Friday, November 29, 2013

Bob Aves Jazz Group in concert at PETA Theater Center

December 11, 2013, 8:00 PM
PETA Theater Center
No. 5 Meynard Drive, New Manila
Quezon CityPhilippines

Sophisticated jazz infused with the raw power of Filipino indigenous music is coming to the PETA Theater Center.  Experience soul-shaking Philippine World Jazz in Out of Tradition the Bob Aves Jazz Group concert on December 11, 2013, at 8:00 PM. Bob Aves and his group of internationally acclaimed musicians continue to push musical boundaries through a groundbreaking integration of the gong culture of the southern Philippines and contemporary jazz.

Bob Aves is a stalwart in the international world music scene.  This award winning composer graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston yet is a champion of the Filipino indigenous sound. He co-established Tao Music, an all-Filipino record label that specializes in traditions and contemporary culture- based titles of Philippine Music. Needless to say, Bob's music has been featured world-wide through international music festivals, such as the 2006 Festival Asia in Spain and the 2011 Penang World Music Festival in Prague to name a few.

The Bob Aves Jazz Group has performed in various jazz festivals such as the Zhujiajiao Water Village Music Festival in Shanghai, and the Jarasum Jazz Festival in Korea, among many others. The concert will feature musicians Dix Lucero (Saxophone), Nikko Rivera (Keyboard), Tusa Montes (Kulintang), Colby De La Calzada (Bass), and Harald Huyysen (Drums).

Do not miss this rare opportunity to intimately experience the unique sound of Philippine World Jazz!

Ticket prices:
P1500 VIP
P1000 Orchestra/Balcony Center
P500 Balcony Side

For inquiries:
PETA Theater Center 725-6244 local 23, (0916) 437-6551,
TicketWorld 891-9999

Ayala Museum rings in Christmas concerts for Yolanda victims

December 4, 2013, 7:00 PM UP Jazz Ensemble
December 12, 2013, 7:00 PM Arthur Espiritu and Friends
December 17, 2013, 7:00 PM Ramoncito Carpio and Nebrija Ramos Guitar Duo
December 19, 2013, 7:00 PM Manila Symphony Orchestra
December 21, 2013, 7:00 PM UP Guitar Orchestra

This coming holiday season, the Ayala Foundation, Inc. (AFI) and the Ayala Museum present Season's Symphonies: Christmas Concerts for a Cause this December at the Ayala MuseumHappening for five nights this December, the concert series will feature different acts covering a wide variety of musical styles ranging from chamber music, jazz and symphonic orchestral music.

The series kicks of with the Have a Swingin’ Christmas featuring the UP Jazz Ensemble on December 4, 2013. World renowned Filipino tenor Arthur Espiritu and friends present A Christmas Offering on December 12, 2013. Ramoncito Carpio and Nebrija Ramos Guitar Duo will take to the stage on December 17, 2013. Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf will be performed by the Manila Symphony Orchestra on December 19, 2013. Finally on December 21, 2013, the concert series will come to a close with A Christmas Gift to the Yolanda Victims featuring the UP Guitar Orchestra.

All five concerts will start at 7:00 PM at the Ayala Musem and tickets are priced at P500 per concert.

Ticket price:

For inquiries:
Paula Fernandez 759-8288 local 31, email

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Arthur Espiritu leads Rossini’s Petite mese solennelle performance in benefit concert for Yolanda victims

December 3, 2013, 7:00 PM
Ayala Museum 
Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street
Greenbelt ParkMakati

Arthur Espiritu, tenor
Camille Lopez Molina, soprano
Margarita Giannelli, soprano
Noel Azcona, bass/baritone
Viva Voce
Najib Ismail, piano
Farley Asuncion, piano
Melissa Taqueban, piano
Gideon Benedicto, conductor

Gioachino Rossini Petite messe solennelle

The Cultural Arts Events Organizer, in partnership with the Ayala Museum, presents A Christmas Offering, a special Christmas concert featuring a performance of Gioachino Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle happening this December 3, 2013, 7:00 PM at the Ayala Museum.

