THE INCOMPARABLE SWANS IN MANILA’S BALLET SCENE

View from the Wing
THE INCOMPARABLE SWANS IN MANILA’S BALLET SCENE
By Pablo A. Tariman

When the curtain rises for the last weekend run of Swan Lake March 4 and 5 at the CCP, Filipino balletomanes will once again call to mind the earlier exposure to dance of Filipino audiences to visiting Russian artists.

Ballet Philippines' Swan Lake in its well-received Friday night opening. Ballet was first seen in Moscow in 1877.(Photo Mario Hernando)

Ballet Philippines’ Swan Lake in its well-received Friday night opening. Ballet was first seen in Moscow in 1877.(Photo Mario Hernando)

Swan Lake was first seen at Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in 1877.

The late dance chronicler Ronnie Alejandro (who used to dance and choreograph) wrote that one of the greatest ballerinas of all time, Anna Pavlova, also danced at the original Manila Grand Opera House in 1922, some two years before she announced her retirement.

One outstanding Filipino figure in dance also in awe of Russian artists is Maniya Barredo, who had a triumphant reign as prima ballerina of Atlanta Ballet in the United States.

While Maniya was in awe of Russian artists, she was herself an object of generous praises coming from them. Performing in Cuba for the first time in a dance festival that featured the world’s best dancers, Maniya not only attracted the Cubans but the Russian dancers present in the festival.

Dancing Romeo and Juliet in the first part of the program in one theatre, she created a sensation forcing Russian teachers and choreographers Natalia Dudinskaya and Konstantin Sergeyev to leave the theatre where Gelshey Kirkland was dancing Giselle and proceeded to where the Filipino was dancing Juliet.

Two great Russian dancers identified with Swan Lake are two great prima ballerina assolutas — Natalia Makarova who danced at the CCP in 1979 and Maya Plisetskaya who did her signature Dying Swan also at the CCP in 1982.

Natalia Makarova in black and white. She is an incomparable dancer of this planet.

Natalia Makarova in black and white. She is an incomparable dancer of this planet.

I recently watched a video of Makarova before her retirement. She said her dance life wasn’t all about flowers and applause. It was also about disasters on the ballet stage.

She started at the corps de ballet, was asked to fill in for a sick member and ended up doing a funny version of a parrot dance she never rehearsed. “I was called to the office of the director and I thought my dance career was over. He said I was being promoted from corps de ballet member to soloist.”

Her first Odette (Swan Lake) was marred by a creaking elevator at the Bolshoi Theater while audiences were being given an illusion of a swan swimming through the lake. “The Russian elevators then were not as good as they were today where you just push a button and you are up or down anywhere quickly without noise. My swan pose became a trembling one when the elevator floor started making strange noises and the music that I heard was not anything from Swan Lake.”

In 1982 some three years after performing in Manila, Makarova was injured in an accident during a performance at the Opera House of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

She was hurt when a pipe that was part of the scenery fell and hit her as she was dancing in a revival of “On Your Toes,” the 1936 Rodgers and Hart musical. She was struck by the pipe during the second act, at the beginning of the “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” ballet sequence. The rest of the performances were cancelled.

Natalia Makarova and Patrick Bissell after their Giselle in Manila in 1979 with Edna Vida and other dancers of Ballet Philipines. (Photo from the collection of Edna Vida)

Natalia Makarova and Patrick Bissell after their Giselle in Manila in 1979 with Edna Vida and other dancers of Ballet Philipines. (Photo from the collection of Edna Vida)

When I interviewed her in 1979 on the CCP main theater stage, she started with an apology, “Excuse me but I speak poor English.”

Beside her was her dancing partner – the then 21-year-old Patrick Bissell – a well-proportioned hunk of a man who was also a favorite partner of other great ballerinas like Leslie Browne, Cynthia Gregory, Gelsey Kirkland, Jolina Menendez and Martine van Hamel.

Amidst the eerie Giselle graveyard props, Makarova talked about her true love which was dancing, her fate after the defection from Russia and how she managed between dancing and motherhood.

After her dramatic defection in 1970, she changed a lot according to her.

“Life is like that and it’s true to me. Careers, images, traditions change – and so have I. I didn’t have a hard time trying to get a job. When I defected, it was just timely because at that time, a dance company was in need of a new name and they found me.”

Does she live her role to do well in the dance medium?

“That’s not necessary. Suppose you play the role of a madwoman, do you have to be like that in real life? I’ve lived through some of my roles. To concentrate on one role, I listen to the music the night before the performance. There is nothing like music. It stimulates me, it gives me joy, it makes me cry, too.”

