Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Forbidden Broadway returns (Just accept it)

August 24, 2012, 8:00 PM
August 25, 2012, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium
RCBC PlazaMakati

Who knew that spoofing Broadway musicals and personalities would become a hit in a country that is actually half a world away from Broadway itself? Well, that was what exactly happened when Upstart Productions presented Forbidden Broadway in Manila last May. Now, the wacky crew of Liesl Batucan, Caisa Borromeo, OJ Mariano and Lorenz Martinez along with pianist Dingdong Fiel return to the hilarity that is Forbidden Broadway for a very limited, three performance run happening on August 24-25, 2012 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium at RCBC Plaza.

For those who still don’t know what this show is all about, Forbidden Broadway, written by Gerard Alessandrini, is New York’s longest running musical comedy revue. This show debuted back in 1982 and has spawned numerous versions including the newer productions that have lit up the lights on Broadway. The version that Upstart Productions presents in here is Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits which is what the title exactly suggests. Expect a whirlwind of around 30 musical numbers from 20 shows complete with numerous costume changes and hilarious character impressions.

OJ Mariano, Cathy Azanza-Dy, Caisa Borromeo, Liesl Batucan, Lorenz Martinez
and Onyl Torres

Another highlight of the previous run were the guest stars who appeared one per show that had people guessing. For this run, guest stars include Michael de Mesa and Nikki Gil. The third guest star still remains a mystery. But no longer a mystery are the production team led by director Joel Trinidad now joined by assistant director Cathy Azanza-Dy, light designer Martin Esteva, sound designer Sheryl Polancos, production designer Lawyn Cruz and musical director/vocal coach Onyl Torres. The production staff is composed of production manager Mariko Yasuda and stage manager Lani Tapia  The marketing, sales and publicity team of is led by PR and publicist Toots Tolentino with marketing manager Daphne Kimberly Uy and photographer Stanley Ong.

Forbidden Broadway is sponsored by Outback Steakhouse, Kashmir Restaurant, Stanley Ong Photography, Orange Segment, and our media sponsors BusinessWorld, HerWord.com, Sunday Inquirer Magazine, taxi.com.ph and Philippine Paradise Pages. Ticket buyers may avail of a 30% discount upon presentation of their ticket at the Outback Steakhouse Glorietta 4 branch from August 24 to September 8, 2012.

Ticket prices:
P1100 Orchestra Center
P1000 Loge Center
P900 Orchestra Side
P800 Loge Side
P700 Loge Rear
P600 Balcony

For inquiries:
Upstart Productions (0920) 941-6695, upstarttickets@gmail.com

Monday, July 30, 2012

2011 NAMCYA Champions to perform with the PPO

August 2, 2012, 8:00 PM
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Maria Jeline Oliva, violin
Jimmy Tagala Jr., violin
Gabriel Allan Paguirigan, piano
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Alexander Borodin In the Steppes of Central Asia
Henryk Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22
Camille Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35

One of the coolest prizes of being a National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) 1st prize winner is being able to perform as the featured soloist at a concert with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Three of the 2011 NAMCYA winners, Jeline Oliva (Violin Category B), Jimmy Tagala (Violin Category C) and Gabriel Paguirigan (Piano Category B) will do just that at the concert Classical Champs: The Young Music Idols when they perform with the PPO conducted by Olivier Ochanine this August 2, 2012, 8:00 PM.at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

I’ve seen these three perform before but never with an orchestra. I've seen Jimmy Tagala and Jeline Oliva compete during the finals of the NAMCYA last year. I also saw Jimmy took a masterclass with Ray Chen a few weeks before he competed. I last saw Gabriel Paguirigan as one of the three recitalists from the Philippine High School for the Arts some months ago. All of their previous performances that I've seen were either solo or chamber performances so it will be very interesting to see and hear them take the spotlight performing their winning concertos in full with an actual orchestra. Jeline performs Henryk Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22 while Jimmy performs the popular Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35. Gabriel performs Camille Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22. But before that, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra led by Olivier Ochanine will play Alexander Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia.

