Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cello rock group Break of Reality visits the Philippines

Break of Reality

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines brings to the country the signature cello rock sound of Break of Reality in a series of performances and workshops happening this January 30-February 3, 2017.

Composed of cellists Patrick Laird, Laura Metcalf, and Andrew Janss, and percussionist Ivan Trevino, Break of Reality is one of the world’s leading alt-classical chamber ensembles. In 2015, members of group were appointed music ambassadors by the U.S. Department of State.
The group heads over all the way to Zambales for a concert at Casa San Miguel in San Antonio, Zambales on February 1, 2017, 6:00 PM. Metro Manila folks need not to worry for they are also set to perform on February 3, 2017, 6:00 PM at the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati. Admission is free for both concerts.

Prior to the concerts, the quartet will conduct workshops on January 30, 2017, 9:00 AM at the Abelardo Hall Auditorium, UP College of Music at the University of the Philippines and later at 2:00 PM at the Conservatory of Music of the University of Sto. Tomas.

Break of Reality was formed in 2003 at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. They’ve released for full length albums namely The Sound Between (2006), Spectrum of the Sky (2009), Covers (2012), and Ten (2014). To date, the group’s rendition of the Game of Thrones theme has garnered over 14 million views on YouTube.

Break of Reality’s tour in the Philippines is part of the American Music Abroad program, a people-to-people cultural exchange program designed to communicate America’s rich musical contributions and diverse culture to the global music scene.

Break of Reality Philippine Tour

January 30, 2017, 9:00 AM | Abelardo Hall Auditorium, UP College of Music, UP Diliman
January 30, 2017, 2:00 PM | UST Conservatory of Music

February 1, 2017, 6:00 PM | Casa San Miguel, San Antonio, Zambales
February 3, 2017, 6:00 PM | Glorietta Activity Center, Makati

Break of Reality
     Patrick Laird, cello
     Laura Metcalf, cello
     Andrew Janss, cello
     Ivan Trevino, percussion

Ticket price:
Free admission
To book for February 1, 2017 concert, click here.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

11th Spring Film Festival: Red Amnesia and Everybody’s Fine

Sidney Bata, Director of Ateneo de Manila University
Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies

Seeing two films on the opening day of the 11th Spring Film Festival at the Shang Cineplex was my way of catching up after missing this prelude to the Chinese New Year since 2014. In between the viewings, I soaked in the opening night festivities to welcome not just the film festival but also the Year of the Rooster that included a traditional lion dance, an art exhibit, a saxophone serenade, and even a fashion show where ladies walked the ramp wearing traditional Chinese garments.

Saxophonist Joshe Tiu

Red Amnesia/入者

A fully loaded day made me miss Red Amnesia/入者 during the press preview. But my interest with the Cultural Revolution prompted me to catch it at the festival’s regular run. Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai, the film is the final installment of his Cultural Revolution trilogy along with Shanghai Dreams and 11 Flowers.

At the forefront is the outstanding performance by Lü Zhong as the stubborn elderly widow Deng Meijuan who is bent on making herself useful in her old age by not only taking care of her grown up sons Jun (Feng Yuanzheng) and Bing (Qin Hao), but also of her grandson, and mother residing at a nursing home. Her daily routine goes like clockwork until she starts getting mysterious, anonymous phone calls.

For me it wasn’t just the mystery of these phone calls that slowly unfold throughout the course of the film that had me hooked. What actually gripped me more was the glimpses of family life, especially the tension among the generations, in contemporary, fast paced China. Deng’s continued interference with her sons’ daily lives has caused tension between her and Jun’s wife Lu (Qin Hailu). Although mostly left unsaid, it wasn’t hard to read her disapproval of her younger son Bing’s lifestyle and choice of partner. And to my surprise, Deng took it upon herself to take care of her own mother, thus showing her both as a parent/grandparent and as a daughter. And the scenes at the nursing home showed the pitiful state of the elderly who are primarily neglected by their children who are enjoying the country’s economic boom.

