Thursday, January 29, 2015

Opera show Seasons of Desire taps into Asianovela craze

February 7, 2015, 8:00 PM
Abelardo Hall Auditorium
College of Music, University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City

Elaine Lee, soprano
Ivan Nery, tenor
Lawrence Jatayna, baritone
Dingdong Fiel, piano

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
     Overture from Le Nozze di Figaro, K.492
     Cinque, Dieci, Venti... from Le Nozze di Figaro, K.492
     Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen from Die Zauberflöte, K.620
     In uomini, in soldati from Così fan tutte, K.588
     Deh vieni alla finestra from Don Giovanni, K.527
     Papageno/Papagena duet from Die Zauberflöte, K.620
Giuseppe Verdi
     Mini Overture from Rigoletto
     Questa o quella from Rigoletto
     Signor né principe from Rigoletto
     Caro nome from Rigoletto
     Cortigiani, vil razza dannata from Rigoletto
     Mio padre! Tutte le feste al tempio from Rigoletto
     Sì, vendetta, tremenda vendetta from Rigoletto
     La donna è mobile from Rigoletto
     V'ho ingannato, colpevole fui from Rigoletto
     Addio del passato from La Traviata

As a prelude to the Valentines’ Day season, the opera show Seasons of Desire, incorporating the tropes of popular Asian television series like tragedies, betrayals, vengeance, and redemption happens this February 7, 2015, 8:00 PM at the Abelardo Hall Auditorium, College of Music in UP Diliman.

Written by Vladimeir Gonzales and directed by Nazer Salcedo, Seasons of Desire features soprano Elaine Lee, tenor Ivan Nery, baritone Lawrence Jatayna and pianist Dingdong Fiel as they perform a selection of music from operas like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Le Nozze de Figaro, Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte and Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto and La Traviata.

Soprano Elaine Lee has performed in the Philippines, USA and Canada. Her most recent roles were Lucy in Menotti’s The Telephone and Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème with the Philippine Opera Company. She also produces her own concerts and stage productions that feature opera excerpts, Chinese and Filipino folk classics, and Broadway selections.

Tenor Ivan Nery is a product of St. Scholastica’s College, Manila. He was part of MusicArtes productions of La Bohème and Madame Butterfly as understudy of Rodolfo and Pinkerton respectively and part of the ensemble. Nery also had a solo concert at the Ayala Museum as part of MCO Foundation’s Young Artists Series 2013.

Baritone Lawrence Jatayna has appeared in Singapore Lyric Opera’s productions of La Traviata, Tales of Hoffman, Madame Butterfly, Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s Fidelio, and Opera Viva’s Fences. He is currently a freelance vocal coach, a vocal arranger, voice instructor, and a voice faculty member of the University of the PhilippinesCollege of Music Extension Program.

Pianist Dingdong Fiel is currently the music director of Upstart Productions’ upcoming Into the Woods. His former music director credits include Repertory PhilippinesNo Way to Treat a Lady, Green Wing Entertainment’s Lorenzo and Upstart Production’s Forbidden Broadway. He was also the featured soloist in Manila Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert during the 2013 Asia Orchestra Week held in Japan.

For ticket inquiries:
(0919) 427-2340,

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ravishing Ravel of Dechosa and Petrushka’s abrupt ending

Pianist Ariel Dechosa and conductor Olivier Ochanine

Ariel Dechosa, piano
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Franz Joseph Haydn
     Symphony No. 100 in G major, Hob. 1/100 Military
Maurice Ravel
     Piano Concerto in G
Igor Stravinsky

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra greeted the year 2015 with a concert that featured a ravishing Ravel by pianist Ariel Dechosa and a Petrushka that ended rather abruptly. With the concert staged at the Meralco Theater once again due to the Cultural Center of the Philippinesbeing home to yet another touring musical for the most of January, I had no choice but to endure the horror of traveling along EDSA. But after the Christmas break and the papal visit, it was really nice to be back at the symphony.

The concert opener, Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 100 in G major, Hob. 1/100 Military, had a rather tentative start by the orchestra led by music director and principal conductor Olivier Ochanine. I guess that it’s harder to begin a quiet, soft and unassuming introduction than a loud, strong phrase like that of Beethoven’s Fifth. Thankfully, everything went smooth sailing once the winds kicked in at the Allegro. One of the most interesting aspects of this symphony was the use of “Turkish” instruments namely the bass drum, cymbals and triangle at the second and fourth movements. While I was watching, I couldn’t help but be amused upon remembering that this caused quite a sensation back then when it is nothing out of the ordinary right now.

