Friday, February 26, 2016

Death allures in Ballet Philippines' Opera

From the moment that I set foot at the Main Lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, I couldn’t help but be awed by the scale and especially by the grotesqueness and eeriness of the sculptures by Gabriel Barredo that greeted me. Mannequins each bearing a unique alteration and/or mutilation rendered them not quite human. And being the inanimate objects that they are, they emitted a sense of harsh coldness. Without a doubt, I’ve already stepped into the world of Opera, Ballet Philippines’ closing production for their 46th Dance Spring Season.

Once inside the theater, I thought that I would be overwhelmed by the set pieces on the much larger stage. But, choreographer Redha opted to start the ballet almost in total darkness with just a lone dancer, Death (Denise Parungao) fluidly moving underneath a set piece of a womb bearing twins. Soon enough, The Mother (Carissa Adea) pregnant with twins enter the stage. And with the subsequent birth of The Twins (Victor Maguad and Erl Sorilla), so did the stage light up revealing the intricate pieces assembled on stage that dwarfed the one at the lobby.

One by one, the dancers started to emerge from the sets as if the artworks were being brought to life. This spark of life was such a direct contrast from the inanimate coldness that I felt before. But there was a catch, the life that flows through these Imperfect Creations is flawed and the movements were jolty, clumsy, and spastic. And as if Redha is sticking to a theme of contrasts, the movements of The Watcher (Jean Marc Cordero) and his eyes were more deliberate and finished.

One of the most striking contrasts were seen during Act II, entitled Sex. The first such act involved the younger Twin (Erl) character with the Homunculus (Earl John Arisola) which was violent, further highlighted by the pounding pulse of the music and the flood of vibrant red lights. While when the older Twin (Victor) did it with one of The Watcher’s eyes, it was a lot tender accompanied by lyrical strings and bathed with softer lights.

While all this was happening, I was always drawn to Death who has never looked so alluring and tempting. It puzzled me when I saw her shadowing the movements of The Homunculus earlier on and then doing the same with The Mother during the latter part. I had to ask Redha what those movements meant. Was Death mimicking the others or was she the one pulling the strings all the while? And when Death claimed The Mother, all the frantic, complex and intricate dancing calmed down. From it, came a funeral procession that was very orderly and peaceful. When I caught up to Redha after the show, he said that the shadowing movements is but a reminder that Death is just around the corner. And for the funeral march that had the most sense of order throughout the whole ballet, Redha responded cryptically that Death is the most natural thing in the world.

I came in to the theater anticipating Gabriel Barredo’s art brought to life by the Ballet Philippines dancers. And what a life they brought to the stage. As for the music by Malek Lopez, the insistent pulse, sometimes calm and at times racing, was like the blood pumping through the veins of the body. But it was still Death that mesmerized me. Gabriel Barredo’s Opera showed that having Death lingering around makes me see what Life is all about more clearly.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Good grief! A grim look at Peanuts in Dog Sees God

On the surface, Bart. V Royal’s play Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, is a cautionary tale about the tragedy that may come out of bullying and bigotry among teens. But for someone who grew up with Charles Schulz' Peanuts comic strips, there was a whole other layer of experience as I got to see what could have been had Charlie Brown and company's road to adolescence was laced with an unhealthy dose of drugs, sex and alcohol.

A shock came over me at first when I saw how demented, warped and twisted the characters have become in this "unauthorized parody" compared to their comic strip origins. For starters, the beagle was put to sleep after it had gone rabid and violently devoured his yellow bird best friend prior to the events of the play. With the dog that became the merchandising giant out of the way, the focus went solely to the human characters and how grim things have turned out for them. Good grief indeed.

CB (portrayed by Nel Gomez) has basically remained unchanged for he is still an insecure blockhead who is still questioning the meaning of life. CB’s sister (Faye Camille Velicaria), on the other hand, has hopped from one religion/identity to another, thus just continuing her ever changing philosophies in the strips. Tricia (Kathleen Francisco) and Marcy (Maronne Cruz), the tomboy and her bland sidekick in the strips, have now become the promiscuous mean girls who often made fun of the always mentioned but never seen girl with the Naturally Curly Hair.

