Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Jilin Provincial Art Troupe performances celebrate 40 years of Philippines-China Diplomatic Relations

In line with the Chinese Spring Festival and the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Philippines-China Diplomatic Relations, the Jilin Provincial Art Troupe, a multi-arts group from northeastern China heads over to the Philippines for a series of performances from March 1 to March 9, 2015. The Troupe’s performances are made possible through the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China in cooperation with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Department of Foreign Affairs, City Government of Batangas, National Parks Development Committee, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc. and The Theatre at Solaire Resort and Casino.

The group’s performance tours consist of different presentations from Chinese excerpts of stories, dramas, adapted through dances, traditional music, opera performance and other art forms.

Jilin Provincial Art Troupe is composed of selected best performers from all across Jilin Province. Its programs represent the highest level of Jilin stage art. The group has been in the spotlight of the Spring Festival Gala produced by the China Central Television (CCTV) for 17 consecutive years, becoming one of the famous art brands in China. In recent years, Jilin Province has been striving to build brands of folk songs and dances, Jilin Opera and other stage art programs with local and ethnic features. The group has performed in world-class art halls in Russia, France, Italy, USA, South Korea, North Korea, Mongolia, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The said troupe represented China in the art competition in Kazakhstan, international dance festivals in Turkey and Jordan, special art performances of informal meetings of leaders of APEC, at the Shanghai Grand Theater to perform for People's Republic of China president Xin Jinping and 46 other leaders of states and international organizations.

Jilin Provincial Art Troupe performance schedule:

March 1, 2015 5:30 PM Rizal Park Open Air Auditorium
March 2, 2015 4:00 PM Batangas City Convention Center
March 4, 2015 8:00 PM Cultural Center of the Philippines
March 5, 2015 8:00 PM The Theatre at Solaire Resort and Casino
 March 7, 2015 7:00 PM White Gold Club, Cebu City
March 9, 2015 7:00 PM SMX Convention Center, Lanang Davao City

For inquiries:
CCP Cultural Exchange Department 832-1125 local 1708-1709,
NCCA International Affairs Office 527-2192 loc 614 or 527-2206,

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

RAd's Pasinaya 2015 Experience

It may surprise a lot of people to find out that prior to this year, I haven’t been to the Pasinaya, the open house festival of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. I always reasoned out that I already know the resident companies by heart and I’ve regularly watched their presentations throughout the year so there’s no need for me to go. What finally made me decide to come out and experience Pasinaya for the first time is to see firsthand the attendees, especially those who have never been to the CCP before. I thought that it would be fun and interesting to join in all the frenzy that is the Pasinaya. For my initial experience, I decided to stick to the music performances that happened at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater) which was designated as the Music Zone.

UST Symphony Orchestra

I arrived at the CCP complex just as the pre-show at Pedro Bukaneg Road was winding down before giving way to the opening ceremonies presided by the festival director Chris Millado. Once they started letting people in, I headed over to the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) to check out the UST Symphony Orchestra’s performance. The orchestra opened up their set with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture in A major, Op. 96 which is part of their lineup in their upcoming Reunion concert on March 15, 2015, 8:00 PM at the CCP Main Theater. Being the earliest performers, it felt to me that with the exception of the impressive clarinet solo, the USTSO was still half asleep with their Shostakovich. But  their next two numbers, a medley of love songs and a medley of Bruno Mars tracks, definitely woke them up as the uniformed school kids (probably on a field trip) who filled the theater turned things into a sing-along affair much to my surprise. This was when I realized that this was no ordinary concert: this was the Pasinaya.

Paolo Panagsagan
Danica Antazo

Right after this, I immediately went downstairs to the CCP Little Theater to check out the piano performances of the top NAMCYA Piano Category B winners namely Paolo Panagsagan and Danica Antazo. I felt a bit insulted when a guy right behind me expressed his disappointment that what he came for was just a solo piano performance. I wanted to lecture him then and there that it’s not JUST a piano performance, but it was not the time for that. I just hoped that the performance of the two young pianists was enough to change his perception. Up next was the set dubbed as The Violists Unite featuring a group of professional and amateur violists led by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal violist Joy Allan dela Cruz. They performed mostly a western inspired set capped by Giocahino Rossini's William Tell Overture, arranged for a viola ensemble.