As for the mystery, it was plain to see that the unnamed boy (Shi Liu) insistently crossing paths with Deng is the one behind all this. While his motives took a while before they were revealed, how he managed to pull everything off, upon knowing who he is and where he came from, had me scratching my head.

Familiarity with China’s history, especially the Cultural Revolution, paid off for me as the film had more impact and weight than just another mystery drama. The scenes of Deng, stopping by to listen at elderly people singing communist songs, gave more insight to her character’s past. And not showing any flashbacks served the film better like when Jun told Bing through a simple conversation the drastic measures their mother took to ensure their future. And when she finally repaid her debt and atoned for her sins of the past, none emerged from it unscathed but it was satisfying.

Going through Red Amnesia got me on course to figure out how on earth I would be able to see the other two films comprising of Wang Xiaoshuai’s Cultural Revolution trilogy. I don’t know how I’d forgive myself had these two films been shown in previous editions of the Spring Film Festival.

Everybody’s Fine/切都好

After enjoying the opening night program and having my fill of generous servings of noodles, pork buns, and dumplings, I was in high spirits getting into my second film of the day, Everybody’s Fine/切都好.

A Chinese remake of the 1990 Italian film Stanno Tutti Bene, this movie directed by Zhang Meng follows widower Guan Zhiguo (Zheng Guoli) as he travels throughout China and beyond in search of his four children who bailed on their annual family get together. Once he gets to see all but one of his children, he realizes that his memory of them when they were kids, and what he has perceived as their current overachieving lives are anything but fine.

As Guan encounters the disappointment of the marital problems of his eldest daughter Qing (Yao Chen), the financial risk taking of his son Quan (Shawn Dou), the non-existent ballet career of youngest daughter Chu (Ye Chianyun), and the unknown whereabouts of youngest son Hao (Chen He), one couldn’t help but pity and somehow root for him. And not surprisingly, a medical emergency befalling Guan is what it takes to force the family back together with everything all right and even the mystery surrounding Hao finally resolved.

Coming right after seeing a highly nuanced Red Amnesia, Everybody’s Fine was too forced and the sappiness was too much too bear. I wasn’t able to hurdle the idea of a Chinese family with four children in the first place. And the characters that Guan during his travels, while offering cute moments, were totally inconsequential to the story. I suspect that these were notable cameos by established actors but not being that immersed with Chinese cinema, the charm was lost in me. Having not seen the original Italian film nor the 2009 Hollywood remake starring Robert de Niro, I cannot comment on how this version would fare compared to its predecessors.

Everybody’s Fine attempt to wrap up everything nicely, with everyone being um, fine and anything bad getting swept under the rug, ended up too romanticized and very saccharine.

Red Amnesia and Everybody’s Fine are just two of the six films screening for free at the 11th Spring Film Festival at the Shang Cineplex until January 29, 2017. Other events in line with the festival include the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Manila University Chinese Painting Exhibit on view until January 31, 2017, An Afternoon of Beautiful Chinese Melodies: Chinese Music Concert by the Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies at the Ateneo de Manila University on January 28, 2017, 3:00 PM, and A Pastel Painting Workshop with Master Fidel Sarmiento, President of the Art Association of the Philippines on January 29, 2017, 1:00 PM.

The Spring Film Festival is presented by the Ateneo de Manila University Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies, together with the Film Development Council of the Philippines and Credit Suisse, and with the cooperation of Ateneo CeladonRustan’s, and Shangri-La Plaza.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pasinaya 2017 introduces a day of workshops to the festival

An additional day devoted to workshops expands the 13th Pasinaya Open House Festival 2017: Palabas at Palihan to two days. With Arts for Peace as this year’s theme, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, along with 18 partner museums/galleries opens its doors and offers more than 40 short workshops and more than 300 performances this February 4-5, 2017 making the Pasinaya the largest annual multi-arts festival in the country.

