Thursday, October 31, 2013

Película, 12th Spanish Film Festival Opening Night

Alejandra Lorente

The 12th edition of Película-Pelikula, the Spanish Film Festival had a promising start when it opened with a cocktail reception over at the Ayala Museum. One of the special guests on that night was Spanish actress Alejandra Lorente whose short film Aquel no era yo/That Wasn’t Me was among the films screened in this festival at Greenbelt 3.

Spanish Ambassador Jorge Domecq delivers his speech as
FDCP's Briccio Santos and Alejandra Lorente look on

Spanish Ambassador Jorge Domecq and the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ Chairman Briccio Santos, through their speeches that night, reminded the guests once again of the special ties between Philippine and Spanish cinema. And this special bond between the two nations can be seen in the continued popularity of Película-Pelikula, despite it being the only foreign film festival in here that I know of that still charges for admission, albeit very cheaply compared to regular films.

Alejandra Lorente and Baron Geisler

Filipino actors Pen Medina, Ronnie Lazaro and Baron Geisler were among those who rubbed elbows with the Spanish community, members of the diplomatic corps and other invited guests by the Embassy of Spain and Instituto Cervantes during the cocktail reception.

Alfonso Tagliaferri, Cristina Moricca, Nino Quartana, Emanuela Adesini,
Massimiliano Moniaci, RAd, and Andrea Capranico

I was able to have a brief chat with Alejandra Lorente and I told her how I felt when I saw her film Aquel no era yo/That wasn’t Me during the press preview. She told me that even though she knows the film very well and had seen it many times, it is still hard for her to sit through it.


The opening film for this year was Blancanieves, a film by Pablo Berger which swept the most 27th Goya Awards by winning in 10 categories. The movie, a gothic melodrama retelling of the Snow White, is also a tribute to silent films. Set in the 1920’s Spain, Snow White is Carmen (Macarena García), the daughter of a famous bullfighter (Daniel Giménez Cacho). Upon her father’s death, young Carmencita (Sofía Oria) gets to live with her wicked stepmother, Encarna (Maribel Verdú). But those who know the Brothers Grimm fairy tale will know how the story will go from here.

When the stepmother wanted the grown up Carmen out of the picture, the poor girl ends up joining a band of touring bullfighting dwarves. The dwarves take in Carmen and train her to be a matador, thus enabling her to follow her late father’s footsteps. Carmen, in time becomes popular in bullfighting circles and this catches the attention of her stepmother. What was Carmen’s greatest moment inside the ring becomes tragic as she bites the apple given by her stepmother which is very much according to the fairy tale. But the biggest twist in this film is that the prince who appears to have awakened her from her slumber is not the same as the fairy tale.

What made this film standout for me are the striking looks of the characters. Not being able to utter any lines, the actors had to rely on their faces, especially their eyes, to do all of the acting. The stepmother, portrayed by Maribel Verdú, had the most captivating face among the whole cast.

The film also had a very lush score by Alfonso de Villalonga, featuring the distinct music of southern Spain that also served to highlight the melodrama. And while the film was produced recently, the shots were still reminiscent of the silent film era and there weren’t any fancy shots or special effects that took advantage of modern film making technology.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Rock Supremo

Richardson Yadao

One of my most highly anticipated productions of Ballet Philippines 44th Season IllumiNATION was Rock Supremo that was held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater). This was one of those shows this season commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, the Filipino hero who led the Katipunan in revolting against the Spanish colonizers towards the end of the 19th century.  What really made me look forward to this show were the songs by noted Filipino music acts like Ebe Dancel, Gloc-9, Radioactive Sago Project, etc. that were commissioned for this project. And this made me do something which was very unusual for me: I didn’t listen to any of the songs prior to the show so that everything will be new and fresh to me by the time I see it.