A total of 27 of the country’s finest artists will be performing on this evening lead by the leading Filipino tenor, Arthur Espiritu. He is joined by three of the country's premiere classical artists namely soprano Camille Lopez-Molina, soprano Margarita  Giannelli and bass-baritone Noel Azcona. The 16 member chorus will be composed of members of Viva Voce. Pianists Najib Ismail, Farley Asuncion and Melissa Taqueban will accompany the singers under the musical direction of Gideon Bendicion and Camille Lopez-Molina.

Tenor Arthur Espiritu

This performance will be offered as a tribute to the victims of the super typhoon Yolanda. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the victims of Llorente, Samar.

A Christmas Offering is made possible in partnership with Ayala Museum, Lyric Piano and Organ, BusinessWorld, DZFE.FM 98.7 The Master's Touch, Highlife and HerWord.

Ticket prices:
P1000 Center
P800 Side

For inquiries:
COEA 782-7164, (0918) 347-3027
MCO Foundation 750-0768, (0920) 954-0053
TicketWorld  891-9999

Abriendo Caminos

Ùrsula López and Cristian Lozano

Ùrsula López, dancer/choreographer
Cristian Lozano, dancer
Vicente Gelo, vocals
Tino van der Sman, guitar
Raul Dominguez Soto, percussion

The Embassy of Spain in the Philippines and Instituto Cervantes, Manila, in collaboration with the One Meralco Foundation and Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria, presented Abriendo Caminos, a flamenco show by the Ùrsula López Flamenco Company at the Meralco Theater.

The show featured dancers, Ùrsula López and Cristian Lozano accompanied by a trio of musicians that included vocalist Vicente Gelo, guitarist Tino van der Sman and percussionist Raul Dominguez Soto. The group performed different flamenco styles that left the audience mesmerized. Cristian Lozano’s attempt at a sextuple pirouette and Ùrsula López’s dancing with a shawl were among my personal highlights of the evening. It was not difficult to see how physically taxing flamenco dancing is especially when the audience could see the sweat spraying every time the two do their quick and tight turns. 

I wish that there was a souvenir program made available to the audience since there were some songs that I would’ve loved to take note of. The only piece of music that I knew from the entire show was Isaac Albeniz’ Asturias which Tino van der Sman played while Cristian Lozano danced. If I remember it correctly, this was when Cristian attempted the sextuple pirouette and only came out half a rotation short of completing it cleanly. But it was still impressive feat and that number of rotations is very rarely attempted even in other dance forms.

Vicente Gelo, Tino van der Sman and Raul Dominguez Soto

One of my discoveries during the performance was a strange looking percussion instrument that was used by Raul Dominguez Soto. I learned from him afterwards that this instrument that got my attention was the Udu, an African clay drum that gave an unusual color and texture to the music. The singing style in flamenco music is totally different from the typical mainstream pop heard on the radio nowadays. Vicente Gelo nonetheless showed a wide vocal range that made me think about the chants heard in here during the Lenten season. Throughout the show, I was able to bathe in the Phrygian mode that it became hard for me to recall and sing out a normal major scale afterwards.

After the show, a cocktail reception was held at the lobby and I found myself once again hanging out with the Italians. Ùrsula López and Cristian Lozano went out to meet the audience and to receive their warm congratulations. It was only later on that the three musicians went out and of course, I always take the opportunity to talk to them. But it proved to be very difficult since most of them didn’t speak English and my Spanish is almost nonexistent. Thankfully, the company’s manager, Virginia Cortés Gardyn, was very helpful and did some interpreting for me.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tangahalang Pilipino’s stages world premiere of opera San Andres B stages at the CCP

November 29, 2013, 7:00 PM
November 30, 2013, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
December 1, 2013, 3:00 PM

December 6, 2013, 8:00 PM
December 7, 2013, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
December 8, 2013, 3:00 PM

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

Conrado "Dondi" Ong III

With November 30 just right around the corner, the whole nation prepares to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of national hero Andres Bonifacio. In line with this milestone, Tanghalang Pilipino, in cooperation with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and National Historical Commission of the Philippines present the world premiere of San Andres B, a new opera in Filipino to be staged at the CCP’s Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater) this November 29-December 8, 2013.