It’s been about three months since I last saw the PPO perform onstage and it is still more than a month before their concert season resumes. I also missed seeing last year’s concert that featured NAMCYA winners. I just hope that the weather cooperates this year so that I'll have no problems catching this concert.

Ticket prices:
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount

For inquiries:
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999

Friday, July 27, 2012

Joe: A Filipino Rock’sical

Patrick Libao as Jose Rizal

I’m still at awe at how the Philippine Stagers Foundation (PSF) and its roster of actors could keep up with such a grueling performance schedule of sometimes having five performances a day. After doing just that for many months during their previous production of Cory ng EDSA, a Filipino Musicale all over the country, the company gears for another monumental run with their newest offering, Joe: A Filipino Rock’sical. And I was once again very fortunate to see this musical production during their press preview performance at the St. Cecilia’s Hall at St. Scholastica’s College.

This musical, written and directed by PSF artistic director Atty. Vince Tañada tackles the story of national hero Jose Rizal and explores his human and vulnerable side rarely touched upon by textbooks. Again, Tañada juxtaposed Rizal, played by Patrick Libao with various characters from the current period acting as foils the life of the Philippines’ national hero. The characters in the present day are Vince Tañada as the playwright Joecas, Cindy Liper as the researcher Joanne, Jordan Ladra as the music director Hunter, Kierwin Larena as choreographer Bimbo, Adelle Ibarrientos as the costume designer Julia and Chin Ortega as the set designer Ambo. These characters were high school friends who met up once again after many years to create  a new musical about Jose Rizal upon Joecas and Joanne’s invitation. In the process of brainstorming, researching and conceptualizing for the musical, friendships are tested, unresolved issues resurface and old love rekindled. These scenes were presented alongside scenes of Rizal at the time when his romance with Josephine Bracken and the fate of the Philippines as well were at a major turning point.

The production of the musical in the story encounters a major hurdle when Joecas strives for artistic freedom and expression much to the chagrin of Joanne who is all for historical accuracy. This in turn made for the pivotal message of the entire play on what one is willing to give up in exchange for a higher ideal or principle. During the production of the musical, several points were raised about who Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken really are. Questions further came to fore on what was really known about these two, about their actual relationship, about what they did and also in what they did not do. The conflict between Joecas and Joanne in the present time somehow paralleled the dilemma faced by Rizal and Josephine as Rizal had to choose between his love for country and his love for his woman.

One thing that Joe: A Filipino Rock’sical succeeded on was sparking interest in Rizal. Normally, people only know of him through what had been taught to them in school. But this knowledge is severely limited depending only on the textbook that was supplied and the teacher in charge of the subject. This production raised a lot of questions and possibly even courted some controversies especially on the depiction of Josephine Bracken.

On the other hand, there were some things in the production that left me cringing in my seat. I do understand that the core audience of PSF’s productions are students in their teens so there are scenes that were catered to them and their sensibilities. The jokes especially the ones laced with sexual innuendos felt juvenile for me. There were also some scenes that were placed to elicit laughter that I felt didn’t serve to move the plot or provide characterization. But these scenes proved to be a hit among the predominantly high school student audience during the performance that I viewed. So I guess that it's a case of me being too old for their sense of humor.

The cast of Joe: A Filipino Rock'sical

The writing process of Joe: A Filipino Rock’sical was also a major eye opener for me. It was only during the press conference after the show that I learned that the songs (lyrics by Tañada, music by Pipo Cifra) making up the production numbers were the first to be written even before the final script was made. I initially thought that this was just another exception in the company's creative process but I was mistaken since the previous production Cory ng EDSA also went through the same thing. With such a demanding performance schedule, coupled with an unconventional way of writing  musicals and still garnering numerous Awit Awards in the end, it’s truly no wonder that I am still at awe with the Philippine Stagers Foundation (PSF), truly a David among the Goliaths in the Philippine theater scene.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Philippine Popular Music Festival Experience (PhilPop) Part 4

The Finals Night

PhilPop Grand Prize Winner Karl Villuga

By now, the winners of the first ever Philippine Popular Music Festival (PhilPop) have already made the news all over. The celebrations and hopefully, the conspiracy theories as well have mellowed down a bit. Although I think that the winning composers, grand prize winner Karl Villuga (Bawat Hakbang), and runners up Toto Sorioso (Tayo-Tayo Lang) and Soc Villanueva (Kontrabida) still couldn’t believe that they’ve won and are probably still on a PhilPop high. I was an adjudicator during the earlier rounds and I still feel that high since this has been incredible experience for me as well.