Jean Marc Cordero

Blurring the lines between contemporary times and the past, Rock Supremo showed, deconstructed and imagined how Bonifacio formed and led the Katipunan, fell in love, and eventually fell out of favor through contemporary dance and a bit of theater while being accompanied by a rocking soundtrack. A Historian, portrayed by Paul Morales, was a window to the past by interacting with the historical figures like Gregoria de Jesus (Carissa Adea) who was searching for her husband Andres Bonifacio (Richardson Yadao). It was also through the Historian that significant moments from Bonifacio’s past was unearthed like his alliance with Emilio Aguinaldo (Victor Maguad) and the blossoming of his romance with his wife through the younger incarnations of the couple (Jean Marc Cordero and Katherine Trofeo). And while the Historian dwelt into the past, the Youth (Cyril Fallar/Emmanuelle Guillermo) reflected on the future as he was challenged into action by the Historian upon learning all that had happened to Bonifacio.

A great majority of the songs in Rock Supremo are too Bonifacio specific to work outside the context of the show like Pedicab’s Ang Dakilang Duwag ng Katipunan and Gloc-9’s Itak ni Andres. But Kai Honasan’s exquisite Iyong Liwanag and Ebe Dancel’s sublime Lakambini are a couple of songs that could possibly have legs beyond the show. It was also during these two numbers that the audience finally warmed up and spurred them to applaud every number until the end. I did find it a bit odd that Rico Blanco’s contribution, Yugto, was the only previously released track while all the other songs were previously unreleased and were written specifically for Rock Supremo. After watching the show, I started to guess that most Bonifacio themed shows would show how he felt short in achieving his goals, how he became a victim of politics within the Katipunan, how his death was under mysterious circumstances and possibly under the orders of Emilio Aguinaldo, and lastly, how different these new insights are compared to what I learned back then.

Emmanuelle Guillermo

Looking back, I think that I would’ve appreciated the choreography by Paul Morales, Aden Lugnasin and Dwight Rodrigazo a lot more had I allowed myself to listen to the entire soundtrack a few times before watching. The lyrics told a lot and had I known and understood them already, a lot of the dancing would’ve made more sense to me, considering that I still do find contemporary dancing a bit difficult to grasp.

Rock Supremo was presented by Ballet Philippines, Rock Ed Philippines and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. A few tracks from Rock Supremo can be downloaded in here.

Rock Supremo

1. Overture
2. Sintensya
3. Casadores
4. Yugto
5. Ang Dakilang Duwag ng Katipunan
6. Iyong Liwanag
7. Lakambini
8. Itak ni Andres
9. Balintawak
10. Aling Pag-Ibig Pa?
11. Hoy Emilio!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Israeli pianist Yossi Reshef joins the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra in November concert

Pianist Yossi Reshef

November 14, 2013, 8:00 PM
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Yossi Reshef, piano
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Robert Schumann
     Overture from Manfred, Op. 115
     Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
Ralph Vaughan Williams
     Overture from The Wasps
     Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 in E minor
Richard Strauss Don Juan, Op. 20

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra welcomes Israeli pianist Yossi Reshef, the featured guest at the orchestra’s upcoming concert in partnership with the Embassy of Israel happening on November 14, 2013, 8:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

Reshef will perform with the PPO Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 under the baton of Olivier Ochanine, the principal conductor and music director of the PPO. Other pieces to be performed in this concert include Schumann’s Manfred Overture, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Overture from The Wasps and Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 in E minor, and Richard Strauss’ Don Juan, Op. 20.

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra

According to the press release, Yossi Reshef holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California, where he was assistant to Prof. Norman Krieger. And aside from being a performer and a teacher, Reshef has also worked as a film composer and musical director in Hollywood. The independent feature Ivory to be released next year is his recent collaboration with director Andrew W. Chan. He has also won numerous prizes and awards like the America Israel Cultural Foundation Excellency scholarship award, the Zilbermann first prize award for the best interpretation of Israeli piano music; the second prize in the Rubin Academy Competition, the Apple Hill Playing for Peace Scholarship, the Tel Aviv University Dean's Excellency Award, the John Tesh Scholar, the Adele Marcus Foundation Music Scholarship, the John Green Endowed Music Scholarship, the David Nowakowsky Music Scholarship, the Alice Ray Catalyne Music scholarship in piano; the Michael Feinstein music scholarship, and the Ann and Gordon Getty Music Foundation Scholarship.

