Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Revisiting Mario Lanza’s legacy in concert

I first became aware of who Mario Lanza was through the 1994 film Heavenly Creatures, one of the most disturbing movies that I’ve ever seen. The film, featuring two deranged teenage girls who imagine Mario Lanza in their fantasy world (the two eventually end up as murderers), was hardly the ideal way to get acquainted with the legendary Hollywood actor credited to bringing opera music to the masses.

Soprano Stephanie Aguilar

But now, a chance to relive Mario Lanza in all his glory comes our way as soprano Stephanie Aguilar and tenor Nomher Nival perform in a concert entitled The American Song Book: Mario Lanza Revisited happening this June 1, 2017, 6:30 PM at the Ayala Museum. Collaborating artist for this evening will be award winning pianist Gabriel Paguirigan.

Tenor Nomher Nival

The American Song Book: Mario Lanza Revisited is presented by the Ayala Museum and the Cultural Arts Events Organizer with the support of Lyric Piano and 98.7 DZFE The Master’s Touch.

The American Song Book: Mario Lanza Revisited
June 1, 2017, 6:30 PM | Ayala Museum

Stephanie Aguilar, soprano
Nomher Nival, tenor
Gabriel Paguirigan, piano

Ticket prices:
P1000 | P700
Discounted rates for Ayala Museum members, AGC employees, ARC members, senior citizens and students are available

For inquiries:
Ayala Museum 759-8288 local 8272, concerts@ayalamuseum.org
CAEO (0917)347-3027
TicketWorld 891-9999

Monday, May 29, 2017

Broadway star Lea Salonga and BYU Chamber Orchestra in concert at the CCP

Apologies for the lengthy break since my last post, but I am back nonetheless brimming with excitement as Broadway star Lea Salonga takes to the Cultural Center of the Philippines stage once again in a concert with the Brigham Young University (BYU) Chamber Orchestra on May 30, 2017, 8:00 PM at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

During the past couple of weeks, the BYU Chamber Orchestra, led by conductor Kory Katseanes, has been performing at various parts of the country and they will wrap their Philippine tour with the CCP concert with Lea Salonga. Expect the orchestra to perform music by American composers like Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, John Williams, Richard Rodgers, Leroy Anderson, and George Gershwin while Lea will very likely perform career defining songs from the screen and the stage.

Lea Salonga is best known for originating the role of Kim in Miss Saigon and for being the singing voice of Princess Jasmine from Aladdin and of Mulan. She has recently starred in the Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group's production of Fun Home and is seen currently on television as one of the judges in the teen edition of The Voice.

The BYU Chamber Orchestra is considered the most select among the five orchestras in the BYU School of Music and serves as the touring orchestra representing BYU in the US and abroad. The orchestra is conducted by Kory Katseanes, the Director of Orchestras within the School of Music and a former Director of the School of Music.

Lea Salonga with the BYU Chamber Orchestra
May 30, 3017, 8:00 PM | Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)

Lea Salonga
BYU Chamber Orchestra
Kory Katseanes, conductor

Ticket prices:
P3000 | P2000 | P100 | P500
50% discount for students
20% discount for senior citizens, PWD, government and military personnel

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Family friendly films showcased at the 1st Swiss Film Festival

Beat the summer heat with family friendly films as the Embassy of Switzerland in the Philippines, in partnership with the Shangri-La Plaza Mall and the Film Development Council of the Philippines present the inaugural edition of the Swiss Film Festival.

The festival will feature three films for the whole family, Heidi, Vitus, and Rascals on the Road/Mein Name ist Eugen, shown over two weekends (April 28-30, 2017 and May 5-7, 2017) at Cinema 4 of the Shang Cineplex. And just like every foreign language film festival at the Shang, admission is free, on a first come, first served basis.

The Swiss Film Festival is just one of the events lined up by the Embassy in celebration of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and the Philippines.

Here is the lineup of the three films to be screened at the festival.


