Friday, December 23, 2011

PPO IV: Ariel Dechosa’s Return

Pianist Ariel Dechosa

Featuring:
Ariel Dechosa, piano
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Programme:
Maurice Ravel Le tombeau de Couperin
Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 68
Sergei Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27

The programme lineup that principal conductor and music director Olivier Ochanine prepared for the December concert of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the Cultural Center of the Philippines wasn’t the usual holiday fare that one would expect at this time of the year. Instead, a delicate and restrained orchestration of a piano suite dedicated to fallen friends, an intimate piano concerto that broke new ground during its time and a symphony that vindicated a composer’s return to form after a disastrous previous outing were the pieces that got performed. The PPO didn’t stray at all from their theme of epic evenings for their 29th Season in this concert but five musicians from the brass section played a handful of Christmas tunes at the lobby before the doors to the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) were opened prior to the concert.

Some members of the PPO brass section

I think that it’s good that they’ve let the audience have a bit of Christmas cheer before the concert started since the programme was a bit exhausting and emotionally heavy. The opening piece, Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin wasn’t the usual opener like an overture that can easily hook a listener and put him in high spirits right away. This piece, starting with an exquisite oboe solo accompanied by wispy string passages, was elegiac and hinted of lament and of grief. Not necessarily epic in scope, it was in fact somber and devoid of any heavily emotive and sweeping strings and actual fireworks. Even the end of this piece didn’t have that triumphant note that eliminated grief and finding happiness in the end. I did find this piece very understated and that it actually took me more than just one listening to fully grasp how deftly the orchestration was done.

After the Ravel piece, I was glad that it was finally time for Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 68. As someone who plays the piano, I always look forward to piano concerto performances although I do admit that this piece didn’t excite me at all when I first heard it. The intimate and more refined nature of this work initially turned me off. And it didn’t help that the numerous times that I’ve seen this piece performed were done by music students who weren't able to sell this concerto. But throughout the years, the piece eventually grew on me which I hoped is a sign of maturity and I yearned to see this played by a competent pianist. And I couldn’t be happier this evening when Ariel Dechosa delivered an excellent rendition of this piece. Despite playing on a piano that was less than ideal, his mastery and proficiency with this shone through especially during the tender moments in the first and second movements. And the third movement with the playful dialogue between the piano and the orchestra was such a delight to hear that I finally managed to enjoy a live performance of this piece. And this is coming from me who had an aversion for the fourth concerto since I actually preferred the third and the fifth.

Conductor Olivier Ochanine

The last piece of the night was Sergei Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 and it was a test of endurance not just for the orchestra but also for the audience as well. Many people love the theme of the Adagio in the third movement but they had to wait patiently for the first two movements to end in order to get there. The first was not just a long one, but it was  brooding and gloomy as well like how the weather was during the previous week before this performance. Ochanine told me before that they were playing the uncut version of this piece and yet they eventually had to shorten the first movement. But the wait was worth it once the third movement came and it was another moment when I wished that I've taken my clarinet playing seriously. The sweeping strings, familiar to many people, immediately followed by a sublime clarinet solo brought out the Romantic in me. And I fully understood once again why this piece was requested by a lot of people when Ochanine asked for what they wanted the PPO to play this season. It wasn't easy to listen to since I couldn't just skip over to the movement that I prefer but it felt like a badge of honor being able to sit through this piece.

I found it amusing that I tried to guess what the orchestra was going to play for an encore. I knew that they already prepared something since the tubular bells were already set up although none of the pieces in the programme required that instrument. So I knew right away that they would be using that for the encore just like the last concert with the piano. And it was Leroy Anderson's Christmas Festival that they played which was also part of their during their Christmas concert at the Peninsula Manila a couple of weeks before this. To be honest, I wasn't too thrilled with this piece since it didn't match the excitement of their encore pieces from the previous concerts. But I did understand the need for a Christmas piece and also an easy one to perform since the orchestra was already very tired after the grueling Rach symphony.

Finally, despite being already exhausted, Oli Ochanine was very kind and still managed to give a very brief message for the readers of this blog.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Max Makowski is Tanghalang Pilipino President

Tanghalang Pilipino President Max Makowski

Tanghalang Pilipino, the resident drama company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines presented its new president, Max Makowski, during a recent press conference held at the La Régalade French Bistro. And since Christmas was just around the corner, the event also served as a way for the company to give thanks to the people who were instrumental in promoting their projects during their milestone 25th Season. Among those who were present during the lunch were TP Artistic Director Fernando “Nanding” Josef, Executive Director Leslie Noble, and the Members of the Board of Trustess headed by Chairman Antonio “Tony Boy” Cojuangco. Of course, Board Member Tessa Prieto-Valdes, stood out from the rest of the crowd with her signature, unconventional and colorful ensemble.