The philosophizing Van (Gab Medina) has gotten rid of his security blanket and has turned into drugs instead. His crabby sister (Sarah Facuri), who dispensed 5¢ advises from her psychiatric booth found herself on the other side of the fence inside a mental facility after setting the Little Red Haired Girl’s hair on fire. And her former object of affection, the piano prodigy Beethoven (Vince Lim), has become a recluse after being shunned by everyone since news of his sexual abuse by his father surfaced. Probably the biggest change among the gang happened to Matt (Brian Sy) who has literally cleaned up the filth surrounding him but has developed an even dirtier mind. The one trick visual gag from the strips has been fleshed out as the main antagonist whose bigotry would propel the tragedy of the second act.

But once I got over the initial shock, it was hard for me to wrap around with the storyline about CB lamenting to his unseen Pen Pal the loss of his dog and then trying to find among his friends whatever happens to dogs after dying. Instead of finding the answer to his question, he finds romance instead in the most unlikely of places. What I found unlikely was how the rest of the gang reacted when they learned about CB’s blossoming love affair. With drugs, alcohol and sex prevalent among these hormonally charged teens, their utter disbelief and unacceptance of CB’s partner was really unbecoming of them. It was only Van’s Sister, supposed to be the insane one, who took the news of CB’s lover in stride.

I guess that the way I reacted to the material and its major turning point only reflected on how far removed I am from my teenage years. And very likely reaffirmed how attached I am to the essence of the Peanuts characters.

In such an intimate venue and the most minimal of sets, the actors’ performances came out to the fore. Nel was a loveable CB who one can’t help but cheer for as he goes on in his journey. The rest of the wayward gang’s quirks were amped to the max that the adult in me felt uncomfortable to be in their midst. And my proximity to the action made me feel as if I was engaged in voyeurism instead of being among the audience watching a play. I guess it shows that it’s not easy for me to hear other people’s confessions.

RIght after the press preview, I remembered that it had been almost 16 years since Charles Schulz passed away. And this was probably around the same age as the CB and the gang in the play are. Seeing the Peanuts gang in their darkest light, it just made me want to reread my collection of strips right from the beginning.

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, directed by Steven Conde, is the initial offering of Twin Bill Theater founded by twin brothers Joseph and Francis Mathieu. This production, part of the Fringe Manila festival, will have a final performance on February 26, 2016 at Staple & Perk at the Eco Plaza Building in Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati.

Friday, February 19, 2016

An intimate evening with the Clarion Chamber Ensemble

Rachelle Gerodias, soprano
Byeong In-Park, baritone
Mariel Illusorio, piano
Juan Luis Muñoz, violin
Seung Yun Lee, piano
David Jerome Johnson, flute
Hyun Joo “Julia” Lee, piano

Astor Piazzolla
     Grand Tango
Darius Milhaud
Maurice Ravel
     La flûte enchantée from Scheherazade
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
     Deh, vieni alla finestra from Don Giovanni
     Cinque, dieci, venti from Le nozze di Figaro
Sergei Rachmaninoff
     Valse & Romance
Jacques Ibert
   Deux Interludes
George Gershwin
     Bess, you is my woman now from Porgy and Bess
Astor Piazzolla
Ruggero Leoncavallo
      Nedda!...Silvio! A quest' ora from I Pagliacci
Antonín Dvořák
     Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75
Franz Lehar
     Lippen Schweigen from Die lustige Witwe

Mike Velarde Jr.
     Minamahal Kita

My desire to watch chamber music performances had me rushing back to Metro Manila coming from Batangas City just to make it to the Clarion Chamber Ensemble’s most recent concert, entitled Let’s Get Intimate held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Little Theater.

I arrived a bit late and missed the first couple of numbers. I only managed to get into my seat just in time for pianists Seung Yun Lee and Hyun Joo “Julia” Lee’s to play Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche. A piece that holds a special meaning for me, their performance became a nostalgic trip down memory lane that brought a smile to my face.

Next up was a set of songs by the real life music couple, soprano Rachelle Gerodias and baritone Byeong-In Park. Accompanied by pianist Mariel Illusorio and flutist David Jerome Johnson, Rachelle’s rendition of La flûte enchantée highlighted the exoticism of Maurice Ravel’s Scheherazade. Byeong-In, bringing along his crew of violinist Juan Luis Muñoz and mandolin player Jayson Mangalino with him, showed some humor and charm with Deh, vieni alla finestra from Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The set ended with the duet Cinque, dieci, venti from Le nozze di Figaro. Not being familiar with the arias, I wasn’t able to get the narrative arc.

