Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Ballet Manila's Giselle: A major step "On pointé" towards rebuilding

The cast of Ballet Manila's Giselle

After a massive fire gutted Star City, completely destroying Star Theater and damaging Aliw Theater that has housed Ballet Manila's performances for years, the remainder of company's 24th season was put in major doubt. But the company's CEO and Co-Artistic Director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde's determined resolve to rise from the ashes, her dancers' desire to perform no matter what, coupled with the arts community rallying behind Ballet Manila, the impossible was made possible.

Eventually staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines through a venue grant with backdrops, sets, props and fog machine lent by Ballet Philippines and the Manila Symphony Orchestra led by Alexander Vikulov offering a discount on their services, Ballet Manila's staging of Giselle pushed through with a one night performance at the CCP's Main Theater.

Looking back as 2019 starts to wind down, this has got to be one of the key moments in the arts and culture scene of the year or possibly even this decade.

To say that the company gave an inspired performance would be a complete understatement. Dancing the titular role of Giselle was principal Joan Sia who already did the part at the very same venue for Dance MNL a little over three years before. Being the veteran in the role, she took charge and danced as if everything depended on her which is no small feat for a character who was supposed to be naive, vulnerable, and frail.

Elpidio Magat's Albrecht provided more than just ample support for Sia's Giselle. His acting gave the audience an avenue to channel their grief. And his brisés towards the end of Act II had power and excitement that further heightened the sense of urgency as his death at the hands of the willis was becoming more imminent.

Conductor Alexander Vikulov, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, and Ballet Manila

The confident pairing of Nicole Barroso and Joshua Enciso at the Peasant Pas de deux showed why Ballet Manila's future is secure.

ri Ida as Myrtha embodied coldness in character as she executed her steps without fail. And Mark Sumaylo take on Hilarion made me feel sorry for him as someone who always had Giselle's best interest at heart only having to meet a tragic end while the deceptive Albrecht lived to see another day.

The corps wer
e more mature and showed improvement in leaps and bounds compared to how they were at Chopiniana from their Deux 23rd season ender earlier this year. Every time the audience showered applause to the corps whenever they were spot on, it felt like it was not just an applause for an exceptional performance, but also an applause to show their assurance, a way of communicating to the entire Ballet Manila company that the arts community have their back, that they will not be alone as they rebuild and rise from the ashes. It was one of the moments that makes an impact for life even if one was just a member of the audience.

As always, having Alexander Vikulov lead the Manila Symphony Orchestra means that one can just sit back and be immersed with the ballet without worrying that the tempo and dynamics aren't suited or tailor made to whoever is dancing on stage.

Present on that night were dancers from the Philippine Ballet Theatre who led the loudest cheers from the audience, officials from Ballet Philippines, members of the diplomatic corps, personalities from various arts and culture organizations, and even people who one would never imagine bumping into at the ballet.

The coming year will not be easy for Ballet Manila. But the way they showed their strength as a company with their recent staging of Giselle, one cannot help but feel optimistic that they will eventually rise once again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Young Filipino and Korean musicians unite in concert

The winners of the FilKor Youth Concerto Competition
with the FilKor Youth Orchestra

The future classical music stars in the country shone at the FilKor Youth Orchestra Gala Concert/1st FilKor Youth Concerto Competition held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines last October.

Emerging victorious at the competition was pianist Jaemin Irene Lee who was awarded the Grand Prize for her performance of the opening movement of Camille Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22, showing her mastery of the keys that was well beyond her young age of 17.

The other finalists at the competition were violinist Emanuel John Villarin (1st Prize) who performed the first movement of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, clarinetist Franz Jensen Andra (2nd Prize) who performed the first movement of Carl Maria von Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73, and violinist Jeanne Rafaella Marquez (3rd Prize) who performed the third movement of Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47. The four finalists were chosen among the sixteen contestants who auditioned back in August.