At the Palihan on February 4, 2017 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, more than 40 short introductory workshops music, theater, dance, visual arts, crafts and hobbies will be offered for kids, teens, and adults at different spaces within the CCP. An Arts Market will be on hand also where one can pre-register for various Summer Arts workshops. Those who have an inner ballerina/danseur waiting to be unleashed can check out the sample class in the Russian Vaganova Method by Lisa Macuja-Elizalde on this day.

Check out the schedule of the workshops here.

At the Palabas on February 5, 2017 from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, performances abound at every space, nook and cranny of the CCP. The resident companies, namely Ballet Philippines, Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company, National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA), Philippine Ballet Theatre, Philippine Madrigal Singers, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, Tanghalang Pilipino, and UST Symphony Orchestra, take center stage at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

Just like in previous years, the music performances will be at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater), the theater performances will be at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater) and the Bulwagang Amado Hernandez, dance performances (folk, modern, ballet) will be at the Main Theater Ramp and at the Bulwagang Francisca Reyes Aquino, and the film screenings will be at the Tanghalang Manuel Condeo (CCP Dream Theater). Pasinaya will be capped by the People’s Gala featuring the CCP resident companies happening at 6:00 PM at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

Better prepare in advance by checking out the schedule of performances here.

The museum tour is another attraction of the Pasinaya. And for this year, DLSU Museum, GSIS Museum, Galleria Duemila, Avellana Gallery,  98B COLLABoratory, HUB Make Lab and the Pandancan community join Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Museo Marino, National Museum: National Museum of Fine Arts and National Museum of Anthropology, Bahay Tsinoy, Casa Manila, NCCA Gallery, Museo Pambata, UP Manila Museum of a History of Ideas, Cinematheque Manila, and 1335 Mabini bringing to 18 the total number of partner museums and galleries. Provided will be 30 vans to shuttle people from the CCP Complex to the partner museums and galleries and back making the tours a hassle free experience.

As for the prices of admission, a minimum suggested donation of P50 will get one a wristband that serves as entrance to the CCP. Wearers of the Pasinaya Baller worth P300 can have fast pass access to all the performance venues. A group of five can take advantage of the Mag-Anak Pass for P1200. And for the ultimate Pasinaya experience, one can avail of the Parterre and Lower Boxes for P3500 and P3000 respectively ensuring six guaranteed seats for all the performances at the CCP Main Theater including the People’s Gala. Take advantage too of the generous discounts on CCP publications and tickets to upcoming shows offered during the festival.

Even though I’ve seen hundreds of shows at the CCP over the years, I’ve only been to the Pasinaya for just the past two years. I’ve learned then that comfortable clothing is essential and to be always ready for any type of weather. I’ve also noticed that once the performances by the resident companies at the CCP Main Theater are done and while it gets set up for the People’s Gala, the lines at the other venues like the CCP Little Theater tend to get very long, so one has to plan accordingly. It also pays to accept beforehand that Plan A’s will not always work out and that it’s better to have a Plan B or C ready just in case. I do find it fun whenever I step out of my comfort zone and check out non-music performances and also artists/groups that I’m not familiar with at all. And that is what will bring me back this year at the Pasinaya even if I’m almost a resident of the CCP.

Pasinaya 2017: Palabas at Palihan
The CCP Open House Festival
Palihan February 4, 2017, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Palabas February 5, 2017, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Various CCP Venues, Museums and Galleries in Manila

Ticket prices:
P50 minimum suggested donation
P300 Pasinaya Baller
P1200 Mag-Anak Pass
P3500 Parterre Box
P3000 VIP Lower Box

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Divine Diva Sumi Jo returns to Manila for one night only concert

Three years after a memorable Philippine debut, soprano superstar Sumi Jo returns to Manila for a one night only pre-Valentine’s Day concert on February 7, 2017, 8:00 PM at the Meralco Theater.

