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,
TicketWorld 891-9999

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ballet Manila starts 2017 with Spanish flair in Don Quixote

Ballet Manila starts 2017 with a lot of Spanish flair and technical fireworks as the company presents Don Quixote in a limited one weekend run this February 24-26, 2017 at the Aliw Theater.

This upcoming production sees the emergence of three new Kitris: Katherine Barkman, Pia Dames, and Dawna Mangahas. The three follow in the footsteps of Ballet Manila’s CEO and Co-Artistic Director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde who has performed the role of Kitri the most times during her illustrious dancing career. The role of Basilio will be portrayed by Rudy de Dios, Gerardo Francisco, and guest dancer Mikhail Martynyuk, principal danseur of the Kremlin Ballet Theater.

The ballet Don Quixote, based on the novel of the same name by Miguel de Cervantes, features choreography by Marius Petipa and Spanish flavored music by Ludwig Minkus. In the ballet, the focus is more on the love story of Basilio and Kitri while Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza are reduced to peripheral, non-dancing roles.

Quite a number of Don Quixote productions by the major ballet companies had been staged over the years and I’ve yet to start reading my copy of the novel that has been sitting on my shelf for many years now. If I start now, I doubt that I’ll be able to finish it just in time when I get to watch Ballet Manila’s staging of it. But I’m convinced that after seeing the pirouettes, double tour en l’air, jetés, and that notorious 32 fouettés, I’d have the drive to finally finish the novel.

Don Quixote wraps up the Ballet Manila’s 21st season billed as Revenge of the Classics. Productions for this season also included the rerun of Martin Lawrance’s Rebel, a celebration of Tchaikovsky’s music in The Swan, The Fairy and The Princess, and the world premiere of Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s Cinderella.

Don Quixote
February 24-26, 2017 | Aliw Theater

Ticket prices:
P1500 | P1000 | P500

For inquiries:
TicketWorld 891-9999

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sumi Jo conquers Manila anew with divine performance

Soprano Sumi Jo and tenor Paul Dominique Galvez

Opera fever filled the air as Korean soprano superstar Sumi Jo conquered Manila audiences anew during her one night only Divine Diva concert at the Meralco Theater.

Sumi Jo opted for a more subdued and refined music with most of the coloratura fireworks taking a backseat but that didn't stop her for being resplendent and sounding divine. The current venue with its better acoustics helped a lot when compared to that sorry excuse of a hall where her previous concert was held three years before.

Sporting a shorter and edgier hairdo, Sumi Jo delighted audiences with her rendition of Julius Benedict’s Gypsy and the Bird, Gioachino Rossini’s La pastorella dell'Alpi from Les soirees musicales, Maurice Ravel’s Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera, Léo Delibes’ Le filles de Cadix, and Giuseppe Verdi’s Ah, Fors'è lui… Sempre libera from La traviata. In some of the songs, she was joined by flutist Antonio Maigue and there was great interplay between the two especially in the Benedict and Delibes' pieces.

Personally, I was mesmerized by the relatively low key songs like Henry Purcell’s Music for a While, Vincenzo Bellini’s Eccomi, in lieta vesta... Oh! Quante volte from I Capuletti e i Montecchi, Charles Gounod’s Sérénade, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14, and most specially her sublime Plaisir d'amour by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini. These songs may not have a gazillion notes that went up and down and looped like a roller coaster, but the way Sumi Jo controlled, supported and shaped the notes and phrases was truly divine. When she went soft, one could almost hear a pin drop causing one to fear that she had lulled the audience to sleep. But the thunderous applause that greeted these numbers said otherwise.

A special guest for that night was tenor Paul Dominique Galvez who sang Quanto è bella from Gaetano Donizetti‘s L'elisir d'amore. He explained that years ago, he uploaded videos of him imitating Sumi Jo and that eventually caught her attention. And this has resulted with him sharing the stage with his idol.

There was no question that pianist Najib Ismail would repeat as her collaborating artist. He played with sensitivity and a complete assurance as if he had been accompanying her for years. And he was given the chance to be on the spotlight with a solo number choosing to play Francisco Santiago’s Nocturne in E flat minor.

As the concert came to a close, the people wouldn’t let Sumi go without her doing encores. Her first was a Korean song that led her to take over the piano like she did during her previous concert. I learned afterwards from baritone Byeong-In Park that what she sang was 그리운 금강산 which translates to English as Longing for Mount Geumgang. I didn’t have to ask anyone for her second encore though which was the popular O mio babbino caro from Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicci. I just knew that Paul Dominique Galvez would just be appearing once, so it came to no surprise that he showed up for the third encore. What was surprising was the choice of duet which was Rossini’s Buffo duetti di duo gatti. This number showed the humorous side of Sumi and also the soprano range of Paul as he took over the high notes at the end. Just like her previous concert, she capped things up with Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria.

