging and heartfelt whole. Ms. Campos, in her girlish candor, quipped casually and guffawed at her musings and innocence, which provided the light moments and the much-needed artist-audience interaction, while slaying them with her masterful singing.

Bravo!

'Canzoni Alla Luna' was presented by Jeffrey Campos, in cooperation with Pinto Art Museum, with help from Greenfield Development Corporation, Edwin Cabasan, Jenny Villanueva, Helen Rivera, Russelle Mendoza, Nelson Borongan, Ethan Daniels Stage and Artists, and Tunog at Liwanag

Light Designer: John Batalla

Music Arranger: Emile Bagtas



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