Margarita Roco
Margarita Roco and Dondi Ong

The opera San Andres B, directed by Floy Quintos, features the libretto of National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and music of Josefino “ChinoToledo. According to the press release, this opera will not be a historical account based purely on Andres Bonifacio’s life and the events leading to the 1896 Revolution. It will highlight Andres Bonifacio as the embodiment and representation of this Filipino consciousness as he became the driving force behind the quest to free the nation from all sorts of bondage – colonial rule, abject poverty and ignorance. This work also aims to shatter misconceptions about Andres Bonifacio as the uneducated, bolo wielding revolutionary and possibly elevate him to a greater stature than what he is usually given credit for.

Marvin Gayramon
Marvin Gayramon and Dondi Ong

Conrado “Dondi” Ong III, leads the cast in the title role of Andres Bonifacio. Margarita Roco portrays Gregoria de Jesus, the woman in Andres’ life. Completing the main cast is Antonio Ferrer as Emilio Jacinto and Marvin Gayramon as Jose Rizal. The supporting chorus is made up of members of the AUIT chamber ensemble members, Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company and Ballet Philippines dancers.

Antonio Ferrer

What interests me greatly about this production is the debut of GRUPO 20/21. This newly formed modular chamber music ensemble will be providing live music throughout the opera’s entire two weekend run.

Terence Guillermo, Noe Morgado and Nicolo Magno

During the press conference held at the Mabuhay Restop, a few numbers were performed by the main cast and the music is very contemporary. It is not emotionally sweeping as the Puccini operas from the early 20th century but rather a complex, kaleidoscope of sounds that I think would play a lot on colors and texture. The snippets only had canned music and I bet that it would be a totally different listening experience with the GRUPO 20/21 playing the music parts live.

Floy Quintos, Marvin Gayramon, Margarita Roco, Dondi Ong, Josefino Toledo,
National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, Antonio Ferrer, Noe  Morgado,
Terence Guillermo, and Nicolo Magno

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

For inquiries:
Tanghalang Pilipino 832-1125 local 1620-1621, (0917) 750-0107, (0918) 959-3949
TicketWorld 891-9999

Czech Folklore Evening

Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar, Jeroným Toloch, Tomáš Truneček,
Jan Ondera, 
Jan Toloch, Jiří Toloch, Vojta Klein, Jiří Návrat

     Jiří Návrat, first violin
     Jan Ondera, double bass
     Tomáš Truneček, viola
     Jan Toloch, cimbalom
     Vojta Klein, violin
     Jiří Toloch, violin
     Jeroným Toloch, violin

The Bohemian Rhapsody in the Philippines, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Czech-Philippine diplomatic relations continued at the Dusit Thani Manila with Czech Folklore Evening. This concert featured the Czech folk group Kubalovci composed of violinists Jiří Návrat, Vojta Klein, Jiří Toloch, Jeroným Toloch, violist Tomáš Truneček, double bassist Jan Ondera and cimbalom player Jan Toloch.

Despite the concert being held on a Monday night, audience turnout was still very impressive. It helped that this event, presented by the Czech Embassy in Manila, Travelife Magazine and Dusit Thani Manila, was a free one. And it didn’t hurt at all that the seven members of Kubalovci were blessed with good looks as well. This probably explained the presence of a number of young women in the audience on that night.

Unlike the Night in the Opera by Czech soprano Noema Erba the night before that had very familiar arias from various Italian operas, this concert by Kubalovci featured Czech folk songs specifically from SilesiaSouth Moravia along with those from other regions in Eastern Europe. In other words, they were songs that are unheard of in this side of the planet. It’s safe to say that only the Czechs in the audience, like Noema who joined the group in one number, knew the songs performed by the guys that night. Fortunately, cimbalom player Jan Toloch gave a brief explanation to some of the songs before they performed them. Good thing that he did that since almost all of the songs were in Czech which meant that a lot of people didn’t understand the lyrics at all. If not for Jan’s brief annotations, I wouldn’t have believed that one of the songs was about going off to fight in the war (a grim prospect) since the tunes had some jolly melodies, were so danceable and upbeat that I actually craved for some beer while listening to them. I found it very interesting how Tomáš Truneček played his viola sideways very much unlike how one plays it at an orchestra. He explained that this manner of playing the viola is common in Czech folk music and that it actually sort of mimics the playing position of the double bass.

