Friday, July 29, 2011

Cory ng EDSA, a Filipino Musicale

Cindy Liper as Cory Aquino

Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the ongoing Cinemalaya, I still managed to drop by the St. Cecilia’s Hall at St. Scholastica’s College to catch the press preview of the Philippine Stagers Foundation’s production of Cory ng EDSA, a Filipino Musicale. I admit that I was very much surprised when I saw the theater company’s profile. The company, headed by Atty. Vincent Tañada has been around for a decade already with an impressive number of productions already staged. But they’ve remained low key compared to other theater companies out there despite some of their members and productions garnering several Aliw Awards. But now, they are ready to take the limelight as they enter their second decade with their season opening musical about the life of one of the most important figures in recent Philippine history.

Cory ng EDSA, a Filipino Musicale, a sequel to the company’s most successful production Ako si Ninoy, stars PSF homegrown talent Cindy Liper who is reprising the role of Cory Aquino. The musical written and directed by Vincent Tañada, with music by Pipo Cifra and choreography by John San Antonio recounts several key moments in the life of the former president starting from the assassination of her husband Ninoy Aquino up to the time of her death. Also starring in this musical is Vince Tañada who plays the role of Peter, a reporter who covers the said events in Cory’s life. Rounding up the main cast are PSF company members Gabby Bautista, Jordan Ladra, Adelle Ibarrientos-Lim, Alex Dorola, Monique Azerreda and Chris Lim who play the various people whose lives were affected, touched and inspired by Cory Aquino. Glory Ann Nacional and Patrick Libao alternate as Cory Aquino and Peter respectively.

The chorus

Cory was very much known for her simple life which may not be an interesting enough material for a musical spectacle such as this. But Tañada remedied this by running her story alongside that of Peter and the rest of the characters whose stories provided the melodrama. Peter getting afflicted with a disease that made him move involuntarily was a nice touch since it further highlighted the stability, calmness and composure of Cory. This juxtaposition was very effective in showing the character of Cory in the play. Even the music remained true and consistent as Liper’s vocal parts were limited to a reassuring alto range while the vocal fireworks were delegated to the strong tenor of Tañada and the impeccable chorus.

The main cast

The musical production numbers were very interesting as almost all of them were extended medleys depicting montage scenes. These numbers showcased various music genres, costume changes and stylized choreography performed with such aplomb by the chorus. And in rare occasions, even Cory joined in the dancing. One notable song in the musical is Naaalala Kita, which is structured like a pop song primed for some radio airplay. The song is indeed catchy and I wouldn’t be surprised if audience members leave the theater humming the melody of this song. Consequently, an original cast recording of the musical will be released by Viva Records and that it will also include a pop version of Naaalala Kita by Nikki Bacolod.

The whole company

Cory ng EDSA, a Filipino Musicale is very much different from the plays that I’ve seen during the recently concluded Virgin Labfest. But productions such as this and the others that have been staged by the Philippine Stagers Foundation provide variety and can further make the theater scene here more vibrant. And the company is poised to do just that as Cory ng EDSA will be staged until March 2012 having runs at SM Centerpoint, SM North EDSA, Tanghalang Pasigueño and the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Filfest's All-Chestra continues with pianist Rudolf Golez

July 30, 2011, 8:00 PM
Insular Life Auditorium
Insular Life Tower
Filinvest, Alabang

Rudolf Golez, piano
Clarion Chamber Ensemble

Johann Nepomuk Hummel Septet for Piano, Winds and Strings in D minor, Op. 74
Frédéric Chopin Andante spianato et grande polonaise Brillante, Op. 22
Franz Liszt Mephisto Waltz No. 1, S.514
Conradin Kreutzer Quintet in A major

After missing the previous FilFest All-Chestra concert featuring Wilfredo Pasamba because of prior commitments, I told myself that I’d be making an extra effort to catch the next one. And I do really want to see this since it features pianist Rudolf Golez who is also a friend. I’ve seen him perform numerous times as a soloist but I’ve yet to see him play with others like an orchestra or an ensemble. I’m also curious to see who among the Clarion Chamber Ensemble will be playing in this concert. I’ve seen some of them before as guest musicians during performances by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. So despite the great distance and the long traveling time, I’ll be off to Alabang to see this concert.