Violists Unite
Kammerchor Manila

It was time for my lunch after this which meant that I have to miss the UP College of Music Voice Majors and the Preview of Graduation Recitals by the Philippine High School for the Arts Scholars. I was back though to see chamber music performances by the Outstanding Grade 9 Students of the PHSA and the Clarion Chamber Ensemble. I failed to take note of the names of the PHSA students but I’ll definitely hear more of them a few years from now. The Clarion Chamber Ensemble set was one of my most highly awaited performances. Flutist David Jerome Johnson explained to the audience that their group constantly changes (either a duet, trio, quartet, quintet, etc.) and that for that afternoon, they will be a nonet playing Josef Rheinberger’s Nonet in E flat major, Op. 139. He made it a point to remind everyone of their upcoming The Bold, the Brash, and the Beautiful concert happening on March 22, 2015, 6:00 PM at the CCP Little Theater. Thank goodness that this was just a teaser for an over eager toddler seated right behind my back kept on shouting while the performance was ongoing. And he just had to cry and scream when his companions finally decided to bring him out of the theater. I knew that Pasinaya would be different from the usual concerts but I never thought that it would test my patience this way. I just hope that the toddler had the opportunity to drop by the Kids’ Zone at the CCP Library. He would’ve enjoyed whatever they got in store there and his enthusiasm would’ve been most welcomed. My final stop at the Music Zone was Kammerchor Manila’s performance led by their choirmaster Anthony Go Villanueva. They performed a bunch of songs by Ryan Cayabyab. They wrapped things up with a number by a Korean composer accentuated with laughter, screams, wailing and other unusual noises which was very well received to the point that the audience wanted them to perform more. Time was limited for all performing groups but those who want more of Kammerchor Manila has to check out Glorificamus Te happening on March 28, 2015, 7:00 PM at the CCP Main Theater. In this concert, Kammerchor Manila will be joined by two other choirs namely Imusicappella Chamber Choir and Novo Concertante Manila.

Citizen’s Brigade Band of Dasmariñas, Cavite
CEU Folk Dance Troupe

A delay in the CCP Main Theater schedule afforded me the chance to make quick stops to see the Citizen’s Brigade Band of Dasmariñas, Cavite who did multiple sets at Pedro Bukaneg Road throughout the day and CEU Folk Dance Troupe at the CCP Main Theater Ramp. I was able to grab a quick snack at the Eskinita that also hosted a bazaar and several variety shows.

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra

Then, it was the turn of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the CCP Main Theater. Led by the orchestra’s associate conductor Herminigildo Ranera (principal conductor Olivier Ochanine couldn’t make it due to a medical leave), the PPO started with Pyotr Ilyich’s Tchaikovsky’s Polonaise from Eugene Onegin which was politely received by the audience. Once I recognized the opening bars of the next piece which was Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Oveture, (heard for the second time) I already braced myself for the inevitable applause once the familiar English horn part and the trumpet call kicked in. As expected, there was thunderous applause after this piece. The PPO capped off their set with music from The Pirates of the Carribean film series. I have to admit that it felt awkward taking photos of performances but I just had to since the Pasinaya is one of the rare times when photography is allowed inside the CCP performance venues.

The culminating event of the Pasinaya was the People’s Gala with all of the CCP resident companies performing. But only the PPO, Philippine Ballet Theatre, Tanghalang Pilipino, Ballet Philippines, and the Philippine Madrigal Singers performed Philippine themed numbers. The USTSO, NAMCYA and the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company didn’t participate at the Gala. Since this year’s theme was Pasinaya Grows ASEAN Wings in line with the upcoming ASEAN integration, a special ASEAN themed number was also presented featuring dancers from some ASEAN Performing Arts Market delegates that were later joined by the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Dance Group. The People’s Gala ended with all the performers on stage with the Madz leading the singing of Kulturang Pilipino, Alay sa Mundo (CCP Hymn).