In this concert dubbed as Sumi Jo The Divine Diva, the Grammy Award winning Korean soprano pays tribute to another divine diva, Maria Callas on the occasion of her 40th death anniversary. Accompanied by pianist Najib Ismail, Sumi Jo will perform arias associated with Callas as well as a selection of her own favorites. Flutist Antonio Maigue and tenor Paul Dominique Galvez will be the evening’s special guests.

Since her previous visit here in Manila, I have to contend myself by seeing her perform at the closing ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. I also shared her disappointment when she wasn’t given the chance to perform Simple Song #3 at the 2016 Academy Awards despite the song being nominated for the Best Original Song category.

Proceeds from the performance will be for the benefit of the Young Artists Development Program to continue helping and honing the artistry of our young talented Filipino artistry through performance opportunities, workshops, masterclasses, and scholarships.

Sumi Jo The Divine Diva, presented by the Cultural Arts Events Organizers, is also made possible in partnership with Marco Polo Hotel, 98.7 DZFE The Master's Touch, Steinway Boutique Manila and Leica Store Philippines.

Sumi Jo The Divine Diva
February 7, 2017, 8:00 PM | Meralco Theater

Sumi Jo, soprano
Najib Ismail, piano
Antonio Maigue, flute
Paul Dominique Galvez, tenor

Julius Benedict
     Gypsy and the Bird
Henry Purcell
     Music for a While
Gioachino Rossini
     La pastorella dell'Alpi from Les soirees musicales
Vincenzo Bellini
     Eccomi, in lieta vesta... Oh! Quante volte from I Capuletti e i Montecchi
Gaetano Donizetti
     Quanto è bella from L'elisir d'amore
Charles Gounod
Maurice Ravel
     Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera
 Léo Delibes
     Le filles de Cadix
Jean-Paul-Égide Martini
     Plaisir d'amour
Francisco Santiago
     Nocturne in Eb minor
Sergei Rachmaninoff
     Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14
Giuseppe Verdi
     È strano… Sempre libera from La traviata

Ticket prices:
P5000 | P3000 | P2500 | P2000 | P1500 | P1000

For inquiries:
Cultural Arts Events Organizers 782-7164, (0918) 347-3027, (0920) 954-0053
TicketWorld 891-9999

Monday, January 23, 2017

Deconstructing Mendelssohn in PPO, Saraza concert

Violinist Diomedes Saraza, Jr.

Some years back, I’ve grown sick and tired of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 after having to sit through at least four competitors play it to varying degrees of success at the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA). I told myself that I’d stay away from that piece so I wasn’t brimming with excitement when I learned that this concerto was to be played by Diomedes Saraza, Jr. with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of principal conductor/music director Yoshikazu Fukumura. Thankfully, a masterful performance was delivered by all convincing me that the Mendelssohn was worth hearing live again.

The first order of the concert was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 28 in C major, K. 200 that was light, fun, and fairly easy to grasp even to the casual/first time concertgoer. The orchestra was crisp, sharp, and precise making it easy for me to forgive their not so cohesive first note. It was such a great relief that there weren’t any applause in between movements that made the momentum build up until the final note of the symphony’s frolicking finale.

Conductor Yoshikazu Fukumura and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra

Next up was the violin concerto with Diomedes and like what I said above, it was such a compelling display of how this Mendelssohn piece should be. The initial dread of hearing the all too familiar first two measures was then replaced with an appreciation as I began taking note of the concerto's form and structure as the performance went along. Deconstructing it in my head made me fully aware of how expertly crafted this piece was which is probably why this was chosen by the NAMCYA competitors years ago. Having said this. I would still prefer not to encounter any more Mendelssohn violin concertos for the next couple of years. I got more than amply rewarded though with his encore of Eugène Ysaÿe’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 27 “Ballade”. Having something new and unfamiliar was a perfect foil for an overplayed concerto.