Ticket prices:
P800 Orchestra
P400 Balcony
50% student discount
20% senior citizen discount

For inquiries:
Marie (0917) 817-7261, (0918) 941-9472, 585-3823

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Virgin Labfest 7 Experience Part 3

I’ve heard stories of people lining up to get tickets for the weekend performances at the Virgin Labfest but only end up getting disappointed. I initially hoped that I wouldn’t be one of them but Day 4 proved to be my unlucky day. I arrived early at the Cultural Center of the Philippines to secure my entry to Set C which happened to be one of the most highly anticipated sets. I, along with the people who formed the line at the box office, was no longer accommodated since the theater was already filled to capacity. There was nothing else left for me to do but go back to the Noli Me Tangere rehearsals and wait until it was time for me to head over to the MSO concert later that evening. Fortunately, I was able to secure my tickets for the last two shows (Sets A and C) happening on the following day. So despite not seeing any plays on Day 4, I was able to breathe comfortably since I knew that I’d be back for Day 5 with my entry to the two sets guaranteed.

Set A

by Juan Ekis

This felt a little flat for me. The characters Alvin (Joel Parcon) and Mina (Frankie Pascua) weren’t as engaging as the previous plays that I’ve seen. Despite the best efforts of the actors, I wasn’t as moved as I thought I would be. Personally, I’m hard to convince whenever there’s a movie about a filmmaker or a song about a songwriter and they had to be really exceptional for me to make it work. And this play featured a character who was a playwright so it really had to deliver in order for it to get over my bias. The play centers on a brother and his adoptive sister seeing each other again when they go back to their home to visit their dying father. And in the course of their conversation, the true feelings between the siblings, and the secret relationship between the father and the adoptive daughter were revealed. I thought that having these two revelations in such an intimate play was a bit too much. As much as I want to like this play, it felt short for me and it also suffered because the two other plays following it were very well done.

by Rachelle Rodriguez and Wennielyn Fajilan

Now, this play was both contemporary and smartly done so it was no wonder that this play was warmly received. Liz (Via Antonio) and Red (Noel Escondo) are a couple who meet only early in the morning while she is preparing to work as a nurse while he, a call center agent, is preparing to go to sleep. The conversation which touches relationship issues pertaining to work, studies, families and their physical need for each other was nicely handled in this play. The two actors were superb and I heard a lot of people asking if they were indeed a couple in real life (they aren’t). Most of the issues weren’t groundbreaking, in fact they were all too familiar, but watching the conversation unfold and ultimately end didn’t feel like watching a rerun of a news broadcast. This play really engaged the audience which the first play wasn’t able to accomplish.

by Dingdong Novenario

RAd with the Kafatiran cast and crew

With the level of energy and enthusiasm of the audience raised by the previous play, the stage was set for Kafatiran which has one of the most interesting premises for this year’s Virgin Labfest. The existence and role of homosexuals during the time of the Philippine revolution especially at the Katipunan is something that I’ve never thought of during my history lessons. And if one expects a serious treatment of this matter in this play, then he is mistaken. The story is about three members of a secret faction of the Katipunan namely Francisco “Ka-Kiko” Martinez (Acey Aguilar), Icasiano “Ka-Siano” Lirio (Ian Lomongo) and Roberto “Ka-Obet” Bauzon (Marco Viaña) testing a new recruit Antonino “Tonio” Corpus (Abner Delina) to see if he belongs with them. The recruitment process is littered with modern gay culture references like a YouTube video that went viral for example. And to see it in the midst of a brewing revolution during the time of the Spanish occupation proved to be absolutely hilarious. I felt that the manifesto getting altered with the inclusion of gay lingo was too predictable and would eventually fall flat as the play neared its end. But the serious delivery of this altered manifesto by the characters who were seemingly oblivious to the fact that this gay lingo in modern times is considered humorous, definitely became the climax of the play.

