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Roberto Perlas Gomez

Your breadth of work is so vast! Is there a dream project that you still have? 

I can’t say that I’ve had a real dream project because so many of the projects that I have done have met that mission! I feel so fortunate to be a part of so many different projects. The latest project that I’ve been associated with is the Filipino opera “Noli Me Tangere” written by Felipe De Leon. Filipina businesswoman, Loida Lewis, sponsored the production while mounting it in New York and again at Kennedy Center. I’ve had a great fortune being associated with projects like that, so a lot of them meet the definition of dream project. My family also does works of their own. My father wrote a libretto about national Filipino hero, Jose Rizal. It was called “Rizal Mga Huling Araw.” It was done in the Cultural Center in the Philippines. Another project I’ve done was in Italy at the Arena Di Verona. It was an American Opera that was set to be mounted in the Colosseum but ended up being done in the winter. It was “Nixon in China”, and I portrayed the Chinese Prime Minister, Chou En-lai. 

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When you hit a bumpy part of the professional road, what lifts your spirits? 

What I usually do is I look for something else to do! For example, back in the early 90’s, there was a time where I didn’t seem to be getting any work at all. So, I started looking into financial services! I started studying to be a stockbroker. I was studying to become a series 6 licensed broker, but I started with the intention that I was eventually getting a series 7 stockbroker’s license. A couple of months later, my schedule became full of singing. I got asked to do a ton of projects! Remember, early on in your career you never stop singing for people. You never stop auditioning for people. Those come back surprisingly well. The further you get into your career; people will know what you’ve done because of the full repertoire list you’ve shown over time. Quite honestly, when I hit a bumpy patch, I just try to take my mind off it. That helped me keep things in perspective. At the time, I realized singing was not going to be my everything, there was still value that I could add somewhere else. It also keeps you levelheaded about the business as well. It’s so easy to become absorbed in it. I have a lot of friends that face performance anxiety, especially post pandemic! Suddenly we think we can’t do the job like we think we could. Keeping your mind occupied keeps you levelheaded and keeps things in perspective! 

Artcee is a collaboration hub to build our careers as emerging artists. What do you wish you had early in your career when you were searching for work as a performer? 

Reliable management would have helped a lot more. For example, in the opera industry there are a lot of agencies that are registered with major organizations. These individuals would send recommendations, make the connections, and would negotiate contracts. I got a lot of informal representation. It eventually became formal after I signed on with an agent. One agent I signed with; I still receive offers from the connections that I made under her in 2001. If I had a reliable manager early on that could have helped me out at the lower level of my careers, that would have been a great help. 

What may someone who doesn’t know Opera be surprised to learn about Opera? 

Honestly, It’s the amount of stamina that it takes you to do a role. It’s one thing to be able to sing a song and go through a room with that but to really carry a leading role and stay on as the character for an extended period and just pump out sound? You have to have an unbelievable amount of stamina for it. In some ways, it’s like having a high. You’re being able to do what you love to do at the highest level you can do it and by the end you are wiped out but fulfilled. That feeling can really keep you going. After the pandemic, I missed that! 

As a Filipino-American Performer, what are your thoughts on representation on the culture? 

In the beginning, I didn’t think we were represented that well. Now, looking at TV Shows, Orchestras and Arts Organizations, even in my time, I think we are more accepted and more represented than we think we are. There’s Earle Patriarco, he’s part Filipino. He’s a huge voice in the MET Opera.  If you think about Jo Koy and his film Easter Sunday, the entire cast is theoretically, at least part Filipino. Look at Jacob Batalon, Ned from Spiderman! He’s Filipino and we can see in the movie, he calls his grandmother Lola! We’re even on the map in the Marvel Universe. In Queen Latifah’s “The Equalizer,” she has a half Filipino, half African American daughter and she has a Filipino best friend! I never saw that growing up. Evolution, I think that is the best word for it. There is no question that there is a real passion for performing in our culture and the arts in our culture. It is a testament for us to be able to assimilate in one generation - we’ve gone from a nationality that was seen as a “serving class” to being integral with American society.

When you speak are you conscious of how you use your voice?

It depends on if I am trying to create a character or if portraying myself. For example, for comedies I’m just using my normal voice. If I am trying to do a character, I will make the character from the voice, through control and support. As long as I support my speech, it comes out the way I intend for it to on stage. It’s different on camera though! You kind of have to project differently for camera! 

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