Makarova explained how she transforms herself for a particular role.

“It is very much an inner vision for me. The change for the role starts within me. You can’t afford to lose control. Art is art. When it’s inside you as in a role in Giselle, I put the skin of Giselle in me. It is a role you perfect by experience, by constant practice and unending search for artistry. You just have to be involved.”

Natalia Makarova (first from left) with fellow honoree actor Dustin Hoffman in the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors program.

Natalia Makarova (first from left) with fellow honoree actor Dustin Hoffman in the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors program.

In the last rehearsals before opening night for excerpt from Giselle, I watched her movements and I was gradually carried away by the way she essayed lyricism in the dance medium. Her turns were swift but luminously graceful, her leaps were like a giraffe caught in slow motion by a movie camera. She was quite a sight. When she wanted certain parts of the accompaniment right, she hummed with the orchestra and made suggestions on the way. “That’s wrong, that’s wrong. Stretch that a little, just a little before my exit.”

When she was in Paris 1978 eight years after her defection, she saw her friends at Kirov for the first time after nine years and she unabashedly confessed, “I cried on the second act of Swan Lake.”

In 2012, Makarova was one of the honorees in the annual Kennedy Center Honors along with bluesman Buddy Guy, actor Dustin Hoffman, television host David Letterman and rock band Led Zeppelin.

When asked if she considered herself Russian or American, Makarova replied in her native Russian tongue answered simply. “I am a ballerina. For me ballet has no borders, no barriers – it’s a universal art form. I am a dancer of this planet.”

Filipino danseur Nonoy Froilan who is re-staging Swan Lake March 4 and 5 had an uncanny recollection of Makarova: “As a ballet great, we expected her to be very demanding but she wasn’t at all. She has a way of getting what she wants without flaring up. She is very receptive no matter how advanced her training is from us. When she’s late for rehearsals, she apologizes. And she listens to corrections. Young as we are in the CCP Dance, she goes down to our level to work out certain differences. She knows how to adjust to limitations.”

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TWO DAYS IN A FAMILIAR TOWN

Feature
TWO DAYS IN A FAMILIAR TOWN
By Pablo A. Tariman

Many things come to mind as the Catanduanes Tribune observes its 36th year.

The marvelous view from Catanduanes Midtown Resort in Batag, Virac, Catanduanes. Photo by Floyd Evangelista Flores.

The marvelous view from Catanduanes Midtown Resort in Batag, Virac, Catanduanes. Photo by Floyd Evangelista Flores.

It is the only paper you turn to when you want to announce a coming concert and the only one faithfully chronicling the passing away of your loved ones.

To be sure, it has chronicled love, life and perfidy in the island as well as the achievements of its noteworthy islanders.

I have known Tribune’s founder, Fred Gianan, from way back when the island’s Kit Tatad still held power and influence in the 70s.

I would visit Fred in his Manila Hotel room to get in touch and always, he was happy I was making good being published in national publications.

He must have been surprised to know I was into classical music as he attended one of my concerts at the Provincial Capitol lobby and telling me, “You are into music but I also notice you are also active in the movies.”

I couldn’t tell Fred the arts is my legal wife and that showbiz was a necessary mistress. The first has a select readership and the second gets you to the masses. I am happy with both readers in the opposite spectrum.

It must have been my brother who brought me closer to the Catanduanes Tribune. When he passed away in 2012 a few days short of his 62nd birthday, I met Tribune editor and publisher Fernan Gianan who invited me to write regularly.

Cut off from the islands for many decades, I thought I would reach out to my fellow islanders most of whom have no access to the national papers.

I started with personal recollections and then turned to the movies and the arts which I cover regularly for the national dailies.

It was in that lobby concert in the late 90s that I would see Fred Gianan for the last time and so with other friends.

Pablo Tariman in Batag Beach in the capital town.

Pablo Tariman in Batag Beach in the capital town.

Other friends I saw in that concert included island poet Jose A. Tablizo who gave me a draft of a book of poetry that he wanted published. JAT, as he was called in the inner circle, chronicled the idyllic days of the island before the onset of the motel inns and the discovery of shabu laboratory near the roadside of Palta.

Was it JAT who accompanied me to visit a dear friend, writer-journalist Benny Bagadiong, nestled in his own nipa hut by the sea adjacent to his regular residence?

He passed away without getting his book published and in one concert at the provincial capitol lobby in 2001, I dedicated the event to the friends and kins I have lost: Fred Gianan, Jose Tablizo, Beda Camacho and my mother (my father moved on earlier).