Philippine Madrigal Singers
People's Gala

Having a Pasinaya Fast Pass Baller enabled me to spend some time roaming around various areas while waiting for the next shows to start since those who wear them were given priority access to the performance venues. Those who settled for the regular armbands by paying the suggested minimum donation of P50 had to be more patient since they spent more time lining up. Lines were always long at entrances in all levels of the CCP Main Theater but I never worried that I would not get a seat. On the other hand, the Theater Zone at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater) and the Dance Zone at the Bulwagang Francisca Reyes Aquino (Rehearsal Hall) had very limited seating capacity. The relatively long lines for both venues meant that those who got in line for the show that was just about to start had to accept the possibility of getting cut and remaining in line for the next show instead. Surprisingly, the CCP Little Theater didn’t get filled at all during all those times that I watched there. I’m not sure if people decided to pass it up thinking that the venue’s full already or music performances didn’t appeal to them at all which is rather unfortunate. One thing that I’ve observed was that during the afternoon, the uniformed school kids seen earlier in the morning were no longer around (probably the field trip was over) and a lot more adults (even some senior citizens) were seen instead. I guess that Pasinaya attendees get older as the day progresses.

Vincent de Jesus and Ballet Philippines 2

About an hour after the People’s Gala wrapped up, Ballet Philippines 2 presented Hugot sa Rosas at Studio 1, which was just some steps away from the CCP Main Building. This show featured numbers performed and choreographed by members of Ballet Philippines 2 set to the tracks of Vincent de Jesus’ Songs to Slash Your Wrists By album. Despite the late start and the venue being somehow detached from all the Pasinaya activities earlier in the day, there was still a sizeable crowd who turned up for this presentation which was also part of Fringe Manila.

So my first ever Pasinaya experience had me spending around 14 hours at the CCP Complex which I think is the longest time I’ve ever spent in the area. No wonder I was very exhausted once I got home. It is very likely that I’ll be back again next year although I think that I will be saying goodbye to the Music Zone for the meantime. I guess that it’s time for me to start exploring the other zones and possibly take the museum tours too. Finally, music peeps need not fret for I am not totally abandoning music since I’d definitely be around during the regular concerts as always.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cellist Pei-Sian Ng’s dazzling Dvořák

Conductor Olivier Ochanine and cellist Pei-Sian Ng

Pei-Sian Ng, cello
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Béla Bartók
     Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 123
Antonín Dvořák
     Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B. 191

Cellist Pei-Sian Ng dazzled the audience with a heart-tugging performance of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto that could’ve easily rivaled any show during that Valentine’s Day weekend.

Earlier announcements about this concert held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) had Antonín Dvořák Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B. 191 being performed first. But the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, led by their principal director and music director Olivier Ochanine, wisely saved this for the second half and opted to start the concert with Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 123.

The Bartók’s piece which was the last work he has completed is not as rhythmically as complex as his other pieces, and the melodies are more pronounced and not as folk music sounding as his other ones. As the title suggests, this piece has principal players playing solo passages that are virtuosic as if they’re doing a solo concerto. For me, it’s the fourth movement Intermezzo interrotto that I looked forward to the most. Some accounts say that a passage in here was Bartók’s way of expressing his displeasure over Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60 Leningrad, a highly politicized piece that became extremely popular at that time. I think I snickered a bit on my sit during the part with the trills but I guess I was alone in doing so as no one else would’ve probably gotten Bartók’s not so subtle jab at Shostakovich.

I tried hard to focus listening to the piece despite this being Bartók’s most accessible one and pay attention to every principal playing the solo but a light bulb at the ceiling, almost directly overhead me, constantly flickered throughout the performance. And this not only bothered me, but also those seated nearby.