Conductor Olivier Ochanine

Free tickets can be won by joining a contest by the Embassy of Israel found at their facebook page.

Ticket prices:
P1500 Orchestra Center
P1200 Orchestra Side
P800 Extreme Orchestra Side
P500 Balcony I Center
P400 Balcony I Side
P300 Balcony II
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount

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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bonifacio, Isang Sarswela

In line with Andres Bonifacio’s 150th birth anniversary happening on the November 30, 2013, productions commemorating this milestone are part of several performing companies’ offerings for this season. And the first Bonifacio themed show that I was able to see was Philippine Stagers Foundation’s latest musical entitled Bonifacio, Isang Sarswela.

This new musical boasts the same creative team of Atty. Vincent Tañada (writer and director) and Pipo Cifra (composer) who were also the brains behind PSF’s previous musicals like Cory ng EDSA, a Filipino Musicale and Joe: A Filipino Rock’sical. After seeing a performance at the SM City NORTH EDSA, I think that Bonifacio, Isang Sarswela is clearly the best among the three musicals that I’ve seen so far from this theater company.

Unlike their previous two musicals, Bonifacio, Isang Sarswela stuck mostly to the story of the rise and fall of Andres Bonifacio (Vince Tañada), known as the El Supremo of the Katipunan who led the revolution against the Spaniards during the late 19th century. Gone this time are the fictitious characters whose own stories ran parallel to the main historical character as seen in Cory and Joe. This meant that there were no present day characters to serve as the narrators and also as the audience’s eyes to the historical moments shown in the musical. What is left is a more straightforward and yet gripping narrative littered with historical figures like Gregoria de Jesus (Cindy Liper), Emilio Aguinaldo (Jordan Ladra), Hilaria Aguinaldo (Monique Azerreda), Emilio Jacinto (Patrick Libao), and Macario Sakay (Chin Ortega) that aimed to shed light on how Bonifacio’s demise could possibly had been at the hands of his fellow countrymen.

This doesn’t mean that the signature elements one has learned to expect from a PSF production were no longer there. Bonifacio, Isang Sarswela is still a visual spectacle with energetic choreography, and a dazzling and triumphant finale.

During the performance that I was able to catch, Tañada and Libao did an impromptu scene, much to my surprise, to perk up the audience made up mostly of students. This humorous bit of fluff did liven up the audience but for me, it broke the flow of the story which has already gotten more serious and compelling at that point. I guess that in an ideal world when the theater audience is more mature, this deviation from the original material will not be needed anymore. I do think that the work’s darker mood felt that this musical could no longer qualify as a sarswela which is typically light and comedic. But this dark turn, and the more serious nature of Bonifacio, Isang Sarswela, was definitely a step in the right direction for PSF if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Marimbist Aimee Mina-dela Cruz performs at the CCP

Percussionist/marimbist Aimee Mina-Dela Cruz

November 12, 2013, 7:30 PM Performance
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)
November 15, 2013, 9:00 AM & 2:00 PM Workshop
CCP Main Theater Lobby
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Aimee Mina-dela Cruz, marimba
Fe Marsha V. Nicolas, piano
Mikaela Natasha Janelle Ley, marimba
Leodivino Roque, percussion
Gomer Giron, percussion
Joy Allan dela Cruz, viola

Pablo de Sarasate Carmen
Johann Sebastian Bach Concerto for Two Violins in D minor BWV 1043, I. Vivace
Darius Milhaud Concerto for Percussion, Op. 109
Nebojsa Zivkovic Trio per Uno, I. Meccanico
Eugene Levitas Concerto for Percussion
Willy Cruz Sana’y Maghintay ang Walang Hanggan
Eric Ewazen Concerto for Marimba

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s percussionist and marimbist, Aimee Mina-dela Cruz, continues the Special Concert Series via a performance this November 12, 2013, 7:30 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater).