Conductor Jeffrey Solares and the FilKor Youth Orchestra

The evening also saw the debut of the FilKor Youth Orchestra, a combined orchestra composed of Filipino (mostly from the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra) and Korean musicians aged 22 and younger. Conducted by Jefrey Solares, the orchestraccompanied the finalists with their respective concerto movements and also performed a selection of music ranging from classical (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Overture to The Marriage of Figaro K.492Alexander Borodin's Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor, Georges Bizet's Farandole from L'Arlésienne Suite No. 2), traditional folk song (Arirang and Atin Cu Pung Singsing), and a crowd pleasing medley of John Williams' film soundtracks.

The FilKor Youth Orchestra Gala Concert/1st FilKor Youth Concerto Competition was presented by the Korean Women's Association of the Philippines and the Clarion Chamber Ensemble. This music event is part of the 70th Anniversary Celebrations of the Diplomatic Relations between the Philippines and Korea.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Getting to know Leonardo da Vinci through film, theater, and cuisine

Five centuries have passed since Leonardo da Vinci's death but his works still remain among the most treasured in all of art history and his legacy continues to live on up to the present. From the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, to The Da Vinci code and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo da Vinci's contribution to the world of fine arts and pop culture cannot be denied. In commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of Da Vinci's death, the Philippine-Italian Association, the Embassy of Italy, and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines along with partner institutions namely the Cultural Center of the Philippines present Leonardo in Manila a series of artistic and cultural events ranging from theater, film, and cuisine, celebrating da Vinci's universal genius this November 13-21, 2019.

Eugeniu Rotaru
Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Italy

Headlining Leonardo in Manila is Being Leonardo, An Impossible Interview which can be seen in either a short film, a feature length film, or as a live theater production. For these events, Italian director and actor Masimilliano Finazzer Flory will be flying in to Manila to present the films which he starred in and directed, to conduct workshops and talks, and lastly, to perform on stage.

Massimiliano Finazzer Flory

Being Leonardo da Vinci, An impossible Interview, the Play

Portraying Leonardi da Vinci's life on stage, Being Leonardo da Vinci An Impossible Interview's one night performance happens on November 21, 2019, 7:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater).

The two man play written, directed and starring Massimiliano Finazzer Flory as Leonardo da Vinci will also feature Filipino actor, director and writer Carlito Casaje as the journalist/interviewer.

Dressed in period costumes, complete with make-up recreating, Finazzer Flory portrays da Vinci as he answers questions about his childhood, his civil and military activities, and how to become a "good painter" (bono pittore), and about the relationship between Painting and Science, Painting and Sculpture, Painting and Music. The play will also touch upon da Vinci's comments on The Last Supper and the figures of the apostles, replies to his enemies' attacks, prophesies man's flying, and finally offers maxims and aphorisms to live by in our times.

Being Leonardo da Vinci, Masterclass and Film screening

On November 20, 2:00 PM, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Tanghalang Manuel Conde (CCP Dream Theater), Finazzer Flory will conduct a masterclass to be followed by the screening of the short film version of Being Leonardo, An Impossible Interview.

Assisted by Lito Casaje, the masterclass will cover how cinematic techniques have absorbed Leonardo's teaching, by conjugating photography, editing and screenplay together with history and pictorial theories, in order to raise Nature and Environment to the role of protagonist. Today this philosophy is supported by the school of thought known as Deep Ecology.

Being Leonardo da Vinci, An Impossible Interview at Cine Europa 22

The full length film Leonardo da Vinci An Impossible Interview will be screened as part of the final leg of Cine Europa 22 on November 19, 2019, 7:30 PM at the Cinematheque Center Manila, Film Development Council of the Philippines.

Prior to the screening at 5:00 PM, a presentation and discussion of the film by Finazzer Flory is also scheduled.