Director: Alain Gsponer
Cast: Anuk Steffen, Bruno Ganz, Katharina Schüttler, Quirin Agrippi, Isabelle Ottmann, and Anna Schinz

Based on the cherished children’s classic book by Johanna Spyri, Heidi (2015) tells the story of young orphan girl Heidi, who, after being cared for by her Aunt Dete, is brought to the Swiss Alps to live with her reclusive grandfather. The relationship between grandfather and granddaughter is not easy at first but they quickly form a bond. Heidi learns to love the mountains and becomes friendswith a goat herder named Peter. Heidi’s carefree days with her grandfather abruptly ends when Aunt Dete takes her to live in Frankfurt.


Director: Fredi Murer
Cast: Teo Gheorghiu, Bruno Ganz, Julika Jenkins, and Urs Jucker

Released in 2006, Vitus, played by Teo Gheorghiu, is a highly gifted pianist at the age of 12. His parents mean well, but are over-protective, so Vitus rebels and seeks refuge with his grandfather who loves flying. After faking a head injury, Vitus secretly amasses a fortune on the stock market. The money allows his grandfather to purchase a Pilatus PC-6 and his father to return triumphantly to the company that had fired him previously. Vitus pursues his former babysitter, Isabel, but she prefers someone older and does not return his affections. Vitus returns to his piano and performs Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto on stage with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra.

Rascals on the Road/Mein Name ist Eugen

Director: Michael Steiner
Cast: Manuel Häberli, Janic Halioua, Dominic Hänni, Alex Niederhäuser, and Beat Schlatter

From the literary classic by Klaus Schädelin, Mein Name ist Eugen / Rascals on the Road (2005) is a coming of age story set in the 1960s, and tells of 12-year-old Eugen and Wrigley's last summer of adventure. When Wrigley's parents announce their intention to pack him off to boarding school, the boys run away, hoping to find Fritzli Bühler, the “King of Rascals” in Zurich.

But then Eugen and Wrigley bump into their Scouts group on the train and feel forced to join them to Ticino. From there they escape again and attempt to cycle back to Zurich, but the boys' disappearance is noticed and their parents get on their trail. As the boys continue their precarious journey over their Alps, they begin to doubt whether Fritzli Bühler really lives in Zurich and whether he actually exists at all.

According to the press kit, Heidi will be shown in English while both Vitus and Rascals on the Road/Mein Name ist Eugen will be shown with English subtitles. After the initial Shang Cineplex run, the films are expected to go on tour and be screened in various parts of the country.

Here is the screening schedule of the Swiss Film Festival.

April 28, 2017
2:00 PM Heidi
4:30 PM Rascals on the Road
7:00 PM Vitus

April 29, 2017
2:00 PM Vitus
4:30 PM Heidi
7:00 PM Rascals on the Road

April 30, 2017
2:00 PM Rascals on the Road
4:30 PM Vitus
7:00 PM Heidi

May 5, 2017
2:00 PM Vitus
4:30 PM Heidi
7:00 PM Rascals on the Road

May 6, 2017
2:00 PM Rascals on the Road
4:30 PM Vitus
7:00 PM Heidi

May 7, 2017
2:00 PM Heidi
4:30 PM Rascals on the Road
7:00 PM Vitus

Sunday, March 26, 2017

New breed of ballet stars take flight in Ballet Philippines' Swan Lake

Eugene Obille, Joseph Phillips, and Candice Adea

Ballet Philippines’ 47th season ender Swan Lake turned out to be the coming out party of the company’s new breed of ballet stars namely principal dancer Denise Parungao and soloists Jemima Reyes, Garry Corpuz, and Victor Maguad.

This production, restaged by Nonoy Froilan from the choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, saw the young quartet’s debut in a classical ballet lead role. Despite some slips owing to inexperience, each showed flashes of brilliance during their respective performances that I was able to see. One could easily imagine each of them following the footsteps of the production’s guest dancers, Candice Adea and Joseph Phillips.