Jan Ondera teaches RAd how to play the cimbalom

As always, the encores were among the highlights of the evening. The locals highly appreciated Kubalovci’s rendition of popular Philippine folk song Bahay Kubo and Freddie Aguilar’s signature song Anak which is one of the Philippines’ most popular songs ever. They followed these up with Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy and Heaven is a Wonderful Place with altered lyrics like Manila replacing heaven.

The cimbalom

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Kubalovci for the first time around a week before the concert. It was amusing to recall that I initially thought that they couldn’t speak nor understand English at all and that we communicated through sign language at first. I met them again during Noema Erba’s concert so by the time of their concert, I already knew each member’s names by heart. I think that this familiarity provided me the opportunity to try out the cimbalom after the performance with Jan Toloch explaining to me how the instrument works. The cimbalom looks like a small rectangular grand piano without a keyboard and the hammers that hit the strings enabling the piano to produce a sound. Instead, to produce a sound with the cimbalom, one has to press a pedal below and strike the strings using a pair of beaters. It was very confusing to figure out how to play it since the strings are placed horizontally along the width of the cimbalom and the pitch actually changes from left to right within the same string. I asked Jan to play a major and a minor scale and I wasn’t able to discern a pattern to it. After that, I just started to strike random strings, tried to figure out the intervals and basically got myself the feel of the instrument.

Jiří Toloch, Jiří Návrat, Tomáš Truneček, Jeroným Toloch, Jan Ondera, 
Vojta KleinJan Toloch,

Czech Folklore Evening was presented by the Czech Embassy in Manila, Travelife Magazine and Dusit Thani Manila. Special thanks go out to Ambassador Josef Rychtar and Consul Jakub Černý.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Night in the Opera

Soprano Noema Erba

Noema Erba, soprano
Conrado Ong III, tenor
Marvin Gayramon, baritone
Augusto Espino, piano

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
     Crudel, perche… from Le nozze di Figaro
     Non più andrai from Le nozze de Figaro
     La ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni
Francesco Cilea Ecco: rspiro appena from Adriana Lecouvreur
Antonín Dvořák Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém from Rusalka
Gioachino Rossini Largo al factotum Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Giacomo Puccini
     Quando me’n vo’ from La Bohème
     O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi
     Nessun dorma from Turandot
     Tu che di gel sei cinta from Turandot
     Che gelida manina from La Bohème
     Sì, mi chiamano Mimì from La Bohème
     O soave fanciulla from La Bohème
Giuseppe Verdi Libiamo ne’ lieti calici from La Traviata

After a well received concert last year, Czech soprano Noema Erba returned to the country for a return engagement held at the Dusit Thani Manila. The concert, entitled Night in the Opera was part of the Czech Embassy in Manila's Bohemian Rhapsody in the Philippines, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Czech-Philippine diplomatic relations. Noema’s guests from her previous concert, tenor Conrado “Dondi” Ong III and collaborating pianist Augusto Espino joined her once again this year. And they all welcomed a new addition to the fold, baritone Marvin Gayramon, making this year’s concert bigger compared to the previous one.

Before the performance, Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar gave some opening remarks that gave emphasis on Ferdinand Blumentritt, who was a close friend and confidante of Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal. A lot of Filipinos probably aren't aware that Blumentritt is actually from the Prague, Czech Republic. People probably know him more as the name of several landmarks around Metro Manila but this reminder by Ambassador Rychtar gave me the urge to brush up on my Philippine history to know more about the man behind the name.

The event may had been organized by the Czech Embassy and was headlined by a Czech soprano, but the music was surprisingly very Italian with works by Francesco Cilea, Gioachino Rossini, Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi in the lineup. Even the arias by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were in Italian also. It was the lone work by Antonín Dvořák which was in Czech that broke the Italian flavor of the concert program for the night.