Just like in her previous concert, she made a donation and this time, it’s the street kids that are being help by the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation Inc. who were the beneficiaries.

About a week before Sumi Jo came here, there was news about the cancellation of three of her concerts in China. I hope that her disappointment regarding those cancellations was put on the back burner by how warmly she was received by the Philippine audience as if she was a pop/rock star.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A tale of love and loss in Tanghalang Pilipino’s Eurydice

Tanghalang Pilipino is quick to point that their upcoming production of Eurydice, running from February 17, 2017 up to March 5, 2017 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater), is not a love story. It is a story about love (and loss), instead.

A Filipino adaptation by Guelan Larca of Sarah Ruhl’s play of the same name, Eurydice is based on the Greek myth of Orpheus told from the perspective of his doomed lover/wife Eurydice. The myth tells the story of Orpheus's failed attempt to retrieve his deceased wife from the depths of the underworld. In the play, a new layer is added with Sarah Ruhl's creation of a new character: Eurydice's father. His presence brings new insight as to why Orpheus/Orfeo looks back before he has left the underworld, thus losing Eurydice forever.

Lhorvie Nuevo and Marco Viaña

The cast is led by Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company’s Lhorvie Nuevo playing the title role and Marco Viaña portraying her lover Orfeo. Joining the two are guest actors Audie Gemora and Juliene Mendoza alternating as the Father, and Alfritz Blanche as the Big Stone. The rest of TP's Actors Company complete the cast.

Loy Arcenas does double duty as the director and set designer. Serving as assistant directors are Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company’s Antonette Go and Joshua Tayco. Rounding up the production staff are Barbie Tan-Tiongco for lighting design and technical direction, Teresa Barrozo for sound design, and James Reyes for costume design.

Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl caps Tanghalang Pilipino’s 30th Season with the theme of #Transformance.

I’ve encountered the myth of Orpheus at least twice before. The one that has left a lasting impact on me was the retelling of the myth in The Sandman Special: Song of Orpheus written by Neil Gaiman, penciled by Bryan Talbot and inked by Mark Buckingham released way back in 1991. In this issue, the myth was retold within The Sandman setting with Orpheus being the son of Morpheus (Dream) and Calliope. The outcome of this issue had major repercussions in the remainder of the series’ run. This issue is included in The Sandman Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections, released by Vertigo Comics, which can be found in fine bookstores/comic book shops in here.

I consider it a great coincidence when I bumped into Orpheus just recently when I received a copy of Orphée, the latest album from Academy Award nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. The album, released by Deutsche Grammophon, is inspired by the various retelling of the myth ranging from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to Jean Cocteau’s film Orphée. Listening to the album constantly for the past few weeks, I’m struck by the haunting sound created by the combination of acoustic and electronic instruments along with that of the shortwave radio.

It remains to be seen how Eurydice that I’ve yet to see can somehow connect to the comic and the album. Who knows but the play may actually be worlds apart from both. This only goes to show how timeless the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice is and how it continues to inspire and mesmerize people even after thousands of years since it was first told.

Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl
February 17-March 5, 2017 | Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)

Ticket prices:
P1500 | P1000
50% discount for students
20% discount for senior citizens, PWD, government and military personnel

For inquiries:
Tanghalang Pilipino 832-1125 local 1620-21, 822-2920
Lorelei Celestino (0915) 607-2275, (0908) 894-1384
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Olivier Ochanine reunites with PPO in February 2017 Concert

Former principal conductor and music director Olivier Ochanine returns to conduct the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra this February 17, 2017, 8:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater). This upcoming concert marks the first time Olivier conducts the PPO since their history making performance at the Carnegie Hall in New York, USA back in June 2016.

Music to be performed in this concert includes 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 Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93.

The Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony was originally scheduled back in September 2015 but it got replaced by Shostakovich Symphony No. 1 around a couple of weeks before the concert much to my dismay. It looks like they’ve finally ironed out the kinks and it’s all systems go for Symphony No. 10 which I will see and hear live for the very first time.

In preparation for this, I watched again The War Symphonies: Shostakovich Against Stalin, a 1997 documentary by Larry Weinstein, re-released in DVD by EuroArts last year. The film focuses on the symphonies preceding the 10th, in line with the revisionist view that Shostakovich wrote them in opposition to the Stalin regime.