Aimee, an active member of the Philippine Band Association (PhilBanda, Inc) will be joined in this concert by guest artists like young marimbist Mikaela Natasha Janelle Ley, percussionists Leodivino Roque and Gomer Giron, and violist Joy Allan dela Cruz.  Pianist Fe Marsha V. Nicolas will be her accompanying her this evening. The concert lineup includes Pablo de Sarasate’s Carmen, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 (Vivace), Darius Milhaud’s Concerto for Percussion, the Nebojsa Zivkovic’s Trio per Uno (Meccanico), Eugene Levitas’ Concerto for Percussion, Willy Cruz’ Sana’y Maghintay ang Walang Hanggan, and Eric Ewazen’s Concerto for Marimba.

A few days after her concert, Aimee will also hold a workshop for symphonic band and orchestra percussionists on November 15, 2012 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM and from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM at the CCP Main Theater Lobby.

Ticket prices:
P800 Orchestra Center
P600 Orchestra Side
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount

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

For workshop inquiries:
CCP Artist Training Division 832-1125 local 1604/1605,

Friday, October 18, 2013

Arthur Espiritu leads an evening of bel canto vocal music at the Ayala Museum

October 26, 20137:00 PM
Ayala Museum 
Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street
Greenbelt ParkMakati

Arthur Espiritu, tenor
Elainne Vibal, soprano
Myramae Meneses, soprano
Stephanie Aguilar, soprano
Najib Ismail, piano

Internationally acclaimed tenor Arthur Espiritu headlines the MCO Foundation’s An Evening of Bel Canto, a special concert highlighting the art of beautiful singing this October 26, 2013, 7:00 PM at the Ayala Museum.

Arthur Espiritu, considered as the country's premiere tenor today, holds the distinction as being the only Filipino to have sung at the prestigious Teatroalla Scala along with other major opera houses in the world. He has also won the Belvedere Vocal Competition in Vienna. Joining him in this evening are sopranos Elainne Vibal, Myramae Meneses and Stephanie Aguilar. Vibal is a winner at the Jovita Fuentes Vocal Competition, while Meneses won the top prize at the National Competition for Young Artists. Aguilar on the other hand was last year’s third prize winner of the Jovita Fuentes Vocal Competition. Accompanying the vocalists is Najib Ismail, one of the most sought after collaborating pianists in the country.

Tenor Arthur Espiritu

The press release says that bel canto which means beautiful singing in Italian is a vocal fad made popular during the late 17th century that requires singers to possess incredible virtuosic vocal technique and impeccable musicality. Composers such as Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti wrote music with limpid melodic lines that would encompass a singer's whole vocal range with a lot of ornate embellishments. Operas like I Puritani, La SonnambulaNorma, Lucia di Lammermoor are some of the well-known bel canto opera. The concert will include some of the most challenging and rarely performed arias and scenes from great operas like the duet from Bellini’s I Puritani, Rossini’s Semiramide and Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment.

I still consider myself as an opera newbie who still has very limited knowledge of the vast opera works out there. And I admit that I’ve yet to hear any of the music from majority of the works listed above but I welcome the opportunity to learn more through this concert. Supertitles/surtitles will be projected during this concert for those who want to understand what is being sung.

An Evening of Bel Canto is made possible in partnership with the Ayala MuseumBusinessWorld, HighLife, DZFE.FM The Master’s Touch and Lyric Piano and Organ.

Ticket prices:
P1500 Center
P1000 Side

For inquiries:
MCO Secretariat at 750-0768, (0920) 954-0053
COEA 782-7164 or (0918) 347-3027

TicketWorld 891-9999

Children's choirs perform at Halina't Umawit festival at the CCP

October 26, 2013, 7:00 PM
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

The Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir presents the fifth edition of their annual choral festival billed as Halina’t Umawit - A Philippine Children’s Choir Festival happening on October 26, 2013, 7:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

The five children’s choirs participating in this festival include the Ateneo Boys Choir conducted by Daisy N. Marasigan, Colegio de Sta Rosa - Makati Himig Roseña conducted by Nelson V. dela Cruz, Immaculate Conception Academy High School Glee Club conducted by Veralyn D. Monte, St. Scholastica’s Academy Marikina High School Glee Club conducted by Danilo N. Monte, Jr. and the Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir conducted by Ma. Theresa Vizconde-Roldan.