As expected whenever the year ends, past events were recalled and Nanding Josef mused about the company’s previous productions for this silver season: Noli Me Tangere, The Musical, Tatlong Tabing, A Tony Perez Retrospective and Pinocchio, Gusto Mo Ba Maging Tao? I noticed that there had been some changes to the season lineup compared to the one that they’ve presented when they’ve launched this season some months ago. One of the scheduled musicals for this season, D’Emperor got moved and will be part of the 26th season instead. I’m not sure what happened to Larawan though. After mulling over the past, he then introduced someone who will be a huge part of Tanghalang Pilipino’s future and he was no other than Max Makowski, TP’s new president.

Makowski kept his speech brief pointing out that he will have more to say once he has some credits under his belt. But he did say that while he is not a Filipino, he is a father of a Filipino and that he is rather a citizen of the arts. Afterwards, I’ve had a brief chat with him wherein I confirmed if he was indeed the director that was once attached to the live action adaptation of Voltron. He was rather embarrassed to admit that he was that same guy and was quite surprised that I managed to dig that up.

The event was capped by more messages from Antonio “Tony Boy" Cojuangco and Tessa Prieto-Valdes who are staunch supporters of the arts particularly theater. Cojuangco noted how theater is the starting point for many who are now acting in the other forms of media like in television and in film. And Tessa introduced the fashion designers from SLIMS who will be making the costumes for D’Emperor while  reiterating that people should not expect her to be acting on stage in the future. She jokingly said that she won a singing competition based on votes not on ability so an acting role in one of Tanghalang Pilipino’s future productions is very unlikely.

Eyeball: New Visions in Philippine Theater caps Tanghalang Pilipino’s 25th Season


Set A
January 13, 2012 8:00 PM
January 14, 2012 3:00 & 8:00 PM
January 15, 2012 3:00 PM

Set B
January 20, 2012 8:00 PM
January 21, 2012 3:00 & 8:00 PM
January 22, 2012 3:00 PM
February 3, 2012 8:00 PM
February 4, 2012 3:00 PM

Set A
February 4, 2012 8:00 PM
February 5, 2012 3:00 PM
February 10, 2012 8:00 PM
February 11, 2012 3:00 PM

Set B
February 11, 2012 8:00 PM
February 12, 2012 3:00 PM

Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Tanghalang Pilipino will be staging Eyeball: New Visions in Philippine Theater as they close their landmark 25th Season. Eyeball will be comprised of four plays from the Virgin Labfest presented as two sets of twin-bills. It’s worth noting that I was only able to watch my first VLF, the yearly festival of new works for the theater, just this year. I’ve also read the Virgin Labfest Anthology which acquainted me with previously staged plays but only making me more curious regarding the festival’s previous years. So I think that Eyeball is a great opportunity for me to catch up with what I’ve missed before.

Set A will include Bakit Wala Nang Nagtatagpo sa Philcoa Oberpas, written by Carlo Pacolo Garcia and to be directed by Riki Benedicto. TP Actors Company members Jonathan Tadioan, Jelson Bay, Martha Comia, Marco Viaña and Gino Ramirez join guest artists Pam Hundana and Carmina Capile in this play. The other piece in this set is Doc Resureccion: Gagamutin ang Bayan by Layeta Bucoy and to be directed by Tuxqs Rutaqio. Riki Benedicto, Jonathan Tadioan, Rayna Reyes and Sherry Lara are the cast members for this play. Set B on the other hand is composed of Reuel Molina Aguila’s Maliw with Sherry Lara, Spanky Manikan and Regina de Vera as members of the cast. Isang Araw sa Karnabal by Nick Pichay is the other play in this set. Sheenly Gener leads the cast with Marco Viaña and Martha Comia. Both plays in Set B will be directed by Chris Millado.