Obviously, the hot ticket during the limited two weekend run was the International Gala featuring Candice Adea and Joseph Phillips. Having the most experience between the two of them compared to the other pairs, there was a sense of ease and security watching them as they embodied their respective roles. It was hard to believe that after all these years Candice Adea has never danced Odette/Odille before. But it didn’t look like it especially during Odille’s variation when she nailed the opening turns twice eliciting cheers from the audience. Joseph Phillips as Prince Siegfried provided solid support for Candice (whether she be Odette or Odille) never overshadowing his partner. His solo variations here may not have the flashy leaps and turns of his previous performances in Don Quixote or in the Flames of Paris Pas de deux during The Great Classics, but there was a sureness in it that just made me sit back, relax and enjoy watching his performance.

The young pair of Jemima Reyes and Victor Maguad were the leads during the opening night, marking a huge step up for these two. The most technically daring among the leads, Victor executed a brilliant sextuple pirouette early in Act I while Jemima completed her trick laden fouettés, throwing some doubles during the first half and then rotated spots at the second. A far cry from their lead roles in the feel good ballet Peter Pan, both had to dig deep and plunge into emotional depths to fulfill the acting demands for Swan Lake. Their superb performances in their starring role debuts in Firebird for Jemima and Crisostomo Ibarra for Victor somehow paved the way for them to be cast in here.

The other pair of Denise Parungao and Garry Corpuz looked very tall together with each possessing limbs that seem to last forever. Denise’s arms were divine especially towards the end of Act II that actually drew gasps from the audience. Garry, the tallest member of Ballet Philippines, used his extension to maximum effect. Although he played it safe with his pirouettes, his leaps were exemplary with a hang time that make it seem like he pauses for a beat while in mid-air. He also displayed abilities to do double tours in both directions which is a neat trick. Denise, after being sidelined for almost a season due to injury, blossomed as Odette/Odille. Just like a swan, she has transformed into a woman while her previous roles in Giselle and Cinderella, she felt like a girl back then.

The orchestra, under the baton of Yoshikazu Fukumura, was on top form although I couldn’t help but cringe whenever I heard the harp part which was actually an electronic keyboard simulating the sound of the instrument. This further highlights the lack of harpists that our country has which I hope could be remedied as soon as possible. I also have to mention that when I saw a show that didn’t have the orchestra and just had recorded music, the tempo was noticeably faster. No wonder that some of the dancers were a bit off and encountered some difficulties during their performances accompanied by the orchestra. Having to perform on stage at a much slower tempo than the one they’ve been rehearsing with could really throw off their timing especially when jumping and turning.

Ballet Philippines’ latest staging of Swan Lake had been ambitious and also risky considering that all but one of the leads had never danced their roles before. The company’s 47th season was billed as Wings, and with Swan Lake, the young ones who had their baptism of fire with this production had just spread their wings and took their first real flight. And it would be interesting to see how these dancers and the rest of the company will soar as we gear towards their golden anniversary a few years from now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cellist Renato Lucas returns in March PPO concert

A wedding march, Dvořák’s other symphonic gem, and a former principal cellist’s return are all in store in Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert this March 17, 2017, 8:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

Former PPO principal cellist Renato Lucas takes to the stage as the guest soloist performing Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33. His last performed with the PPO was back in September 2011 wherein he performed Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. Lucas currently serves as the president of the National Music Competition for Young Artist (NAMCYA) and also currently teaches Cello, Chamber Music, Music History, and Music Literature at the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music

Other pieces scheduled for this evening are Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88, B. 163 and Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night's Dream Suite. PPO’s principal conductor/music director Yoshikazu Fukumura conducts.

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra 34th Concert Season 2016-2017
Timeless Classics, New Beginnings Concert V
March 17, 2017, 8:00 PM | Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)

Renato Lucas, cello
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Yoshikazu Fukumura, conductor

Antonín Dvořák
     Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88, B. 163
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
     Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
Felix Mendelssohn
     A Midsummer Night's Dream Suite

Ticket prices:
P1500 | P1200 | P800 | P500 | P400 | P300
50% discount for students
20% discount for senior citizens, PWD, government and military personnel

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Clarion Chamber Ensemble serves “All Main Courses” in concert

In “Carrying the Banner for Chamber Music in the Philippines”, the Clarion Chamber Ensemble serves All Main Courses for their 15th concert season this March 16, 2017, 8:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater).