Hail Mary the Queen Children's Choir

The Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir, under music director Jude Roldan has been declared as the First Children’s Choir of the World in the 67th Llangollen Musical International Eisteddfodd held in North Wales, United Kingdom that was held last July 2013.

The Halina't Umawit festival derives its name from Psalm 95 and Psalm 98 of the Bible.  It is an invitation to come and sing praises to the Lord for His wondrous deeds. The festival song with the same title composed by Jude Roldan completes the event with all choirs singing on stage interspersed with hand clapping and feet thumping. This festival gives the country’s outstanding children’s choirs a venue to showcase their talents in their own forte.

Ticket prices:
P800 Orchestra Center
P600 Orchestra Side
P400 Balcony I
P200 Balcony II
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount

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

Lisa Zheng debut recital at the CCP

October 26, 2013, 7:00 PM
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Lisa Zheng, piano
Manila Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Molina, conductor

Franz Liszt
     Hungarian Rhapsody no. 10 in E major, S.244/10
     Grandes études de Paganini No. 3 in G sharp minor, S.141 La Campanella
Frédéric Chopin
     Nocturne in B-flat Minor, Op.9, No.1
     Étude in C minor, Op. 10 No. 12 Revolutionary
Alberto Ginastera Danzas Argentinas
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, KV.459
Xian Xinghai The Yellow River Piano Concerto

The Piano Teachers Guild of the Philippines presents the debut recital of pianist Lisa Zheng happening this October 26, 2013, 7:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater).

A student of Cecile Roxas-Basilio, Lisa is currently a 10th grade student at the International School Manila, where she is also the pianist of the school’s orchestra under the baton of Guime Odendaal.

She will be performing solo works by Franz Liszt (Hungarian Rhapsody no. 10 in E major, S.244/10 and Grandes études de Paganini No. 3 in G sharp minor, S.141 La Campanella), Frédéric Chopin (Nocturne in B-flat Minor, Op.9, No.1 and Etude in C minor, Op. 10 No. 12 Revolutionary) and Alberto Ginastera (Danzas Argentinas). Her performance of the collaborative works by Wolfang Amadeus Mozart (Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, KV.459) and Xian Xinghai (The Yellow River Piano Concerto) will be accompanied by the Manila Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arturo Molina.

Lisa views this recital as an exposure to express her musical self so necessary to hone her artistry. Her parents are Liping Zheng, an advisor at the Asian Development Bank who dabbles in painting and Jianping Xue Zheng.

Ticket price:
Invitational with few invitations shared with the public on a first come-first served basis.

For inquiries:
Prof. Cecile Basilio-Roxas 928-1598, (0927) 788-2504

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Magical Music of Disney

The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra’s latest concert entitled The Magical Music of Disney wasn’t just a trip down memory lane for those who grew up in Disney movies like me. But it was also a trip around the world as the films and the music took the audience on a magic carpet ride across the globe (even under the sea) although everyone was in the comfort of their seats at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

The opening number, the Disney Classics Overture that had the orchestra, led by Gerard Salonga, play a medley of tunes that included Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boo and the Mickey Mouse March among many others. But this didn’t represent a certain country or continent and it was only in hindsight that I guessed that this piece probably represented Disneyland.