TP Actors Company

The TP Actors Company presented an excerpt of Bakit Wala Nang Nagtatagpo sa Philcoa Oberpas which was a riot and it gave more idea of what to expect from Eyeball. But there are significant changes with Eyeball if compared to VLF. First of all, this will be staged at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater) instead of the usual VLF venue which is the Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater). And there’s also the set design by Eric Cruz, Katsch Catoy for the lighting design and TJ Ramos for the soundscape which means that this Eyeball has taken four VLF plays several notches higher.

Ticket price:
P600
50% student discount
20% senior citizen discount

For inquiries:
Tanghalang Pilipino 832-3661, (0920) 953-5381, (0928) 551-8645
TicketWorld 891-9999

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Philippine Madrigal Singers celebrates choirmaster’s 10th year with inTENse


December 17, 2011, 8:00 PM
December 18, 2011, 5:00 PM
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Featuring:
Philippine Madrigal Singers
Mark Anthony Carpio, choirmaster

The Philippine Madrigal Singers have a lot to be thankful for this year. They've had a successful international tour and they also celebrate the 10th year of Mark Anthony Carpio as their choirmaster. And to give thanks and to celebrate these milestones, they will be staging a concert entitled inTENse to be held this December 17, 2011 8:00 PM and December 18, 2011 3:00 PM at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater). This concert, presented by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, will also celebrate the upcoming holiday season as the award winning choir serenade the audience with renditions of Christmas songs with the Madz twist.

The Philippine Madrigal Singers

Ticket prices:
P1500 Orchestra Center
P1000 Orchestra Side
P600 Balcony I Center
P500 Balcony I Side
P400 Balcony II Center
P300 Balcony II Side
50% student discount
20% senior citizen discount

For inquiries:
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999
Chichi Abella (0915) 696-3983

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Faces of Pinoy Rock


I've never been a rocker. In fact, I’ve always liked to say that I am the typical classical music geek who usually gets beaten up by rock musicians. Well, I’ve never been beaten up by rockers but it’s just my way of saying that I’ve never been comfortable attending rock events. But a few months ago, the Embassy of Italy gave me my rock star moment and since then, I haven’t been as apprehensive as I was regarding rock events. Thankfully, their latest event was a fusion of rock music and visual art and not a full blown rock event so I had no problems going there. My knowledge about art specifically paintings are so minimal so I think that the exhibit Faces of Pinoy Rock by Nino Quartana (a Sicilian who has been based in Manila for five years) was another opportunity for me to learn more about visual art. And I’ve always liked seeing the people from the Italian Embassy and the Philippine-Italian Association since they’ve been so nice and kind to me.

Unfortunately, morning activities during this day finished a bit late and I wasn’t able to make it on time to see the formal opening of the exhibit at My Little Art Place. I missed the prepared programme, the speeches, the opening remarks, the messages and also Ambassador Fornari and Madame Silvana. But I still was able to make it and I arrived at the gallery already teeming with a good sized crowd. As I was making my way through the gallery and searching for people I know, I recognized Erwin Armovit aka Armo from the band Sponge Cola. And lo and behold, the rest of the band was also there.

Nino Quartana with Sponge Cola

It was only right then and there that I came to realize that Filipino rock musicians were the subjects of the paintings featured in the exhibit. I confess that I had no idea what the exhibit was all about coming in and I just went there since I was invited by the Italian Embassy. As expected, Sponge Cola was one of the artists/bands that had their portraits done. It was interesting to see that their painting, based on their Araw Oras Tagpuan CD cover, was done with bright aqua and hot pink colors reminding me of cotton candy. Based on my experience with the band during their Blogger’s Night, I can imagine lead singer Yael Yuzon eating cotton candy with delight especially now that the band recently got a Diamond Record certification.

Other artists/bands featured at the exhibit were Raimund Marasigan, Bamboo Mañalac, Arnel Pineda from Journey, Razorback, Wolfgang, Urbandub, Franco, Parokya ni Edgar, and Kamikazee. I was amazed to see how the works captured the character of the artists and bands like the playful and naughty nature of Kamikazee and Parokya ni Edgar. As an added experience, MP3 players were also attached to each of the paintings so that the viewers can hear the music of the artists while looking the art. And as I was examining the painting of Bamboo while listening to the music, I reminded myself that I need to get hold of a copy of his new CD as well.

Manila in the Night

Oddly, the one work that really spoke through me was part of an earlier series. The painting, entitled Manila in the Night, utilized volcanic ashes from Mayon volcano and it depicted a lone, colorful jeepney traversing an empty road while tall buildings stood in the background like sentinels. The juxtaposition of the quaint yet colorful and moving jeepney with the imposing yet immobile buildings really appealed to me and I kept looking at it throughout the afternoon/evening. If only I could afford it, I truly would be a happy camper.