The evening will feature hearty servings of chamber music that includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Quintet in E flat major for Piano and Winds, K.452, Bohuslav Martinů’s Trio in F major for Flute, Cello and Piano, H.300, and Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25.

This music will be dished out by Clarion Chamber Ensemble members namely cellist clarinetist Ariel Sta. Ana, Gerry Graham Ariza Gonzales, flutist David Jerome Johnson, pianist Hyun Joo “Julia” Lee, French horn player Jay-Ar Mesa, oboist Reynato Resurreccion, and bassoonist Noel Singcuenco. Guest artists joining them onstage are violinist Sara Maria Ariza Gonzales, pianist Seung Yun “Cecilia” Lee, and violist Maria Corazon Reyes.

All Main Courses is a joint production of Clarion Chamber Ensemble and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and is co-presented by 98.7 DZFE The Masters Touch. Steinway Boutique,Manila is the official piano sponsor.

All Main Courses
March 16, 2017, 8:00 PM | Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)

Clarion Chamber Ensemble
     Ariel Sta. Ana, clarinet
     Gerry Graham Ariza Gonzales, cello
     David Jerome Johnson, flute
     Hyun Joo “Julia” Lee, piano
     Jay-Ar Mesa, French horn
     Reynato Resurreccion, oboe
     Noel Singcuenco, bassoon
Sara Maria Ariza Gonzales, violin
Seung Yun “Cecilia” Lee, piano
Maria Corazon Reyes, viola

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
     Quintet in E flat major for Piano and Winds, K.452
Bohuslav Martinů
     Trio in F major for Flute, Cello and Piano, H.300
Johannes Brahms
     Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25

Ticket prices:
P700 | P500
50% discount for students
20% discount for senior citizens, PWD, government and military personnel

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Marching bands sound off in Ihudyat! 2017

Roll the drums and sound off the trumpets as some of the country’s finest marching bands battle it out on the field in Ihudyat! 2017, a marching band festival jointly presented by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the University of the Philippines Diliman Office of Initiatives for Culture and the Arts, and the UP Vanguard Makati Chapter.

Marching bands from the Philippine Air Force, Philippine Army, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Marines (Navy Fleet), the Citizens’ Brigade Band of Dasmariñas, Cavite, and the Imus Youth Symphonic Band will battle it out on the field this March 25, 2017, 6:00 PM at the UP Diliman Amphitheater. The marching band competition, comprising the festival’s first part, will showcase each group’s showmanship, musicality, choreography, and whatever surprises they’ve got on their sleeves. Prior to the actual competition, the participating bands will march around the UP Academic Oval before gathering to the UP Amphitheater.

From L to R: Noel Aveo, Jaworski Bago, Menchi Mantaring, Chris Millado,
Sigfrid Fortun, Arnel Feliciano, Junwedn Hamor, and Jay Lord Corpuz

At the second part of the festival, the aforementioned bands’ musicianship will be tested further at a symphonic concert format competition scheduled sometime during the summer. To be featured in the competition will be music by National Artist Lucio San Pedro whose works have also enriched the marching band music literature here in the Philippines.

Beyond 2017, Ihudyat! aims to be a biennale event with the winning bands getting to perform at the CCP in between festivals.  Marching bands are no strangers to the CCP as Pasinaya has featured them as well as the CCP Orchestra and Band Festival in 2014 and also at the CCP Winds and Jazz Festival in 2016.

Tickets for the competition are available at the Makati Room, Peralta Hall, Department of Military Science Tactics Quadrangle, Magsaysay Avenue corner Ylanan Road, UP Diliman, Quezon City. Check the facebook page of Ihudyat! for more details and other ticket payment options.