Oddly, Ariel Dechosa’s take on Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G also had an incoherent start by the orchestra. The whip/slapstick that should’ve jolted an unprepared member of the audience sounded so distant as if the percussion section were offstage. And in yet another head scratching moment for me, the Dechosa on the piano overpowered the orchestra which is usually the other way around especially at performances at the CCP Main Theater. But I wasn’t complaining since I no longer had to struggle trying to hear the piano parts which were played magnificently especially during the dreamy second movement. I wish that this reverie would never end but Ravel decided to bring us back to the frenzy of the first movement in the all too brief closing section of the piece. Dechosa impressed the audience with such an energetic finish that he continued on with his encore of George Gershwin’s Prelude No. 1 in B flat major.

The second half of the concert was devoted to Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka, which was a nice contrast to the Haydn opener. Familiarity with the ballet from which this music was from benefited me greatly while listening to the orchestra. As they went on from each tableau, I had no trouble imagining the story of Petrushka unfold and couldn’t help but feel torn since I’m not sure whether to root or feel sorry for the puppet. As the orchestra neared the part where Petrushka dies at the hands of the Moor, his rival for the ballerina’s affections, the orchestra suddenly stopped. Then, there was a stray applause. But Olivier relaxed, releasing the tension in his shoulders, which is a sign that the piece has ended. I could only join the applause in confusion, checking the souvenir program once again confirming that the omission of the final parts of Petrushka wasn’t a misprint. The abrupt end definitely rattled me as my favorite moment, the mocking trumpet dialogue in the keys of C and F# during apparition of Petrushka followed by quiet pizzicato notes to end the piece wasn’t played at all.

RAd with Ariel Dechosa and Olivier Ochanine

I couldn’t recall being bothered like this at a concert. The omission left an itchy feeling that I desperately needed to scratch. And to get this off me, I had to play the omitted parts from a recording that I have as soon as I got home.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Acclaimed soprano Nelly Miricioiu to serenade Manila

March 6, 2015, 8:00 PM
Meralco Theater
Ortigas Avenue
Pasig City

Nelly Miricioiu, soprano
Najib Ismail, piano

Ottorino Respighi
     Invito alla danza
     L'ultima ebbrezza
Ernest Chausson
     Le Papillon
     Le Charme
Hector Berlioz
     Le spectre de la rose
Frédéric Chopin-Pauline Viardot
     Le Danse
Tiberiu Brediceanu
     Cine m-aude cantand
     Canta puiul cucului
     Dragu-mi-i mandro de tine
Giuseppe Verdi 
     Oh, cielo! Dove son'io!-Ah! dagli scanni eterei... from Aroldo
     Come in quest`ora bruna from Simon Boccanegra
Gioacchino Rossini
     Bel raggio lusinghier from Semiramide
Vincenzo Bellini
     Col sorriso d'innocenza from Pirata
Giacomo Puccini
     Nel villaggio d'Edgar from Edgar
     Vissi d'arte from Tosca

World renowned soprano Nelly Miricioiu serenades Manila with songs and arias by Puccini, Verdi, Rossini, Respighi, Chausson and Chopin on a one night concert on March 6, 2015, 8:00 PM at the Meralco Theater. She will be accompanied by pianist Najib Ismail.

Soprano Nelly Miricioiu

Hailed as a singing actress, Miricioiu is one of the most versatile artists of our day. Her repertoire extends from Mozart and bel canto to Verdi, Puccini to the verismo and modern Italian opera Respighi and Zandonai. She has also sung the works of French and Russian composers. Critics have described her as “A rare vocal phenomenon of this century" (L'Opera of France) and "This extraordinary diva can sing anything and sing it well" (Rodney Milnes of Opera, the leading opera magazine in the world).

Since her Covent Garden debut in 1982 as Nedda in I Pagliacci opposite Jon Vickers, Piero Cappuccili and Thomas Allen and her 1983 triumphant La Scala debut as Lucia di Lammermoor, Nelly has been heard in all major opera houses of the world. She has worked with some of the most prestigious conductors and directors in leading roles, including Tosca with Jose Carreras, Jose Cura and Neil Schicoff), Mimi with Placido Domingo, Violetta in La Traviata with Franco Bonisolli, Roberto Alagna, Renato Bruson, and Alfredo Kraus.