The Dusit Thani Manila ballroom proved to be an excellent venue for Noema Erba as her voice soared without any electronic amplification. I am pretty sure that those who hadn’t seen a soprano perform live before had shivers down their spine when they heard her voice. Guest artists Marvin Gayramon and Dondi Ong performed duets with Noema and they also had their solo numbers as well. The Puccini fan in me reveled in the abundance of his works in the programme like O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi, Sì, mi chiamano Mimì from La Bohème and the very popular Nessun dorma from Turandot. Conrado “Dondi” Ong gave a brief background to the arias in order to let the audience have a better idea as to what the songs and the opera work itself was all about. And the people responded well when they showed interest in knowing how Turandot ended.

The Dvořák aria Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém (Song to the Moon) from Rusalka provided a breath of fresh air and a brief change of mood and pace from the very Italian flavor of the night. And it was through this number that Noema was really in her element as she showed the audience that night what Czech operatic music was like. As always, it was the songs from their encore, classical crossover and Broadway songs like The Prayer, Time to Say Goodbye, and Tonight, that proved to be the bigger hits among the audience.

Noema Erba’s concert was indeed a success and I wouldn’t be surprised if she comes back next year for yet another performance. Night in the Opera was presented by the Czech Embassy in ManilaTravelife Magazine and Dusit Thani Manila.

WASABI, The Spirit of Japan: The Sound of Traditional Instruments

Ryoichiro Yoshida, Naosaburo Biho, Shin Ichikawa, Hiromu Motonaga

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

The events for the 40th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation kept on rolling and one of the most awaited was WASABI, The Spirit of Japan: The Sound of Traditional Instruments held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater). This concert that was presented by the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines and the Japan Foundation, Manila featured the four man band WASABI composed of Ryoichiro Yoshida (tsugaru-shamisen), Hiromu Motonaga (shakuhachi), Naosaburo Biho (taiko) and Shin Ichikawa (koto) in their first ever performance outside Japan as a group.

A cocktail reception for the Japanese Embassy’s guests was held at the lobby prior to the show. Welcome remarks from CCP President Raul Sunico and Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe were delivered before the performance started. WASABI then went on to the stage and enthralled the audience with a unique blend of music featuring traditional instruments of Japan. WASABI had a fun time greeting the audience in Filipino which was highly appreciated by the crowd. Hiromu Motonaga acted as the spokesperson for the band introducing pieces prior to performing them. He also explained that the tsugaru-shamisen and the taiko are normally associated with folk music while the koto and shakahuchi that he plays are used in classical pieces. And having these four instruments on one stage performing all together is something that isn’t commonly done even in Japan. So despite the instruments being traditional, the resulting sound is new. I guess that it was not just only the configuration of the instruments that was new to the audience but also the pieces as well. Songs like Shinonome (Dawn), Eleven, Guren (Crimson), Kokiriko, Sakura Sakura, and Shigure (Autumn Rain) among others were totally unfamiliar to me and very likely to the rest of the people at the theater too. The tunes might’ve been unfamiliar but that didn’t mean that the audience wasn’t able to enjoy the music. In fact, each member was showered with generous applause during the number after each did their solos that showcased their virtuosity and their improvisational skills with their respective instruments.

I had to note that I was extremely pleased to hear the very soothing song Furusato, which is actually familiar to me, performed on that night even though it wasn’t listed in the program. Equally pleasing as well was the band’s final encore which was the popular Filipino folk song Sitsiritsit which had the audience delighted seeing a Japanese band perform a local tune. It was curious to witness the meet and greet which was by far one of the quickest that I’ve ever seen. Many were probably disappointed not to be able to have their photos taken with them or have their autographs. People were only allowed to shake the band members’ hands and after that, WASABI left the CCP. But despite this mild disappointment of not being able to interact more with the band, I’m pretty sure that the people had a great time with the concert and learned more about Japanese music and culture in the process.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra stages free Out of the Box concerts at Rizal Park

November 23, 2013, 6:00 PM
Open-Air Auditorium
Rizal Park, Manila

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra holds a new series of free family/youth concerts at Rizal Park called Out of the Box, featuring PPO’s wide array of music and collaborations between local schools beginning November 23, 2013. This musical event is presented by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in cooperation with the People’s Television Network, Inc. (PTNI) and the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC).