The UP Vanguard Inc. Makati Chapter (UPVIMC) is the lead branch of a non-stock, non-profit corporation, incorporated in March 13, 1962.  Since its founding, it has etched a long colorful history of partnership in nation building, contributing activities to develop students in the University of the Philippines (UP) for future leadership roles in their chosen careers.  It has produced some of the top men in military, government, and private sectors through the UP Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

Ihudyat! 2017
March 25, 2017, 6:00 PM | UP Diliman Amphitheater

Ticket price:

For inquiries:
Carlyn Villanueva (0917) 865-0497
Roseanne Realubin (0915) 158-5180

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Katherine Barkman on fire in Ballet Manila's Don Quixote

Principal dancer Katherine Barkman was on fire and could do no wrong on her second successive night as Kitri in Ballet Manila’s 21st season ending production of Don Quixote.

With porcelain like features more suited for ingénue roles like Giselle, Katherine was initially a hard sell for me as Kitri when the company announced months ago their 2016-2017 Revenge of the Classics line up with Don Quixote capping the season. But she dispelled my doubts come actual performance night. One of my favorite moments of her performance was when her face lit up as she was about to complete those notorious fouettés realizing that she has nailed them.

Katherine’s most impressive performance to date almost made me forget her Basilio which was portrayed by the guest danseur Mikhail Martynyuk of the Kremlin Ballet Theater. Mesmerizing was his pirouettes wherein he pulled his free leg in making for a lightning fast last couple of rotations with his ankles close together. Martynyuk’s spotting while rotating was so crisp and precise that I couldn’t help but be drawn to his head instead of his feet.

Katherine’s Kitri and Martynyuk’s Basilio shone individually but they weren’t as fluid during their partner work. The lifts looked like they played it safe and one could see the hard work being done with the assisted pirouettes. I learned only after the show that got paired only a few weeks before. The other Kitris of this run, Dawna Mangahas (who was originally paired with Martynyuk) and Pia Dames, both encountered injuries weeks before the show opened that even put into question whether they’d be able to perform on stage at all. But the two of them recovered on time and danced at the matinee performances.

Don Quixote’s other pair of lovebirds, Mercedes and Espada, was portrayed by real life sweethearts Abigail Oliviero and Mark Sumaylo. The long limbed Abigail exuded sultriness and sensuality and her back bends defied human anatomy. Mark cut a dashing figure as a matador requiring almost no effort from him to stand out. The numerous times these two had to lean back whenever they were on stage made my back hurt although I was just seated comfortably at the Aliw Theater.

The vision scene featured not just a breath taking backdrop but also Joan Sia and Tiffany Chiang as the Dryad Queen and Amour respectively. The two ladies’ solid variations showed the depth of Ballet Manila’s company of dancers.

With the spotlight of the ballet towards the young lovers Kitri and Basilio, the quest of Don Quixote (Niel John Mag-aso) accompanied by his squire Sancho Panza (Kenneth del Rosario) served as a sort of book ends and interludes loosely weaving the main narrative together. And as the ballet ended with Don Quixote continuing his search for his Dulcinea (Alison Black), I got reminded yet again of my quest to finish reading the novel by Miguel de Cervantes.

With a very limited one weekend run, I wasn't able to catch Dawna and Pia's take on Kitri as well as their respective Basilios, Rudolph Capongcol and Gerardo Francisco as well as Katherine's original partner Rudy de Dios. Like I said earlier, imagining Katherine as Kitri was difficult but this isn't the case with Dawna and Pia. I wish I could've seen these two and see for myself how they, along with Katherine, follow in the footsteps of Lisa Macuja-Elizalde and shape the future of Ballet Manila in years to come.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Tanghalang Pilipino's Eurydice: an ode to memory

Lhorvie Nuevo and Marco Viaña

Although publicized as a tale of love and loss, it was the ephemeral memory and how we cling to it before it fades that resonated greatly with me upon watching Tanghalang Pilipino’s 30th season ending production, Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl.

Adapted into Filipino by Guelan Luarca, Eurydice retells through the perspective of the titular character the Greek myth of Orpheus and his failed attempt to reclaim his dead wife from the clutches of Hades in the Underworld. And in the hands of director and stage designer Loy Arcenas, the Underworld is a vast realm made intimate through an arena type staging with the audience right on stage surrounding the action on three sides.