One of the highlights of the concert for me was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Valse & Romance, a couple of pieces for 6 hands that had Seung Yun Lee, Hyun Joo “Julia” Lee, and Mariel Illusorio performing on just one piano. The different layers of the piece, played with such consistency was delightful to hear. And with the three of them so close together, it was piano playing at its most intimate. So fascinated was I with the Rachmaninoff pieces that I was reliving them even though the Deux Interludes by Muñoz, Johnson and Seung Yun Lee was being performed. Up to now, I couldn’t recall how the Jacques Ibert pieces were but I remember fondly the sounds of the Rachmaninoff.

While I wasn’t able to grasp fully their earlier songs, Rachelle and Byeong-In’s Bess, you is my woman now posed no problem for me and I was able to savor this favorite from George Gerswhin’s Porgy and Bess. And when I thought that I completely missed the Astor Piazzolla’s tangos that started the show, there was still Oblivion performed by Muñoz, Johnson, Seung Yun Lee along with dancer PJ Rebullida. I found out later on that Rebullida also danced during the preceding tangos.

The latter part of the concert highlighted the real life couples, beginning with Rachelle and Byeong-In’s Nedda!...Silvio! A quest' ora from I Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, yet another duet from an opera I haven’t encountered before. Finally, Illusorio and Muñoz performed together as a duo with Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75 by Antonín Dvořák. In keeping with the title of the concert, the pieces were neither bombastic nor full of flair but were rather lyrical, sophisticated, and yes, intimate.

Everybody came back waltzing on stage becoming back up dancers to Rachelle and Byeong-In’s duet of Lippen Schweigen from Franz Lehar's Die lustige Witwe giving some merriment to the finale. For an encore, Rachelle and Byeong-In gave a tender rendition of Mike Velarde Jr.’s Minamahal Kita. I think that this was the first time I heard Byeong-In singing in Filipino.

In between the numbers, Joanna Ong Go gave some useful background info about the pieces and the love letters written by various personalities like Martha Graham, Robert Browning, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johnny Cash and even Elizabeth Taylor gave the concert more romantic flavor. Compared to Clarion Chamber Ensemble’s previous concerts, the Let's Get Intimate was of a lighter, feel good fare. There weren't any unusual instrument combinations and the spotlight was definitely on the two real life music couples.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Tanghalang Pilipino's Mabining Mandirigma gears up for a second run

February 19-March 13, 2016
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)
Cultural Center of the Philippines
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

The steampunk aesthetic, a female actress portraying the male title role, the dashing Aguinaldo, and (although I hate to mention it) even a personal tragedy were just a few of the reasons why Mabining Mandirigma picked up steam during its initial run last July 2015. Now as Tanghalang Pilipino’s 29th season comes to a close, the wheels are set to turn once again as the musical about Filipino hero Apolinario Mabini gears up for another run this February 19-March 13, 2016 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Little Theater.

The upcoming run, still directed by Chris Millado, sees the entry of new faces in the cast led by Liesl Batucan playing the title role of Mabini. She takes over the reins from Delphine Buencamino who originated the role. This production marks Liesl’s return to Tanghalang Pilipino since Mario O’Hara’s Stageshow. Being part of this play, with lines in Filipino, written by Dr. Nicanor Tiongson, promises to stretch Liesl as an actress since her main body of work mostly consists of English speaking roles.

Also joining the cast is David Ezra as Aguinaldo. A classically trained tenor, David embarks on a career in musical theater, a path that had also been taken by his mother, the legendary singer Dulce. David alternates the role with tenor Arman Ferrer who was one of the breakout stars during the initial run.

The rest of the cast includes Carol Bello, Paw Castillo, Alfritz Blanche, Phillip Palmos, Kristofer Kliatchko, Sigrid Macarena Balbas, VJ Cortel, Merry Mia Sinaguinan, Karl Alexis Jingco, Renson Gacutana, Hazel Maranan, Arya Herrera, Francis Cruz, Arya Herrera, Francis Cruz, and Arion Sanchez, with Remus Villanueva, Ali Santos, and Erick Dizon.

Jonathan Tadioan, Marco Viana, Aldo Vencilao, JV Ibesate, Antonette Go, and Lhorvie Nuevo from the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company round up the cast.