Set C

Streetlight Manifesto
by Mixkaela Villalon

A play with a corrupt police officer, a journalist lured into the dark side and a couple of killers for hire sounds like a page out of an issue of Gotham Central, a comicbook about the detectives in Gotham City were Batman lives and fights crime. And indeed the tone of the play with its dark humor and seedy characters were inspired by this comicbook which happened to be one of my all time favorite titles. The geek in me felt giddy when I got the references while I was watching and thinking that I’ve had an edge compared to the rest of the audience. I don’t know if I’d be able to appreciate this play if I didn’t become aware of the comicbook inspiration. But it felt for me like I was watching my favorite comicbook come to life. As I’ve said before, the play is about a police officer named Alejandro (Paolo O’ Hara) and a journalist named Trina (Ness Roque) trying to find out the truth behind the bodies left behind underneath a streetlight. And their quest to find the truth leads both of their fates to the hands of the hired killers Gillian (Adrienne Vergara) and Samael (Bong Cabrera) who were actually responsible for the dead bodies in the first place. This is indeed a wicked tale on how the quest for truth and ultimately justice is derailed and the line between the upholders and the breakers of the law becomes blurred as the two eventually crossover. And sadly in the play, only the streetlight knew the truth but it too was shut off in the end.

by Rae Red

After a twisted play full of deranged characters, this play is a nice follow up with its simple yet charming premise of a young elevator boy named Alwin (Cris Pasturan) patiently awaiting the time when he could finally leave his dead end job. While going through his seemingly boring job, he gets to enter into the lives of the numerous tenants as they ride inside the small space of the elevator for a short amount of time. The concept of having all the main action happening inside an elevator may seem to be a limitation at first glance, but they managed to pull it off brilliantly. Add to that the quirky characters residing in the condo like Mr. Valdez (Jerry O’ Hara) and Mrs. Valdez (Peewee O’ Hara) and the spoiler of the couple’s marriage, Nadia (Tess Jamias), Angel (Regina De Vera), and Dante Del Rosario (Marco Viaña). But for a lot of people in the audience, it was the actor Jelson Bay who portrayed multiple roles who stood out. Alwin may seem to have found a way out of his uninspiring job, but he feels so attached to the residents of the condominium who constantly use the elevator that he eventually finds it hard to leave. The plot in itself is simple and not epic at all but the superb execution of all the technical elements falling into place coupled with the superb acting especially of Cris Pasturan, who is a natural, made this one of the hits of the labfest.

Evening at the Opera
by Floy Quintos

At first, when I was told that this play would have dialogue in English, I did worry a bit since it may not work. But Floy Quintos crafted a brilliant play wherein the manner in which English was used even defined the characters. Now that was absolutely exquisite. The play is about Miranda (Anna Abad Santos), the governor’s wife who is staging a full length opera as her birthday gift to her impoverished province. This opera doesn’t sit well with her husband Governor Bingo Beloto (Jonathan Tadioan) who believes that the money spent in this endeavor is better served to projects with more mass appeal. And added pressure is brought upon to Miranda by the haunting presence of her deceased mother Mamang (Frances Makil Ignacio). The play was set inside a bedroom as the couple prepare for the opening of the opera. As she puts on her makeup and fixes her hair, and as he dresses up formal clothes he can't stand to wear, the conversation between the couple ranges from his affairs, her allegations of corruption against her husband and his refuting of his wife’s misguided aspirations for the province. And while this was all happening, Mamang lingered on although she could do nothing but accept what has happened to her daughter despite her best intentions. Tempers flared, egos were trampled on and dreams were proven futile but the couple still went to the opening, dressed to the nines with smiles for their constituents as if the opera would indeed herald the prosperity of their province. It was such an exquisite play and I really appreciated it knowing how close I was to not seeing it had I not secured my ticket for this last show.

Food at the after party were more than just Skyflakes

I can’t help but smile when I think that the first ever play that I saw had the main character celebrating his birthday. The last play that I saw also happened to have the main character celebrating her birthday as well. And my birthday also fell on the duration of the Virgin Labfest. No wonder I felt good during the five straight days that I went to the CCP despite the heavy rain and some mishaps. And as an added bonus, I was also able to be at the cast party afterwards wherein I saw some of the cast and crew act all crazy and then get drunk. I know that missed some events related to the labfest like the lunch with the other playwrights, the staged readings, the earlier Fragments and the book launches but as a first timer, what I was able to experience was truly amazing and I sincerely hope to be back next year for the Virgin Labfest 8.