I stayed at the gallery for a long time and enjoyed the food and drinks in the company of old friends and new acquaintances. And I also got the chance to know more about Nino and was quite surprised that he had a previous work based on the very popular Filipino axiom “Bahala na si Batman” which is what the locals say in times of helplessness and when a favorable resolution is in the hands of Batman, of all people. Nino, along with other people from the Italian Embassy (Isis, Giovanni and Antonio), some friends (Lorena and Patrick) and I still went out to have a bite and have some more drinks. And this was when we were able to discuss more about Italian music, literature and comics and also about the infamous Metro Manila traffic. Looking back, I guess that it served me well when I said to myself “bahala na si Batman” as well when I decided to go to the opening of this exhibit.

Nino, RAd and Isis

Faces of Pinoy Rock is a visual arts marketing promotion (vamp) project of GAPS, Inc. (Guia Acosta Publicity and Special projects) pioneering in the advocacy of arts, culture, education in cooperation with My Little Art Place and with the cultural participation of the Italian Embassy, the record companies and the artists’ management. The exhibit at My Little Art Place 222 Wilson St. Greenhills, San Juan runs until December 16, 2011. The gallery is open from 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ballet Philippines' The Sleeping Beauty


My love for Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music always drives me to be at every concert that featured his works. For this year, I’ve only been to a couple of concerts that had live performances of his music and they weren’t enough. Fortunately, Ballet Philippines provided more Tchaikovsky music for me to savor by staging the ballet The Sleeping Beauty as part of their 42nd Season lineup. I knew that I couldn’t afford to miss this ballet held at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines especially since the Manila Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Jeffrey Solares, would be providing the live music in some performances. I did manage to watch the gala night which featured Japanese guest artist Nobuo Fujino and the international award winning, BP principal dancer Candice Adea and also the live music by the MSO which I really was looking forward to.

It’s been more than two decades since Ballet Philippines last staged Sleeping Beauty. So for a lot of people who were there during the gala night, it was their first time to see this ballet performed live. But I did have a glimpse of the Grand pas de deux from the ballet during the CCP Gala and seeing it made me want to watch the full length ballet with the live music no matter what. And it was truly a different experience watching a ballet production since it felt like being transported to a different time and place and yet all the action was there happening live right before my eyes.

Candice Adea

And right before my eyes, Candice Adea exhibited a lively, spirited and enthusiastic portrayal of Princess Aurora. She lit up the stage as she entered during the scene when the Princess celebrated her 16th birthday and she was indeed the life of the party. The character and personality she displayed gave more impact to her eventual slumber as part of the curse given to her by Carabosse played by Olga Bankova. Guest artist On the other hand, Nobuo Fujino was a towering presence in his role as Prince Desiré despite his part not being as meaty as that of Candice. Individually, they shone in their variations and solo parts especially Candice during the exquisite Rosa Adagio but it was a different matter when the two did the Adagio during the Grand pas de deux. Their partner work left me thinking how more impressive they could’ve been if they had some years’ worth of experience dancing with each other. But given the limited time that they’ve had, they did pretty well and I do have to admit that while some of the hype went to Fujino being the guest artist, it was really Candice who was the star of the ballet. The Prince's role didn't have much in terms of characterization but Fujino was up to the task in letting Candice shine.

Nobuo Fujino

The rest of the company did well although there were some errors that my untrained eye was able to notice. But it only goes to show how technically difficult Sleeping Beauty was not only for the leads, but also for the other soloists and the rest of the company as well. The plot of the fairy tale is very shallow and thin and at first glance, the material may not be suitable for a full length ballet that lasted for more than two hours. But some of the minor characters like the fairies had short individual and group numbers throughout the ballet. And during Act III, there were guest characters from other fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and Puss-in-Boots for example and they also did some dancing as well. They were there for the wedding of Princess Aurora and Prince Desiré and I still wonder how on earth these characters served the story. I guess this is one ballet quirk that I have yet to understand.