Aside from her concert, Nelly Miricioiu will also hold an intensive vocal workshop focused on bel canto singing to twelve of the country’s finest singers on March 9-11, 2015 at the Ayala Museum. These masterclasses which are open to the public will culminate in two concerts, An Evening with Donizetti on March 14, 2015 and An Evening with Bellini on March 21, 2015. Both concerts will be held at 7:30 PM the Ayala Museum.

Nelly Miricioiu Live in Manila is presented by the Cultural Arts Events Organizer in partnership with the Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation (MCO Foundation), Ayala Museum, Lyric Piano and DZFE.FM The Master's Touch. Proceeds from her Manila concerts will go to Juan Antonio Lanuza endowment fund for advance vocal studies. This program aims to help Filipino young artists in the advancement of their careers through masterclasses, workshops and scholarships.

Ticket prices:
P3000 Orchestra Center
P2500 Orchestra Left, Loge Center
P2000 Loge Left, Balcony Center
P1500 Orchestra Right, Loge Right, Balcony Left
P1000 Balcony Right
P800 Student Price (Limited)
P600 Student Price (Limited)
-20% senior citizen discount
+applicable service charges

For inquiries:
CAEO 997-9483, 782-7164, 750-0768, (0918) 347-3027, (0920) 954-0053
TicketWorld 891-9999

Raul Sunico to perform three Tchaikovsky piano concertos in concert

February 22, 2015, 4:00 PM
Old Senate Hall
National Museum of the Philippines

Raul Sunico, piano
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Herminigildo Ranera, conductor

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
     Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23
     Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Op.44
     Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 75

A decade after conquering four Sergei Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos in one evening, internationally renowned pianist Raul Sunico tackles all three of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovksy’s piano concertos in a performance happening this February 22, 2015, 4:00 PM at the Old Senate Hall of the National Museum of the Philippines.

Presented by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), this concert billed as Raul Sunico Performs Tchaikovksy: The Premiere Concert will be the first time in the world that a single pianist will perform in one evening all of Tchaikovsky’s three concertos that includes the popular Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23, the rarely played Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Op.44, and the posthumously published Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 75. Accompanying Sunico is the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Associate Conductor Herminigildo Ranera.

Concurrently President of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Dean of the UST Conservatory of Music, Sunico has garnered acclaim around the world where he had performed in solo recitals as well as with the best orchestras throughout Europe, North America, Australia, Middle East, and Asia.

The evening is a celebration not only of Sunico’s brilliance as a musician but also of AIM’s excellence as an international graduate business school. Nearing its 50th anniversary, AIM sets its eyes on a vigorous future where it continues to enjoy a leadership status in the ASEAN region by mobilizing resources for its exciting campus development plans. Like Sunico, this pioneering graduate business school proudly stands on its rich heritage amid an ASEAN backdrop that rises on the global economic landscape.

Raul Sunico Performs Tchaikovksy: The Premiere Concert is co-sponsored by the National Museum of the Philippines and Lyric Piano and Organ Corporation.

For sponsorship and ticket inquiries:
Irene Donohue 892-4011 local 7101,

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pinoy superheroes battle socio-political ills in Ballet Philippines’ Manhid

February 20-March 8, 2015
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
Cultural Center of the Philippines
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

A new generation of Pinoy superheroes and supervillains are set to punch, kick and battle it out on stage through song and dance as Ballet Philippines presents Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical to close out their 45th Anniversary Sapphire Season this February 20-March 8, 2015 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

Sandino Martin

Inspired by superhero comicbooks, Manhid is set in an alternate reality where the 1986 EDSA Revolution failed. In this world, 99 children who were born right after the Masaker ng Taong Bayan were named after the gods and heroes of the Philippine myth as a sign of protest. This in turn gave these children super powers and they grew up into forming into two warring factions: the heroic Maragtas and the villainous Tulisan ng Bayan.