Mabining Mandirigma is written by Dr. Nicanor Tiongson with music by Jed Balsamo. Set design is by Toym Imao, costume design by James Reyes, lighiting design by Katsch Catoy, choreography by Denisa Reyes, with video projections by GA Faliarme. A new exhibit by Toym Imao will be on view at the lobby for the duration of the theatrical run.

Lastly, as soon as the first run of Mabining Mandirigma wrapped up, that’s when the film biopic Heneral Luna snowballed into a critical and box office success. One interesting side note from the film was that it exposed a great deal of ignorance of Philippine history by the youth when they expressed their wonder as to why Mabini remained seated during the entire film. With renewed interest in history and with the presidential elections looming, the second run of Mabining Mandirigma is a much welcome return.

Ticket prices:
P1500 Orchestra Center
P1000 Orchestra Side

For inquiries:
Tanghalang Pilipino 832-1125 local 1620/1621
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Pasinaya 2016 experience

After the exhausting experience last year, I told myself that I would skip Pasinaya this year since I am not a stranger to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and its resident performing companies. But the allure of immersing myself among the crowd, those who rarely set foot at the CCP, was too much that I decided to take the plunge again.

I arrived shortly before lunch time, securing my fast-pass baller, and lining up for Tanghalang Pilipino’s Mabining Mandirigma excerpts presentation at the Main Theater. It was my first glimpse of the new additions to the cast, Liesl Batucan as Mabini and David Ezra Cruz as Aguinaldo, performing together. Their number was followed by the all too familiar tunes from the musical which is going to be restaged in mid-Februay. TP was in full promotion gear after their presentation with some of the cast, still in full costume, meeting people at the lobby. Surprisingly, TP’s Artistic Director Tata Nanding was a huge hit with a lot of people taking photos with him.

Next for me was Ballet Philippines (again at the Main Theater) and they presented three distinctly different numbers, a quirky modern piece with the dancers donning diving gear complete with flippers, a lovely Pas de deux featuring Eugene Obille and Monica Gana, and an excerpt of their newest production Opera. The excerpt from Opera was exactly the same that was performed during the preview a week before. This gave me the chance to see more than before since the choreography had so many elements happening on stage at the same time. I was a bit annoyed by some hecklers at the balconies who think that is was fun to make animal noises when the house lights were dimmed. But they were ultimately silenced, possibly entranced, midway through BP’s presentation.

When I exited the Main Theater, the queue for the Philippine Madrigal Singers has already snaked around the lobby, a clear testament to the group’s popularity. This meant that I have to settle for Plan B, roaming around the CCP to see what else I could catch. I ended up at the Ballet/Modern Dance Zone at the Bulwagang Francisca Reyes Aquino and saw the Guang Ming Dance Project from the Fo Guang College-Manila. They presented a number that combined Buddhist precepts with contemporary dance. Unfamiliarity with both the tenets of Buddhism and the language of contemporary dance resulted in a very challenging experience for me.

Then it was back to the comfort of watching the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the Main Theater. The orchestra performed a handful of crowd pleasers that included music from the films Superman and Pink Panther, a couple of Rossini overtures and wrapped up with a fast romp by Khachaturian. Remarkably, the audience for the PPO was livelier and more enthusiastic than I could remember. I think that this must be the result of music director/principal conductor Olivier Ochanine’s recent acting stint on television.

The must see performance for me this year was Bianca Camille Lopez’ solo outing. Her entrance on Little Theater stage was met by a welcome befitting of a rock star. She was clearly overwhelmed by the audience’s sudden applause during her high note in Puccini’s Vissi d’arte that she lost concentration and had to recompose herself quick. But this is the Pasinaya and the audience didn’t mind such lapses. I am pretty sure that Bianca will be spot on during her solo concert later this year. She reunited briefly with the Philippine Madrigal Singers who were her special guests that afternoon. The Madz’ presence drove the audience further wild as expected.

One group that I wanted to see was the Boscorale but there was already a long line after Bianca’s presentation. After the Main Theater shows by the resident companies have wrapped up, people started flocking towards the other performance venues, so I just had to give up seeing Boscorale or anything else and I just started to prepare to see the People’s Gala at the Main Theater that wraps up Pasinaya 2016.

The People’s Gala started with Trixie Esteban singing Sulong, Pasinaya! Sulong! composed by Hermie Beltran and Vincent de Jesus. It’s safe to bet that this will be played all over the CCP in future editions of the Pasinaya. Each of the resident companies performed at the Gala giving the audience a show that’s definitely worth more than the P20 minimum suggested donation.