The Dvořák cello concerto first came to my attention when FILharmoniKA performed it with Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal cellist Richard Bamping as the soloist. I was vaguely familiar with the piece at the time but since that night, I was enamored by it and regularly listened to the piece wondering when I would see a live performance of it again. There had been many times when I see a performance of a highly anticipated piece and I end up getting very disappointed. But Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist Pei-Sian Ng certainly didn’t disappoint with this one.

The Dvořák of that night was just one of those moments for me when it became more than just the music. The multiple recordings that I’ve listened to cannot replicate that time during the final movement when Pei-Sian looked over and connected with concertmaster Nemesio Iberio as the latter did his violin solo which was included as an ode to the composer’s lost love in his youth which was his sister-in-law. And I think I held my breath for a long time during the final quiet moments before the music swelled to end the piece (then I let out a huge sigh). What swelled afterwards was the thunderous applause and cheers by the audience for Pei-Sian Ng and the PPO. For an encore, Pei-Sian took the lead in Gabriel Fauré’s Élégie, Op. 24 along with seven members of the orchestra’s cello section.

Olivier Ochanine, RAd, and Pei-Sian Ng

I do find it hard to look back at the last time when I got really moved by a concert. I’ve waited almost five years to hear the Dvořák again and it was definitely worth the wait. Afterwards, I did a quick reflection on how life was for me during the first time I heard the Dvořák and compared to how things are right now. And I became more moved (as if I couldn’t be moved more that evening) to realize that things definitely have gotten a lot better for me since then. It was just one of those rare moments for me when a concert became more than just the music and I have to thank the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Olivier Ochanine and Pei-Sian Ng (but definitely not the flickering light bulb) for that.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Christopher Janwong McKiggan champions contemporary works in solo piano concert

Pianist Christopher Janwong McKiggan

Christopher Janwong McKiggan, piano

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

Pianist Christopher Janwong McKiggan championed contemporary music during his brief stop to the country for a solo piano concert in conjunction with the release of his debut CD of new piano works.

Held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater) and co-presented by KMP Artists, the concert featured Chris’ renditions of standard repertoire pieces by Johannes Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven and Igor Stravinsky alongside newer works by Karim Al-Zan, Robert Beaser and Narong Prancharoen. Before playing each piece, Chris provided brief backgrounds about the works enabling the audience to have a more informed listening experience.

Chris opened up with Johannes Brahms’ Piano Sonata No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op. 2, a curious way to start, for in other recitals, a sonata such as this one usually wraps things up. But this piece, featuring an arresting start, a subdued (though it builds later on) second movement, a glorious Trio in the third movement, and a hefty finale showcased Chris’ range. The next couple of pieces he played are Paganini Reverie by Karim Al-Zand and Pag Rag by Robert Beaser, commissioned works that are among the tracks in his debut CD Paganimania. The first is a dreamy, drifting impressionistic work while the latter is a fun ragtime piece that ended with a playful reminder of the source material for both pieces which is Caprice No. 24 in A minor by Niccolò Paganini.

Chris rehearsing before the concert

The second sonata Chris performed on that night was Ludwig van Beethoven’s penultimate, Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op.110. Even if he didn’t admit to the audience beforehand that he almost never performs Beethoven (which is quite unheard of for concert pianists), his performance of this piece would still feel to me that he was not in his comfort zone especially with the fugue in the third movement. After that, he performed another contemporary work which was Narong Prangcharoen’s Three Minds which consists of three short movements depicting different state of minds. Of all the three, I was mostly drawn to the middle movement “Absent” that featured a series of hypnotic notes that lingered on for a few beats, giving out an eerie harmony, even after the strong bass notes were already released.

Chris saved his best for last with the Firebird Suite, Guido Agosti’s piano transcription of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet music. He handled with ease the complex Danse infernale, showed such delicate touch with the Berceuse and then used the glissando to great effect and heightening the sense of excitement in the Finale. It is still difficult to describe how giddy I always feel whenever I hear the start of the Finale whether it’s being heralded by the horn in the orchestral version or by a lone pianist who is consistent with his layers during this part. When I asked for feedback after the concert, I never heard anyone from the audience who didn’t have the Firebird Suite as their favorite moment in the whole evening.