The film follows two journalists, from New York and Milan unaware of each other, are looking for a scoop about the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. They see works of art and they pass thorough the places of the Genius between landscapes and mysterious encounters. In Florence for the first time during a show in costume between friars, tourists and flag-wavers unexpected traces are found. In Milan, a document to find out who Leonardo Man was through a scientific examination was discovered. Then they come to his final resting place in Clos Lucé and there they meet Leonardo face to face. The interview is granted. The words of the Genius are authentic, in Renaissance language. At the end Leonardo escapes through the undergrounds, returning to Vigevano and unveiling to the most important figures of his time where he reveals…

Silvana Diaz
VP Culture, Philippine-Italian Association

The other events of Leonardo in Manila cover cuisine and the culinary arts.

Cook off with Leonardo

The culinary events of Leonardo in Manila already began with a series of lectures by Italian chef Salvatorre Arria, consultant in Italian regional cuisine, at St. Scholastica's College, Lyceum of the Philippine University, and National University. The lecture served to contextualize Leonardo da Vinci in cuisine, his recipes, the historical context and the ingredients available in Italy at that time.

The participating schools (St. Scho, LPU, and NU) will then use what they've learned in the lectures and whip up three dishes at the Cook Off with Leonardo on November 14, 2019, 9:00 AM at the Lyceum of the Philippines University Culinary Institute. 

The Last Supper

Rivaling the Mona Lisa as one of da Vinci's most popular works is The Last Supper. The release of Dan Brown's novel thriller The Da Vinci Code and also the subsequent movie adaptation starring Tom Hanks only raised the work's popularity even further. The conspiracy theories raised about the painting in the novel/movie may be spotty and questionable, but on November 13, 2019, 7:00 PM, a more credible discussion to The Last Supper by James Freney of the Philippine-Italian Association will take place before a hearty  dinner at the Caruso Ristorante Italiano.

The lecture will focus on the story of the Last Supper, its relevance, its messages in the context of the Reinaissance period and with the emergence of Humanism. The Leonardo themed menu to be served at the dinner will be specially concocted by restaurant director Emilio Mina.

Leonardo Wine & Cuisine

While most of the world knew da Vinci as both an artist and a man of science, it is a rarely known fact that he was very much into food as well.

A presentation on Leonardo on how he was in the kitchen and in the cellar will be conducted by chef Salvatore Arria and sommelier Luca Galli before a special dinner on November 20, 2019, 7:00 PM at the Ponte Rialto Ristorante Italiano at the Venice Grand Canal Mall.

Alessandro Milani
General Manager Philippine-Italian Association

Here is the schedule of events for Leonardo in Manila.

November 13, 2019
The Last Supper
Caruso Ristorante Italiano, Bel-Air, Makati

November 14, 2019
Cook Off with Leonardo
Culinary Institute Lyceum of the Philippine University, Manila

November 19, 2019
Being Leonardo da Vinci, Cine Europa 22 Screening
Cinematheque Center Manila, FDCP

November 20, 2019
Being Leonardo da Vinci, Masterclass and Short Film Screening
Cultural Center of the Philippines, Tanghalang Manuel Conde (CCP Dream Theater)

Leonardo, Wine & Cuisine
Ponte Rialto Ristorante Italiano, Venice Grand Canal Mall, Upper McKinley, Taguig

November 21, 2019
Being Leonardo da Vinci, An Impossible Interview, the Play
Cultural Center of the Philippines, Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Little Theater)

Leonardo in Manila is presented by the Philippine-Italian Association, Embassy of Italy, and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Inc. in cooperation with the Cultural Center of the Philippines and supported by OMAN AIR, Rustan's, Hotel Jen Manila, and East West Bank.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Violinist Diomedes Saraza Jr., cellist Kim Yeonjin, conductor Darrell Ang team up in MSO concert

The Manila Symphony Orchestra's upcoming concert will see concertmaster Diomedes Saraza, Jr., Korean cellist Kim Yeonjin, and Grammy nominated conductor Darrell Ang team up at the Meralco Theater on November 16, 2019, 4:00 PM.

Billed as Pas de Deux, the concert will feature Johannes Brahms' Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102 with Saraza, Jr. and Kim as the double soloists and also Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet suite from Swan Lake, Op. 20.
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