Making up the second half is Edward Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 which is popularly known as the Enigma Variations.  If I had been impatient, I would’ve let my mind wander off until Variation IX Nimrod, the most popular among the 14 variations and the one that is regularly played on its own. But having sat through the Mendelssohn earlier, being attentive to the Elgar was a walk in the park. And Fukumura was able to convey the affection that Elgar felt towards the dedicatee of each variation. The richness of the viola and the cello were evident in Variations VI Ysobel and Variation XII B.G.N. respectively. Nimrod, I think, came and went too quickly. I wish that they played it a tad slower paving more way to tug at the heart strings or like what a music major told me, “to hurt more”. Those who expected that Nimrod would be heard again as an encore were disappointed as it was Variation XII B.G.N. with the solo cello that was repeated.

This concert by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra somewhat signaled that the music season has truly resumed after all the merry making of the holiday season. The regulars at the Cultural Center of the Philippines who were conspicuously absent the previous PPO concert were back. And it greatly pleased me to see groups of what looked like high school students and also seminarians there too. For me, this mix of the old and the young among the audience just reflected this season's theme of Timeless Classics, New Beginnings which bodes well for the rest of the new year.

Friday, January 20, 2017

11th Spring Film Festival at the Shang Cineplex ushers in the Year of the Rooster

The Spring Film Festival, the next best thing after luck and prosperity, will usher in the Chinese New Year this January 25-29, 2017 at the Shang Cineplex. Presented by the Ateneo de Manila University Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies and the Shangri-La Plaza Mall, the film festival, now on its 11th edition, will offer free film screening, an exhibit, a concert, and a painting workshop, all of which is something to crow about in the Year of the Rooster.

Here are the six films lined up for the festival which will be all in Digital Cinema Package/DCP format.

Book of Love/Finding Mr. Right 2/北京遇上西雅图之不二情书

Director: Xue Xialou
Cast: Tang Wei and Wu Xiubo

The romantic comedy Book of Love/北京遇上西雅图之不二情书 (2016) also titled as Finding Mr. Right 2, a casino hostess from Macau and a realtor based in Los Angeles cross paths and ultimately form a magical connection with each other all because they stumbled upon the same book.

A Complicated Story/個複雜故事

Director: Kiwi Chow
Cast: Jacky Cheung, Jacqueline Zhu, Stephanie Che, and Zi Yi

A Complicated Story/個複雜故事 (2013) is about a Hong Kong university student who accepts an offer to become a surrogate mother for an elite couple. The complications arise when her contract gets terminated and she refuses to give up the child that forces her to go into hiding.

Everybody’s Fine/切都好

Director: Zhang Meng
Cast: Zhang Guoli, Chen He, Yao Chen, Shawn Dou, and Ye Qianyun

A Chinese remake of the 1990 Italian of the same name, Everybody’s Fine/切都好 (2016) is a family comedy film about the recently widowed father who sets out to visit his four children after each bailed out on attending annual family summer outing.


Director: Lee Chi-ngai
Cast: Tony Leung, Ekin Cheng, and Kelly Chen

Horseplay/盜馬記 (2014) follows an unlikely trio composed of a reporter, a police, and a thief all working together in search of an ancient artifact that leads them on a chase all over Europe.

Red Amnesia/闯入

Director: Wang Xiaoshuai
Cast: Lü Zhong, Shi Liu, Feng Yuanzheng, Qin Hao, Qin Hailu, and Han Yibo

Red Amnesia/闯入 (2014), the final installment of Wang Xiaoshuai’s Cultural Revolution Trilogy, tells the story of Deng, a stubborn elderly widow whose daily routine goes into shambles when she starts receiving mysterious anonymous phone calls.

Wolf Totem/图腾

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Cast: Feng Shaofeng, Shawn Dou, Ankhnyam Ragchaa, Basen Zhabu, and Yin Zhusheng

Adapted from the bestseller by Jiang Rong, Wolf Totem/狼图腾 (2015) is the story of young Beijing student Chen Zhen’s life among the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Mongolia, where he adopts a wolf cub in an attempt to save it from death. The film was chosen China’s entry for foreign language film category at the 2015 Academy Awards. 