Olga Bankova

I remember telling Candice right after the CCP Gala that seeing an excerpt from the ballet wasn't enough for me and that I promise to watch the whole thing. And I am extremely pleased that I was able to keep this promise. I did tell her about this during the meet and greet at the lobby where she, Fujino and the rest of the company were met with cheers and warm congratulations from the audience. I still have a lot to learn about ballet since I can’t recognize some of the moves yet and it’s still the music that draws me into watching them. But seeing two ballet productions during the past few weeks, I do admit that I’m already hooked and I look forward to seeing more ballet and dance productions from now on.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Adonay, the Maestro from Pakil


Featuring:
Nita Abrogar-Quinto, piano
Chona Noble, violin
Bianca Camille Lopez, soprano
Mark Carpio, piano
UP Cherubim and Seraphim
Elena Rivera Mirano, choirmaster
Philippine Madrigal Singers
Ervin Lumauag, tenor
Greg de Leon, baritone
UP Orchestra
Edna Marcil Martinez, conductor

Programme:
Marcelo Adonay
     La Marieta
     La Julita
     Untitled
     Meditación Lúgubre No. 3
     Munting Walz
     Salve Regina
     Libera Me Domine
     Gozos a la Santísima Virgen (a Nuestra Señora de la Consolación)
     Liberame Domine
     Villancico a Belen Pastores
     Kyrie and Gloria from Pequeña Misa Solemne sobre Motivos de la Missa Regia del Canto Gregoriano

A classical music concert featuring the works of just one Filipino composer is a rarity which means that a lot of local works are totally unfamiliar to a lot of people in here. For the past couple of years, I've been into concerts that were dedicated to the music of Lucio San Pedro and Rodolfo Cornejo and this time around, through the efforts of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the University of the Philippines, I had the opportunity to add another Filipino composer to that very short list. And that composer is Marcelo Adonay, dubbed as the Maestro from Pakil.

Since the concert held at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP LIttle Theater) featured music that I haven’t heard before, it was good that they started with short, sweet pieces that were very accessible. Pianist Nita Abrogar-Quinto performed La Marieta and Julita to open the concert and right after that, she was joined by violinist Choba Noble as they both played Untitled, Meditación Lúgubre No. 3 and Munting Walz. As I’ve said, they were short and pleasant to hear pieces that didn’t require too much virtuosity from the musicians. It surprised me that these pieces still hadn’t found their way into the repertoire of musicians here. I wondered that if the music sheet for these pieces were readily available then they would’ve become standards already.

The next to perform was soprano Bianca Camille Lopez who sang Salve Regina while being accompanied by Mark Carpio at the piano. While the solo piano pieces along with the violin and piano duets were sweet and made me want to learn how to play them, this piece left me a bit indifferent. It’s quite subdued and not as dramatic or lyrical as the arias that I am very much used to. And this was probably the reason why I found this particular piece rather dull. The next piece, Gozos a la Santisima Virgen (a Nuestra Señora de la Consolación), was much to my liking and I didn’t find it dull at all. This was sung by the UP Cherubim and Seraphim who were conducted by Elena Mirano, along with three female members of the Philippine Madrigal Singers. An alto and a soprano from the trio harmonized well when they sang their verses while the third singer, a soprano sang alone. The children's choir sang the chorus and I think that this was when the concert really picked up.

The second half of the concert started with the UP Orchestra (the string section specifically), under the baton of Edna Marcil Martinez accompanying tenor Ervin Lumauag as he sang Liberame Domine. Some members of the Philippine Madrigal Singers were at the risers behind the orchestra for this piece but they only sang at the very end which was like a response from the people after the speaker (the tenor in this case) was done with his piece. The UP Cherubim and Seraphim returned onstage, the winds and the brass sections of the orchestra finally got to play and baritone Greg de Leon joined Lumauag for the performance of Villancico a Belen Pastores. This was the piece that appealed to me the most. It could be the chorus of the children’s choir heralded by the ascending notes from the orchestra. I admit that I couldn’t recall much of the music of the verses sung by Lumauag and de Leon, but the fanfare leading into the chorus was something that gave me a bit of a last song syndrome.

For the finale, Kyrie and Gloria from Pequeña Misa Solemne sobre Motivos de la Missa Regia del Canto Gregoriano were performed and all the members of the Philippine Madrigal Singers were present this time around joining Lumauag, de Leon and the UP Orchestra. Interesting to note was that in this piece, there was no viola section in the orchestra. Since this wasn’t the whole mass, it wasn’t as long like Verdi’s Requiem. And before I knew it, the concert was finished and it felt like I just breezed through the music without really absorbing as much as I wanted to.