Mark Anthony Grantos and Teetin Villanueva

The Maragtas is led by Bantugan Buenaventura played by Sandino Martin with BP apprentice Mark Anthony Grantos alternating the role. Martin recently won the Best Actor award for the film Esprit de Corps at the Cinema One Originals this year. Joining Bantugan in his quest is lady activist Lam-Ang Panganiban portrayed alternately by Teetin Villanueva who was recently seen in Maxie: The Musical and Ang Nawawalang Kapatid, and Tanghalang Pilipino’s Regina de Vera, a Gawad Buhay awardee for Outstanding Female Lead Performance in a Play for Der Kaufmann. The evil Tulisan ng Bayan, employed by Mamalahim-ma, a demonic Minister of Humanity, is led by General Apolaki Regalado. Mayen Estañero, who starred in the rock opera Lorenzo plays Malamihm-ma while BP Principal Dancer Richardson Yadao dances the role of General Apolaki.

The rest of the heroes and villains populating the world of Manhid are guest artists Fred Lo and Ricardo Magno alternating the role of Radya Indarapatra Evangelista, Gold Villar as Allunsina Albano, KL Dizon as Urduja, Jean Judith Javier as Dilim, and Ronah Rostata as Lagrimas. Ballet Philippines dancers taking on the roles of the various heroes and villains are Jean Marc Cordero, Katherine Trofeo, Earl John Arisola, Cyril Aran Fallar, Emmanuelle Guillermo, Timothy Paul Cabrera, Rita Winder, Karmela Cortez, Gillianne Geguinto, Kazier Policarpio, Victor Maguad and Erl Sorilla.

Fred Lo

Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical is written by Kanakan Balintagos, directed by Paul Morales, and choreographed by Alden Lugnasin. The music was composed by Vincent de Jesus, Carina Evangelista, Kanakan Balintagos and the Eraserheads before they became THE Eraserheads. In all the shows for this current production, Radioactive Sago Project will provide live music accompaniment. Radioactive Sago Project's Francis de Veyra is the musical director and music arranger.

Ballet Philippines held a press conference for Manhid which featured several numbers from the show. I noticed that the singers/actors’ and dancers’ parts are more interwoven in Manhid compared to Rama Hari in which the singers were mostly detached from all the dancing action. Some months ago, Kanakan Balintagos told me that during the auditions for the leads of Manhid, he was very moved by one particular performance: that of Sandino Martin. And his solo number at the press conference just showed everyone the moving performance that bagged him the lead role.

Jean Judith Javier

I cornered music director Francis de Veyra to ask him how Radioactive Sago Project where he plays bass will tackle the music of Manhid since the sound of his band with the brass section is very different from the sound of the Eraserheads which is basically a guitar driven rock band. He told me that he heard an audio recording on cassette tape (meaning a not so good audio quality) of the original staging and he decided to go from there. He retained the melody and the chords but tinkered with the arrangement utilizing the brass section of Radioactive Sago Project. De Veyra mentioned that Diego Mapa of Tarsius joining them for a dash of electronic music and synth effects provided by the production’s vocal coach TJ Ramos will lend more texture to the overall music of the production. He expressed his excitement as he and the band will be on stage instead of being at the pit during the show.

Ricardo Magno and KL Dizon

The original 1991 production of Manhid by UP TROPA was created during the height of the US bases issue. It was first staged at the Palma Hall Lobby and then at the CCP Little Theater. During that time, choreographer Paul Morales was still a scholar of Ballet Philippines. Almost 24 years later, Morales is now the company’s artistic director going back to this musical now staged at the CCP Main Theater.

Looking back, 1991 saw the height of popularity of the X-Men line of comics namely X-Force by Rob Liefeld, the new X-Men series illustrated by Jim Lee, and Uncanny X-Men by Filipino artist Whilce Portacio which was a huge deal for Filipino comicbook fans, including myself, back then. Now, the superhero genre has gained immense mainstream popularity thanks to the recent critical and commercial successes of films like Batman, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy to name a few.

The Cast of Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical

The comicbook geek in me can’t help but smile since Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical is a combination of some things that I am passionate about: music, comicbooks and culture.

Ticket prices:
P1500 Orchestra Center (Row K, L, M, N)
P1200 Orchestra Center (Other Rows), Parterre Box
P1000 Orchestra Side, Lower Box
P700 Upper Box
P600 Balcony I Center
P500 Balcony I Side
P300 Balcony II
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount
+applicable service charges

For inquiries:
Ballet Philippines 551-1003
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999

Pianist Christopher Janwong McKiggan holds solo recital at the CCP

February 10, 2015, 7:30 PM
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)
Cultural Center of the Philippines
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Christopher Janwong McKiggan, piano

Johannes Brahms
     Piano Sonata No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op.2
Narong Prangcharoen
     Three Minds
Ludwig van Beethoven
     Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op.110
Robert Beaser
Karim Al-Zand
     Paganini Reverie
Igor Stravinsky/Guido Agosti
     Firebird Suite

The Cultural Center of the Philippines and KMP Artists proudly present classical pianist Christopher Janwong McKiggan in one night concert this February 10, 2015, 7:30 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater).