Throughout the festival are added attractions like the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Manila University Chinese Painting Exhibit (January 25-31, 2017), An Afternoon of Beautiful Chinese Melodies: Chinese Music Concert by the Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies at the Ateneo de Manila University (January 28, 2017, 3:00 PM), and A Pastel Painting Workshop with Master Fidel Sarmiento, President of the Art Association of the Philippines (January 29, 2017, 1:00 PM). And the festivities even extend up to February 5, 2017, 2:00 PM for a traditional Chinese Dragon and Lion Dance. All these event will be at the Shang’s Grand Atrium and will be free of charge.

Here is the screening schedule of the Spring Film Festival at Cinema 4 of the Shang Cineplex.

January 25, 2017
2:00 PM Red Amnesia
4:30 PM Book of Love

January 26, 2017
2:00 PM A Complicated Story
4:30 PM Everybody’s Fine
7:00 PM Red Amnesia

January 27, 2017
2:00 PM Horseplay
4:30 PM Wolf Totem
7:00 PM A Complicated Story

January 28, 2017
2:00 PM Everybody’s Fine
4:30 PM Horseplay
7:00 PM Book of Love

January 29, 2017
2:00 PM Red Amnesia
4:30 PM Everybody’s Fine
7:00 PM Wolf Totem

The Spring Film Festival is presented by the Ateneo de Manila University Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies, together with the Film Development Council of the Philippines and Credit Suisse, and with the cooperation of Ateneo Celadon, Rustan’s, and Shangri-La Plaza.

Free admission. First-come, first-served basis.

For inquiries:
Ateneto de Manila Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies 426-6001 local 5280/5284
Shangri-La Plaza 370-2597/98

Thursday, January 19, 2017

BGC Arts Center Festival Day 2: The Opera Gala

Going back for the second day of the BGC Arts Center Festival was not a question for me mainly because of the Opera Gala featuring international tenor, Arthur Espiritu. Joining him in this concert presented by MusicArtes, Inc. and directed by Leo Rialp was a dozen (initially) young and upcoming classical artists. What also drew me in was getting to experience the new Globe Auditorium and see how this space can cater to classical music performances such as a concert featuring operatic singers like this one.

A bit of drama unfolded even before the start as it was announced that baritone Noel Azcona would not be appearing on stage due to illness. He was supposed to be the first to perform and his booming voice in Si può? Si può? from Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci could’ve been an awesome start to the concert.

Opening the concert then fell to tenor Ervin Lumauag with Ich baue ganz auf deine Stärke from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail. A duet between tenor Christian Nagaño and soprano Anna Migallos performing Lippen Schweigen from Franz Lehár’s Die lustige Witwe followed before Christian going solo with Dein ist mein ganzes Herz from Das Land des Lächelns also by Lehár. It was my first time to see both Ervin and Christian perform and I felt that Ervin sounded a bit nervous who, probably owing to starting the affair on such short notice while I think that Christian’s timbre is more suited for a classical crossover repertoire.

A selection from Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto featured the promising soprano Stephanie Aguilar displaying great control with Caro nome. But the normally well-composed Nomher Nival was out of sorts with a rough La donna è mobile that sounded more shouted than sung. This was very uncharacteristic of him since he was top on top form during the press conference of Noli Me Tangere, the Opera. With Noel’s absence, Bella figlia dell’amore with him, along with Nomher, Stephanie, and Krissan Manikan was no longer performed.

A “dolled up” Lara Maigue brought some color and humor to the stage with Les oiseaux dans la charmille aka The Doll’s Song from The Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach. Pianist Dingdong Fiel gamely joined in on the action when he had to do the winding up of the doll. And the winding up probably did the trick enabling Lara to hit that high Ab in the end.

The most anticipated man of the night, Arthur Espiritu gave me a sampling of something new, his duet with soprano Stefanie Quintin in Prendi l'anel ti dono from Vincenzo Bellini’s La Sonnambula, and a soaring Ah! lève-toi, soleil from Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. Both these pieces were unknown to me but Arthur’s superb storytelling gave me a clearer picture of what these songs were all about. Although it doesn’t take much to know what Romeo’s aria was all about.