After the concert, people snagged copies of the Paganimania CD, released by Albany Records that were available for sale at the lobby. And it quickly became a CD signing session for Chris. Even though attendance could’ve been a lot better, one thing that I found remarkable was that most of the audience was made up of mostly young people. The evening was indeed a magnificent display of youthful exuberance. I guess that Chris’ youth and pleasant looks, bringing contemporary works into the fore, and the wonders of the internet were instrumental in bringing out the younger set this time.

Actors, dancers crossover in Ballet Philippines' Manhid

Mark Anthony Grantos

One main feature of superhero comicbooks is the crossover wherein a story starts on one title, say Spider-Man and then the next part continues on to another title, Fantastic Four for example. During this crossover, characters from the Spider-Man comicbook appear in the pages of Fantastic Four and vice versa. In Ballet Philippines’ comicbook inspired production Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical, there are also crossovers as artists from one field (theater) cross over to another (dance) and vice versa.

Mark Anthony Grantos and Teetin Villanueva
Ricardo Magno, Mayen Estañero, and JV Ibesate

In Manhid, the guest actors/singers hailing from theater companies such as Tanghalang Pilipino, PETA and Dulaang UP dip their pointed toes to the territory of Ballet Philippines’ dancers. I saw first hand during an open rehearsal how they are required to step up and move like they’ve never moved before to the point that one will find it hard to figure out which is the actor and which is the dancer. The dancers, taking on superhero/villain roles in the musical, also get to flex their acting chops, deliver some lines, and even join in the singing further blurring the line between the two fields. But if there's someone whom we can say crossed over the most, it had to be no other than Ballet Philippines’ Mark Anthony Grantos, the alternate Bantugan.

Gold Villar and JV Ibesate

Mark is currently an apprentice of the company whose singing experience is just limited to weddings. A recent chat with him revealed that the only time that the rest of the company got aware of his singing skills was when he did the doxology during the company’s Christmas party some years back. He was then asked to try it out for Manhid when auditions were announced. He initially bagged the role of understudy but moved up the ranks when the one who was originally cast as the alternate had to leave the production due to his involvement with a televised singing tilt which is still ongoing as of this moment.

Ricardo Magno and KL Dizon
Jean Judith Javier, KL Dizon, and Fred Lo
Scale model set of Manhid

As an apprentice of the company, Mark never imagined that he’ll be one of the leads in one of Ballet Philippines’ productions. He then realized that taking on such a role required him to make an extra effort, especially in the acting department. It did surprise me to see his name among the leads since the other major roles are being played by actors who’ve amassed a sizable theater résumé. Mark is a total newbie with zero acting/stage credits apart from his performances with Ballet Philippines. But that might change after his stint with Manhid.

Kanakan Balintagos
The cast of Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical

Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical is Ballet Philippines’ 45th Sapphire Anniversary season ender. This ballet musical runs from February 20-March 8, 2015 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Swiss jazz pianist Claude Diallo returns to Manila for 2015 Philippine International Jazz Festival

Swiss jazz pianist and composer Claude Diallo returns to the Philippines for a series of performances in line with the 2015 Philippine International Jazz Festival. For this year, he will perform both solo and with his trio, Claude Diallo Situation.

Claude kicks off his solo performance with a free solo piano concert at the Rizal Park Open Auditorium on February 21, 2015, 6:30 PM. The show will also feature Raoul and the Wild Tortillas as the opening number. He will be among the performers at the Pianofest on February 25, 2015, 7:00 PM at Manila Pianos in Makati.

Jazz pianist and composer Claude Diallo

The Claude Diallo Situation hops over to Bacolod City first with a performance on February 20, 2015, 6:00 PM at the L Fisher Hotel. Then it’s off to performances in Metro Manila on February 24, 2015, 6:00 PM 12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub in Makati, February 27, 2015, 6:00 PM at the Shangri-la Plaza Mall, and finally on February 28, 2015, 7:00 PM at the Solaire Eclipse, Solaire Resorts & Casino.