I do regret that I wasn’t able to attend the lecture that was held before the concert at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater). I would’ve been more prepared to watch the performances and I would've appreciated the pieces a lot more had I’ve known more about Marcelo Adonay and his music. I really commend the CCP and UP as well for putting up a concert like this that spotlight Filipino music and composers. It’s sad to think that our own music remains mainly forgotten while music from abroad gets all the attention. I do hope that after this concert, Adonay’s works will be played more often and that other Filipino composers will have their works performed as well too.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Pianist Ariel Dechosa plays Beethoven with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra

Pianist Ariel Dechosa

December 16, 2011, 8:00 PM
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Featuring:
Ariel Dechosa, piano
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Programme:
Maurice Ravel Le tombeau de Couperin
Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 68
Sergei Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27

Finally, it’s piano concerto time once again with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. I initially had some reservations with the piece though when I first read about it since it’s one of the most commonly played pieces especially by piano majors during recital season. But this time around, US based pianist Ariel Dechosa will be returning to the CCP stage to show these piano majors how Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 68 is done. Dechosa is a capable pianist who has won several competitions (NAMCYA awardee, 3rd prize at the 1996 Frinna Awerbuch International Piano Competition, 3rd prize at the 1994 Santa Barbara Symphony International Piano Competition, 1st prize at the 1993 Five Towns Competition, and 1st prize at the 1991 Great Neck Symphony Young Artists Competition). He currently teaches at Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland and is also the Music Director of Inter-Atlantic Music Foundation based in the USA and Bulgaria. Now, I just need to know if he’ll be conducting a masterclass during his visit here.

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra

Other pieces to be performed during this evening are Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27. The Rachmaninoff symphony has one of the most well loved melodies and a lot of people requested this to be played hence its inclusion to the programme lineup this season. So consider this concert as a Christmas gift of the PPO to its avid supporters. The Ravel piece on the other hand is the unfamiliar piece of the concert for me. But as I’ve always said, there is always a first time for everything and this will be my first time in hearing this particular piece performed live.

Ticket prices:
P1000 Orchestra Center
P800 Orchestra Side
P500 Balcony I Center
P350 Balcony I Side
P200 Balcony II
50% student discount
20% senior citizen discount

For inquiries:
CCP Marketing Department 832-1125 loc. 1806
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999

Sunday, December 04, 2011

2011 National Music Competitions for Young Artists

Ma. Jeline Oliva, Jimmy Tagala, Ira Alexis Aclan and Gilopez Kabayao

The 2011 National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) Nationals was recently held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. For six days, young musicians, dancers, singers and performers competed and showcased their talents during this much eagerly awaited annual competition. Due to prior commitments and scheduling conflicts, I was able to watch only one day of the competition (Strings Competition) and the culminating concert of winners.

The Strings Competition for both Categories B and C was a test of endurance for me as a member of the audience. There were seven finalists in both categories and they all performed pieces that went as long as an actual concerto. Fourteen finalists meant almost listening to fourteen concertos which was no easy task for the audience since the competition took so long. If it was hard for the audience, I could only imagine how much harder it was for the members of the jury who had to keep an objective mind all throughout the competition since they were judging the performances.

I was also pushed to the limits since I’ve had my fill of Mendelssohn and Khachaturian concertos and also Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy with only the piano accompanying the violinists during the competition. And also, only two movements from the concertos were performed since the rules stated that finalists would perform the remaining two movements of their chosen concerto in the finals while the other movement was played during the semis. So this experience was totally different from the usual concert. But although it was exhausting, the final competition was also exciting since there was added pressure for the finalists which could result in them either choking or raising their level and there was this element of trying to figure out who would win.

Thankfully, the Concert of Winners happening on the last day no longer had the pressure of competition. It was the moment of the winners to bask in the glory and celebrate. It was also my chance to see the other winners as well since I only got the chance to watch one day of the competition. The concert also featured collaborations between the winners of the rondalla category and also choir category as well. NAMCYA 2011 is officially over and the 2012 edition will feature another set of categories and its very likely that someone is already preparing for the first stages of the competition.

