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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, December 12, 2014
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The Good Life
with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit

Night with the nightingale

The Good Life
with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit

Lani Misalucha took off her shoes for her encore number, singing Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing”, “I Look to You”, and “I Will Always Love You” in gown but barefoot.

The crowd, already entranced for two hours or so, simply lapped it up, lustily clapping and cheering as Misalucha wound down to the last notes of her concert. White balloons fell from high up, fireworks burst and crackled atop and down the stage.

The nightingale was home.

Misalucha’s LA Nightingale concert marked her return to her homeland after years of performing in Las Vegas and other venues around the world. It drew a jam-packed crowd at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City last Saturday.

Talent has finally returned, and people are paying for it, a Yahoo! writer noted, pointing out how an Anne Curtis, who describes herself as the noise of the Philippines, once commanded an SRO at the same venue.

Sheer talent was what Misalucha gave that night: world-class and proudly Pinoy. I am no musician, I can’t read notes, I can’t even sing decently, but from where I sat, I heard how Misalucha was in control of her voice, like she was holding the notes in her hands and throwing them as she wished: reaching the peaks and valleys of her songs with equal power and grace.

Backing up Misalucha was a host of other world-class Pinoy talents: Arnel Pineda, who, I heard, commands half a million for a four-song engagement, Eric Santos and Martin Nievera, with Gerard Joseph Imutan (yes, of Negros) Salonga, who conducted the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, and Louie Ocampo, who was musical director.

It was a night of sheer musical pleasure, especially Misalucha’s homage to Original Pilipino Music. Her interpretation of Freddie Aguilar’s “Anak”, with mostly drums to back her up, was haunting and hair-raising; “Bulag, Pipi at Bingi”, another Aguilar composition, hushed the entire coliseum.

Misalucha’s versatility did not end with the showcase of her lung power. She shifted genres effortlessly, singing “Sirena” one moment, and “Ave Maria” the next, and giving each piece a piece of herself and her style. Such was the force of her performance that each song she sang, no matter who launched and who composed, turned into a Misalucha piece as she put her stamp on it.

She also gave the hometown crowd a sample of what she also does in Vegas by doing a Celine Dion – lusty cheers here – and a Mommy “Wrecking Ball” Dionesia – house down here.

But I was really amazed at how she performed opera and got the audience. Who would have thought the classical operatic pieces, Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” could sound so engaging? More importantly: who would have thought you could play these to a coliseum crowd, and engage them? Yes, there were screams from the bleachers while she sang these songs. Wasn’t there a time when songs like these sent us to sleep, or worse, fleeing to nearest sound-proof shelters?

That, I thought, was a nice step in educating us, the musically-deaf, to the pleasures of music as the universal language of the soul: get a popular singer like Misalucha singing the classics, which are otherwise impossible to listen to, to engage them the masa, who are used to pop and other easy listening pieces.

As Misalucha had proven that night, the classics can be engaging, even without stunts. It was not without reason that for her classical pieces, the stage was dimmed, with only a faint light falling on her and the accompaniment toned down, to better highlight that amazing human voice reaching wonderfully inhuman proportions.*

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