The Theater at Solaire
ANOTHER WELCOME VENUE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS IN METRO MANILA
by Pablo A. Tariman
There is a lot going for this venue called The Theater formally introduced to the public last night (November 26) at the Solaire in Pasay City.
It’s on the other far end of Mall of Asia almost approaching coastal road and it is easy to see it is part of the resort and casino complex.
Its president and chief operating officer, Thomas Arasi and vice-president for brand and marketing, Jasper Evangelista, called it their newest crown jewel and indeed, its features are pretty impressive.
It has a capacity of 1,760 which makes it ideal for musical theater, opera, symphonic concerts and ballet, among others.
Its backstage amenities are even more revealing. It has 12 fully furnished dressing rooms, an accommodating green room, a multipurpose rehearsal studio, a black box performance space, laundry and wardrobe rooms, production spaces and an extensive TV monitor and communications system.
It is easy to bring in elaborate ballet and opera sets with its same-level loading dock, ample wing space, 62 fly lines, a trap door area and a versatile orchestra pit with hydraulic systems.
In this preview concert, the orchestra is right behind the soloists in another level.
The first good thing about the theater staff is that its entertainment director is actor-director Audie Gemora who knows theater requirements inside and out.
He made a mini-musical explaining how the theater came about and the people involved and what they contributed and how they can serve the performing arts and its public.
For this concertgoer schooled in the natural acoustics of Philamlife Theater and the CCP, the state-of-the-art theater equipment of Solaire is total strange territory.
Technical director Shax Siasoco (he was the one who invited me to the opening) gave me an idea shortly before the program started. The theater has something for rock and pop concerts but it has something for the classical events as well.
All it needed was to push a button and voila – you have natural acoustics “without microphones” for the sound-conscious opera singers and instrumentalists.
Conductor Gerard Salonga made it all comprehensible by letting a trumpet player play with microphones and later, without them.
One liked what one heard.
To farther demonstrate his point, the ABS CBN Philharmonic performed with soloists who must have been relieved of not worrying how they would sound in that new venue.
The theater technology took care of all that.
Karla Gutierrez rendered a profoundly moving “O mio babbino caro,” soprano Myramae Meneses was a youthful Druid priestess in “Casta diva” (from Norma) and her solid notes are echoes of Edita Gruberova, another distinguished Norma of her generation.
Soprano Camille Lopez-Molina carved a well-defined “Ritorna vincitor” (from Aida) in flaming red gown which was just right for the “Carmen” number.
The ensemble singing in”Libiamo” (Traviata) still sounded natural.
All throughout the classical numbers, conductor Salonga showed a keen affinity with the singers even as the orchestra was in an elevated area — not in the same floor level of the soloists.
Under him, ABS CBN Philharmonic showed it can do excellent work as accompanists and with all the nuances of the arias evenly projected from beginning to end. There was a magical way the orchestra would end a piece long after the singer had sung the last phrase.
Salonga was even more astounding accompanying Lisa Macuja Elizalde in the Rose Adagio (from Sleeping Beauty) for five cavaliers with Ballet Manila danseurs. The tempo was just right, the turns of phrasing perfect for the dancer’s feet and that allowed Macuja to focus on her balance with nary a scary thought of notes going ahead or behind her toes.
As for Macuja, she showed how it is dancing at age 50. In that demanding excerpt, she still looked luminous and confident. (On the other hand, that seamless Rose Adagio made other dance numbers in the program look utterly pedestrian.)
The rest of the program showed that the theater can mount concerts with varied persuasions from musicals to OPM with superb numbers from Isay Alvarez, Robert Sena, Christian Bautista, Sam Concepcion and Karylle, among others.
Lea Salonga closed the Broadway Suite with the ABS CBN Philharmonic and emerged a totally hypnotizing performer no matter how many times you have heard that medley.
The way she became the character she was singing and making every song deeply felt gave her an edge without meaning to.
The perfect rapport with her conductor-brother was joy to watch and you can see how well they work hard to give justice the music .
Seeing conductor Salonga do well both in pop and classical — and making a mark in both – is a good portent our young conductors are doing well and can now afford to remain guilt-free about “committing mortal sins” in the pop genre.
In the same manner that The Theater is not just for classical events but for other forms of entertainment from ballroom dancing to fashion shows and beauty pageants, among others.
For this old-school concert-goer, that Solaire opening was a fairly good schooling in theater acoustics especially in the area of state-of-the-art.
In one’s time, one tested acoustics of possible venues by simply clapping one’s hands and waiting for the sound to bounce back or fade.
In The Theater in Solaire, all you need is to push a button and there goes your desired sound. Only three theaters in Asia have this facility and one savored it with joy in the theater opening last night.
(For inquiries on coming shows at Solaire, contact Joy A. Wassmer, Director of Communications and Public Relations , Telephone Number: + 63 2 883 8783 Mobile Number: +63 999 886 1698 or E-mail: email@example.com)