After the announcement of the finalists, what kept me on my toes was the announcement of the interpreters for the compilation album and the performances on finals night that was held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). And when the interpreters were finally announced, I was surprised by the inclusion of some artists like Nyoy Volante for Slowdancing, Sam Concepcion for Kontrabida and Marié Digby for 3 AM. Some interpreters were already expected like Cathy Go for Negastar, Gary Granada for Minsa’y Ibang Bansa and Joey Ayala for Piso.

I awaited the release of the album anxiously since it would be the first time for me to listen to the final songs entirely. During the screening process, we usually proceeded to the next entry by the time a song got into the chorus. And some of the entries were raw demos which aren’t fit for commercial release. Hearing the studio versions of the finalists made me think ahead on how they would fare in the local music industry outside of the competition like if they would gain some radio airplay.

Aside from the compilation album, the most awaited event for PhilPop has got to be the performances during the finals night. Here are my thoughts on the performances of the Top 14 songs that night which was hosted by Ogie Alcasid and Nikki Gil.

Music & Lyrics by Mike Villegas
Interpreted by Cathy Go

I guess that this song, tailor made for Cathy Go, was already in the can and Mike Villegas just decided to try his luck and enter it in the competition. Hence, a very comfortable performance by Cathy who had the daunting task of performing first. The song’s title, a play on Megastar and negativity caught my attention during the screening. The rest of the song was strong enough to carry it through the finals.

Dulo ng Dila
Music & Lyrics by Noah Zuñiga
Interpreted by Jay R & Deejay Poblete

I really liked this song when I first heard it during the earlier rounds. The triple meter, the old school vibe and the duet nature of the song appealed to me. I just wish that the chorus was just as strong as the verses.

Music & Lyrics by Kennard Faraon
Interpreted by Nyoy Volante

This is one of the finalists wherein I liked the submitted entry a lot more than the studio version. No offense to Nyoy but the one that I heard during the screening stood out more and was a lot more memorable with the electronic sound giving it a certain charm. I was not too keen with the live band arrangement during the finals night as well.

Minsa’y Isang Bansa
Music & Lyrics by Gary Granada
Interpreted by Gary Granada

It makes me wonder if people consider a song to be good if it has a moral lesson to it. Does a song become automatically good if it’s talking about a good cause like caring for the environment or being patriotic? These are the questions that came to mind when I heard not just this song but also a lot of songs as well during the screening process.

Tayo-Tayo Lang
Music & Lyrics by Toto Sorioso
Interpreted by Ebe Dancel

Here is a prime example that a song does not need to have a moral lesson in order to be good. Ebe Dancel had some major voice problems during this performance that I initially thought would hurt the chances of this song placing among the top three. Fortunately and a bit eerily, Ebe’s troubles somehow fit with the message of the song.

3 AM
Music & Lyrics by Keiko Necessario
Interpreted by Marié Digby

I remember humming the chorus to this song during the screening process. That is how inescapable this song’s melody is. The band, especially the drums, was off during the performance and I felt that they accelerated too fast to the point that I couldn’t figure out the downbeat during the chorus.

Music & Lyrics by Byron Ricamara
Interpreted by Rocksteddy

This was yet another song with an intriguing title that had everyone curious during the earlier screening rounds. I think that the chorus was too repetitive and that there could’ve been more to it lyrically. In the actual performance, the drums section was off again, just like what happened in 3 AM. I don’t know what happened but there could’ve been some problem with the band’s monitor.