Born in Christchurch, England, Christopher began his piano studies at age six with his father. He moved to Thailand at age seven, residing with his father, British, and mother, a Thai citizen of Chinese heritage. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Missouri-Kansas City as a Bachelor of Music studying under Dr. Robert Weirich, a Master’s Degree from Rice University is currently there as a Doctoral of Musical Arts Piano Performance under Prof. Jon Kimura Parker.

The program for the night includes standard piano repertoire fare like Johannes Brahms’ Piano Sonata No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op.2, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op.110, and Igor Stravinsky/Guido Agosti’s Firebird Suite. But what interests me more are the contemporary works to be played like Narong Prangcharoen’s Three Minds, Robert Beaser’s Pag Rag, and Karim Al-Zand’s Paganini Reverie.

Prancharoen’s Three Minds consists of three short pieces intended to describe different states of mind, how the mind affect a person’s life, and how the mind connects to sound or music and respond with it through emotion. Beaser’s Pag-Rag is Niccolò Paganini’s insanely popular Caprice No. 24 imbedded in ragtime music. Al-Zand’s Paganini Reverie takes a different approach as it was inspired by an evocative passage in Heinrich Heine‘s Florentine Nights which narrates a Paganini concert in vivid detail. Both of these pieces are included in Christopher’s CD Paganimania which will be available at the concert.

Like what I’ve said above, it’s the contemporary works in this concert that really piques my interest. And in my quest to sate this curiosity as Christopher’s concert draws near, I asked him a few questions regarding his views about contemporary music which is an exclusive in this blog.

Pianist Christopher Janwong McKiggan

You are heavily involved with contemporary music. What do you think are 21st century piano works that will be part of the standard repertoire?

While there are a multitude of works being composed right now, several works that were composed over the past 30 or so years seem to come to mind straight away when talking about pieces that could stand the test of time. Firstly is Augusta Read Thomas's Traces for solo piano. Composed in 2005 for the Montalvo Festival, it is a very varied and virtusoic work that has a wide breadth of colors and sounds. Secondly, is Robert Beaser's Piano Concerto. This is a stunningly beautiful work that I have kept in my repertoire for several years now. It certainly is the pinnacle of music in the New Tonality style. Wonderful construction, stunning harmonies and beautiful melodies also make it an audience favourite.

And in what direction will contemporary works take the music landscape in the foreseeable future?

All music was contemporary at some point whether it be Beethoven, Bach, Bartok, Ligeti, Chen Yi, or Gesualdo. There was a time when their music was considered contemporary. It is a question that I do not have an answer to. All I believe is that great music will prevail. A lot of people will argue as to what type of music is the "Future" of music, but I do not view music like this. Regardless of genre, a great piece of music is a great piece of music. As to what I see happening. However, to answer your question: for the next several decades, I see composers continuing to craft their own unique sound in the music world as most composers are doing now. Beyond that, it is very difficult to make a guess.

Contemporary works are rarely performed in here and it looks like it’s the same everywhere. It’s a risk to program new works and a lot still prefer to hear the same old thing. What do you think can be done to overcome this resistance to new works?

That is always a difficult task. The solution that has been thus far is to program an entire concert of pre 1920s music with maybe one work that is post 1920s. The unfortunate mindset about programming music this way is that Contemporary music becomes a token work. It could be viewed as almost an obligation. The way I program contemporary music is just how I feel It suits a program. Like in my upcoming concert, I have three contemporary works and three classical. All the contemporary works are all of different styles and extremely contrast one another. Personally, I have found this more effective. The audience gets to hear a wider variety of works and their mindset and outlook of the works is that they won't see it as just that "token" work.

We now live in a world where the internet has become an indispensable part of our lives. How can music written either centuries ago or just newly composed survive and flourish in this day and age?

Ah, the million dollar question. If I had that answer I would be rich. But in my opinion, embrace and adapt would be the way. It's slowly happening in the classical world, but slowly. In the internet age things change really fast. But at the same time, the music shouldn't be diluted. The danger that is happening is that the true nature of the music is getting lost. So somehow, we must come up with a way mix the hip and the classical together without losing its identity.