VLF Actors Abner Delina and Olive Nieto

The Virgin Labfest 7 Experience Part 2

A day after watching Set D of the Virgin Labfest, I attended an opening of an exhibit that finished early in the evening. Since it was still too early for me to go back home, I decided to take a walk towards the Cultural Center of the Philippines which was just nearby to see what was happening over there especially regarding the VLF.  I didn’t plan on watching any sets when I dropped by but I was able to see some Fragments performances featuring Kontrabida Inc. and not only that, I was snuck into the Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater) and actually saw the last play of Set E which was Ondoy. Sometimes, good things happen when I least expect it and there’s nothing else for me to do but to accept them and be thankful that those good things came my way. So thank you Ms. Clottie Lucero for whisking me inside the theater for a bonus viewing of Ondoy.

The Sipat Lawin Ensemble

I was scheduled to watch the next day, which is my Day 3, the whole of Set E which meant that I’d be seeing Ondoy twice. And after that, I’d also be catching Set B. It was still rainy but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. And it was nice seeing some musician friends there and they were pleasantly surprised that I was watching this year considering how they tried to convince me to watch the past year. To sum things up, Day 2 was just basically hanging out at the CCP and then getting the chance to see Ondoy while Day 3 was my first ever two sets in a day experience.

Set E (Revisited)

Balunbalunan, Bingibingihan
by Debbie Ann Tan

This was the play that made me realize how good the Virgin Labfest really is. No offense to the people involved in Set D but this was notches above the previous plays that I’ve seen so far. The play tells the story of Gilbeys (Bembol Roco) and Brandy (Missy Maramara), a couple trying to make ends meet via prostitution with the husband as the pimp. When required to lay low for a while, they are forced to take in a boarder, Whiskey (Paul Jake Paule) whom they convince to join them in their schemes. The unfolding of the plot and the portrayal of the characters kept me engaged throughout the play. I never thought that I’d care too much for the fate of a pimp and a whore especially when Whiskey finally revealed his true intentions at the end of the play. And seeing Bembol Roco act on stage was definitely a thrill for me.

Actor Cris Pasturan

Higit Pa Dito
by Allan Lopez

Compared to the first play, the material presented here is a bit thin and it’s up to the acting of the cast to carry this and that was exactly what they did. It was just a simple conversation between a mother Bing (Mailes Kanapi) and her grown up son Kael (Cris Pasturan) while unpacking stuff. I liked the part when their roles got reversed with the mother moving out and having second thoughts on whether she could survive on her own. And it was up to her son to reassure her and offer her support. The story unfolded without any earth shattering revelations but the intimacy between the two characters sharing these kinds of moments together was enough to move me. I noticed that Kael exited rather oddly which left me wondering if Bing actually had a conversation with her son in the first place or if everything was just in her head. Besides, Kael called her mother crazy at one point in the play. I also found the use of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in the end rather poetic especially with the sun rising lighting effect.

by Remi Velasco

I was able to see this twice and it’s extremely obvious as to why this was the favorite of many from last year. The buzz for this play was that it was actually better compared from the one staged last year because of the new actor playing the role of Obet (Jelson Bay). Physically, he does look like a wimp especially compared to his wife Mercy (Cai Cortez) who exudes an intimidating presence as a nagger. Ondoy tells the plight of a husband and wife who fight and bicker while being stuck at the roof of their house during the typhoon Ondoy which heavily flooded practically almost all of Metro Manila. The physical contrast and chemistry between the two actors coupled with the excellent script and direction made this play such a hit. And I was glad to see it twice since the second time I saw it meant that I was able to pay more attention to detail and see the differences the first performance had compared to the second one that I saw. And the relief goods giveaway after the play was a cute gimmick as well.