2011 NAMCYA National Winners

Piano Category B

1st Prize Gabriel Allan F. Paguirigan
2nd Prize Lorenzo B. Medel
3rd Prize Chance Elan C. Israel

Winds Category C

Flute
1st Prize Angelo A. Mateo
2nd Prize John Lester T. Armenta

Saxophone
1st Prize Adriane M. Constantino

Dance Junior Ballet

1st Prize Monica Gana
2nd Prize Rudolph Capungcol
3rd Prize Jasmine Pia Dames
Special (Luva Adameit) Denise Parungao
Special (2 Tony) Jessica Pearl Dames
Special (Manolo Rosado) Sean Kevin Pelegrin
Special (Trudl Dubsky) Georgette Sanchez
Special (Trudl Dubsky) Rolby Lacaba

Choir Category B

1st Prize Kantika Baao (Bicol)
2nd Prize Ilocos Norte National High School Youth Choir (Ilocos Norte)
3rd Prize Muntinlupa Science High School (Muntinlupa)
Special (Best Interpretation of the Concert Piece) Ilocos Norte National High School Youth Choir

Strings Category B

1st Prize Ma. Jeline Oliva
2nd Prize Roi Aldric Trawon
3rd Prize Ira Alexis Aclan

Strings Category C

Violin

1st Prize Jimmy Tagala Jr.
Honorable Mention Jonathan David Livioco
Honorable Mention Christian Tan

Double Bass

1st prize Paolo Jaime Alcantara

Rondalla Category A

1st Prize Lucban District Children's Rondalla (Quezon)
2nd Prize Sariaya East Children's Rondalla (Quezon)
3rd Prize Maco Heights Central Elementary School Rondalla (Davao)

Traditional Music Ensemble Category A

P. Kindat Music Ensemble (General Santos City)
Conductor: Rosita M. Balunto

Bolton Elementary School
, “Sa Tabok” Cultural Dance Ensembles (Davao City)
Conductor: Agnes F. Tatoy

Likayan Children Cultural Group (Mt. Province)
Conductor: Josephine D. Ngolab

Dinupdup Ethnic Group
Conductor: Olivia D. Eheng

DepEd Bulacan Performing Arts Group (Bulacan City)
Conductor: Marquez T. Cartel

Tiempo Elementary School
Cultural Dance Troupe (Abra)
Conductor: Emma C. Segunso

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Philippine Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker

Veronica Ylagan

The Philippine Ballet Theatre recently staged The Nutcracker, which was their closing production that capped the company’s Silver year celebrations. During the gala night performance of this classic ballet featuring the equally timeless music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the main lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines was bedecked with Christmas decorations and numerous booths making it seem like I was at a mini-bazaar. The atmosphere was really festive which was nice but I was there primarily for the ballet and also for the music. I do think that the atmosphere at the lobby carried over inside the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) because PBT did deliver a very enjoyable presentation of this well loved ballet.

Tiffany Mangulabnan

I initially hoped that the music for the gala night would be performed by an actual orchestra like their season opener of Romeo and Juliet which I unfortunately missed. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be although my initial disappointment was completely replaced with satisfaction and elation once I left the theater and hung out at the lobby for the meet and greet sessions.

Lobreza Pimentel

Going back to the ballet itself, the gala night performance featured Veronica Ylagan as Clara, Peter San Juan as the Nutcracker Prince, Lobreza Pimentel as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Tiffany Mangulabnan as the Dew Drop Fairy. It was interesting to note that Tiffany danced the role of Clara’s mother and was also one of the Snowflakes during the first act. And when I looked at the programme, I found out that Veronica and Lobreza also danced other parts during the other shows. Veronica looked very much like a little girl who probably still believed in Santa Claus who exuded joy upon receiving the nutcracker has her gift. Tiffany, on the other hand was very much a woman and she was very striking and had the presence and the charisma. Eyes are instantly drawn to her whenever she dances. Lobreza on the other hand had one of the most demanding parts in the entire ballet and I truly awaited the Pas de deux which she did quite well with Peter. Other highlights of the ballet were the Trepak with the Russian Dancers consisting of Mark Pineda, Matthew Davo and Jefferzon Comeros and the Waltz of the Flowers featuring Tiffany and the rest of the company. Both numbers were the most applauded in the evening.

The Mouse King

I’ve always enjoyed the music of Tchaikovsky and this work was one of the earliest pieces of orchestral music that I’ve heard and loved. This was also very instrumental in my current passion for classical music which is the main reason why I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to watch a performance of this. Although the lack of live music didn’t diminish the production that much, I would’ve been in seventh heaven had it been otherwise. But as I’ve mentioned earlier, my reservation about this was completely abolished when I immersed myself in the revelry that happened after the performance. For not only did the PBT have a successful staging of the ballet, but the overall experience in itself was top notch. There were quite a number of kids in the audience and I am pretty sure that they would have nice memories of this evening and would probably want to watch more ballet productions in the future.

