She added, "It was a perfect time two years ago because it was when I was going through a certain crisis, which I wasn't secretive about. Two years after that, so many things, so many changes happened. I have done four soap operas, but I've never known where I have probably gotten the energy to do all that."
Due to insistent public demand, the Philippine Opera Company (POC) will re-stage the Tony Award-winning show about the legendary opera diva Maria Callas at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza in Makati City from July 29 to August 15.
Master Class which originally opened at the Golden Theatre in New York City, United States in 1995, is based on a series of master classes given by renowned opera singer Maria Callas at the Julliard School of Music in New York in 1971 and 1972. The play was first produced by the Philadelphia Theatre Company. In 2008, Cherie herself portrayed the opera icon in a very rare and critically-acclaimed performance directed by Michael Williams.
PRESSURE, PRESSURE? What made her consider doing the project again?
"I don't know what it is in my destiny or my fate that I just have to come and meet Maria Callas again. Maybe because I just fell in love with the words that I wanted to take on the challenge [again]," shares an excited Cherie. "And I really needed to have something that would awaken my insights to love what I do all over again, because I understood a bit of music, of what she did, seeing it through other people's experience. I wanted to emulate that and borrow a little something of her. There must be some signs, some messages from her spirit out there... Something about her just doesn't want to leave me and the other way around."
Does she feel any pressure that she's going to play the role herself again?
"Oh, well, yes, there may be pressure on and comparison between my take on it before and my forthcoming re-take on it. I just hope I can bring in new elements into Maria Callas—fresh insights into the words that she had put through me to you so that I can express to everyone her love for the arts and for life. I've been able to borrow from her even just a little of that passion and awaken that in me every now and then," Cherie said.
What's the biggest challenge for her in doing plays like this?
"I guess once you're out there, you're out there; there's no way that you can correct [a mistake] and do it all over again. It's the process of the work. And, 'ika nga, theater is really a medium for actors."
TRANSITION TO A NEW CHAPTER. Cherie calls everything that's happening to her right now, especially when it comes to her career, as "part of my transition."
She added, "There are just no words to explain. I know that this is just the beginning of a new chapter in my life and I just thank her [Maria Callas] for being part of my life."
Is she also a diva like Maria Callas?
"Of course!" Cherie exclaims followed by a big laughter. "I just have to embody her!"
Can she relate with how Callas lived her illustrious life?
"Sharing perhaps as a woman of heart, there was a time in her life when all that she had done was to try and to please and to live up to her parents' expectations, especially of her mother, and at the same time, discover her love for singing and she knew that that was her power. For so many years, she focused on her career. I have experienced probably being exposed to that level of artistry and genius through my ex-husband Roni [Rogoff], given that they're of the same classical field."
Roni is an internationally-renowned violinist. He and Cherie were together for 20 years and have two kids, Bianca and Raphael, until they called it quits in late 2008.
Are there transitions in Callas' musical and personal life that are parallel to hers?
"Well, right now, I am in a transition. As Callas had always said, in art, there is always an entrance and there is always an exit after. The rest is all 'ka-ka-pee-pee-doo-doo!' and every part I portray is always a moment of respite and then a transition, and then you'll be not becoming. I think Callas had always put in something fresh, something different in everything that she did.
"After this, magbe-bahave na ako. 'Ika ngani Maria Callas, it's all about discipline, technique and mut. Mut is German for courage. I think every actor at this point in their lives, at any point in their careers, have to able to carry on by sheer nerves."
INSPIRATIONS AND MOTIVATIONS. As for her character Sylvana in Rubi, her current teleserye in ABS-CBN, is there anything that viewers should watch for?
"Alam mo naman, formulaic, whoever becomes the bad one, ends up being the good one in the end. Abangan na lang nila ang mga susunod na mangyayari!" she said.
"That was really something that I kinda enjoy doing," Cherie continued, "but it is my fourth soap in two years that I'm really in something more fiery to awaken again that inertia. Then Master Class came about again. All these in-betweens, all these ups and downs, the loves that come and go, the changes are all the transitions. And just as Callas had always embraced these experiences, I embrace them and I'm open and willing to give my all to anything that I do onstage."
Does she have any upcoming television or movie projects after Rubi?
"I think I'll take a rest. Pahinga muna ako. I need to take care of my voice first. I have to undergo surgery on my throat. But we'll see."
What can she say about the rising popularity of her niece, ABS-CBN's Agua Bendita star Andi Eigenmann?
"I'm so happy. You know, it's all about that now. 'Puwede bang pa-VTR si Cherie para kay Andi?' 'Puwede bang pa-VTR si Cherie para kay Sid Lucero?' Puro na lang kami pang-VTR!" she said with a laugh.
How's her dad Eddie Mesa and mom Rosemarie Gil doing?
"Dad is doing okay, he's in the States with my mom, who is still very active in the church."
And how's her relationship with her ex-husband?
"Very good, we're very good friends. I go there a lot, to visit my kids and I have no complaints. I mean, we have really high respect for each other. He respects what I do, and I respect what he does. Suwerte ko lang! And so far, nobody has fit into his mold or into my heart..."
So, there's no inspiration right now when it comes to matters of the heart?
"It's hard. But well, we all do need inspiration, we all do need motivation, don't we? But sometimes, you just don't find it externally; we all just have to continuously dig down deep inside of us. Kasi minsan, may mga ginagawa tayo na nakakawalang-gana rin... I've been in the industry for 37 years, way too long. And this is a good transition time in my life because for the first time, for two years, I've been on my own. There's a lot of self-discovery for me," said Cherie.