The film features loads of interviews with Shostakovich’s contemporaries, some disturbing archival footage, and also music performed by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Kirov Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev. Even if one is not familiar with Shostakovich’s music, the documentary serves as a history lesson on how oppressive regimes attempted to silence and/or manipulate artists and how arts and culture was used to serve their means as propaganda.

Granted that Shostakovich’s music has been closely tied to the history of Russia/Soviet Union and this link has given his work a great deal of mystery, intrigue and excitement. But even as one takes away all the political context, his works can stand on their own greatness, with a musical language that is unmistakably his. And I hope that audiences at the upcoming PPO concert will be able to hear Shostakovich’s musical genius as well.

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

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
     Marche Slave in B flat minor, Op. 31
Franz Joseph Haydn
     Symphony No. 88 in G major, Hob. 1/88
Dmitri Shostakovich
     Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93

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

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Break of Reality proves that cellos do rock

Break of Reality performing at Glorietta

American alt-classical chamber ensemble Break of Reality showed the Philippines that cellos do rock during their recent visit to the country.

Cellists Patrick Laird, Laura Metcalf, and Andrew Janss, along with percussionist Ivan Trevino headlined performances and conducted workshops in Zambales and Manila. Catching them on tour gave me an insight on how to be a musician in this age of social media but most importantly, it gave me a chance to finally see and hear up close and personal a carbon fiber cello.

The group’s hour long performance at the Glorietta Activity Center was met by a highly receptive audience that included a great number of school kids. The crowd roared upon hearing the starting notes of the Game of Thrones main titles. Even the not so familiar music like that from Villa-Lobos, Radiohead, a Break of Reality original, and including an improvised piece were warmly received.

A broken left foot by Patrick didn’t stop him from rocking it out especially with Ivan finally having a go with the drum set. And for some reason, the crowd goes wild whenever the cellists go for the high notes. The opening act in this concert was the urban folk band Humanfolk. The performance was also a part of the ongoing Philippine International Jazz Festival.

As much as I enjoyed the Glorietta performance, it was the workshop at the University of Sto. Tomas held days earlier that I appreciated more. The workshop was a combination of a masterclass, performance, and an open forum. And it was during the open forum where I learned a lot.

The group gave practical tips on how to make one’s presence felt online. Ivan said that one doesn't need top of the line equipment for one can start recording and uploading videos. A mobile phone that can take videos and a decent, relatively inexpensive microphone are enough to start the ball rolling. But Patrick stressed that content is still the key.

Laura, who has performed with the likes of Adele and John Legend, and also a member of other ensembles aside from Break of Reality, was cited as an example of a versatile musician. And Patrick said that being versatile increases a musician’s usefulness.

Ivan also recalled the quartet’s earliest days playing for almost nothing at cafés, using these gigs as a learning experience, until they got featured at the papers that eventually started to snowball to where they are right now.

Performing during the workshop/masterclass at UST

Another interesting topic discussed was how to do improvisation as an individual and as a group. Andrew said that one has to get comfortable with a simple idea (as simple as a single note, a drone) and then going one step further from there. As a group, one has to know which role he/she needs to play and do something different like play high while the other play low or do a contrasting counter melody. Ivan said that voicing rhythms out and then doing variations afterwards is a good exercise for percussionists.

Ultimately, it was the carbon fiber cellos that all three cellists brought with them that really caught my interest. The dark gray cellos have a very muscular sound that was highlighted by the pieces that they performed. Patrick told me that it’s ideal for touring since they could just have these instruments beneath the plane. An extra seat is typically bought for the fragile wooden cellos and that brings up the touring cost. The carbon fiber ones aren’t affected by extreme temperature changes so the cellists aren’t too worried about having to make emergency trips to a luthier while on tour.

The Philippine stop of Break of Reality is part of their Asian tour in line with the American Music Abroad program by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in partnership with American Voices. The performances and workshops were presented by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, Casa San Miguel, Glorietta, Philippine International Jazz Festival, University of the Philippines, and University of Sto. Tomas.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Care Divas gives PETA’s 50th year a glittering start

Eric dela Cruz and Vincent de Jesus
with some of the cast and creative team of Care Divas

The Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (PETA) 50th year celebrations is off to a glittering start with the return of the hit musical Care DivasAt the press preview, original cast members Melvin Lee, Vincent de Jesus, Ricci Chan, Buddy Caramat, and Dudz Teraña didn’t miss a beat as if years have not passed since they last donned their Care Divas wigs and heels.