Playing the titular role is Lhorvie Nuevo who has finally been given a lead part after playing numerous supporting/minor roles in previous years as part of the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company. Her run as Eurydice picks up from her strong performance in Panaginip sa Gitnang Tag-Araw. Portraying her lover Orfeo is Tanghalang Pilipino’s leading man Marco Viaña who is no stranger to the spotlight. At the performance that I was able to catch, the part of Tatay was played by Audie Gemora. Character actor Jonathan Tadioan showed his versatility by playing Hades and Interesanteng Tao. Serving as the chorus were the three stones “bato” who on that night were Doray Dayao, Aldo Vencilao, and Ybes Bagadiong. The trio of Blanche Buhia, JV Ibesate, and Alfritz Blanche portray the stones on other dates.

Right off the bat during the first scene, the theme of memory made its presence felt when Orfeo insisted that his lover Eurydice memorize a melody that he has composed. She had much difficulty in getting both the melody and rhythm right despite Orfeo using different techniques for her to nail his composition. This, for me, foretold how memory was going to be integral to the play.

Eurydice’s father, a character created by Sarah Ruhl, was introduced as someone who remembers his past. The newly departed when they arrive in the Underworld are dipped into the river Lethe wiping away their memories. But how he managed to preserve not only his memories but also his ability to speak, read, and write like humans do remain a mystery.

When Eurydice first set foot in the Underworld, she exhibited a childlike quality and curiosity which is unlike the perceived grimness of death. And having Hades be portrayed as a child riding a bicycle echoed that of Eurydice's state. The three stones who tried in vain to thwart Eurydice’s father’s plans to make a room and teach his daughter what he knows were also childlike and were never menacing. With everyone childlike, the Underworld didn’t seem like a bad place after all and oddly, it was Orfeo at the land of the living, who looked miserable as he was in despair over the untimely death of his wife.

One of the most touching moments in the play for me were the walks down the aisle. First, it was an imaginary one by Eurydice’s father. The second one, with Eurydice by his side, it was already real and he was literally giving her away to the realm of the living. It was this love between the father and a daughter, with all those memories between them, that made Eurydice decide that she’d rather have that than gunning for the unknown with Orfeo. It’s that memory once again. When the pain was too much to bear for both father and daughter, they willingly gave up their memories. And when no one remembers, that is when one truly dies. It’s no wonder that some people try to have themselves immortalized and leave a legacy so that they’ll be remembered forever.

Tanghalang Pilipino’s Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl runs until March 5, 2017 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater).

Friday, February 24, 2017

Olivier Ochanine, PPO deliver challenging Shostakovich Symphony No. 10

Conductor Olivier Ochanine

Concertgoers hoping for a post-Valentine’s night filled with romantic music were probably caught unaware as war music instead echoed inside the halls of the Cultural Center of the Philippines at the latest concert of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra that reunited them with former principal conductor/music director Olivier Ochanine.

Taking a breather from the PPO’s back to basics season, Olivier presented Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave in B flat minor, Op. 31, Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 in G major, Hob. 1/88, and a major work from the mid-20th century, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93.

The realization came to me right after the concert that most of the night’s program was war music. I am fully aware of the circumstances that led to the composition and the nature of the Shostakovich symphony but it somehow passed my mind that the Tchaikovsky work is actually a rousing call to arms against the enemy. With the Marche Slave in B flat minor, Op. 31, Olivier wielded the orchestra to convey the primary theme’s increasing intensity. A patriotic and much romanticized take on war, this music didn’t let me feel the horrors and the grim reality of engaging into battle. No wonder it took me some moments to realize the true programmatic nature of this wok.

No traces of war at all could be heard when the PPO performed Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 in G major, Hob. 1/88 which I think is a great example of what a classical era symphony is. Cheerful, light, and sweet as a cotton candy, the PPO breezed through it. Keen eared regulars would’ve noticed how the Finale theme of this symphony was used in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21.  

The Shostakovich symphony, on the other hand, was in direct contrast with the previous pieces. Filled with tension, defiance, violence, unease, and fear, the shadow of Stalin looms over this piece, offering no sense of relief even if this was completed months after his death. I’ve listened to recordings and watched performance videos numerous times but nothing still compared to experiencing the orchestra bring out the music live. The lower strings continued their streak of sounding rich and robust heard especially during the opening measures and the contrabassoon once again was crisp. Not surprisingly, the solo horn was shaky and had a few hiccups.

