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Here’s a little press release why I’m here in Sicily right now.

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Filipino-Australian opera singer Marcus Rivera to showcase Philippine art songs (“Kundiman”) in international classical music competition

By Violi Calvert

Opera singer Marcus Rivera is set to perform traditional Philippine art songs called ‘kundiman’ in front of a global audience when he competes at an international music festival in Italy this month.

The IBLA Grand Prize International Music Competition is an annual music competition that is open to all instruments, vocalists and composers with a focus on classical music.

Participants play (parts of) their program more than once in different venues, such as in a concert theatre, in an Italian piazza and in selected other venues. Every performance is being judged and counts for the final vote for the participants. The best performers will be invited to concerts abroad including in prestigious venues such as the Carnegie Hall, which is to be considered as one of the competitions’ prizes.

The week-long music festival is held in the beautiful Italian baroque town of Ibla in Ragusa, Sicily. Rivera will be performing over four days, from July 20 to July 23. He is the only representative from the Philippines and Australia this year, putting immense pressure on the award-winning counter-tenor.

“I’m excited to represent the Philippines and Australia on this occasion. I am grateful that the IBLA Foundation, organisers of the festival, has given me this opportunity to sing ‘kundiman’ songs in the home of opera – Italy,” said Rivera.

To qualify for the competition, Rivera had to provide IBLA with videos of his past performances and a copy of his proposed repertoire. Unlike other competitions where there is an ultimate winner, IBLA contestants are not judged relative to the performance of other contestants but based on their technical skills and musicianship according to a panel of more than 20 judges (which includes past winners, event producers and talent scouts).

“IBLA is going to be my platform to share my passion for two worlds: the world of opera and the world of ‘kundiman’ or Philippine art songs. It’s nerve-wracking but I knew I had to do it.”

Rivera plans to sing classic Italian opera including “Alto Giove” and “Ave Maria” but the main part of his music program will be kundiman songs including ‘Sa Kabukiran’ (In the mountains), ‘Paru-parong bukid’ (Butterfly) and ‘Nasaan Ka, Irog?’ (Where are you, my beloved?)

While Rivera was trained in opera, he is a veteran in musical theatre. He has performed in various musicals including Miss Saigon, The King and I, Sweeny Todd and Anything Goes. His latest project is playing the role of ‘The Engineer’ at a local production of Miss Saigon at the Parammatta Riverside Theatre in Sydney (July 28 – August 12).

The IBLA Festival is a week-long festival (July 20-25) held annually in the picturesque town of Ibla, Ragusa in Sicily, Italy. All IBLA competitors are required to perform daily in various venues and outside locations around town. All performances are free to attend. For more information, go to



Marcus Rivera studied at the prestigious Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the Australian Institute of Music. In 2007, he landed the role of ‘The Engineer’ in the Cameron Mackintosh production of Miss Saigon in Australia (2007-08).

He has since worked with various companies including Opera Australia (The King and I), Opera Queensland (Sweeny Todd), The Production Company (The King and I, Anything Goes), Melbourne City Opera and ABC Network (Rewind – Mei Quong Tart). He was also the recipient of the McDonald’s Sydney Eisteddfod’s 2012 “Counter Tenor Award”.

Marcus trained in both tenor and counter-tenor fach, and studied under highly-respected Verdinian soprano Arax Mansourian, who is based in Sydney but originally from Armenia.

A versatile actor and singer, Marcus is based in Australia but originally hailed from the Philippines. He is currently working on an album of Kundiman music or traditional Philippine folk songs.

For interviews and press enquiries, please contact:

For Australian press:
Violi Calvert
+61 408 227 794

For Italian press:
Michelle Baltazar
Whatsapp: +61412906224

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