Himig ng Panahon
Music & Lyrics by Thyro Alfaro
Interpreted by Duncan Ramos, Luke Mejares, Loonie, Thyro & Yumi

I admit that this song went under my radar. During the performance, I was put off with the sheer number of interpreters on stage. I think that this song could’ve done a lot better performance wise if there were fewer singers on stage. But I like how this song explored rhythms a lot more.

Music & Lyrics by Soc Villanueva
Interpreted by Sam Concepcion

I wasn’t too keen on this song until I heard Sam Concepcion’s version. This was when I felt that this could be part of his performance repertoire and that it could possibly stand on its own outside the competition.

Bawat Hakbang
Music & Lyrics by Karl Villuga
Interpreted by Mark Bautista and Akafellas

This gave me goosebumps when I first heard it. The refrain with the leaps leading to the chorus gave me chills and right then and there, it became my favorite. Mark Bautista being added with the Akafellas surprised me a bit. I wish that it was just Karl or Mark doing the solos instead of making it a duet.

Music & Lyrics by Edwin Marollano
Interpreted by Daniel Grospe

Daniel Grospe was entirely unknown to me before so I had no idea how he looked or sounded like prior to this. His voice sounded odd which suited the song. But the pants he wore during the performance actually stole the show.

Music & Lyrics by Trina Belamide
Interpreted by Baihana

The intro to this song had the adjudicators grinning and nodding their heads to the big band beat. It’s a cute song but for me, it was too old school and lacked that current vibe and feel. It felt too much: the big band arrangement and the jazz trio. It would’ve been a lot more refreshing if current vocal styles were used alongside the big band arrangement or a jazz trio singing alongside current rhythms.

Music & Lyrics by James Leyte
Interpreted by Brownman Revival & James Leyte

This is another upbeat song with that had adjudicators nodding their heads to the beat during the screening process. But I personally found it hard to connect with this song though. It was a personal song for composer James Leyte which was probably why it didn’t get through to me at all. But it did get through to a lot of people since this song won the Smart People’s Choice Award.

Music & Lyrics by Krist Melecio
Interpreted by Joey Ayala

This song is another case of too much patriotism and nationalistic for my taste especially when I’ve had my fill during the screenings. But I was pleasantly surprised on how well this song came out during the live performance. The addition of the drum line helped a lot to generate excitement for this song.

Other performances that served as breaks from the competition included an opening song by Ogie Alcasid and the Ryan Cayabyab Singers; Macho Guwapito by the comedy duo Jose and Wally; classic song medley by Christian Bautista, Erik Santos, Regine Velasquez, Basil Valdez and Sharon Cuneta; and a Metropop medley by a bunch load of singers. What made these numbers remarkable was that the network wars were forgotten at this point and all the performers on stage were just Filipino recording artists/musicians uniting to show everybody how awesome OPM is.

Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Sam Concepcion, 2nd Runner Up Soc Villanueva
& Kathleen Dy-Go

I am so glad that I wasn’t under any pressure to judge these entries since my part as an adjudicator was over and done with during the earlier rounds. But I did have my own bet that night which was Bawat Hakbang. And I always told people that I’ve always been behind my PhilPop bet “every step” of the way. Kontrabida was the other song that grew on me because of the studio recording by Sam Concepcion. And by the end of the night, the judges thought that these songs among the 14 are the most awesome:

Grand Prize
Bawat Hakbang by Karl Villuga

1st Runner Up
Tayo-Tayo Lang by Toto Sorioso

2nd Runner Up
Kontrabida by Soc Villanueva

Smart People’s Choice Award
Brown by James Leyte

The winners are definitely happy with their cash prizes, P1 million for Karl Villuga and P500,000 and P250,000 for Toto Sorioso and Soc Villanueva respectively. James Leyte bags P200,000 for garnering the most number of text votes.

The judges for the finals night of the Philippine Popular Music Festival were singer, songwriter, advocate and FILSCAP President Noel Cabangon, radio personality Chico Garcia, Universal Records’ Managing Director Kathleen Dy-Go, PhilPop Treasurer Randy Estrellado, former Eraserheads frontman Ely Buendia, songwriter and music director Louie Ocampo, and APO Hiking Society Member Jim Paredes.