Ricci Chan in a Miss Universe moment

Written by Liza Magtoto and directed by Maribel Legarda, Care Divas follows the lives of Chelsea (Lee), Shai (de Jesus), Kayla (Chan), Jonee (Caramat), and Thalia (Teraña) who work as caregivers in Israel. But they moonlight as drag queen performers offering them some respite from their day jobs. The misadventures that they go through are prime material for some major laughs. And the tight group's spot on comic timing ensured that the punchlines still packed a punch even if one has seen the show and heard the jokes before.

Watching the musical again felt like revisiting old friends whom I haven’t seen in ages and yet realizing that time hasn’t weakened the bond a bit. The musical numbers, with songs composed by de Jesus, felt cozy and familiar with the tight cast assuring that they would hit all the notes and remain in harmony.

Buddy Caramat, Dudz Teraña, and Ricci Chan

But not all was familiar as something new was offered in this run as well. New to the cast is Gold Villar as Nonah, the divas’ female friend. Gold, who possesses a great set of pipes, provided a much welcomed female voice to the predominantly male chorus. And Sherry Lara, with the dual role of Sarah/Adara, was so ruthless making her so easy to hate. Also part of the cast at the preview include Paul Holme, Myke Salomon, Eric dela Cruz, Eko Baquial, and Joseph Madriaga.

Succeeding shows will see the other divas namely Red Concepcion as Chelsea, Gio Gahol as Kayla, and Thou Reyes as Jonee joining Ron Alfonso as Shai and Jason Barcial as Thalia. And just like in Rak of Aegis, there will be a different mix of new and original divas in every performance thus making it so tempting to see the show multiple times. Other cast members joining the fold are Joan Bugcat, Leo Rialp, Jeff Flores, and Jakub Krajger.


Aside from the gayness and the laughter, there was also a great deal of political commentary with Care Divas. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, illegal immigration, gender discrimination are tackled within the musical. Eerily, these issues remain relevant today especially with what’s going on with the US and their new President Donald Trump. And this makes Care Divas such a hit among audiences and yet still remaining true to what PETA stands for.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Noli Me Tangere, the Opera's final bow and this week in concerts

Noli Me Tangere, the Opera takes a final bow

Despite a packed Friday schedule, I was able to rush back to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and catch the second half of the closing performance of Noli Me Tangere, the Opera. I was finally able to see Bianca Camille Lopez as Maria Clara and also Mari Yapjoco as Basilio. I would've wanted to see a different Ibarra and Sisa aside from Ronan Ferrer and Stephanie Aguilar respectively but the alternates already took their final bows in earlier shows. As expected, the intense scene of Sisa and Basilio near the end was the most applauded. I felt sorry for the impatient young woman beside me who left during the Awit ng Gabi ni Sisa. She missed one of the best moments of the entire opera. Such a shame.

Like one cast member told me, the opera does grow on you. With just a second viewing of the second half, the music started to make a stamp on me with the leitmotifs (especially that of Sa Lupang Pangako) becoming more evident. The charming quartet Pusong Pinagtali has also endeared itself to me. And the pacing that I felt was disjointed before was now tighter and flowed better. The production was also able to remedy some of the technical miscues. I only had some issues with the lighting as the patterns on the floor looked contemporary and out of place in a period piece like this.

I was extremely pleased to see a lot of young people among the audience. Opera productions in here are often joked as a gathering of senior citizens. But such was not the case for Noli Me Tangere, the Opera. with a great mix of the young and old in attendance. For once, I was glad to have belonged to the older demographic.

The opera may have taken its final bows (for now) but that doesn't mean that there aren't any more shows to look out for this week. Here's a selection of music performances happening over the next few days. 

First off is the return of Korean superstar soprano Sumi Jo for a one night cnthis February 7, 2017, 8:00 PM at the Meralco Theater. This performance comes at the heels of her successful concerts in Hong Kong. Learn more about Sumi Jo Divine Diva concert here.

The night of February 9, 2017 will be filled with music with at least three performances happening.

The Ayala Museum kicks off its 2017 Concert Series with a pre-Valentine’s Day presentation Caught in a Madz Romance featuring the world renowned Philippine Madrigal Singers led by choirmaster Mark Anthony Carpio at 6:30 PM at the Ayala Museum.

Caught in a Madz Romance
February 9, 2017, 6:30 PM | Ayala Museum

Philippine Madrigal Singers
Mark Anthony Carpio, choirmaster

Ticket prices:
P700 Regular | P560 Discounted Rate| P500 Senior Citizens | P300 Students

For a unique music crossover in a club atmosphere experience, head over to the Beato Angelico Gallery at the University of Sto. Tomas at 7:00 PM for Classical X Electro featuring Hamburg based string orchestra Ensemble Resonanz and local electronic artist similarobjects. Check out more details about this performance here.