I was in Virac last week to represent my late brother in a class reunion Batch ’67 under Tribune contributor Rosulo Manlangit and got reunited with the same teachers we both had in the same school (CNHS).

Got to see my teachers, Mrs. Araceli Lim, Miss Rose Surtida and Mr. Domingo Taperla. How gracefully they have aged!

Also saw my first high school crush who came with her daughter now based abroad. The face remained maiden-like especially when she changed into a school uniform to join an ensemble singing “High School Life” which was the theme song from the Maryo de los Reyes film, “High School Circa 1965” which was the year I left CNHS.

In this reunion of Batch 67, I got to see a townmate who used reigned as Miss Baras at one time – Evelyn Torrente, now Mrs. Clerigo.

Moreover, Catanduanes Midtown Inn was a familiar hangout when it was known by another name and owned by a popular politician.

If Tribune had its share of libel cases (it is a badge of honor among journalists), I had my own share of it and my first complainant was from the island after I wrote my early memoir in a popular women’s magazine patronized by the island school teachers.

The author with his high school teachers Rose Surtida and Domingo Taperla. They haven't aged a bit. (Photo: Francisco Camacho)

The author with his high school teachers Rose Surtida and Domingo Taperla. They haven’t aged a bit. (Photo: Francisco Camacho)

In the late 70s when the inn was known by another name, I used to drink with my friend on its rooftop and later dive in the middle part of the pier at midnight in my birthday suit.

My friend wasn’t horrified while he watched by the dike. He knew I was born — and grew up — by the sea. He figured I was depressed by my first libel case and allowed me to drown my sorrow in the only way I know – to drink beer and swim my sorrows away.

A few years later, my friend died in a helicopter crash along with a media friend who had several children by different fathers.

There used to be a telegraph office on the inn’s ground floor and that’s where I received the news of my former high school classmate who passed away in Mexico and brought to a nearby cemetery with not a single patch of wood to warm her up.

When I saw her off at the Virac airport in the middle 60s on her way to Mexico, I was reading a book of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay given to me by a Peace Corps Volunteer named William Keating.

My favorite stanza was —

“My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light.”

I was in Mexico in the middle 90s and on my way to a theater to cover a cultural event, I thought of my high school classmate while someone on the taxi radio was singing “Historia de un Amor.”

Indeed, this island inn is another repository of my memories.

For the record, I was born in a village by the sea called Tilod in Baras, Catanduanes and the woman who took care of me as a child has a Canada-based daughter who is now my FB friend.

The sixties in the island saw me playing Rizal in an elementary graduation play and on to public high school in Virac, Catanduanes where I appeared in a play called “Seven Years” with classmates Gracia Lucero and Guadalupe Tomagan, among others. One Mrs. Tacorda directed the play.

The late island poet Jose A. Tablizo with Estrella Placides. The island the poet knew is no more. (Photo: Gerry Rubio)

The late island poet Jose A. Tablizo with Estrella Placides. The island the poet knew is no more. (Photo: Gerry Rubio)

This was the decade I saw my first ballet in the island. Since I cannot afford a ticket, I climbed a tree with a view of an open window overlooking the Catanduanes College stage and saw the best of Anita Kane Ballet in the late 60s.

On my last day in the island, I revisited a landmark of my youth.

Farmacia Guerrero — where I took my first typing lessons — is now gone blown to smithereens by Typhoon Nina.

However, this visit afforded me to see the Catanduanes Midtown Resort in Batag, Virac, Catanduanes for the first time.

Over beer and guinatan served by Mr. and Mrs. Napol Co, I got to reflect in this beautiful and pristine place where the only thing you hear is the sound of waves.

This idyllic part of the island brought back memories of the home province that will never come back.

Island poet Jose A. Tablizo summarized them thus in this poem —

“There are many things we do not have –
A few things we do have.
We have no hustling, wide, cement boulevards
With glittering streetlights; no sinful women
on the boulevard under the street lights,
We have no traffic jams, no ticket fixers,
We have lazy narrow roads – and lazier streams
We have devastating typhoons and generous seas
For what we do not have, we are proud:
For what we do have we are humble.”

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KOREAN DIVA DONATES TALENT FEE TO HOME FOR ABANDONED CHILDREN

Concert Updates
KOREAN DIVA DONATES TALENT FEE TO HOME FOR ABANDONED CHILDREN

By Pablo A. Tariman

Grammy-award winning Korean diva Sumi Jo said here the arts are in a better position to unite people and neutralize political tensions among the superpowers.