Claude Diallo, who is born of a Swiss mother and a French father, was destined to become a musician, as both parents played violin in the symphony orchestra. Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s fiery music, the young pianist was turned on to his true love-Jazz. Claude Diallo`s many accolades include: finalist in 2009 at the Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition and the 2008 and 2011 recipient of the Cultural Achievement Award from his hometown of St. Gallen.

Claude Diallo Situation
Pianist Claude Diallo, drummer Massimo Buonanno, and bassist Laurent Salzard

Claude Diallo Situation is composed of pianist Claude Diallo, bassist Laurent Salzard, and drummer Massimo Buonanno. They’ve released their first CD Traveling with Music back in 2008 and since then have produced four more records and a DVD. The trio has toured successfully in Switzerland and throughout Europe, as well as in Asian countries like Japan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

Claude Diallo during his jazz workshop with the FEU Drum and Bugle Corps

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Claude during his trip here for the 2014 Philippine International Jazz Festival when he conducted a jazz workshop for the members of the FEU Drum and Bugle Corps. He was able to provide the kids who took part in it a good starting point, which is the blues, to the world of jazz. The FEU DBC’s repertoire consists of traditional marches and arrangements of popular/film music and with a lone exception, none of them have tried improvising with their instruments before. The students may never have the opportunity to play jazz while on the field, but they were able to expand their music horizons with their workshop with Claude.

Too bad, my schedule back then didn’t permit me to watch any of Claude’s performances. Thankfully, he is back in the country this year (along with his group this time) and there are more chances for me to catch his performances.

Claude Diallo and the FEU DBC

Schedule of Claude Diallo's solo performances:

February 21, 2015, 6:30 PM Labs Kita, Sabado!
Rizal Park Open Air Auditorium

February 25, 2015, 7:00 PM Pianofest
Manila Pianos 
2/F CW Wine Depot 
Chino Roces Ave 

Schedule of Claude Diallo Situation performances:

February 20, 2015, 6:00 PM Bacolod Jazz Festival
La Proa Ballroom, L Fisher Hotel

February 24, 2015, 11:00 PM Cultural Night 
12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub
Kalayaan Avenue, Makati

February 27, 2015, 6:00 PM International Jazz Gala 
Shangri-la Plaza Mall 
Mandaluyong City

February 28, 2015, 7:00 PM Latin Fiesta Night 
Solaire Eclipse 
Solaire Resorts & Casino

Monday, February 16, 2015

X Factor Israel winner Rose Fostanes in Philippine-Israel friendship thanksgiving concert

February 26, 2015, 7:30 PM
Music Museum
Greenhills Shopping Center
San Juan

Rose Fostanes, winner of the first X Factor Israel headlines a concert highlighting this friendship between the Philippines and Israel happening on February 26, 2015, 7:30 PM at the Music Museum. This concert, billed as Thank You, Philippines Friendship Concert, is presented by the Embassy of Israel and is also a part of the 2015 Philippine International Jazz Festival. The concert also includes special guests Arthur Manuntag and Laarni Lozada

Fostanes rose to fame when she belted her way into bagging X Factor Israel title in 2014. A former caregiver in Israel, her win in the competition has paved way to a singing career and her receiving the Bagong Bayani award for Culture and the Arts.

The 2015 edition of the Philippine International Jazz Festival coincides with the commemoration of the 70th year of the end of World War II and the liberation of Manila, highlighting the role of the Philippines in the rescue of 1,300 Jewish people from the Holocaust.

Rose Fostanes

Referring to the unique story of Rose Fostanes, Ambassador Effie Ben Matityau commented that Rose stands as a bridge between Israel and the Philippines whose friendship dates back to the noble deed of former President Manuel Quezon, and the Philippines' support to the establishment of the state of Israel

“Rose Fostanes works as singer in Israel. She has a very special story – a caregiver who from a very humble position became a superstar. She is a phenomenon and an ambassador of goodwill,” he said.

