by JB Hyppolite
David Cerpa, 38, is a long way from home. The dynamic opera singer for the local Amici Opera Company lives in Mt. Airy, but he was born in Argentina and lived in Peru for most of his life.
David, whose day job is with a company that makes accessories for swimming pools, had no more desire as a child to pursue a career in opera than he did to live on the moon. He studied economics at St. Augustine University in Arequipa, Peru, and proceeded to earn a Masters Degree in agribusiness from The National Agrary University in Peru.
David ended up discovering a passion for opera, however, when he was a disc jockey for a classical music radio station at St. Augustine University. He began to play certain operas on the air, and the more he heard, the more he enjoyed the music. He particularly fell in love with the music in “Carmen,” the classic 1875 opera about a fiery gypsy seductress by French composer Georges Bizet.
Cerpa became so enamored of operatic music that after he started working in economics, he began taking private operatic voice lessons and eventually performed in recitals for a few years while in Peru.
“It became a passion, and it gave me a purpose in life,” said David, who practices vocal exercises and singing for two to three hours every day.
David worked as a financial assistant for 10 years at a foreign embassy in Peru while taking those lessons. He was coached by Maria Eloisa Aguirre, a winner of the Pavarotti contest in Peru, for six years and then was taught by an Italian baritone named Gabriele Settembrini, who has sung around the world and who played a major role in David’s development.
David wound up in Philadelphia after answering an ad on the internet for the Amici Opera Company, based in East Oak Lane. He came all the way to Philly from Peru for an audition and wound up winning the roles of Casio in “Otello” by Verdi (based on Shakespeare’s “Othello”) and later Ugo in “Parisina” by Donizetti (based on a poem by Lord Byron).
‘“Parisina’ is a rather obscure work,” said David, “but the music is beautiful. It has elements of the classical and elements of the romantic period of music. The music is enticing.”
David said he is appreciative of the opportunity given to him by Ralph Tudisco, dynamic founder of the Amici Opera Company, and realizes how competitive the opera world is. In addition to “Carmen,” Cerpa said his favorite operas include “Madame Butterfly” and “La Boheme” by Giacomo Puccini and “Faust” by Charles Gounod, as well as “Rigoletto,” “Il Trovatore,” “La Traviata,” “The Bartered Bride” and “Andrea Chenier.”
The remarkable thing about opera singers is that there are so many talented singers and so few chances to perform. And very few of the opera companies that do exist even pay any money. In fact, the situation is so dire that many companies actually make singers PAY THE COMPANY in order to perform, both in the U.S. and Italy.
Like most, Amici does not pay singers anything, but the singers do not have to pay the company. Despite the fact that Amici does not pay singers, when they place an ad on the internet or in an opera magazine, “we get responses from all over the country and even from other countries (as in David Cerpa’s case),” explained Tudisco. “Singers fly to Philly to audition for us from places like Utah and Washington state, even though it obviously cost them a lot for airfare and hotels and food, and they may have to take time off from their jobs at home or even take vacation time to come here.”
David Cerpa’s next role with the Amici Opera Company will be Enrico in Donizetti’s opera, “Maria de Rudenz,” on Oct. 20, 3 p.m., and Oct. 26, 4 p.m., at the Redeemer United Methodist Church, 1128 Cottman Ave. in Northeast Philadelphia. For more information about upcoming performances by the Amici Opera Company, call 215-224-0257 or visit facebook.com/pages/Amici-Opera-Company/136146556418516.
To see David perform, Google his name, and several of his YouTube videos will immediately come up on the screen. Just click on any of them.
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