Set B

Isang Gabi Bago Magbukas ang Portrait of an Artist as Filipino ni Nick Joaquin
by Carlo Pacolor Garcia

This was the first ever full length play staged at the festival so I wasn’t the only one who was new to this. Featured in the play were fifteen actors (Mailes Kanapi, Che Ramos, Ian Bautista, Roeder Camañag, Paolo Rodriguez, Olive Nieto, Chromewell Cosio, Kathlyn Castillo, Acey Aguilar, Yong Tapang, Rolly Innocencio, Skyzx Labastilla, Russell Legaspi, Irene Delarmente and Joel Saracho) and with scenes with all of them on stage and sometimes off it meant that there’d be lots of things going on. I understood that while the characters were having a rehearsal, people start getting killed. But beyond that, I was a bit perplexed as to what really happened. I honestly found some bits difficult to understand since while my focus was on someone, something else was happening with the other actors which I failed to catch. Add to that that I wasn’t able to understand the dialogue during the big reveal as to why the killer set out to kill everyone. Honestly, I didn’t even get who got killed in the first place. Yes, I found some bits funny like the occasional lines of Elsa and Bitoy but plot wise, I was completely lost. And I guess that it didn’t help as well that I am not really familiar with the Nick Joaquin material that was used in the play so I failed to get a lot of the references. This is one play that I need to see again in order for me to really get it.


Kontrabida, Inc.

Kontrabida, Inc.
by Krista Ann Taclan

One iconic, stereotypical kontrabida (villainess) is already funny. But to have a group of them acting as either amigas or rivals really delivered the laughs. I really adore actresses who portray kontrabidas so I really appreciated the numerous skits that the Sipat Lawin Ensemble performed during the breaks in between sets. And I found it funny that although the kontrabidas (Bing, Princess, Bella and Celia) were fighting amongst each other, they eventually end up ganging up on poor Marian.

Sets E and B are finally done and over with for me. Two more sets to go to see over the weekend but I’ve heard about the weekends at the Virgin Labfest and that means that I need to have some luck on my side.

The Virgin Labfest 7 Experience Part 1
The Virgin Labfest 7 Experience Part 3

The Virgin Labfest 7 Experience Part 1

For the past couple of years, I’ve been wondering what it was about the Virgin Labfest that made people line up outside the Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater) to see it. Last year, some friends have actually tried to convince me to go and check this festival for short, one act plays so that I could see what the fuss is all about. But since this event was also part of the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Brave New Works season, there was usually another event happening simultaneously and I happened to choose to watch that other event instead of the VLF. I guess that what I’ve been trying to say is that in regards to the VLF, I am still a virgin. But I’ve been curious as to what this was all about and indeed have wondered when I will have my first taste.

Thankfully, I finally had my first taste this year which is the seventh staging of the Virgin Labfest. And not only did I have just a small taste, but I devoured and had my fill of almost everything that they had to offer since I managed to see all of the plays. And add to that the lunch that I had with some of the playwrights a couple of weeks before the start of the festival and I also was present at the after party that happened right after the last show. The only things that I’ve missed were the staged readings, the book launchings and the earlier on site performances. But for a virgin like me, it was indeed a very good first time experience.

I wasn’t able to catch the earlier dates of the festival and instead, I decided to see my first ever play/set during its second week and on my actual birthday. So I did find it quite amusing that the first play of the second set featured a character who was also celebrating his birthday. And since this was my first, the set and the plays included in it set the tone and the standard for the rest of the Virgin Labfest for me.

The VLF 7 after party

Set D

The Valley Mission Care
by Russell Legaspi

The premise of the play is that Florencio Manatili (Siegfried Sepulveda), a resident of the nursing home Valley Mission Care in California, wants to go out and fulfill a promise on the night of his birthday. Also one of the reasons why he wants to get out of the nursing home is the Doctor (Richard Cunanan) who, despite his good intentions, extreme politeness and enthusiasm, comes across as extremely annoying. Florencio, finds an ally in Filipina nurse Ashlyn (Mayen Estañero) and he forces her to join him in his schemes. For me, it was Ashlyn who stood out in the play. As I’ve said, the Doctor came out as an annoying character, which made me understand why Florencio hated the nursing home. Ashlyn’s roughness, her endearing provincial accent and her naïveté was a nice contrast to the Doctor’s extremely polished American twang whenever he delivers the Valley Mission Care’s scripted lines like an annoying salesperson. The plot near the end got a bit predictable and I saw the ending even before they got into it. But the character development and the relationship that was formed between Florencio and Ashlyn as the play progressed were high points for me.