Knowledge about the symphony like how it relates to Soviet/Russian history and the rest of Shostakovich’s works, and knowing the "DSCH" and "Elmira" motifs inserted in the music definitely add to my greater appreciation of the piece. Olivier touched upon these during his pre-concert that which made a return for this evening. But even if I strip away all the historical and political context, I could still see and hear the merits of the piece with its structure, the contrasts, and the mood that it communicates.

This performance of the Symphony No. 10 is Olivier’s third Shostakovich symphony with the PPO following the Symphony No. 5 in April 2010 and Symphony No. 1 back in September 2015. I personally dig Shostakovich’s works especially his symphonies, string quartets and concertos even if his music may not be everybody’s cup of tea. For me whose music tastes gravitate towards the 20th century works and beyond, this concert was a welcome break from the current season’s focus on the classics.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The hits and misses in Aegis and PPO's #HugotPaMore! concert

A more balanced structure and an uneven program is how I describe Aegis in Symphony Symphonic Aegis #HugotPaMore!, the follow up to Aegis and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra's successful joint concert that rocked the Cultural Center of the Philippines back in November 2016.

Affixed with #HugotPaMore, this pre-Valentine’s Day treat directed by Ariel S. R. Yonzon dug into deep seated emotions via a mix of Aegis hits crossed over with light classical fare. A marked improvement this concert had over the previous one was that both the PPO under the baton of Herminigildo Ranera and Aegis composed of vocalists Juliet, Mercy, and Ken Sunot, guitarist Rey Abenoja, keyboardist Stella Pabico, bassist Rowena Pinpin, and drummer Vilma Goloviogo figured prominently on both halves of the concert. The first concert felt more like a back-to-back concert with the PPO performing during the first half and then Aegis at the second with their collaborations serving as bookends. Now, it felt like it was really a collaboration with both acts headlining and having their fair share of the spotlight throughout the evening.

Aegis from L. to R: Stella Pabico, Rowena Pinpin, Ken Sunot, Mercy Sunot,
Juliet Sunot, and Vilma Goloviogo

With the pre-Valentine theme ongoing, the classical portion focused on the romantic side with the PPO performing selections from the opera La bohème by Giacomo Puccini. A pleasant surprise was returning guest artist, Arman Ferrer going for the traditional route with O del mio amato ben by Stefano Donaudy accompanied on the piano by CCP President Raul Sunico. It was my first time to see and hear him sing from the standard repertoire and without amplification. Sunico later gave a solo piano rendition of Somewhere in Time by John Barry that amped up the romance that night. The music segued to the 18th Variation of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff but it wasn't smooth sailing when the orchestra came in. This probably wasn't noticed by the audience who were there primarily for Aegis, but for me who knows the RachPag like the back of my hand, it was rough.

When Aegis took over, they were at their element performing their various songs, with Juliet, Mercy and Ken showcasing their unearthly vocal range and unparalleled lung power. And once again, I became grateful for the musical Rak of Aegis for it made me more familiar with the other songs like Munting Pangarap, Ikaw, Mahal na Mahal Kita, Bakit (Ako Ngayo’y Hate Mo?), Palad, Maniwala Ka, Yun Na! and Hahanapin Ko which do not get heavy radio airplay unlike their massive hits Sayang na Sayang, Sinta, Luha, Basang-Basa sa Ulan, and Halik. It was a treat seeing Aegis themselves performing those rarely heard songs and hearing the actual arrangements which were sometimes drastically different from the musical. Aegis is primarily known for the high vocal range of Mercy and Juliet, but Ken’s solid alto register gave more depth, and richer texture which was very evident every time they sang in three part harmonies.