Through the initiative of PPO’s Music Director/Principal Conductor Olivier Ochanine and the CCP Marketing Department, the said concerts provide audiences a chance to learn more about classical music and its ability to touch people in a meaningful and unique manner. Out of the Box also involves partnerships with various university groups and organizations for a fresh and innovative take in presenting a Philharmonic concert.

The series starts on November 23 at 6:00 PM at the newly-renovated Rizal Park Open-Air Auditorium, which will also have its soft launch on the same date.  The first concert on Saturday will have the theme Undress Bonifacio, and will be presented in collaboration with the University of the Philippines’ (UP Manila) Coalition of Cultural Organizations. A descent of Filipino nationalist and revolutionary Andres Bonifacio, Patria Bonifacio will share her musical production about the life of the young Bonifacio. Multimedia and multi-art groups using different media such as hiphop, rock, graffiti, theatre, and music will be included to create an upbeat multimedia production. Succeeding concerts will be held in December for a Christmas theme, in January 2014 with the Far Eastern University (FEU) with the theme Save the Tamaraw in February with the Ateneo de Manila University and UP Manila Orgcom students with the theme Love and in March with De La Salle University and De La Salle-College of St. Benilde with the theme New Beginnings.

For inquiries:
CCP Marketing Department 832-1125 local 1801,

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Restaurant of Many Orders

Ayako Araki, Sae Namba and Tetsuro Koyano

One of the offerings for this year’s celebration of the 40th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation was the curiously titled show The Restaurant of Many Orders by the Koike Hiroshi Bridge Project. Presented by the Japan Foundation, Manila (JFM) and held at the Cultural Centerof the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater), this show combines theater, music and dance in telling one of the most popular fairy tales in Japan.

The Restaurant of Many Orders is originally a novel by Japanese author Kenji Miyazawa and is regarded as one of his masterpieces. Japanese director Hiroshi Koike turned the novel into a new theatrical production which he wrote, directed and choreographed. I’ve never read the novel nor tried to find out what the story was all about prior to watching. And this somehow forced me to be very attentive in watching the production. The Restaurant of Many Orders is about a trio of hunters played by Tetsuro Koyano, Sae Namba and Ayako Araki who get lost in the woods due to bad weather and end up in a restaurant called The Mountain Cat Inn Restaurant. The three hunters were relieved to find such a spot and thought that they could ease their hunger by dining in it. But the restaurant was not the typical restaurant. I initially thought that the show's title meant that the restaurant had many items in the menu that could be ordered. But it was actually a play on words and that it was really the customers who were ordered around while inside the restaurant as they were being prepped to be the items in the menu. I was a bit alarmed when I figured out the hunter had become the prey considering that this was supposed to be a famous fairy tale for children. I admit that this caught me off guard and left me a bit disturbed. The hunters were able to get out of the restaurant alive but not particularly well since they've had the marks of their harrowing experience there.

Sae Namba, Ayako Araki, National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose,
Tetsuro Koyano and Hiroshi Koike

The three performers played multiple roles switching from human to animal throughout the show. The staging and set design was very minimalist and it truly highlighted the complicated choreography that bordered on contemporary dance. The actors also sang in three part harmonies which impressed me a lot since with the almost atmospheric music, it was hard to make out a pitch. Even though the story was a bit disturbing, there were still some humorous portions like when the Japanese actors counted in Filipino. And the audience had to take a moment to let it sink in before they could react to it.