Mga Lobo Tulad ng Buwan
by Pat Valera

Now, this one was difficult for me to get into. I’m not really used to this kind of play and I don’t think that I’ve seen something like this before. The play focuses on three women, the mother Lourdes Conchas (Mary Jane Alejo), the pregnant wife Enriquita Villacarlos (Katte Sabatte) and the daughter Kristina Fontanilla (Chic san Agustin) grieving over the loss of their loved ones that were lost during the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars. They tell stories about their loved ones, having brief moments of happiness until this was shattered by the reality of the tragedy and the finality of death. Conflict arose when the mother decides to move on with her life and take care of her other children who were still alive. The play spoke of metaphors with the title as a prime example, but I confess that I found it hard to see what those metaphors are. I wasn’t even sure if the two leads actually went into the sea and drowned themselves or if this was yet another metaphor. And I wasn’t able to connect much with the grieving women since I haven’t experienced a similar loss. This play was beyond my grasp and I believe that I have to educate myself further with the various forms of theater in order for me to appreciate this kind of play.

Bawal Tumawid, Nakamamatay
by Joey Paras

This play definitely has mass appeal. It is a comedy about Eva (Kiki Baento) who tries to cross a busy EDSA street. Her journey to get into her father’s funeral is delayed by hesitation brought about by the warning sign Bawal Tumawid Nakamamatay, the rainy weather and the lack of taxi cabs. And all of these force her to have a conversation with Mang Caloy (Leo Rialp) who is awaiting someone on the same busy EDSA street. The play did provide the laughs especially when some cast members who were relegated to the background butt in with their totally unrelated lines that somehow fit in and actually provided the punch line to the conversation of the leads. I felt that the play ran out of gas especially when things were starting to get serious. And in order to jolt people out of the possible tear jerker, the play had to resort to a happy ending with some shock value added. I’m glad that the set ended up with a comedy like this since the previous two sets were a bit depressing to watch back to back with tragic endings. The other cast members of this play were Gimay Galvan, Mark Jones Simbit, Vera Capiral, Jovanni Cadag, Rodel Bar Sumooc, Floiderell Zulueta, Chritine Joy Mangahis, Ramil Pauig and Biboy Ramirez.

Scenes from the VLF 7 after party

Set D finally got me devirginized to the Virgin Labfest but I wasn’t completely satisfied. Now that I’ve had my first taste, it’s time for me to taste more and watch the other plays.

Ian Lomongo during the VLF 7 after party

The Virgin Labfest 7 Experience Part 2
The Virgin Labfest 7 Experience Day 3

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

MSO II: The Artistry of Thanos Adamopoulos

Thanos Adamopoulos, violin/conductor
Manila Symphony Orchestra

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Overture from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492
Ludwig van Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

Wow, I didn’t have to wait that long to see the Manila Symphony Orchestra perform once again since I only had to let nine days pass since the last time I saw them perform which was during the concert of pianist Lorenzo Medel. While it only took a short while for some people to see the MSO once again, it took about a year instead for them to see guest conductor/violin soloist Prof. Thanos Adamopoulos perform since he had to cancel last year due to medical reasons. Thankfully this year, his good health meant that he was able to come to Manila. And despite the heavy rains, people responded by coming in droves at the Philam Life Auditorium to see the MSO’s second concert for their 2011 Season entitled The Artistry of Thanos Adamopoulos.

They had a very accessible programme consisting of popular and perennial favorites. The starting piece was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, K.492 which was played delightfully despite the horns’ hiccups. And right from the start, all eyes were on Adamopoulos and he truly had a very interesting conducting style: no baton and an occasional wiggling of his fingers.

The next piece was a rare treat since Adamopolous was not just the conductor but also the soloist for Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 with the cadenza by Fritz Kreisler. This meant that concertmaster Gina Medina had more responsibilities during this piece which she handled brilliantly. But I felt that Adamopoulos played too politely and I waited for him to add some vulgarity in some passages. But instead of being put off by this inoffensive way of playing, his demeanor, mastery and presence made me accept that the piece could indeed be played politely whatever that may mean to others. After this piece, people applauded persistently so that he would do an encore with the violin before the intermission started which he did when he played the Fritz Kreisler transcription of Melodie of the Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck.