So do you have any word as we count the days leading to your concert here?

It's my first time performing in the Philippines, and I couldn't be more excited! My first piano teacher, Rodel Rivera, is actually from the Philippines and without him as a teacher I wouldn't have found my love for the piano. I look forward to performing there and I truly hope you enjoy the concert!

There you go folks! Special thanks to Christopher for this interview. And see you all at the CCP Little Theater this February 10.

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

For inquiries:
CCP Box Office 832-3704
CCP Performance and Exhibition Department 832-1125 local 1606-1607
TicketWorld 891-9999

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cherie Gil stars in PETA’s Cherry Orchard remake, Arbol de Fuego

February 20-March 15, 2015
PETA Theater Center
No. 5 Meynard Drive, New Manila
Quezon CityPhilippines

Cherie Gil stars as a debt ridden matriarch in denial in Arbol de Fuego, the Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (PETA) adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard running this February 20-March 15, 2015 at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City.

Adapted by Rody Vera and directed by Loy Arcenas, Arbol de Fuego ends PETA’s 47th season that included Rak of Aegis which had three successful runs and FnL.

Standing from L to R: Divine Acuina, Lao Rodriguez, Leo Rialp, Jake Macapagal,
Cherie Gil, Raffy Tejada, Angeli Bayani, Loy Arcenas, Anna Luna, Bembol Roco,
and Rody Vera
Fron from L to R: Anthony Falcon, Kiki Baento, Riki Benedicto, and Gie Onida

Cherie Gil portrays Enriquetta Jardeleza-Sofronio, who throws lavish parties in her estate to forget the reality of her squandered fortune and mounting debt. Joining Gil in this production is Angeli Bayani a recent winner of Best Actress at the Gawad Urian as her adopted daughter Charito, who takes care of the estate in the absence of the Jardelezas. The rest of the Jardelezas will be portrayed by British Independent Film Award nominee Jake Macapagal as Enriquetta’s younger brother Adjie and 2013 Cinema One Best Actress Anna Luna as Carmen, her naïve and optimistic daughter.

The rest of the characters in this production include Leo Rialp as the money-grubbing former nobleman Chitong, Raffy Tejada as Tiking, the former servant who struck rich, Riki Benedicto as the young, intellectual Dante, and Bembol Roco, the faithful but sometimes space headed mayordomo Manoy Iking. The Jardelezas hired servants are composed of Anthony Falcon as Caloy, Lao Rodriguez as Pindot, Gie Onida as Sakada/Sundalo, Kiki Baento as Kane, and Divine Aucina as Ling-Ling.

From the Cherry Orchard’s original setting of mid-19th century Russia during the emancipation of serfs, Vera’s adaptation Arbol de Fuego transfers the setting to Negros Occidental during the 1970’s when the hacienderos’ opulent aristocratic lifestyle drastically declined with the downfall of the sugar industry brought upon by Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto. The setting may have changed but the adaptation still retained the sarcasm and humor of Chekhov.

Joining playwright Rody Vera and director and production designer Loy Arcenas in the artistic staff are Carlo Pangunaling for costume design and Vincent de Jesus for sound and music.

During the press launch of Arbol de Fuego held at the PETA Multi-Purpose Hall, the cast did a 20 minute staged reading that gave the press and show buyers ideas about each other characters. Some wondered how people who aren’t aware of the play and Anton Chekhov would be able to understand and connect with the play. Rody Vera and Loy Arcenas said that the story with characters coming from different classes of society is just like the local soap opera series shown in television prompting Cherie Gil to quip that Arbol de Fuego “is so Downton Abbey!”

Cherie Gil

Later on, I was able to have a brief chat with Cherie Gil and asked her how she feels sharing the stage with real, live people this time compared to her previous stint in her one woman play Full Gallop in which she was just surrounded literally by flowers. She expressed her relief and delight that she has co-actors this time and that it takes a load off her shoulders. We then shared a few laughs as we recalled the now infamous etched portrait of Maria Callas in a Dutch restaurant that was actually a publicity photo of Cherie Gil when she essayed the role of the legendary soprano in Master Class. She is truly a delight on and off the stage. And my off stage interaction with her, no matter how brief, just made me look forward to seeing her on stage once again.

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