I felt that some of the Filipino audience members on that night were not be able to fully understand the story because of the different manner of presentation. We always expect a spectacle and eye candy with grand, colorful sets when it comes to theater productions and this one relied heavily on the actor performances. I always try to watch with an open mind and always be receptive to new ideas, forms and experiences. After the show, during the meet and greet, many in the audience showed their appreciation by congratulating the performers and having their photos taken with them.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

PPO II: Mostly Filipino

Alfredo Buenaventura and Herminigildo Ranera

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Herminigildo Ranera, conductor

Angel Peña Philippine Festival Overture
Alfredo Buenaventura Manik Buangsi and Tuan Putli Symphonic Poem
Lucio San Pedro Ang Buwan sa Kabundukan
Felipe de Leon Manila Sketches
Darius Milhaud La création du monde, Op. 81a
Antonín Dvořák Slavonic Dances, Op. 46

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra had a Mostly Filipino themed concert last month which was not a surprise for me once I realized that leading the orchestra on that night was the orchestra’s Associate Conductor, Herminigildo Ranera. Equally expected as well was the strong folk music influence in most of the pieces chosen for that night which is typical whenever Ranera takes to the podium. Despite the threat of a typhoon, I took a risk and went to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and hoped for the best that it would not be difficult for me going home.

The opening piece was Angel Peña’s Philippine Festival Overture which I think is a good introduction to Filipino orchestral music. The music, composed back in 1993, is accessible and pleasant to hear featuring a perfect mash up of Western influence with distinctly Filipino touches. The next piece, Alfredo Buenaventura’s Manik Buangsi and Tuan Putli Symphonic Poem continued my current struggles in grasping the symphonic poem as a music form. Programmatic and usually containing a narrative thread, a symphonic poem can be greatly appreciated once one gets acquainted with the actual source material. Unfortunately, I have no idea what Manik Buangsi and Tuan Putli is all about so I wasn’t able to get a clear picture of what the music was supposed to mean. Right after this piece, Ranera acknowledged Buenaventura who was seated on the front row and the audience was generous in appreciation of the composer’s work. I’ve had no such trouble in picturing the rural scenes with Lucio San Pedro’s Ang Buwan sa Kabundukan which came next. Interestingly enough, this marked the third time that an orchestra played this piece this year. After taking a musical trip to the countryside, the PPO took the audience to the heart of Manila with Felipe de Leon's Manila Sketches. It was an amusing and enjoyable piece that most of the locals could relate to for the music brought forth the hustle and bustle of the infamous Metro Manila traffic and a leisurely trip to Chinatown.

The second half of the concert was made up of non-Filipino compositions like Darius Milhaud’s La création du monde, Op. 81a and Antonín Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, Op. 46. And these two pieces were a huge contrast to what the audience heard during the first half. In the jazzy Milhaud piece, there was a chamber orchestra set up which added some visual interest. It somehow made it a lot easier for the audience to focus on the instruments especially the saxophone that figured prominently in the piece. Lastly, the music by Dvořák gave the evening a very pleasant finish as the dances in this piece featured regular rhythms and huge folk influence. One need not know any backstory to fully appreciate this compared to that of the Buenaventura and Milhaud pieces.

Ranera took the audience back to the Philippines when he led the orchestra for an unusual encore which was Freddie Aguilar’s Anak. Again, I think that this was chosen to be in line with the Mostly Filipino title of the concert. This, along with the rest of the pieces in the programme made up for a very diverse listening experience for the night which was very much in keeping with the current season’s theme of Classic Blends. It remains to be seen what surprising blends that the PPO has in store for the rest of their 2013-2014 season.

Película, 12th Spanish Film Festival Noche del Cine Argentino

Gabriel Nesci

Película-Pelikula, the annual Spanish Film Festival which recently held its 12th edition, does not only feature films from Spain but also from other Spanish speaking nations like Mexico, Chile and Argentina. And just like in previous years, there is always the Noche del Cine Argentino, a day/night in Pelikula fully devoted to Argentinean cinema co-presented by the Embassy of Argentina.

I was able to attend this year’s Noche del Cine Argentino and was able to see two films Días de pesca en Patagonia and Días de Vinilo. I was also able to meet Gabriel Nesci, the director of Días de Vinilo who presented his film on that night prior to the screening.