At the start of the second half, it became more obvious that the females provided more character, color and flavor to the concert as proven by Marielle Tuason’s exotic rendition L'Air des clochettes aka The Bell Song from Lakmé by Léo Delibes. Not to be outdone, mezzo soprano Krissan Manikan delivered an emotionally intense Adieu, forêts from Jeanne d'Arc, La Pucelle d'Orleans by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with such rich, dark timbre.

An unexpected surprise occurred as Andrew Fernando, who was really just there as part of the audience, came in to the rescue and took over the Noel’s part in a duet with Kay Balajadia-Liggayu in Là ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni by Mozart. Only urged by Madame Fides Cuyugan-Asencio to step in during the intermission, Andrew nonetheless performed as if he was indeed part of the original line up and had ample rehearsals. I wish that someone had informed him before the concert started so that he could’ve taken over entirely Noel's part and sung more than just the duet.

A scene from Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème with Arthur as Rodolfo and Anna Migallos as Mimì followed. What had come before were just bits and pieces from various operas, so this portion that included Arthur’s Che gelida manina, Anna’s Sì, mi chiamano Mimì, and their duet of O soave fanciulla really told a story. I bet that those who had not seen La bohème before, upon seeing how these two neighbors fall in love at first sight, would want to see the entire thing now.

Kay Balajadia-Liggayu revisited Micaëla with her aria Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante from Carmen by Georges Bizet. Having done La voix humaine, the night before, Kay spent her weekend portraying broken hearted women so it was no wonder that she enjoyed her duet with Andrew. As I’ve said earlier, the female singers were on fire and Tanya Corcuera was no exception in singing Sola, perduta, abbandonata from Manon Lescaut by Puccini. I still remember being blown away by Stefanie Quintin a year ago and she did once again with the same number that had me take notice of her: Ombre légère from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Dinorah.

Arthur then put a close to the evening by dedicating Gioachino Rossini’s Cessa di più resistere from Il barbiere di Siviglia to Juan Antonio Lanuza who was one of the most ardent supporters of the classical music scene here in the country, even predating the establishment of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Hearing the flurry of notes in this aria made me scratch my head as to how Arthur could switch from Puccini to Rossini which is so musically different from each other.

The finale, with everyone back on stage, was Questo è il fin di chi fa mal from Mozart’s Don Giovanni that once again made me feel the absence of a baritone voice. Nessun dorma from Puccini’s Turandot was the encore with the audience getting giddy once the first two words were sung. As always, this aria never fails to stir the emotions and the audience were up on their feet soon after the final Vincerò! was sung.

As far as the Globe Auditorium is concerned, I would need to experience being seated from different sections first like the two balconies in order for me to gauge the acoustics fully. The sound was okay (not great, not bad) from where I was seated at the orchestra section but whenever the two mics in front of the stage pick up the voice especially during the louder moments, a distracting reverb blares out from the speakers above. More distracting was the noise from outside, like the chatter from the lobbies and the vehicles passing by the road, that can be heard inside the auditorium. Measures should be undertaken in soundproofing both the Zobel de Ayala Recital Hall and the Globe Auditorium to keep outside noise to the minimum.

I was very pleased with the audience turnout of the inaugural BGC Arts Center Festival. I saw students making up the long line to get into Katips while the senior citizens were given seats to make themselves comfortable while waiting for the Opera Gala to start. I now await with great interest what this new cultural hub has lined up, especially in the field of classical music, for the rest of the new year.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

BGC Arts Center Festival Day 1: Performances at the Zobel de Ayala Recital Hall

The BGC Arts Center Festival held over the weekend not only started the 2017 performance calendar rolling for me, but it also introduced the BGC Arts Center as the newest cultural hub in Metro Manila. Located at the Bonifacio Global City, the center hosted a diverse line up of dance, theater, and of course, music performances over the course of two days, thus positioning itself as a major venue for the performing arts and more.