DJ Myke, RAd, Poppert, Krina and Celine during the PhilPop after party

On a personal note, I'd like to thank Mr. Ryan Cayabyab for giving me the opportunity to be an adjudicator for this event. Never had I imagined that I'll be a part of this. Thanks also to Patricia Bermudez-Hizon who worked tirelessly in order to make this a success. Thanks also to Fonz, Kriz, Verna, Vida, Ross-man, Oscar, Vince, Rica, Perry, Jeman and Azrael.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tanghalang Pilipino tackles Truth and Consequence for their 26th Season

Antonio Ferrer, Cris Villonco and Noel Rayos

BREAKING NEWS: Due to the unfortunate natural phenomenon that we are experiencing now, we wish to let our valued ticketholders of WALANG SUGAT, subscribers, patrons and guests know that we are cancelling our 3pm show and the 8pm Gala Performance tomorrow, August 9, 2012, and the rest of the performances this weekend, August 10-12. We will, instead, open next week, August 16, Thursday.

Your tickets for the August 9-12 performances will be valid either on new special dates to replace the original schedules, or your preferred other performances subject to availability of seats.

Please contact 0917-750-0107, 0915-607-2275, or 0935-378-4781 or Tanghalang Pilipino office 8321125, local 1620 or 1621.

We also wish to let you know that we are coordinating with the officials of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) for an agreement that will allow TP to accept donations in cash or kind for the flood victims before and after the performances. We also plan to do a special fund-raising performance of WALANG SUGAT for the same cause. As Filipino artists, we, in Tanghalang Pilipino, commit, not only to the promotion of our craft, but also to community service and assistance.

Maraming salamat po.

Nanding Josef,
Artistic Director, Tanghalang Pilipino
Carlos Siguion-Reyna

After celebrating their silver anniversary season last year, Tanghalang Pilipino returns and centers on Truth and Consequence for the company’s 26th Season. The resident drama company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, TP presents four productions Walang Sugat, Walang Kukurap, Stageshow, and Ibalong that tackle human behavior and relationships that lead towards social transformation.

A press conference presenting the 26th season lineup was recently held at the National Commission on Culture and the Arts. This event was attended by Tanghalang Pilipino’s Artistic Director Nanding Josef, director Carlos Siguion-Reyna, some of the cast members of Walang Sugat, and also some members of the TP Actors Company.

During the press conference, Nanding Josef stressed once again how local theater companies are in need of not just only the support of the government, but also the support of private corporations, the media and the general public as well. It’s sad to see that local talent and productions, exceptional and awesome as they are, tend to get overlooked in favor of foreign artists and shows. And in a surprising turn, people who once scoffed at local productions usually have a change of heart once they get to experience how brilliant local productions are.

Antonio Ferrer

Here is Tanghalang Pilipino's 26th Theater Season 2012-2013 lineup:

August 9-26, 2012
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)

September 14-30, 2012
Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater)

October 10-21, 2012
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)

February 8-March 3, 2013
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)

Walang Sugat opens TP’s 26th Season

August 9, 2012, 8:00 PM Cancelled
August 10, 2012, 3:00 & 8:00 PM Cancelled
August 11, 2012, 3:00 & 8:00 PM Cancelled
August 12, 2012, 3:00 PM Cancelled

August 16, 2012, 8:00 PM
August 17, 2012, 8:00 PM
August 18, 2012, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
August 19, 2012, 3:00 PM

August 24, 2012, 8:00 PM
August 25, 2012, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
August 26, 2012, 3:00 PM

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

Walang Sugat is Tanghalang Pilipino’s opening salvo for their 26th Season starting this August 9 up to August 26, 2012 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater). Written by Severino Reyes, this sarswela focuses on the love story between Julia and Tenyong amidst the revolutionary period when the control of the Philippines is transferred from the Spaniards to the Americans.