Sumi Jo during her last engagement in Manila 2014. Photo: Anna Leah Sarabia

Sumi Jo during her last engagement in Manila 2014. Photo: Anna Leah Sarabia

Jo, the first Korean nominated in the Oscar awards last year for her interpretation of a song used in the film “Youth” announced in a message sent by email that she is donating her talent fee to the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation which is taking care of abandoned and abused children in Manila.

The Tulay ng Kabataan home for abandoned children was the same orphanage that Pope Francis visited in 2015.

Ms. Jo, a devout Christian, is known for her charitable works for orphanages and for advocacies against cruelty to animals.

Said the world-acclaimed soprano who graced the Oscar red carpet last year: “I have good memories of my last concert in Manila and I was happy to be able to help victims of Typhoon Yolanda. This time I would like to help Filipino children and show people that I care a lot about promoting friendship between South Korea and the Philippines.”

Sumi Jo with children of Don Bosco in 2014. Photo: Elizabeth Lolarga

Sumi Jo with children of Don Bosco in 2014. Photo: Elizabeth Lolarga

The soprano who is the cultural ambassador of her country and UNESCO ambassador for peace said she is concerned that there is so much publicity about a Korean killed in Manila and Koreans allegedly involved in the drug trade. “There is more to Koreans than we read in the newspapers. We love music and the arts and international competitions will show Koreans excel in music. I do believe music can do a lot to promote genuine friendship. For this reason, I want to give a good example by sharing what I have with less fortunate Filipino children. I hope to show my countrymen and my Filipino fans the meaning of sharing. Of course, I can share more with all my heart and mind if they watch my concert at the Meralco Theater. My music can express a lot. I am inviting Filipino journalists to receive my message of deep concert and friendship through music. My concert will be a meaningful occasion to promote friendship between our countries.”

Sumi Jo with Pope Francis during his visit in Korea two years ago.

Sumi Jo with Pope Francis during his visit in Korea two years ago.

The Korean diva received a standing ovation during her 2014 engagement in Manila and critics described her as “an operatic talent of earth-shaking proportion.”

She was also well-received in her debut engagement with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Long Yu at the Lincoln Center last Jan. 31 and with Hong Kong Philharmonic last February 3 and 4, 2017.

Sumi Jo is scheduled to arrive in Manila Sunday night (February 5) via Cathay Pacific in time for her engagement at the Meralco Theater on Tuesday, February 7, 8 pm with Filipino pianist Najib Ismail.

Pablo Tariman with Sumi Jo during the 2014 presscon in Manila. Photo: Anna Leah Sarabia

Pablo Tariman with Sumi Jo during the 2014 presscon in Manila. Photo: Anna Leah Sarabia

Sumi Jo’s program on Feb. 7 includes Benedict’s “Gypsy and the bird,” Purcell’s “Music for a while,” Rossini’s “La pastorella d’Alpi,” Bellini’s “Eccomi, O quante volte” from I Capuletti e Montecchi, Gounod’s “Serenade,” Ravel’s “Habanera” ( Vocalise en forme de Habanera), Delibes’s “Le Fille de Cadix,” Martini’s “Plasir d’amour,” Santiago’s “Nocturne,” Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” and Verdi’s “E’strano, Sempre libera” from La Traviata.

The February 7 concert is made possible in partnership with Marco Polo Hotel Manila, 98.7 DZFE The Master’s Touch, Steinway and Sons Piano and Leica.

For ticket inquiries, call 09065104270 or Ticketworld at 891-9999, CAEO at tel. no. 7827164, 09183473027or 09209540053.

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WHEN FOOLS RUSH IN

Film Notes
WHEN FOOLS RUSH IN
By Pablo A. Tariman

The variations on love and destiny have long been over explored in cinema to the point of extreme boredom.

Angeline Quinto pays lip service to Jake Cuenca in "Foolish Love." Comic encounters and lofty poetry.

Angeline Quinto pays lip service to Jake Cuenca in “Foolish Love.” Comic encounters and lofty poetry.

In one film after another, characters of lead actors look for signs and mistake one seemingly positive moment for the real thing. But trouble is things can go awry, the perceived signs could be nothing but chance encounters.

Director Joel Lamangan and writer Jerry Gracio offer an entertaining, if, highly poetic twist in “Foolish Love” with another character (Angeline Quinto) perennially obsessed with destiny and mistaking people she accidentally meets as signs of a future romantic destiny unfolding.

Quinto emerges as a natural comedian by just being the character she is: naïve, gullible, but remaining positive whatever the outcome of her fantasy is. And no matter how ridiculous.