Prof. Thanos Adamopoulos and the Manila Symphony Orchestra

I almost had the same feeling during the last piece which was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64 which made up the second half of the concert. Adamopoulos conducted it in a way that the resulting performance was so different from what I am used to and actually prefer. For example, the second movement felt a bit too fast for me. But it felt odd that I didn’t have the urge to just walk out and scoff at the performance simply because they didn’t play it the way that I wanted to. Instead, I was able to see and hear the piece from a different perspective, realizing that it could be played that way.

Prof. Thanos Adamopoulos with RAd and the Pinoy Violinists

I would’ve loved to have the opportunity to ask him about his decisions on why he played and conducted the way he did but he was mobbed by the audience right after the concert. Even having a photo with him along with my friends from the Pinoy Violinist group proved to be a test of patience. Overall, this was truly a very interesting concert for me. The pieces as I’ve said before are very familiar to me and to hear them performed so differently and making me accept these interpretations not just as valid and but still oddly appealing and moving is truly a testament to the artistry of Thanos Adamopoulos.

Text by RAd
Photos by Yuuko-san

The Noli Me Tangere, the Musical Experience Part 1

The Music Run Through with Mr. Ryan Cayabyab

Ryan Cayabyab gives instructions

Ever since I heard a few musical numbers from Noli Me Tangere, the Musical during the J.P., ang Gig ni Rizal and also at Tanghalang Pilipino’s 25th Season presscon, I realized that I couldn’t get enough and that I had to hear more. Fortunately, I had the chance to drop by during the cast's music run through rehearsal with no other than Mr. C himself, composer Ryan Cayabyab. His music along with National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera’s libretto give so much prestige to this musical and I couldn’t help but expect a lot from the cast.

It was still a very rainy day that afternoon but thankfully, it was dry and comfortable inside the rehearsal area at the Aliw Theater. Some of the cast members were already there finishing their lunch when I arrived. And soon after, they started vocalizing while being accompanied by Music Director Jed Balsamo on the piano. Right from the start, I noticed at once how strong they are vocally. And then a few moments later, Ryan Cayabyab arrived and they got into serious singing.

More instructions from Mr. C

I was extremely fortunate to see how Ryan Cayabyab works. It was truly amazing to see how he made one piece, with the chorus singing just in unison, sound a lot better when he suggested that they add more character to their voices. And this resulted in an unusual and rather haunting texture but sounding a lot better even though they were just singing the same notes. And hearing them that close with their voices reverberating at the hall was such a treat for someone like me who had been looking forward to hear the chorus sing. And I wasn’t disappointed especially when I heard them take on my favorite song as of the moment which is Sa Labas ng Bayan.

Ryan Cayabyab looks on as Jed Balsamo plays the piano

The leads and those with supporting roles also went through their songs as well. Gian Magdangal who plays Crisostomo Ibarra was solid as always. Cris Villonco as Maria Clara surprised me a lot since she sang with such maturity that I found it hard to believe that she’s no longer that little girl on television. Garry Lim and Ring Antonio who play Don Tiburcio and Doña Victorina respectively sang an animated and comedic duet without breaking a sweat. Al Gatmaitan is a very interesting Padre Salvi since he is more menacing than the frail priest depicted in the novel. And there’s nothing frail about his tenor voice. The other Ibarra, Mark Bautista and Bodjie Pascua who plays Padre Damaso were not present during the rehearsal so I hope to see them when I visit once again.

Ryan Cayabyab, suggested that they go through the entire score which meant that they would work over time but no one complained. Sadly, I had another event to attend to so I wasn’t able to see how they wrapped up this rehearsal. But as I’ve mentioned earlier, I do plan to drop by once again and hopefully see and hear those who weren’t present before. Until then, I’ll keep on humming the melody of Sa Labas ng Bayan.