Días de pesca en Patagonia/Gone Fishing

This film directed by Carlos Sorín tells the story of Marco Tucci (Alejandro Awada), a 52 year old salesman, who travels to Puerto Deseado in Patagonia to go shark fishing. But we learn that this trip is just a cover in his attempt to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Ana (Victoria Almeida). Días de pesca en Patagonia is a very melancholic, quiet and introspective film about a father coming into terms with the consequences of his past actions. There weren’t many details on why the two got estranged but Marco’s alcoholism probably played a big part in it. For those who were hoping for a happy ending with Marco patching things up with Ana and her family, they’d be up for disappointment especially if they imagined everybody enjoying dinner together. But it did offer a satisfying conclusion making me realize that events in life happen to the point that it would be impossible to go back to before. The film also gave the viewers a glimpse of Patagonia, an idyllic place at the southern end of South America which is not the first picture that comes to mind whenever people think of Argentina.

Días de Vinilo/Vinyl Days

Días de Vinilo, written and directed by Gabriel Nesci is a film about a group of friends Damián (Gastón Pauls), Facundo (Rafael Spregelburd), Luciano (Fernán Mirás) and Marcelo (Ignacio Toselli) who find themselves at the crossroads whether be it in love, at work or in life. Damián, a screenwriter, tries to redeem himself after a heavily panned romantic comedy by coming up with a new and serious screenplay based on his last relationship with a snobby art critic. Facundo, is getting married but getting a taste of the rock star lifestyle (and a hit composition) puts some serious doubt in his wedding. Luciano, a radio presenter, turns for the worse (he gets turns deaf and falls in love with Facundo’s fiancée) when his ex girlfriend, a fledgling singer, comes out with a massive hit based on a song bashing him. Marcelo, on the other hand, still struggles to make his Beatles tribute band called The Hitles take off and a new woman in his life only serves to complicate things for him.

I may not have gone through any of the experiences of these characters but I was able to relate to their struggles since I think that I belong to their age group. I think that I’m also at that crucial time when one has to really get serious in life and let go of the stuff that has been holding on back from moving forward. Or in other words, I think that I’m also undergoing midlife crisis already. These four friends manage to overcome these obstacles in neat (albeit predictable) fashion which makes this comedy film a feel good one. One very poignant moment in the movie was when the four see a video clip of themselves taken a decade ago which made them really reflect on what their lives had been so far. This clip spurred them to action, throwing away all hesitations and going on with their lives realizing that they’ve held themselves back for the longest time.

Gabriel Nesci and Cherie Gil

It was great to meet Gabriel Nesci whose love for music especially the Beatles, was really felt throughout in the film. And for a music enthusiast like me, the film's soundtrack was truly enjoyable. The audience’s reaction to the film was also very positive and Gabriel was very pleased in hearing the laughter (at the right moments) inside the cinema. Among those who watched the film was Filipina actress Cherie Gil who was all smiles as she chatted with Gabriel during the cocktails that was held after the film. It wasn’t only Cherie Gil who enjoyed the film since Días de Vinilo eventually won the Audience Choice Award of this year’s festival.

Instituto Cervantes' José María Fons Guardiola, Gabriel Nesci, 
Embassy of the Argentine Republic Chargé d'affaires Monica Deregibus,
and councilor Federico Navia

Noche del Cine Argentino, a highlight of Película-Pelikula, the 12th Spanish Film Festival was made possible by the Embassy of the Argentine Republic. Special thanks go out to the Embassy of the Argentine Republic's Chargé d'affaires Minister Monica Deregibus and councilor Federico Navia.

This event was presented by the Embassy of Spain–AECID, Instituto Cervantes, Ayala Cinemas, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and Manila Contemporary. The event is made possible by Greenbelt, San Miguel Corporation, Qatar Airways, the Embassy of Argentina, in collaboration with Maersk Global Service Centers, Cemex, Emperador Distillers, the City Government of Zamboanga, Ayala Museum, the SPCC.  And with special thanks to Centunion Philippines, Ayala Land Premier, Tyler, Alba’s Restaurante Español, Espa-Fil and Intercontinental Manila.
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