By turns, she is encouraged and warned by a close circle of friends (Cai Cortez, Miho Nishida) wishing the best for their friend.

Fun and confusion start when she looks for a childhood sweetheart in the most unlikely places. After one ‘false alarm’ after another, she meets an unlikely answer to her daily supplication when she sees a forlorn man (Jake Cuenca) seemingly left out in the rain. She falls for this one and throws caution to the wind. She is gradually initiated into the perks of a romantic love and even agreeing to do the kinky ritual demanded by her lover who gets extreme delight in being strangled while making love.

Tommy Esguerra and Miho Nishida. A new hot love team in the making?

Tommy Esguerra and Miho Nishida. A new hot love team in the making?

The funny side of the lead character is that she remains naïve even as she goes through the rituals of love-making – just to please her man. Quinto’s character has two comic sides — one on the side of naivete and the other in the form of blatant ignorance.

Indeed, this mad search for destiny has driven her to go to church regularly to seek the counsel of her aunt who happens to be a nun.

In one desperate phase of her love-hungry life, she nearly answered the call of the convent to the horror of her mother (Beverly Salviejo) who’d rather see a single mother daughter than be morally tortured by the possibility of a chaste, if, holy figure in the family.

Much of the fun and comic delight of “Foolish Love” come from the long search of a childhood sweetheart. Another is her regular consultation with her friends who are going through difficult transitions themselves.

On the whole, “Foolish Love” elicits screams and guffaws of fun from the audience — thanks to the consistent portrayal of Quinto as a church-going ‘manang’.

Salviejo as her mother provides the portrait of another middle age, lovelorn woman seeking refuge from loneliness from dance instructors. With ease and insouciant finesse, Salviejo can easily metamorphose from a lonely widow to a concerned mother and as a harum-scarum ballroom dancing aficionado.

Vangie Labalan fares very well as the much-hated corporate witch while Jason Gainza does an earthshaking confession at the MRT station which set the perspective of the lonesome character of Quinto.

On the other hand, Jake Cuenco was a perfect foil as the schizophrenic loner to Quinto’s destiny- obsessed character.

From the way the audience screamed no end in every scene of PBB love team Tommy Esguerra and Miho Nishida, you can sense a new unlikely love team in the making.

Direk Lamangan is not associated with romantic comedies but in this project, he found a way to make something comic and dramatic in the characters. One could sense he used a light brew on which to make something of the story.

The character of Quinto keeps a diary in which she waxes poetic at every turn. Her output is sophomoric but the one coming from the loner (Cuenca) was at best poetry of the exemplary kind.

Poster of "Foolish Love."

Poster of “Foolish Love.”

This is to be expected as the writer (Gracio) is a certified poet and indeed, poetry finding their way in the screenplay was a big bonus in this film with such lofty lines as –

Nabubuo tayo kapag umiibig
Matapos mapilas ang mga damdamin
Sa paulit-ulit na pagkakaputol
Ng mga relasyong sa ating akala
Ay walang hangganan, ngunit natatapos
Sa paghihiwalay. Tayo’y naiiwang
Kabiyak na lamang, tila mga anghel
Na iisa’ng pakpak, hindi makaangat
Kahit na piliting kumampay pataas.
Hinahanap natin ang ating kabiyak
Sa makakasiping, makakapareha.
At kapag nakita, magkaakbay tayong
Magpapaimbulog sa kaitaasan—
Sapagkat buo na dahil umiibig.

The film is light and breezy and with just the right amount of fun and comic encounters thrown in.

Like it or not, it is another version of a tableaux called a funny valentine.

“Foolish Love” directed by Joel Lamangan is now showing in cinemas.

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TALE OF POSSESSION IN A HIGH-RISE CONDO

Film Notes
TALE OF POSSESSION IN A HIGH-RISE CONDO
By Pablo A. Tariman

There are many things going for “Ilawod” deftly directed by Dan Villegas.

The cast of “Ilawod.” Genuine horror from within.

The cast of “Ilawod.” Genuine horror from within.

For one, it has a solid story written by award-winning writer Yvette Tan and the seasoned actors are complimented by highly promising young people in the cast.

The cinematography doesn’t call attention to itself but with superb musical scoring and sound editing, the film strikes terror in the heart of moviegoers without trying too hard.

One likes the quiet pace with which the film builds up but when you least expected it, you realize anyone can be possessed even if you are enjoying the safe, if, relative comfort in a high-rise condominium.

Even without effects, the film triumphs as a horror vehicle with good writing and imaginative direction. For another, the film provides good contrast between rural and city living and along with it, the cultural contrasts in how rural and city folks take to the existence of the supernatural.