After this overture, the journey around the world began guided by the host for the evening, Nikki Gil. The first stop was Africa, the setting for the movie Tarzan that featured music by Phil Collins. Aside from the strong drum line, there wasn’t really much of an African influence in the the Tarzan Suite that the orchestra played. While the music was playing, stills and clips from the movie were being shown on the screen. It was easy to just get lost in the visuals and relegate the music into the background so I had to tread carefully throughout this evening. Then it was off to a brief excursion to Denmark where the tale of The Little Mermaid originated before plunging under the sea for the music. There was none of the Danish music in The Little Mermaid Orchestral Suite since it was more Caribbean especially the Under the Sea portion. I was reminded that this film, featuring the music of Alan Menken and the lyrics by the late Howard Ashman, was the one that brought Disney animated films back into the spotlight after floundering the decade before.

Things picked up from there as they continued on to my most anticipated part which was the Hercules Suite from the 1997 film Hercules. This was yet another case wherein the music bore not relation to the origin of the film. Gospel music may have no link at all to Greek mythology but that didn’t mean that this number didn’t rock. It was very amusing to see Gerard Salonga, clearly enjoying himself, almost dancing while conducting especially during the Zero to Hero part. Probably the most interesting inclusion in the entire concert was the Mary Poppins Fantasy. Released in 1964, Mary Poppins was the oldest film in the bunch and it also featured mainly live actors like Julie Andrews. Of course, there was the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious song but what really got my attention was the music styles from the turn of the 20th century featured in this suite. The final piece for the first half was Beauty and the Beast Suite from the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. This film from 1991 was set in rural France and it was only then did I notice how pastoral this piece was. And this performance solidified my belief that this film is still the benchmark when it comes to music scores for animated films.

The second half began with Rescuers Down Under Theme which is one film that isn’t as popular as the others featured in this concert. This section took the audience down under to the Australian outback but the music, just like Tarzan, didn’t have that much distinct Aussie flavor in it. The same could not be said with the Aladdin Orchestral Suite with its very strong Arabian themes. But one thing that made Aladdin’s soundtrack unique was the addition of big band tunes in it like Friend Like Me. Eastern Asia wasn’t left behind as the concert went to China with Mulan Suite. Nikki introduced this segment by singing a bit of Reflection. Even though I can’t recall much of the music from this film, I enjoyed the very oriental sound in some of the tunes. Sadly, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the next bit which was The Hunchback of Notre Dame Suite. I’ve seen the film only once and I couldn’t recall any of the music at all. I guess it was either forgettable or this most likely signaled the time when I started losing interest and getting tired with Disney animated films. Thankfully, the Lion King Song Suite was from the time when I was into Disney animated films big time and I was really completely mesmerized by the African rhythms and how it fit well with the film’s majestic score. I guess that I was really obsessed with this music since I wished that there were African percussion instruments during the King of Pride Rock part to make it more authentic. But this was just me already nitpicking.

Of course, the concert would not be complete without the expected encores. First up was music from The Incredibles which was the newest and the only fully computer animated film featured in the concert. And Gerard anticipated that people won’t let Nikki Gil get away by just singing a few bars of Reflection earlier on. So Nikki returned to the stage once again to sing Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas which was the only North American stop for the evening. The final encore was a sing along of It’s a Small World (with a chorus part in Filipino) that had members of the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth joining alongside the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Conductor Gerard Salonga

Overall, it was a fun evening of entertaining music that could be enjoyed by the whole family. For me, it was really great to be reminded of films that I’ve enjoyed in the past. The music scores from these Disney films also became a way for me to appreciate orchestral music a lot more. I remember seeing some of these movies and not getting much of the dialogue because I was so engrossed with the music. I’ve even seen them again on video just to focus only on the music and have worn out/broken cassette tapes of the soundtracks as well. So it was indeed a blast for me to be able to hear this music at long last performed live by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Der Kaufmann

Jonathan Tadioan

Tanghalang Pilipino, in a bold move, has taken The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare out of its 16th century setting and placed it right smack inside a concentration camp during the holocaust. A jaded mind might think that this shift in time and setting would only result to cosmetic and superficial changes. But I took into account my knowledge of World War II and how the Jews suffered in the hands of the Nazis at the time. And the result, Der Kaufmann, jointly directed by Rody Vera and Tuxqs Rutaquio, was no longer just the familiar play but one that had added layers and an additional story instead.