Braving the long and arduous getting there, I dropped by the festival and caught a trio of shows to see how the BGC Arts Center, especially the Maybank Performing Arts Center, measure up as a venue for classical music performances. A quick tour was first given to the press first wherein we found out that the center is actually composed of an open park (Alveo Central Plaza), a 300 seater amphitheater (Sun life Amphitheater), and the main building (Maybank Performing Arts Center) that houses an auditorium (Globe Auditorium), a recital hall (Zobel de Ayala Recital Hall) and a classroom/exhibit space.

Happiness is a Pearl

Standing: Paul Jake Paule, Rody Vera, Roeder Camañag, and Jesse Lucas
Seated: Cathrine Go, Tomas Miranda, and Ira Ruzz

The first day of the festival for me consisted of watching two shows at the Zobel de Ayala Recital Hall located at the second floor of the Maybank Performing Arts Center. First up was Artist Playground’s Happiness is a Pearl, a titillating one act play penned by Rody Vera and directed by Paul Jake Paule. This play, about a love triangle between a Japanese gigolo Kenji (Tomas Miranda), a lonely Japanese wife Mari (Cathrine Go), and a Filipina entertainer Maria (Ira Ruzz), explored the concept of happiness, on whether happiness can be bought by money or be attained when the odds are stacked against you. Or if happiness is tangible like a pearl stitched under the skin of a penis like in the case of Kenji.

What particularly astounded me with this production was not the subject matter nor the sensual scenes, but how the tango was integral to the course of the story as a way to show the tug of war between the two rivalling women. With precise, sharp and deliberate motions and secure feet, both Cathrine and Ira led me to believe that they were dancers first who later ventured into acting. But I was, in fact, mistaken as I learned afterwards that the two just had a few months’ worth of intense dance training in preparation for their roles under choreographer Lezlie Dailisan. Tomas, was quite a charmer, making it believable for the two women not only to fall for him, but also to fight over him as well. And I was very relieved that Tomas also proved himself as a stable dance partner matching his two feisty partners in intensity. While the dancing left me impressed, the singing that served as a prologue to the play was rather anemic. It went far too long for my liking and it didn’t really segue smoothly into the actual beginning of the play.

La Voix Humaine

Rudolf Golez, Jay Glorioso, and Kay Balajadia-Liggayu

Still at the same venue later that evening, soprano Kay Balajadia-Liggayu starred in MusicArtes, Inc.’s La Voix Humaine, a one woman operatic monologue by Francis Poulenc adapted from the play by Jean Cocteau. Accompanied by pianist Rudolf Golez, Kay portrayed the role of an unnamed woman going through an emotional rollercoaster of a phone conversation after getting dumped by her lover. A one woman show in such an intimate setting made me feel like a voyeur peeping into hers most private and vulnerable moments. It was strange and unsettling to bear witness and hear what she claimed over the phone while actually seeing otherwise. And all this without her knowing that the audience knows since the fourth wall wasn’t broken at all.

Seating right beside the piano made me more aware of the music: the abundance of dissonance and complex chords, the almost speech like rhythm of the notes, and the constant and sudden shift in tempo, going from agitated at one moment and then relaxed at the next. And whenever there is a hint of a melody, it was always short lived as more uneasiness just crept around the corner (or the next measure).

It’s not easy for anyone, including myself, to comprehend this work fully at the first viewing. I found myself shifting my gaze quickly from the projected surtitles to Kay so as not to miss anything. I know that there would be so much more to discover with the nuances of the text and the music with repeated viewing and listening of this work.

My overall experience watching two different performances at the Zobel de Ayala Recital Hall was indeed a satisfying one but was marred by outside noise that managed to penetrate through the walls of the hall. The noise came from the chatter above at the 3rd level viewing deck and also from the sound of car engines outside in the streets. Measures to improve sound proofing the recital hall must be taken to ensure a more pleasant viewing experience free from unnecessary distractions.
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