Director Dan Villegas with Ian Veneracion and Epi Quizon. A real creepy tale without the effects.

Director Dan Villegas with Ian Veneracion and Epi Quizon. A real creepy tale without the effects.

The pessimism that follows every tale of possession is exemplified by a reporter played by Ian Veneracion who thinks the possessed person is just acting for the benefit of media persons with camera. On the whole, this pessimism is shared by his wife played by Iza Calzado.

But as the story unfolds, the pessimism turns into quiet alarm until it begins to wreak havoc into their quiet and simple condominium living.

The good thing about this film is that it horrifies by just quietly following a good story of possession in the countryside.

In this film, Veneracion and Calzado reach a level of acting that is at once mature and quietly spontaneous. There is no attempt to overact or over delineate a scene. For these two lead actors, one saw perfect ensemble acting at its best.

Iza Calzado in “Ilawod.” A well-nuanced performance.

Iza Calzado in “Ilawod.” A well-nuanced performance.

The supporting cast (Epi Quizon, Joel Saracho, Ruby Ruiz) add to a certain level of credibility in the story as they talk and look like the ordinary people in Tan’s engrossing story.

But as the film reaches its horrifying finale, you realize the young actors have allowed the film to reach a level of terror hinted in the story.

Harvey Bautista (son of Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista) reveals a lot of promise in this acting debut and Xyriel Manabat jolts everyone in her concluding appearance before the credits rolled on.

Shooting the underwater scenes in “Ilawod.” The young actors are equally at their best.

Shooting the underwater scenes in “Ilawod.” The young actors are equally at their best.

But a contender for best actress is Therese Malvar as the water spirit, Isla. She provides a lot of spooky moments that range from the sensual to the hair-raising.

This early, “Ilawod” is my first candidate for horror film of the year.

It yields a lot of horrifying moments it will likely follow you even after the screening.

“Ilawod” directed by Dan Villegas opens in cinemas January 18.

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A YOUNG FERRANDO IN MOZART’S COSI FAN TUTTE’

Opera Notes
A YOUNG FERRANDO IN MOZART’S COSI FAN TUTTE’
by Pablo A. Tariman

Metro Manila’s music lovers will have a respite from the long opera drought when the MCO Foundation mounts a contemporary version of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte (All Women Are the Same)” at the Ayala Museum on Monday, November 28.

Tenor Carlo Manalac. All set for Cosi fan tutte November 28 at Ayala Museum.

Tenor Carlo Manalac. All set for Cosi fan tutte November 28 at Ayala Museum.

The opera is basically about two friends who wanted to test the loyalties of their girl-friends by putting on a good disguise as suitors.

Playing Ferrando is 28-year old tenor Carlo Manalac who earlier played Rodolfo in a new version of Puccini’s La Boheme set in Baguio City. Earlier, he was Padre Salve in an earlier staging of “Kanser” and has just wrapped up a series of performances as Crisostomo Ibarra in the musical version.

The tenor admits the role of Ferrando was a first in his opera repertoire and he studied it by listening to the 1996 recording of the opera featuring tenor Frank Lopardo and soprano Renee Fleming. “I chose the recording because you can see a lot of nuances in the music and the characters while they are singing.”

Tenor Carlo Manalac with soprano Anna Migallos as Fiordiligi. The opera  has a new look to connect with millennials.

Tenor Carlo Manalac with soprano Anna Migallos as Fiordiligi. The
opera has a new look to connect with millennials.

To him, one tough challenge of the opera is that the tenor almost always uses the upper register which is true of all the works of Mozart. “Every time I sing, the feeling is I am always up there with no chances of going down. Another tough part is the difficult passagio which is the transition from one high register to another.”

To have a good look at the opera inside and out, he had to watch the entire opera in different versions. “The English libretto helps a lot to better understand the opera. The difficult part is that you have to be prepared to meet its vocal and mental demands.”

When he sang Boheme as Rodolfo, he noticed that the music has a wider range and with few high notes to worry about. But with Mozart, the arias sit on the passagio and if you are not focused, you’ll be in a lot of vocal trouble.”

Between him and the character, there is a common ground. “Ferrando is very hot-tempered and I am like that too if things don’t go well as planned. The thing is he is very romantic as well.”

He gets to sing the difficult aria “Tradito schernito” in the second act and it requires a lot emotionally because it is about the character’s fits of jealousy and anger. “The tendency to start pushing because of the nature of the music is so tempting. It is also sitting on the passagio (high register) almost all of the time.”