In this retelling, using the translation by Rolando Tinio, the Jews and homosexuals rounded up inside the concentration camps were forced to portray characters in The Merchant of Venice, in a production mounted probably to amuse to the Nazis. And some of the Nazis portray some of the characters as well. And how the characters were cast was already an added layer in itself. For example, Bassanio (Nicolo Magno) and Antonio (Marco Viaña) were the best of friends in the play but the former is actually a Nazi while the latter is a homosexual inside the camp. While within the context of the play, they were indeed like the best of friends but whenever they exited the stage, a shift happened at the last possible moment and Bassanio turned into a Nazi once again ruggedly shoving Antonio off stage with such contempt. It is details like this that gave Der Kaufmann such richness that went beyond the actual text.

Regina de Vera

This added layer was seen a lot in Shylock (Jonathan Tadioan) who was also the Jewish father. His portrayal of Shylock was that of a repulsive clown/monster that I think adhered to the stereotypical image of a Jew who is to be mocked and maligned. But when he reverted back to being the Jewish father, the expression, posture and demeanor also changed making him more of a sympathetic character. My most memorable Shylock moment wasn’t his monologue during the famous court scene, but rather when he was up in arms when he learned that his daughter Jessica eloped with Lorenzo. The lines may have been Shylock’s but the emotion was that of the Jewish father who was demanding from the Nazis the location of his daughter (Trixie Esteban) who was separated from him at the concentration camp.

At one point in the play, I got lost in the story itself, got too comfortable and forgot that this was still a play within a play. But then towards the end of the first act during Antonio and Portia’s wedding, the swastikas became a jolting and not so subtle reminder that the there was still this line dividing the Nazis and those that they felt were below them. I knew right then and there, that the second act would not hold anything back anymore.

Marco Viaña

The most gripping character for me in the whole play was Portia, portrayed by Regina de Vera. The blonde bombshell Portia started out innocently as a rich heiress who can only be betrothed to the suitor who would choose the right box out of the three that were laid out to him which was rather silly. But all this silliness went up in the air once she donned her disguise and made her appearance at the court of justice, I was reminded that she was one of the Nazis and this gave the mercy speech she delivered a whole new, twisted and sick meaning. And it got even creepier when she was telling the disappointed Shylocks about their fate. Yes, I mentioned Shylocks since this role was passed on in disturbing fashion from the Jewish father, to his wife (Racquel Pareño) and eventually to their daughter.

There were a lot of memorable moments throughout this play which one had to see in order to grasp fully what I wrote in here. I do hope that this becomes one of the plays in Tanghalang Pilipino’s repertoire that would be staged season after season. And I can imagine for those who know more about Shakespeare and the play than World War II, this production would be more than enough for them to dig their noses in history books and vice versa for history buffs who aren’t all too familiar with the Bard and his works.

Rody Vera, Nanding Josef, Regina de Vera and Tuxqs Rutaquio

There are only a few chances to see Der Kaufmann as Tanghalang Pilipino has extended the run in line of the cancellations of a couple of shows due to inclement weather. Special performances will be held on October 19, 2013 at 3:00 & 8:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater).

Monday, October 14, 2013

WASABI concert highlights traditional Japanese instruments

Ocober 18, 2013 2:00 PM Masterclass
Abelardo Hall Auditorium
College of Music, University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City

October 19, 2013, 7:00 PM Performance
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Ryoichiro Yoshida, tsugaru-shamisen
Hiromu Motonaga, shakuhachi
Naosaburo Biho, taiko
Shin Ichikawa, koto

Still in line with the 40th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, in cooperation with the Japan Foundation, Manila and the Cultural Center of the Philippines present WASABI, The Spirit of Japan: The Sound of Traditional Instruments happening on October 19, 2013, 7:00 PM at the CCP’s Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater).