This production is the first foray of acclaimed film director Carlos Siguion-Reyna to the realm of the stage. He will be joined by theater veterans like his niece Cris Villonco playing the role of Julia. Antonio Ferrer and Noel Rayos alternates as Tenyong, Julia’s love interest. Other cast members are Bodjie Pascua and Lou Veloso alternating the role of Tadeo, Red Nuestro and Jonathan Tadioan alternating as Lukas. Jenny Villegas and Jean Judith Javier alternate as Monica. Rounding up the main cast are Gino Ramirez as Miguel, Jelson Bay as Padre Teban, and Joseph Perez as Pedring along with the ensemble consisting of the TP Actors Company. Significant in this production is the return of Noemi Manikan-Gomez after many years away from the theater stage.

Cris Villonco

Cris Villonco, whom I’ve seen numerous times during the past year (and I am not complaining), will be playing Julia an ingénue role pushed to the limits as the character gets more mischievous compared to her previous roles. Noel Rayos and Antonio Ferrer are new faces  to me so it was a treat to see a sample performance from them during the press conference. Jenny Villegas and Red Nuestro also did a humorous duet that proved how splendid they are vocally.

When asked how he plans to interpret the material, director Carlos Siguion-Reyna told the media that he aims to show the freedom that our forefathers had and also the cost that they had to pay in order to gain that freedom. He further stressed that he wishes to explore divisions not just in the social and economic classes but also in the interests (especially the self serving ones) in people’s lives. He also plans to showcase the manipulations that people do to each other and the deceptions that people have to go through in order to gain power.

Hearing him say all of this made me so intrigued since I never imagined a sarswela to touch upon all of these. I am usually drawn towards the music in theatrical productions but with this kind of insight coming from the director himself, it made me anticipate Walang Sugat more. I admit that I am not really aware of what a sarswela is, but I am glad that Tanghalang Pilipino’s 26th season premiere offering will give me the opportunity to learn more about Filipino art forms aside from just having me entertained.

Cris Villonco and Noel Rayos

Walang Sugat features libretto is by Severino Reyes, with additional line by Nick Tiongson. The music is by Fulgencio Tolentino, Constancio de Guzman, Mike Velarde, with additional music by the show’s music director Chino Toledo. Nonoy Froilan choreographs while Tuxqs Rutaquio designs the set. James Reyes of Slims Fashion and Arts School designs the lead’s costumes and Katsch Catoy handles the light design.

Ticket prices:
*August 9, 2012 Opening Night
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount

For inquiries:
Cherry Bong Edralin 832-1125 local 1620/21, fax 832-3661
(0917) 750-0107, (0918) 959-3949, 218-3791
TicketWorld 891-9999

Thursday, July 19, 2012

MCOF Young Artists' Series 2012 I: Christian Tan

Violinist Christian Tan

Christian Tan, violin
Mary Anne Espina, piano

Eugène Ysaÿe Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 27 No. 2 Jacques Thibaud
Camille Saint-Saëns Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75
Nicanor Abelardo Cavatina
Pablo de Sarasate Zapateado Op. 23 No. 2
Maurice Ravel Tzigane

I’ve been aware of who Christian Tan is for some years now. I’ve seen him perform as a member of the Manila Symphony Orchestra and I also saw him compete at the most recent NAMCYA wherein he was awarded an Honorable Mention. It’s amazing that after all this time, we only got acquainted just right after the MCO Foundation had its press launch of its Young Artists' Series 2012 which was just fairly recent. Now that Christian and I formally know each other, it gave me more incentive to catch his concert that was the first of three performances comprising the Young Artists Series' 2012 held at the Filipinas Heritage Library.