It was very amusing to be just one of the audience members in this year’s Pasinaya. I made it a point to eavesdrop and listen in to other people’s conversations while waiting in line and for the shows to start. I heard many interesting perspectives and reactions but there were some who spoke of things that they probably wouldn’t say had they known that I was within hearing range. Well that’s Pasinaya, the annual CCP Open House festival that attracts thousands of people from all walks of life. I really do hope that a huge percentage of these people do come back and catch the shows that are lined up for the rest of the year.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra joins Carl Nielsen celebrations

February 19, 2016, 8:00 PM
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
Cultural Center of the Philippines
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Denise Beck, soprano
Thomas Storm, baritone
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Carl Nielsen
     Overture to Maskarade
     Symphony No. 3, Op. 27 Sinfonia Espansiva
     Selected Songs
Phillip Faber
     Shattered Song (Homage to Carl Nielsen)

When Olivier Ochanine assumed his post as the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal conductor/music director, he has made it his mission to feature the works of his favorite composer, the Danish Carl Nielsen.

Since then, the PPO audience has heard a couple of his works namely Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 The Inextinguishable and the Aladdin Suite performed on separate occasions. Come February 19, 2016, 8:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Main Theater, an entire concert will be dedicated to Nielsen as the PPO in cooperation with the Embassy of Denmark join in The Carl Nielsen Project, a worldwide celebration of the composer’s 150th anniversary of his birth.

Almost an all-Nielsen affair, the concert will include performances of the Overture to Maskarade, Symphony No. 3, Op. 27 Sinfonia Espansiva, and a selection of songs. The two soloists flying to the country for the concert are two of Denmark’s finest singers: soprano Denise Beck and baritone Thomas Storm. The concert will also feature the world premiere of Phillip Faber’s Shattered Song (Homage to Carl Nielsen), a piece commissioned by the PPO for this special occasion.

Carl Nielsen, considered as Denmark’s national composer and also a leading figure in Scandinavian music, has gone largely unnoticed outside of Europe during his lifetime. It was through Leonard Bernstein, then music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra championing his works back in the 1960’s that interest in Nielsen started to grow in America. Today, Alan Gilbert, the current music director of the New York Philharmonic, and another ardent fan continues what Bernstein has started making sure that Nielsen becomes a household name in classical music circles. The Carl Nielsen concerts, exhibits, recordings, and publications have been underway since 2015 and finally, the Philippines is about to catch up and join in the celebrations this February.

In Asia, Nielsen’s music is even more obscure with his works almost never played at all. This puts the PPO in an enviable task of being one of the Asian orchestras performing and introducing his music at this side of the globe. In order to make this concert a reality, Olivier Ochanine embarked on a trip to Denmark tracing the life and musical journey of Carl Nielsen. And with the cooperation of the Embassy of Denmark and Ambassador Jan Top Christensen, one of Olivier’s dream projects with the PPO is finally coming to fruition.

Since its official reopening back in January 2015 after closing in 2002, the Embassy of Denmark, has promoted Danish culture to Filipinos who are mostly only familiar with the tales of Hans Christiann Andersen, the popular toy Lego, and of course, the Danish cookies along with the infamous tin can. Hopefully with The Carl Nielsen Project, people’s knowledge of Danish music will also expand beyond Michael Learns to Rock and Aqua. This concert is part of the Embassy of Denmark's celebrations commemorating the 70th year of diplomatic relations between Denmark and the Philippines.

Ticket prices:
P1500 Orchestra Center
P1200 Orchestra Side
P800 Extreme Orchestra Side
P500 Balcony I Center
P400 Balcony I Side
P300 Balcony II

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

Real life music couples add romance to Clarion Chamber Ensemble concert

February 13, 2016, 8:00 PM
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)
Cultural Center of the Philippines
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Rachelle Gerodias, soprano
Byeong-In Park, baritone
Mariel Illusorio, piano
Juan Luis Muñoz, violin
Seung Yun Lee, piano
David Jerome Johnson, flute
Hyun Joo "Julia" Lee, piano

Two music couples on and off the stage add a touch of real life romance to the Clarion Chamber Ensemble’s concert entitled Let’s Get Intimate happening this February 13, 2016, 8:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Little Theater.