While the Aegis singing their own songs was a high point, going out of their comfort zone with songs not associated with them like Could It Be Magic and You Raise Me Up with Arman Ferrer was a lukewarm moment of the concert for me. The various dancers (pole dancers, ballroom dancers, and ballet dancers) who joined the band onstage during various parts of the concert were also a hit and miss. At times, they served as a distraction diverting attention from the band. Probably the only exception was the Philippine Ballet Theatre duo of Regina Magbitang and Ian Ocampo with their explosive Just Give Me a Reason. But this Ronilo Jaynario choreographed number has always been a hit with audiences whenever the PBT duo perform it.

Compared to the previous concert, the crowd’s reaction this time was more subdued and reserved. This was probably due to a more refined looking audience with a great number in suits and cocktail dresses as if they were at the symphony rather than a rock concert. I was initially dumbfounded upon seeing them roaming around the CCP before the concert started. But afterwards, I found it amazing that it took no less than Aegis and the PPO joining forces to gather such a diverse crowd. It only goes to show that "hugot" applies to everyone.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ballet Philippines’ Swan Lake caps “Surge of the Swans” ballet season

The Surge of the Swans is how I describe the 2016-2017 ballet season as all three major ballet companies featured Swan Lake in their respective seasons’ line up. First, it was the Philippine Ballet Theatre’s The Great Classics that had its first half (Act II and the Black Swan Pas de deux) devoted to the said ballet. Then, it was Ballet Manila’s turn with their take on the White Swan Pas de deux for The Swan, the Fairy, and the Princess. Finally, the final surge closes the 2016-2017 ballet season with a full length presentation of Swan Lake by Ballet Philippines happening this February 24-March 5, 2017 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

Joseph Phillips and Candice Adea

Headlining this production of Swan Lake are former Ballet Philippines’ principal dancer Candice Adea tackling the dual role of Odette/Odille and Joseph Phillips of the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre as Siegfried. Swan Lake sees Joseph performing with BP for the first time after a handful of guest stints with Philippine Ballet Theatre while this marks Candice’s return to BP since her acclaimed run in Sleeping Beauty back in 2011. The two guest dancers will take to the stage at the 7:00 PM shows on February 25, 2017 and March 4, 2017. Principal dancer Denise Parungao and company member Garry Corpuz, and soloists Jemima Reyes and Victor Maguad, will be the two other pairs doing the lead roles on the other performance dates.

Garry Corpuz and Denise Parungao

What appeals to me the most about Swan Lake is without a doubt, the moving music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. His score revolutionized ballet music with such richness, depth, and complexity that has never been heard before. This has resulted in mixed reactions from both dancers and audiences when Swan Lake was first premiered. But 140 years later, the ballet and the music have stood the test of time making it the most performed ballet of them all. One can savor Tchaikovsky’s music to the fullest during the Gala Night performances February 24, February 25 and March 3, 2017 when the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of principal conductor/music director Yoshikazu Fukumura, provide live music accompaniment to the ballet.

Victor Maguad and Jemima Reyes

With 140 years’ worth of history, the Swan Lake has undergone several revisions, reductions, additions and various endings. This upcoming production, the 8th time for Ballet Philippines and 23 years since the company’s last, will be re-staged by Nonoy Froilan, who has performed Siegfried during his days as the premier danseur of Philippine Ballet. Curiosity got me asking Sir Nonoy as to which ending his restaging will use: the cheesy happy one used by Mariinsky, the bittersweet, tragic one by the American Ballet Theatre, or possibly something else. He did give me an answer but I’m not spilling so one has to go watch the actual thing to find out how the love story of Odette and Siegfried will end.

Seated from L to R: Denise Parungao, Margie Moran-Floirendo, Candice Adea,
and Jemima Reyes
Standing from L to R: Paul Morales, Garry Corpuz, Nonoy Froilan, Joseph Phillips,
Victor Maguad, and Ohm David
Ballet Philippines’ Swan Lake
February 24-March 5, 2017 | Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo

Gala Night ticket prices:
P3000 | P1500 | P1200 | P1000 | P600 | P500 |P300
Regular show ticket prices:
P1500 | P1200 | P1000 | P600 | P500 |P300

For inquiries:
Ballet Philippines 551-1003, info@ballet.ph
TicketWorld 891-9999
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