Christian prepared a programme consisting of pieces that were both familiar and unfamiliar to me. The unfamiliar pieces, Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 27 No. 2 "Jacques Thibaud" and Camille Saint-Saëns' Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75 made up the first half of the concert. Christian was joined by pianist Mary Anne Espina during the Saint-Saëns piece. I haven’t heard these pieces before so I used this moment to increase my knowledge of the vast violin repertoire especially in chamber music. The second half consisted of pieces that are already very familiar with me: Nicanor Abelardo’s Cavatina, Pablo de Sarasate’s Zapateado Op. 23 No. 2 and Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane. It was during the performance of these pieces when I noticed that Christian’s demeanor changes and he shows some intensity and  emotion while playing compared to his shy and timid personality off stage.

Among the audience members at the intimate venue were a handful of members from the string section of the MSO who were in full support of Christian. Once he finished all of his pieces, his fellow musicians cheered him on prompting him to do an encore performance of Sa Kabukiran by Manuel Velez. Christian is still a very young musician who plans to gain scholarships so that he can further his studies abroad. Seeing his performance during this evening, I wouldn’t be surprised if I find out that he would have to leave temporarily the MSO to do just that.

The Young Artists' Series 2012 continues with soprano Elainne Vibal who will perform this July 19, 2012, 6:30 PM at the Filipinas Heritage Library. I last saw Elainne as part of the ensemble of the recent production of Madame Butterfly. She was also among the masterclass participants who performed at the Songs and Symphony Concert as well. Tickets are at P500 with student and senior discounts. For inquiries, contact the MCOF at 750-0768, (0920) 954-0053, the Filipinas Heritage Library  at 892-1801, and TicketWorld  at 891-9999.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

MSO II: The MSO with Regina Buenaventura

Arturo Molina conducts the Manila Symphony Orchestra

Regina Buenaventura, violin
Manila Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Molina, conductor

Paul Dukas The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Samuel Barber Violin Concerto, Op. 14
Zoltán Kodály Háry János Suite

After many months, the Manila Symphony Orchestra’s 2012 Concert season resumed for me when I watched the second night of their Magic, Fantasy and Ambition themed concert at the Philam Life Auditorium. During this evening, the orchestra, under the baton of Arturo Molina performed pieces by Paul Dukas, Samuel Barber and Zoltán Kodály. The concert also featured violinist Regina Buenaventura who is back in the country while she is taking a summer break from her studies in the US.

The Magic of the concert was represented by Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This piece was made immensely popular by the Disney animated film Fantasia and it was really a challenge for me not to conjure images of the film in my head while the performance was going on. But my focus paid off as I was able to gain a new insight regarding the piece since I got to focus on the musicians, especially the bassoonists. I wouldn’t hold it against any member of the audience if they envisioned Mickey Mouse, the brooms and the sorcerer while the orchestra was playing since the music did tell the story that was brought to life by the film.

Next to be performed was Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto which represented the theme Ambition. Violinist Regina Buenaventura told me weeks earlier that she was actually practicing Sibelius but had to go back to practicing Barber since this piece suited the theme of the evening more. It had been two years since I last saw Regina perform and I wasn’t completely satisfied by that performance owing to the poor acoustics of the performance venue. This time around, with the superior acoustics of the Philam Life Auditorium, I was finally able to hear and appreciate the nice, clear and expressive tone of Regina’s violin. Throughout the first two movements of the piece, she deftly played with finesse and an effortlessly sublime vibrato. And during the notoriously difficult third movement (which I think was where the ambition theme came from), she showed no signs of strain which made me believe that she’s one of the most relaxed violinists out there. Regina doesn’t dazzle audiences with fireworks or overt showmanship, but she mesmerizes instead with her elegance and restraint.

The last piece of the concert, the Háry János Suite by Zoltán Kodály represented the Fantasy theme. Like many members of the audience that night, it was my first time to see this piece performed live. I’ve listened to a recording prior to the performance and I took note of the cimbalom, an instrument used in this piece which is popular in Hungary but almost unheard of in this part of the world. For practical reasons, a keyboard simulating the sound of the cimbalom was used instead. I personally don’t like it when this happens since the mechanical sound that the keyboard generates doesn’t fit with organic, live orchestral sound. But I did enjoy the folk tunes that were featured in this suite. I think that if I’d known better the story of the opera where this suite was taken from, I would’ve appreciated this piece a lot more.