The traditional Japanese instrumental group WASABI is composed of Ryoichiro Yoshida with the tsugaru-shamisen, Hiromu Motonaga playing the shakuhachi, Naosaburo Biho with the taiko and finally, koto player Shin Ichikawa. According to the event flyer, WASABI’s music puts emphasis on catchy melodies and compact structures. It also says that it has a power and dynamism that moves way beyond the aesthetic of elegance and refined lyricism that many people in Japan and elsewhere associate with Japanese traditional music.

Shin Ichikawa, Hiromu Motonaga, Ryoichiro Yoshida
and Naosaburo Biho

What is particularly interesting with this group is that it combines the tsugaru-shamisen and taiko drums that are mostly associated in folk music with that of the koto and shakuhachi that are normally featured in classical genres. I’ve seen performances with just the tsugaru-shamisen and taiko only, and also just the koto and shakuhachi only as well. But I’ve yet to see having all four creating music together. I guess that this is how WASABI’s brand of fusion music breaks barriers and mixes various influences from folk to classical to create a new hybrid of traditional music.

One can learn more about traditional instruments when WASABI conducts a masterclass on October 18, 2013, 2:00 PM at the Abelardo Hall Auditorium at the College of Music of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Admission to the masterclass is open and free to the public.

For master class inquiries:
926-0026/981-8500 local 2639

For performance inquiries:
551-5710 local 2311/2312

Journey: A Classical Concert

Pianist Dingdong Fiel

Heliodoro “Dingdong” Fiel II, piano
Manila Philharmonic Orchestra
Rodel Colmenar, conductor

Redentor Romero Philippine Portraits
Sergei Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 34
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36

The Manila Philharmonic Orchestra led by Rodel Colmenar presented a one night concert entitled Journey: A Classical Concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) in preparation for their trip to Japan as the Philippine representative to the 2013 Asia Orchestra Week.

This send off concert featured the same program with works by Redentor Romero, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky that they would play in Japan in which the orchestra, was the one chosen by the Association of Japanese Symphony Orchestras to represent the Philippines.

The evening started with Philippine Portraits by Redentor Romero which I think was a good choice to showcase Filipino orchestral music to a Japanese/foreign audience. This piece incorporated some popular folk tunes which I think is pretty typical in orchestral works by Filipino composers.

Also featured in this concert was pianist Heliodoro “Dingdong” Fiel II who performed the very popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 34 by Sergei Rachmaninoff. It was difficult for me to appreciate his performance due to the unsatisfactory Bösendorfer concert grand Dingdong was saddled with. I struggled to hear the softer and elegant passages especially during the much awaited Variation 18, probably owing to a piano that couldn’t project well without resorting to violently pounding the keys. I’ve seen and heard Dingdong play before and I can only imagine how frustrating it is to be at the mercy of an unresponsive instrument.

Conductor Rodel Colmenar

The concert ended with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, a piece that had already been performed twice by other orchestras in the past two months. I guess that it was a blessing in disguise that I wasn’t able to watch those performances for this enabled me to listen to the MPO’s rendition with fresh ears. Under Colmenar’s baton, the fate theme of the first movement constantly tormented, while the second movement conveyed sinking into the melancholy of the past. The third, with the pizzicato strings offered a respite, a hazy wandering of the mind before being dragged down into the fate that awaits the tortured soul at the fourth movement. I guess that I wouldn’t have reveled into such thoughts had this been my third time in two months to experience this symphony. On the other hand, I would’ve been pretty much sick and tired of it already.

Despite the melodrama of this symphony, the audience gave a hearty applause as the orchestra gave their bows. For an encore, Colmenar introduced the MPO’s new concertmaster, the Italian Giovanni Bobisse who gave the audience goosebumps as he did an exquisite violin solo with Meditation from Thaïs by Jules Massenet. I was momentarily distracted when I heard brass (and a bit spotty at that) which I didn’t expect from a full orchestral version of this piece.

With a successful concert that was well attended, the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra had great momentum as they headed to Japan. The 2013 Asia Orchestra Week has already come and gone and as of now, the MPO can be heard accompanying Resorts World Manila’s production of Cinderella happening at the Newport Performing Arts Theater.
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