“It is not a bad idea to be a late starter in a career.” This is the major lesson being shared by renowned Filipino tenor performer Lemuel Cuento. The 48-year-old international opera singer thinks that he may have been born with musical talent but it had not manifested at an early age, unlike most of the typical musical prodigies we know.
“As a kid, I did not have the ears to quickly pick up a melody and would often sing out of tune,” Cuento humbly recalls. However, he emphasizes that he has always loved music. It was during his junior year in high school at the UP Rural High School (UPRHS) in Los Baños, Laguna when he finally realized his ‘calling.’
“My family would often go to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) to watch performances. One day, we were at the performance of Filipino tenor Otoniel Gonzaga. The moment he opened his mouth, I immediately realized that it is what I want to do when I grow up. His voice was amazing and so beautiful that it filled the theatre,” he narrates.
After that life-changing event, Cuento convinced his mother to send him to voice lessons under music coach Adoracion Reyes from the Philippine Women’s University (PWU). “After high school, my first voice teacher, Mrs. Reyes, further motivated me by assuring me that there is no need to worry as I would get used to performing if I keep on practicing.”
After a year of training, Cuento was admitted to the University of the Philippines College of Music in Diliman. There was a series of challenges along his path since then. “In UP, I wasn’t able to cope at first because the repertoire we had to study was just too much for me,” he reminisces.
Nevertheless, Cuento completed his studies in UP and eventually continued music education in the Hong Kong Academy of Music (1994-95). He then tried his luck in a voice competition in Vienna, Austria but did not make it to the cut. Another Filipino tenor performer, Abdul Candao, encouraged him to join the Vienna Conservatory, where he later earned his diploma in Opera Performance in 1996. And from then, the rest was history.
After about 20 years, Cuento has returned home for three reasons: first, to join the centennial anniversary celebration of his college organization; second to share his knowledge to younger performers through music classes at the UP College of Music and the Centro Escolar University; and third to mount a benefit concert organized by his beloved UPRHS.
‘Coming Home: Lemuel Cuento in Concert’ is a fund-raising performance for the benefit of the Youth Program on Agriculture, a program of the UPRHS to promote agriculture, nutrition, and related fields to Grade11 students with the aim of convincing them to pursue careers that would address issues on hunger and food production in the country.
The benefit concert will be held on 26 February 2020 at the D.L. Umali Auditorium, University of the Philippines, Los Baños. The event is supported by SeedWorks Philippines and other organizations sharing the cause to promote more efficient agriculture production.
For ticket inquiries, call 0917 860 0234.