Joining the Clarion Chamber Ensemble in this concert are soprano Rachelle Gerodias and husband, baritone Byeong-In Park, and pianist Mariel Illusorio and husband, violinist Juan Luis Muñoz. Together with flutist David Jerome Johnson, pianist Hyun Joo "Julia" Lee and guest pianist Seung Yun Lee, the stellar cast of performers will set the mood for Valentine’s Day through music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Astor Piazzolla, and more.

Let’s Get Intimate, Clarion Chamber Ensemble’s initial offering for their 2016-2017 season, will be narrated by soprano Joanna Ong Go, the host of DZFE's OPERAphile.

Ticket prices:
P1000 Orchestra Center
P700 Orchestra Side

For inquiries:
Clarion 890-8840
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Art and dance give birth to Opera, Ballet Philippines’ 46th season ender


February 13 & 14, 2016, 6:00 PM
February 16, 2016, 8:00 PM Fund Raising Gala
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
Cultural Center of the Philippines
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

The dancers initially move slowly across the rehearsal hall, each scantily dressed in flesh-colored tights implying nudity. Their movements, soft and tender one moment, and then agitated, tense, deliberate, and even violent the next. The music, mostly atmospheric but with an underlying thumping rhythm like a heartbeat coming from underground. The dancers then occasionally group into multiple tableaus at different areas, each vying for one’s attention yet composing a complex, bigger picture. Yet through it all, a lone female dancer, the only one fully clothed among them, walks casually, weaving her way in a slow, fluid and controlled fashion as if she belongs to different plane than the rest of the dancers.

This was my first glimpse of Opera, Ballet Philippines’ closing production of their 46th Dance Spring season. Combining Gabriel Barredo’s groundbreaking installation with Redha's choreography, Opera will have its world premiere on February 13, 2016, 6:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Main Theater.

After the watching an excerpt from the ballet, it was off to a sneak peek of some of Barredo’s sculptures to be used on stage and also for the exhibit at the Main Theater lobbies happening concurrent to the ballet’s limited run. What greeted me and other members of the press were hundreds of mannequins, each bearing distinct alterations making them look like mutant specimens, grotesque cadavers, or at times, intricate machines. I couldn’t help but be drawn to a couple of huge eyeballs and the recurring eye motif. This made me feel as if I’m being continually watched. There I learned that the exhibit Opera was originally presented at Silverlens Galleries in January last year and was toured in Singapore for the opening celebrations of the National Gallery Singapore just last November. And the pieces that I saw were a new set of sculptures specifically made for the ballet.

Having the tour of the sculptures and other set pieces gave me a better understanding of what’s to come. My initial reaction was that they are a physical manifestation of the body focused more on the musculature and machinery. And they are given life by the dancers. Speaking of dancers, Victor Maguad and Erl Sorilla lead the cast as the Twins, joined by Jean Marc Cordero as the Watcher and Earl John Arisola as the Creation. After an injury sidelined her during most of the season, Denise Parungao makes her first appearance this season dancing the role of Death. And after a residency in New York through an Asian Cultural Council grant, former principal dancer Carissa Adea returns to Ballet Philippines as the Mother.

The rest of the creative team includes librettists Yvette Tan and Erwin Romulo, composer Malek Lopez, lighting designer John Batalla, costume designer James Reyes, associate choreographer Ronelson Yadao, and Film Pabrika Inc. for the video production.

Gabriel Barredo’s Opera will have its limited run on February 13 & 14, 2016, 6:00 PM and a Fundraising Gala on February 16, 2016, 8:00 PM all happening at the CCP Main Theater. Opera is presented by Ballet Philippines with Silverlens in cooperation with the Embassy of France.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Pianist Zsolt Bognár journeys home in concert

Zsolt Bognár, piano

Franz Schubert
     Impromptu No. 4 in A-flat major, D935/Op. posth. 142
     Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946
          No. 1 in E-flat minor
          No. 2 in E-flat major
          No. 3 in C major
Edvard Grieg
     Selections from Lyric Pieces
         Arrieta from Book I, Op. 12, No. 1
         Butterfly from Book III, Op. 43, No. 1
         To Spring from Book III, Op. 43, No. 6
         Solitary Traveler from Book III, Op. 43, No. 2
         Wedding Day at Troldhaugen from Book VIII, Op. 65, No. 6
Franz Schubert/Franz Liszt
     Der Doppelgänger S.560/12
Franz Liszt
     Après une Lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata S.161/7

Robert Schumann
     Arabeske in C major, Op. 18
Arvo Pärt
     Für Alina

An air of melancholy and a sense of yearning for one’s hometown echoed inside the CCP Little Theater in pianist Zsolt Bognár solo concert. But the concert, billed as Der Wanderer: A Musician’s Journey, was far from being a downer as Zsolt was able to make mostly introspective music fascinating.