Gian Magdangal sings his lines

Noli Me Tangere, the Musical runs on all weekends of August 2011 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

JAPAN: Kingdom of Characters Opening

The JAPAN: Kingdom of Characters exhibit had its opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. Despite the rainy weather, quite a number of people, including Doraemon, showed up and it was no surpise that a handful came in their cosplay attire. The exhibit, presented by the Japan Foundation, Manila and the Embassy of Japan along with Toshiba, highlights the characters originating from manga, anime, video games, etc. that has become part of the daily life of the Japanese people.

Gerry Torres, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila gave the welcome remarks while Corazon Alvina (Vice Chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila), Shinsuke Shimizu (Minister and Head of Chancery of the Embassy of Japan), Shuji Takatori (Director of the Japan Foundation, Manila) and Josel Ignacio (Director for Northeast Asia Division of the Office of Asian and Pacific Affairs, DFA) gave messages to the guests gathered at the lobby before formally opening the exhibit.

Doraemon makes a special appearance

Then it was time to view the exhibit. The exhibit consisted of prints which showed which characters came into the forefront during a particular decade. I liked how some historical events were placed beside the prints giving an idea on how life was like during the decade and how these characters fit in to the overall picture of Japanese history and culture. The prints were supported by a handful of statues like that of Pikachu from Pokemon and the RX-78 Gundam from the Mobile Suit Gundam series.

RX-78 Gundam

Another part of the exhibit was a reproduction of a teenager’s room full of Hello Kitty items which is typical for most girls in Japan. This showed how the characters have already become part of the Japanese people’s daily lives. And this penetration has conquered all demographics not just children and teenagers. And then there were also a few videos projected on the wall showing flash animation of newer characters. The video portion showed where the future of characters is headed. There’s also a portion where characters representing different regions were shown. It’s interesting to realize that characters/mascots are so accepted in Japanese society that regional governments actually make use of them to foster hometown pride and affection.

JAPAN: Kingdom of Characters

The exhibit is not that extensive especially for someone like me who is very much aware of who these characters are and what their impact had been to Japanese society which has now expanded globally. I guess that this exhibit is really geared towards the uninitiated, the one who would scratch his or her head thinking why an adult male likes to build Gundam models. I did feel that the exhibit should’ve included more in depth historical information regarding the characters and their cultural, social, political, economical impact in Japan. I guess that this will be fulfilled by a couple of lectures happening at the same venue. Prof. Tito Valiente (Japanese Studies) of the Ateneo de Manila University will give a lecture on July 29, 2011 2:00 PM while Prof. Romanlito Austria (College of Fine Arts) of the University of the Philippines will give the other on August 12, 2011 2:00 PM. The JAPAN: Kingdom of Characters exhibition runs until August 20.

RAd and Shuji Takatori, Director of Japan Foundation, Manila

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Piano Duet featuring Raul Sunico and Aries Caces

July 10, 2011 8:00 PM
Philam Life Theater
UN Avenue, Manila

Raul Sunico, piano
Aries Caces, piano

Johann Sebastian Bach Prelude and Fugue for Four Hands
Witold Lutosławski Variations on a Theme by Paganini for Two Pianos
Frédéric Chopin Rondo in C major for Two Pianos, Op. 73
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Two Pianos
Franz Liszt Concerto Pathétique

Probably the most interesting thing about this piano duet concert by renowned Filipino pianists Raul Sunico and Aries Caces would be how these two who came from different schools of music, with different approaches to piano music would be able to perform together. Sunico studied at the Juilliard School in New York, USA while Caces studied in Austria. I guess that the only way for me to find out how this very interesting scenario would go is for me to drop by and watch the concert on July 10, 2011, 8:00 PM at the Philam Life Auditorium.

Pianist Raul Sunico

The programme for the evening will consist of compositions for four hands/two pianos by Bach, Lutosławski, Chopin, Poulenc and Liszt. All of them are familiar composers but I’ve never heard any of the works in the programme so it’s definitely going to be a very interesting evening.

Pianist Aries Caces

Proceeds for this Piano Duet concert, organized by the Cultural Arts Events Organizers in partnership with Lyric Piano, BusinessWorld, Vision Classic and PCSO will benefit the children of Concordia’s Children Services, Inc. which takes care of abandoned, neglected, abused and orphaned children from the Pasig and Sta. Mesa area.

For tickets and inquiries:
COEA (0918)347-3027, 782-7164
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