Moreover, he has no doubt the opera will appeal to the millennials in its current version. “I do believe that visually, this Ayala Museum staging will appeal to the millennials even as I know the opera has been staged in different versions. But we saw to it audiences can relate to its contemporary setting.”

Come opening night, Carlo will usually be preoccupied with being happy with his performance. “I must satisfy myself first before I can say I have done my best. I always try to achieve that ‘feel good’ status by putting on a good show. I am almost sure the production will give everyone a stress-free evening. The opera is really light and fun. I am sure every music lover can relate to it.”

The cast of Cosi fan tutte.Chamber opera at Ayala Museum.

The cast of Cosi fan tutte. Chamber opera at Ayala Museum.

The other members of the cast include members of the Viva Voce ensemble namely soprano Anna Migallos as Fiordiligi, soprano Aissa Guilatco as Dorabella, baritone Carlo Falcis as Guilegno, mezzo soprano Roxy Aldiosa as the wacky Despina
and bass baritone Roby Mahusay as Don Alfonso with musical direction by Camille Lopez Molina.

(For tickets to the November 28 performance of Cosi fan tutte, please call Ticketworld at tel. no. 891-9999, MCOF, 997-9483, 782-7184 or cel. no. 0920-9540053 and 0918-347-3027. The opera production was made possible in association with Ayala Museum, Lyric Piano and DZFE. 98.7 The Master’s Touch.)

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LEA SALONGA RELIVES HELEN BECHDEL IN A COMING-OF-AGE ROLE

Theater Notes
LEA SALONGA RELIVES HELEN BECHDEL IN A COMING-OF-AGE ROLE
by Pablo A. Tariman

On this early Friday evening encounter with commuters getting used to bad traffic, Lea Salonga speaks of a role like no other in her 37-year stint as singing actress.

Lea Salonga with young cast of "Fun Home." As actress and mother herself, she can totally relate to the role.

Lea Salonga with young cast of “Fun Home.” As actress and mother herself, she can totally relate to the role.

“Indeed this is far, far so different from my previous singing roles,” said she as she defines her character as Helen Bechdel in the musical, “Fun Home,” which to her is a musical like no other.

To be sure, this latest assignment is a far cry from Grizabella (Cats), Eliza Doolittle (My Fair Lady) and Kim (Miss Saigon), among others.

One way or the other, Lea thinks the role came at a perfect time when she has evolved as a person and as an artist and can connect with characters with varying episodes on marriage and motherhood.

Lea Salonga who plays Helen Bechdel admits a thoroughly challenging role as she portrays a life that is incredibly real. “I can relate to my character because she is a former actress and now that I am a mother myself, I didn’t have to imagine how mothers connect to their children. I live it every day.”

Helen Bechdel — who died in 2013 — was active in theater during her high school years playing the role of the second Mrs. De Winter in Rebecca, and playing the lead in The Heiress. She also did a summer internship at Tufts Arena Theater in Boston, followed by a one-year apprenticeship at the Cleveland Playhouse. She met her husband, Bruce A. Bechdel, when they were both performing in a college production of The Taming of the Shrew.

The Bechdel family life became public knowledge when their daughter, Alison Bechdel, wrote a graphic memoir detailing her discovery that her father — previously stationed in Germany with the US Army – was in fact a closet gay.

Lea Salonga with Pablo Tariman at the CCP in 2006. At 45, she is far from retirement and she feels she is just getting better.

Lea Salonga with Pablo Tariman at the CCP in 2006. At 45, she is far from retirement and she feels she is just getting better.

While the main protagonist in the musical is a lesbian, the musical is not about being gay. She stressed that the musical is more about growing up and coming to terms with a dysfunctional family that looked normal on the outside.

Said Lea: “There is a lot family member can learn from ‘Fun Home.’ The characters are recognizable. They could be your own parents, your uncles, your friends, your neighbors. The musical is a lesson in acceptance and forgiveness and will allow you to reflect the different chapters in your own life.”

The first time the actress saw “Fun Home” on Broadway, she was immediately stunned. “Everyone in the theater was in tears at the curtain call. I don’t recall a musical having that kind of effect. No big dance numbers, no large cast. Just a story about a family and its unique brand of dysfunction so specific, we all could find something to relate to.”

Described as a “beautiful heartbreaker of a musical” and “achingly beautiful,” the musical will see actor Cris Villonco playing the role of Alison Bechdel. She pointed out playing the part was a tough challenge as it is based on a famous personality still alive. “But I’ve seen characters like her in New York when I was still studying. I would say it was an education. This role will allow me to relive life that I can only do in theater.”