At 8:00 PM over at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) will be the world premiere performance of Diwata ng Bayan. With music by Carmela Buencamino Sinco and libretto by Ed Maranan, this opera is presented by the University of the PhilippinesCollege of Music in line with the celebrations of its 100th year anniversary.

Diwata ng Bayan, a new full-length lyric opera is a love story between two characters named Matias Ylagan and Mayumi Lualhati, set during the turbulent years of the Philippine-American war in the 1900s, touching on critical issues such as clash of cultures, dispossession of land, collaboration with the colonial power and the unfinished revolution of 1896. The hero and heroine also play the roles of mythical characters named Dimalupig and Diwata in the sarsuwela which is integrated into the middle part of the opera.

Ervin Lumauag and Criselda Go lead the cast that also includes Keith Segura, Rica Nepomuceno, Maria Carmila Molina, Jeconiah Retulla, JM Espiritu, Emlyn Santos, Malvin Bethoven Macasaet, Paul Manet Martinez, Michelle Mariposa, Angelica Rose Benipayo, Ma. Rovelyn Bautista, Keisha Joy Paulo, Bianca Louise Nicole Baltazar, Cassandra Imperial, Joshua F. Cadeliña, Myron de la Cruz, Jhon Paul Fino, Rodney Erick Abuel, Airo Saret, Raymond Leslie Diaz, and Jomar de la Cruz.

Heading the creative and technical team is Dr. Ramon G. Acoymo as the overall Production and Artistic Director. Prof. Rodney Ambat conducts the Diwata ng Bayan orchestra. Rounding up the team is Jose Christe Nombres for Light Design and Technical Direction, Eric Anthony Pineda for Costume Design, and Ricardo Eric Cruz for the Set Design.

Diwata ng Bayan
February 9, 2017, 8:00 PM | Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)

Ticket prices:
P1500 | P1300 | P1200 | P1000 | P800 | P700 | P500
50% discount for students
20% discount for senior citizens, PWD, government and military personnel

Back by popular demand, the power vocals of Aegis and the symphonic sounds of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra team up once again for Aegis in Symphony, Symphonic Aegis #HugotPaMore on February 11, 2017, 8:00 PM at the CCP’s Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater). Find out more about this concert here.

See the next generation of concert pianists via the Henrietta Sydeco Tayengco-Limjoco Mozart Piano Concerto Competition Winners’ Concert this February 12, 2017, 4:00 PM at the Fleur de lis Theater of St. Paul University Manila.

Pianists Gabriel Allan Paguirigan, Ye Yun Yi, Miguel Lorenzo Panagsagan, Jet Stephen Chong, Kirsten Chantrice Fabellar, Rinaldi Alvin Yonathan, Betina Edith Bernabe, and Klyde Francis Ledamo will perform works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, and Camille Saint-Saëns. The Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Aries Caces accompanies Ledamo and Chong’s performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto for Two Pianos in E major.

This concert is presented by the Henrietta Sydeco Tayengco-Limjoco Piano Competition, in cooperation with the Piano Teachers' Guild of the Philippines Foundation, Inc. and Steinway Boutique Manila, and in partnership with the Manila Symphony Orchestra and St. Paul University Manila.

The best thing about this concert? Admission is free. Years later, when these young pianists make it big, one can say that he/she was there to witness their budding greatness at this concert.

Henrietta Sydeco Tayengco-Limjoco Mozart Piano Concerto Competition Winners’ Concert
February 12, 2017, 4:00 PM | Fleur de lis Theater, St. Paul University Manila
Ticket price:
Free admission

The Società Dante Alighieri Manila and Lyric Opera of the Philippines present the Gala Premier of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi which is now going to be staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater) on February 12, 2017, 7:00 PM.

This production, under the music direction of Michelle Nicolasora , is the 2017 opener of L’Opera on Wheels that aims to make classic opera accessible to a much broader audience. Baritone Noel Azcona sings the title role. Joining Noel in this production are Elisanta Cortes, Jasmin Salvo, Randy Gilongo, and Nomher Nival.

Following the Gala Premier, subsequent performances on March 3-4, 2017, 7:00 PM will be staged at the Power Mac Spotlight Center in Circuit Makati.

Gianni Schicchi
February 12, 2017, 7:00 PM | Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)

For inquiries:
SDA Manila (0998) 858-1695,

Such a packed week and unfortunate that it's physically impossible for me to see all of them. See you at the concerts!
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