Zsolt started the concert with Franz Schubert’s Impromptu No. 4 in A-flat major, D935/Op. posth. 142 and Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946. Right off the bat, the poetic, song-like melodies coupled with the repeats driving the said tunes firmly in my head finally enabled Schubert to penetrate through me. Schubert has been one of the major composers whose works never really resonated with me before. But Zsolt’s rendition of just a handful of pieces, was able to convince me to think otherwise.

A selection of Edvard Grieg’s Lyric Pieces (Arrieta from Book I, Op. 12, No. 1, Butterfly from Book III, Op. 43, No. 1, To Spring from Book III, Op. 43, No. 6, Solitary Traveler from Book III, Op. 43, No. 2, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen from Book VIII, Op. 65, No. 6) that followed suit took the audience on a journey of different moods. Familiarity with these pieces aren’t necessary at all since the titles perfectly match the character of the music that were at times tender, tranquil, somber and eventually, festive.

The musical journey went into a chilling turn as Zsolt tackled Franz Liszt’s transcription of Franz Schubert's Der Doppelgänger S.560/12. This piece somewhat served as a short prelude as it was immediately followed by Liszt’s Après une Lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata S.161/7 or more commonly referred to as the Dante Sonata. This work, inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, was clearly the evening’s pièce de résistance. Starting from the descending chords, one couldn’t help but imagine plunging to the depths of hell. A moment of brilliant, clarity introduced the second theme which cannot be mistaken for any other than the heavens above. Despite the length and seemingly lack of structure, Zsolt’s rendition and shaping of the piece, kept me glued all throughout.

For his encores, Zsolt played Robert Schumann’s Arabeske in C major, Op. 18 and Arvo Pärt’s Für Alina, two pieces that solidified the thematic link of the night that of composers who were out on a journey away from home and their loved ones. And just like these composers, Zsolt is also on a journeying musician and the concert stop in the country allowed him reconnect with his Filipino roots.

With Zsolt choosing a more quiet and introspective program, the mood was generally more subdued and contained. And for me, this was a very welcome change of pace that was able to wash away the ferocity that I experienced during the concert that I saw prior to this. As I said earlier, the concert also made me want to listen and learn more about Schubert’s piano works and Zsolt’s debut CD Franz & Franz, that includes most of the pieces he performed in the concert, is a good way to start.

More of Zsolt can also be seen online as the host of Living the Classical Life, a program featuring interviews with classical musicians like Yuja Wang, Daniil Trifonov, and Joshua Bell among many others.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Pasinaya 2016 centers on "Family and Children"

As the CCP Pasinaya Open House Festival, the biggest multi-arts festival in the Philippines dedicates its last year of “childhood” to kids and their families when its 12th edition happens this February 7, 2016 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and other satellite venues.

With the theme Family and Children, Pasinaya 2016 highlights include youth choirs singing Bata ang Bukas by Ryan Cayabyab, children’s drum and lyre corps, screenings of Cinemalaya and Animahenasyon films, puppet shows, storytelling and poetry reading sessions, balagtasan for kids, and stage productions of Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, and many others.

Four groups who were victorious at international competitions last year, namely Boscorale, the Ligao National High School Choir, Baao Children & Youth Choir, and Triple Fret will be among the acts to watch out for at the CCP Little Theater which is designated as the festival’s Music Zone.

From Don Bosco Technical Institute in Makati, Boscorale, conducted by Alvin Paulin, bagged the top prize at the Vocal Ensemble Category at the Andrea O. Veneracion International Choral Festival beating 11 other choirs from various parts of the country along with those coming from Indonesia and Italy.

The Ligao National High School Voice Chorale from Albay conducted by Celger Villacampa Venzon was the Grand Prix winner at the Bali International Choir Festival beating 14 choirs in the Folklore Category and 22 choirs in the Teenager Choir Category, and emerged as the Grand Champions during the finals.