Philipine Ballet Theatre Company Members

After the show, the dancers hung out at the lobby and they were swamped with audience members wanting to take photos. I remember quite well the time when they were presented to the media during the height of the controversial exhibit at the CCP months ago. Tiffany somehow became the unofficial spokesperson for the PBT when the media asked her questions regarding the controversy and the threat of budget cuts. And she didn’t look very comfortable back then. But after the gala night performance, she was all smiles and in her element as people kept on congratulating her. And it was very much the same for the rest of the company. The production, re-staged by PBT's Artistic Director Ron Jaynario also featured kids from the Sayaw Foundation and they did provide some cute moments during the first act. And these same kids contributed to the jolly mood at the lobby which reminded me that Christmas is indeed fast approaching. Congratulations to the Philippine Ballet Theatre for their 25th Anniversary and their successful season.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Disney's The Little Mermaid


Right after attending a piano masterclass, I was able to chat with a friend, pianist Dingdong Fiel and I found out that he would be one of the keyboardists for Atlantis Productions’ staging of Disney’s The Little Mermaid at the Meralco Theater. This musical, adapted from the classical animated  film, made a splash months ago when it was announced that recording artists Rachelle Ann Go and Erik Santos were cast as Ariel and Prince Eric respectively. Thanks to Dingdong, I was able to see how these two pop stars fared in their theatrical debut during the preview night of the musical.

Rachelle Ann Go was a perfect fit for the role of Ariel to the point that it’s very difficult to imagine someone else playing the part. The memorable song Part of Your World seemed to be tailor made for her. She was Ariel and Ariel was her, period. Erik on the other hand needed more princely conviction in tackling his role that didn’t have as much meat compared to Ariel. But he delivered his solo number Her Voice with relative ease reminding me that he is first and foremost a singer who is still trying to find his way into acting. But it was Jinky Llamanzares as Ursula who showed the two how musical theater is done. Her years of experience in both the local and international stage resulted in Jinky’s Ursula all but stealing the show. She was nasty, seductive, witty and she seemed to possess an infinite bag of vocal tricks.

The musical, directed by Bobby Garcia and Chari Arespacochaga also featured OJ Mariano as Sebastian, Lee Villoria as Flounder, Enrique Canoy as Scuttle, Calvin Millado as King Triton, Felix River and Jamie Barcelon as Flotsam and Jetsam respectively, Raymond Concepcion as Grimsby and Juliene Mendoza as Chef Louis. The musical had choreography by Cecile Martinez, set design by Lex Marcos, costume design by Erik Pineda, lighting design by Jay Aranda, puppetry design and execution by Liz and Benny Batoctoy and Sam Fuentes, and vocal coaching by ManMan Angsico.

There is no doubt that vocally, the cast was top notch. The set design, costumes and the props were satisfactory knowing that local productions do not have the same budgets as the original productions in Broadway or in West End. But I did have some reservations regarding the material itself. The musical adaptation had 10 additional songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater and book by Doug Wright. I think that the film didn’t translate well on the stage and that the changes made in the ending weren’t enough to affect me. There wasn’t enough urgency or sense of danger during the final confrontation that should have left me at the edge of my seat. I also think that my age manifested itself when I found myself cringing regarding the subplot about Prince Erik and his obligation to find a wife and get married before a certain date. I guess that I don’t believe in fairytales anymore and that I've grown cynical with age. And also, the new songs didn’t capture the magic that Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman did with the original soundtrack. After the musical, I wasn’t able to recall any of the tunes of the new songs since they were that forgettable. The changes made to Under the Sea like raising the key with Sebastian belting was too over the top and that lost the charm of the original for me. Still, with a material that didn’t prove to be a total hit for me, the cast and crew, as well as the rest of the production still managed to deliver a noteworthy staging of this musical. I expect that I will be in the minority and that most people will be singing praises for this production like the celebrities who were present during the preview night like Markki Stroem, Stephanie Dan, Pilita Corales and Jackie Lou Blanco.

Markki Stroem interviewed after the show

Atlantis Productions’ staging of Disney’s The Little Mermaid is made possible through a special licensing agreement with Music Theatre International.
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