Concertmaster Gina Medina, violinist Regina Buenaventura
and conductor Arturo Molina

Regina didn’t have an encore and the audience would’ve been left unsatisfied if the orchestra didn’t play an extra piece. The concert duration was already relatively short compared to their previous performances so I think it was wise for the orchestra to play a bit more. And they did play more folk music by performing the orchestral version of Romanian Folk Dances by Béla Bartók. I don’t know how this piece fit with the Magic, Fantasy and Ambition theme that evening but no one complained. I’ve waited some months before the orchestral season resumed and now that they’re back, I couldn’t be any happier.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Eiga Sai 2012 Opening Night

The Eiga Sai is once again in town and that only means that the Japanese culture enthusiasts and movie buffs are braving the weather and the long lines to see contemporary Japanese films for free at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall. This annual film event is part of much awaited Philippines-Japanese Friendship Month organized by the Japan Foundation, Manila. Once again, I’ve had the privilege of being one of the guests during the festival’s opening night, an invitational only affair that happened a day before the public screenings began. The guests at the opening night savored the food and the drinks served at the cocktails held at the Atrium before the actual screening of the film. They also had fun at the photobooth which is always a hit in events such as these. This year, the opening film was Akunin (悪人)/Villain which is a movie that thrilled and challenged the viewer at the same time. Before the film was shown, Lala Fojas, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Shangri-La Corporation, Minister Shinsuke Shimizu, Minister and Head of Chancery of the Embassy of Japan, and Shuji Takatori, Director of Japan Foundation, Manila welcomed the audience, gave opening remarks and messages, and ultimately introduced the film.

Shinsuke Shimizu, Shuji Takatori, Lala Fojas, and Yukie Mitomi

Akunin (悪人)/Villain

It is very hard to talk about this film without revealing any spoilers. This movie is adapted from the novel of the same name by Suichi Yoshida. Directed by Lee Sang-il, this movie focuses on Yuichi Shimizu, played by Satoshi Tsumabuki, who becomes the suspect in the murder of Yoshino Ishibashi (Hikari Mitsushima). Another person who is suspected of murdering her is rich, college student Keigo Masuo whom she also met on the night that she died. The first act of this film went on like a typical crime tale that kept the audience guessing as to who was really the murder suspect. But the truth as to who really did it gets known earlier on. Entering the scene as well is Mitsuyo Magome (Eri Fukatsu) whose involvement with Yuichi moved and accelerated the story forward in ways and turns that I never expected. The film disturbed me in a way that a lot of the characters are sympathetic but they all had tragic flaws that eventually blurred the definition of who the villain really is. I left the theater hoping that an English translation of the novel is available at local bookstores since watching the movie made me really interested in getting the source material.

Eiga Sai 2012 will run at the Shangri-La Cinema 4 up to July 15, 2012. The festival then moves to Gaisano South Citi Mall in Davao on July 20-22, 2012. Ayala Center Cinema 4 will be the next stop on August 7-12, 2012. The final leg of the Eiga Sai happens at the UP Film Institute this August 15-21, 2012.

Guitar and koto duo Aki & Kuniko returns

Another Philippines-Japan Friendship Month 2012 event to look out for is the return of the guitar and koto duo of Aki & Kuniko. I was able to watch their performance last year and it’s not just the combination of the guitar and the koto that is to look out for. One also needs to take note of the differing styles of the two with Aki as the rocker with the guitar while Kuniko is the traditional one with the koto. The performance dates (free admission) are as follows:

July 13, 2012, 6:30 PM Abelardo Hall, UP College of Music, UP Diliman
July 14, 2012, 7:00 PM Conspiracy Café, Quezon City
July 16, 2012 6:00 University of the Cordilleras Theater, Baguio City
July 20, 2012 8:45 PM Jazz n’ bluz Bar & Restaurant, Cebu City
July 21, 2012 4:00 PM Ayala Center Cebu

Free admission

For inquiries:
Japan Foundation, Manila 811-6155 to 58, email@jfmo.org.ph
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