More Fun Stuff!
Spearheadnews.com is not officially affiliated with any
performing arts organization.
All photographs remain the property of their copyright holders.
All Rights Reserved
by Andrew Korniej
few weeks ago, I met everyone’s favorite Super, Milko Encinas,
for lunch and to talk about his life and career on the operatic stage.
Anyone who has supered alongside the ebullient Milko will remember his
infectious love of the experience and will surely have been the happy
recipient of his hugs, kisses and "toi toi toi"s. He bounced
into the restaurant aglow and not looking a day older than when I first
met him, fourteen years ago. I tell him so. “Moisturizing –
inside and out” he says, dismissively.
Milko was born in the Philippines and moved to the U.S. at the age of
21. For many years he worked for Nordstrom and has been a successful realtor
for the past two years. He still sees the U.S. as a land of opportunities
and endless possibilities and he says that his ultimate goal is to be
able to take care of his family: his parents in the Philippines, his sisters,
nephews and nieces. He is doing what he can to succeed in real estate
to achieve that goal.
He comes from an artistic background, studied drama in school, and has
a mother who sings and plays the piano. He practices Yoga and has the
physical grace and poise of a dancer. He loves to travel (“it opens
the mind”) and has been going back to the Philippines and other
parts of Asia, regularly, and will be visiting Europe this year. Sadly,
his marriage to Christopher
did not outlast the year but he is enjoying the single life and working
Two Dames Inspire
It always intrigues me how people come to opera, and to being a Super.
For me, that moment came as a student when I was inspired to color my
At History thesis with excessively florid prose as I sat in my little
garret with a BBC radio broadcast of Tristan and Isolde swelling
in the background (I had first heard the "Prelude" and "Liebestod"
on the soundtrack of the Salvador Dali/Luis Bunuel
Surrealist masterpiece Un Chien Andalou). For Milko, The Great
Moment came 15 years ago as he was driving with his partner to Yosemite
National Park on their way to Hetch Hetchy. The only radio reception they
could find was a classical station and, as they entered the Park, Joan
Sutherland was singing "Sempre Libera."
"It was tantalizing,” he says, “I was captivated and
hypnotized by the music and the grandeur of nature. From then on I started
listening to a little and thought ‘I could get into this’
and for Christmas that year I got the CD of Traviata." Then
I started bringing opera into work. I was listening to Jessye
Norman singing Carmen when a co-worker Tracy Tornquist
overheard it and asked me if I liked opera (Tracy sang in the Opera Chorus).
I told her I was learning about it and she explained what a Super is and
gave me (Super Captain) Harrison Pierce’s number.
I thought ‘This might be fun to do’ and I gave him a call.
“Harrison asked me a few questions about my background and then,
a week later, called again and asked me to come to the ballet studio for
Elektra. That was in 1991. I thought 'How easy!’ and went
along thinking I already had a part. Once I was there, however, I realized
that it was actually an audition. My heart was pounding and I thought
that I should just leave. But the director broke us up into groups of
seven and I was in the first group so I couldn’t leave. Then he
told us to act like our favorite animal. I love cats and dogs but I saw
that everyone else acting like cats and dogs all over the floor. So I
just stood there, raised my arms and began slowly flapping them as though
I was a bird. It was the longest two minutes in my life!”
Of course that scene-stealing movement got him the part and although he
has been in many other productions (it happened that his first role was
in Bellini’s I Capuletti, which preceded the Strauss that
season) Elektra remains, to this day, his most memorable.
“It was the most engaging production, our curtain call and Gwyneth
Jones was riveting, mesmerizing, especially in her opening 'Allein,
allein.'" In fact he was able to pull off a very impressive impersonation
of Dame Gwyneth’s rhythmic march towards the statue of her dead
father, Agamemnon, by final dress. “I get some of their energy and
I hope they get some of my enthusiasm.”
Milko’s Super career has gone through periods where he has had some
of the most prominent Super roles ever, followed by stretches where other
activities and interests have drawn him away from the War Memorial stage.
Apart from the auspicious role in Elektra, he was one of the
original monkey servants to Ping, Pang and Pong in the 1993 televised
production of the David Hockney Turandot and
was practically naked, but for a blue sequined G-string and a pair of
cowboy boots (“Anything for Art”), in 1996’s Harvey
Milk. But it was his star turn as an exotic eunuch in Giulio
Cesare that captivated audiences and earned him a mention in Opera
News and a coveted Hammy Award.
“I get excited”, he says “as I get to know the music,
but I get even more excited when I get to know the artists; how could
you not love (Cesare stars) David Daniels, Ruth
Ann Swenson and Bejun Mehta? Getting to know
these people, and what their energy is, gives me an elevated experience;
interaction in an artistic medium catapults me to a different level every
time and triggers my own creativity. I try to be enthusiastic about every
role I do, no matter how different, and I hope that comes across.”
Milko approaches life in general with that enthusiasm, believes that we
are all performers in our lives and should give it our best, all of the
time. For him, being in an opera is not only fascinating and exciting
but prompts him to give of his best. “I think about being onstage
all the time and the excitement of the moment you go onstage,” he
says. “You can have that feeling, that nervousness, in life. It
starts from within.
“The singers care for and excel in their form and that inspires
you to excel in what you do, even if it’s being a Super. It’s
a team effort and the one common denominator is that we each have to do
our best, each and every moment on stage. If Supering can remind you to
do that in your life–go for it.”
Milko’s work in Real Estate has kept him too busy to appear in an
opera since 2002’s Cesare, but will be treading the boards
again this summer in the company debut of Bizet’s
Pearl Fishers. In the meantime, enjoy a selection of photos of
some of Milko's most memorable onstage characters in this gallery.