The Baao Children and Youth Choir from Baao, Camarines Sur, conducted by Hermelino B. Briones, were triumphant at the 11th  Busan International Choir Festival and Competition winning the top prize in the Youth Choir Category, 2nd prize in the Ethnic Category as well as the Audience Prize.

The all-female guitar trio Triple Fret, composed of Jenny de Vera, Iqui Vinculado, and Marga Abejo, won the top prize at th27th Japan Guitar Ensemble Festival, the Japan Guitar Association Award, and the Harumi Award for Best Performance of an Original Contemporary Composition for Guitar.

Aside from the four aforementioned groups, other music acts are scheduled to perform at the CCP Little Theater/Music Zone throughout the day. In keeping with this year’s Pasinaya theme, most of the performers are children/youth groups.

The schedule of performances at the CCP Little Theater/Music Zone are as follows:

9:00 AM Kabataang Gitarista
9:40 AM PTGP Youth Piano Ensemble
10:20 AM Baao Children and Youth Choir
11:00 AM Orchestra of the Filipino Youth
11:40 AM Makiling Singers
12:20 PM PHSA Grade 10 Graduating Scholars
1:00 PM Timoteo Paez Elementary School Rondalla
1:40 PM Children’s Marimba Ensemble
2:20 PM Ligao National School Voice Chorale
3:20 PM Triple Fret
4:00 PM Bianca Camille Lopez
4:40 PM Boscorale
5:20 PM Silangcruz Family Flute Ensemble

Aside from the Music Zone, there will be other zones dedicated to various art forms like dance, theater, film, and visual arts housed at different spaces, areas and venues inside and outside the CCP.

As always, the Main Theater will be the performance venue of the CCP’s resident companies, namely the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, UST Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Philippines, Philippine Ballet Theatre, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company, National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA), Philippine Madrigal Singers, and Tanghalang Pilipino.

Pasinaya welcomes the Film Development Council of the Philippines' Cinematheque Centre Manila and the University of the Philippines Manila Museum of A History of Ideas as the two newest partner institutions joining the Metropolitan Museum, Museo Pambata, National Museum, Casa Manila, Bahay Tsinoy, 1335 Mabini Gallery, and Museo Marino that Pasinaya goers can visit throughout the day. Shuttles will carry Pasinaya goers from CCP to the museums and back.

The Cinematheque Centre Manila houses the Museo ng Pelikulang Pilipino that focuses on six Filipino directors: Jose Nepomuceno, Manuel Conde, Gerdardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Ishmael Bernal, and Lino Brocka. During Pasinaya, the Cinematheque will also screen a selection of short films from the World Premieres Film Festival, Zamboanga, and Peace is Short.

On the other hand, the University of the Philippines Museum of a History of Ideas chronicles the beginnings of secular education to the country and the foundation of the University of the Philippines. The museum houses artifacts related to medicine and although I’m not into the medical field, the exhibit becomes interesting when I tie it with the history of the Philippines.

Pasinaya gives the public a taste of what the CCP and various performing companies have to offer for the rest of the year. And it takes just a minimum donation of P20 for one to enjoy the festival while a P300 baller enables one to avail of the fast lane for all of the venues.

MSO presents pre-Valentine's concert at Power Mac Center

February 6, 2016, 8:00 PM
Power Mac Center Spotlight
Circuit Makati

Camille Lopez Molina
Arthur Espiritu
Nonie Buencamino
Noel Azcona
Teenee Chan
Myramae Meneses
Michaela Fajardo
Viva Voce
Manila Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Molina, conductor

The Manila Symphony Orchestra offers an early Valentine’s Day treat with music from the world of opera, musical theater and sarsuela with Love in the Time of Opera happening this February 6, 2016, 8:00 PM at the Power Mac Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati.

Music from the operas Carmen, Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni,  La bohème, Lakmé, and the Merry Widow Waltz, musicals Carousel and West Side Story, and the sarsuela Walang Sugat will be performed by special guests Arthur Espiritu, Nonie Buencamino, Noel Azcona, and Teenee Chan joining the group Viva Voce led by Camille Lopez-Molina.

The concert will also serve as the send-off for Myramae Meneses and Michaela Fajardo, who are bound to London as scholars at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Myramae and Michaela were recently seen as Maria Clara and Sisa respectively in Gantimpala Theater Foundation’s Kanser@35.

Ticket prices:

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