The concert is for free with prior reservation for tickets. Reservations to limited seats can be made by calling the Embassy of Israel at 883-9500 or e-mailing no later than February 23, 2015.

Ticket price:
Free admission with prior reservation

For inquiries:
Israel Embassy 883-9500,

Opera as a grand telenovela in Seasons of Desire

Lawrence Jatayna, Dingdong Fiel, Elaine Lee, and Ivan Nery

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 Madchen oder Weibchen from Die Zauberflöte, K.620
     In Uomini 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
     Questo o Quella from Rigoletto
     Signor ne principe from Rigoletto
     Caro nome from Rigoletto
     Cortigiani from Rigoletto
     Mio Padre...Tutte le feste from Rigoletto
     Si vendetta from Rigoletto
     La donna è mobile from Rigoletto
     V'ho ingannato from Rigoletto
     Addio del passato from La Traviata

In the opera show Seasons of Desire, plot lines and devices regularly seen in popular television series were interspersed with various arias by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Giuseppe Verdi to make opera more accessible to a broader audience. Some opera purists would’ve raised their eyebrows with this treatment, but I opted to view this production that was staged at the Abelardo Hall Auditorium at the College of Music in UP Diliman, with an open mind to see if such approach would indeed work.

Featuring a small, tight cast made up of three singers (soprano Elaine Lee, baritone Lawrence Jatayna and tenor Ivan Nery), two narrators moving the story in English (Jacqui Amper) and in Filipino (Ruth Alferez), and a lone pianist (Dingdong Fiel), Seasons of Desire put into the fore the rather silly plotlines found in current television series and how the operas from centuries ago also featured almost the same inane plots. As director Nazer Salcedo put it, opera is one grand telenovela. And it did make me wonder again how on earth did the audiences back then approved of such plots. But then again, I also wonder why modern day viewers don't complain about the nth time the heroine gets kdinapped in telenovelas.

The story weaved by Vladimeir Gonzales follows a simple story of the boy, the Farmer played by Jatayna meeting a girl, the Baker played by Lee, and they fall in love. The first tragedy strikes when the girl dies during childbirth. Years pass by and the child, Angela (Lee), has grown into an adult woman. She is seduced by her scheming employer Angelo (played by Nery) and eventually kidnaps and violates her when her father refuses to sell her out to him for one night of romance. The father then tries to avenge his daughter by abducting Angelo himself but Angela frees him since she is clueless as to the true identity of her assailant. This act proves to be fatal as Angela becomes the tragic victim of the scuffle between her father and her one time lover. Telenovelas often end happily with the heroine in her true love’s arms but this time around, the tragedy of the opera won the day.

One who clearly won the audience during the show was Ivan Nery as the hopia magnate Angelo. His performance as the devious and scheming bastard bordered on being camp but his Questo o Quella and La donna è mobile, among the main highlights of the entire show, proved that he’s one of the country’s up and coming tenors. Lawrence Jatayna gave a solid performance shifting from the oblivious and then love struck farmer, to a doting and later on vengeful father. But what caught me off guard on this night was Elaine Lee, especially on her Caro nome, wherein she shifted an octave lower in some parts. It made me wonder if she was having an off night or if her vocal range wasn't a match for the aria. She fared better though towards the end with her V'ho ingannato and Addio del passato which she sang while almost laid down on stage.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, a show formatted like this could’ve not sat well with conservative purists now. But this is nothing really new since opera pastiches that used music from different operas into a single show, which I think what Seasons of Desire is, were in fashion back in 18th century. I wouldn’t have any reservations with how this was conceptualized and constructed for in the end, no matter what the show is, it’s the vocal performances that will matter. And in this show, the vocal performances were uneven. The production also encountered some technical kinks that should be smoothed out in succeeding efforts. Overall, these kinds of shows can indeed bring opera closer to the mainstream audience. I also think that this could also serve as a launching pad for young, upcoming opera singers as well.
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