On the other hand, Lea admits marriage and motherhood enabled her to get a more profound outlook on people leading both ordinary and extraordinary lives.

For one, motherhood allowed her to open her heart into the wider range of the human condition and gave her deeper appreciation and understanding for all kinds of relationships.

Indeed, it is a big character transformation from “Annie” to “Fun Home” which one way or the other will likely re-enforce her stature as an actress.

My last concert production at CCP: Lea Salonga with tenor Otoniel Gonzaga and conductor Julian Quirit with PPO.

My last concert production at CCP: Lea Salonga with tenor Otoniel Gonzaga and conductor Julian Quirit with PPO.

Lea is an actress who can come to terms with her age (45) and enjoying every minute of it. “I can feel I still am very far from considering retirement. At my age now, I find that I can still get better and hasn’t reached the end of the road. I guess, God is not through with me yet. I love the theater but I am also enjoying motherhood to the hilt. I travel a lot but I have time to play Candy Crush with my daughter, hug her and smell her as often as I can. How do I describe my phase as a person and artist now? The outlook is broader, the perception deeper and of course I have fewer but truer friends.”

The musical is the most awarded and acclaimed musical of 2015, winning five Tony awards including best musical. It is based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir, “Fun Home” with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron.

(“Fun Home” directed by Bobby Garcia and starring Tony-Award winner, Lea Salonga opposite Broadway actor Eric Kunze opened last November 10 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium and will run until November 27 on weekdays, 3pm & 8pm on weekends. For tickets, call TicketWorld at 8919999).

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‘MANDOLIN DELIGHTS’ AT AYALA MUSEUM NOV. 6

Concert Advisory
‘MANDOLIN DELIGHTS’ AT AYALA MUSEUM NOV. 6
by Pablo A. Tariman

“The sound of the mandolin is a very curious sound because it’s cheerful and melancholy at the same time, and I think it comes from that shadow string, the double strings.” — Rita Dove

lester-demetillo-teresa-barrozo-photo

Classical guitarist Lester Demetillo. The mandolin is equally versatile as other concert instruments. (Photo: Teresa Barrozo)

Remember the mandolin music in the Meryl Streep-Dustin Hoffmann starrer, “Kramer vs Kramer” which turned out to be Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto in C Major?

Does the mandolin music in “The Godfather” (part of the wedding orchestra and now known as “Speak Softly Love” in popular musical parlance) remind you of the Italian countryside?

Did you know that the Lawrence Olivier starrer, “A Little Romance” has some classical mandolin music in it that is vintage Vivaldi?

The sound of the rarely heard mandolin returns with a vengeance at the Ayala Museum on Sunday, November 6, 2016, 6:30 p.m. in a special concert called “Mandolin Delights” featuring mandolin players Lester Demetillo and Armando Derecho to be assisted by classical guitarist Aljero Jimenez.

In this concert, the mandolin will be heard in a well-prepared repertoire from the baroque classical, romantic, as well as Filipino, Brazilian and American bluegrass music.

Demetillo said his interest in mandolin playing started as a hobby but decided to learn it seriously as a concert instrument. “So I prepared a repertoire that will challenge myself and the audience to seriously consider the mandolin as a musical instrument that can stand on its own along with other established ones.”

The mandolin family of musical instruments. A wide range of repertoire in the Nov. 6 concert at Ayala Museum

The mandolin family of musical instruments. A wide range of repertoire in the Nov. 6 concert at Ayala Museum

Mandolin chroniclers noted that the mandolin is largely associated as a symbol of Western civilization. It evolved from the lute in Italy during the 1300s and recognized as a musical instrument in the 1600s. It became popular in Italian towns, particularly Naples, and it spread all throughout Europe. It became popular in Baroque music, especially as it was used by Giovanni Battista Gervasio and other famous musicians of the time.

While the instrument was popular in Celtic, bluegrass, jazz, and classical music since the 1900s, Filipinos rarely hear mandolins presented as a concert instrument.

Demetillo points out the special qualities of the mandolin: “Being an ancient instrument, it adopts well to music of the past at the same time it has inherited music from all genres from classical, Brazilian, baroque, romantic, bluegrass, Japanese, Filipino and event avant-garde.”

Lester Demetillo as classical guitar mentor coaching a young enthusiast. The mandolin deserves a wider audience.

Lester Demetillo as classical guitar mentor coaching a young enthusiast. The mandolin deserves a wider audience.

Demetillo is one of the country’s passionate advocates of the classical guitar and has founded the UP Guitar Ensemble for which he arranged several orchestral pieces. Classical guitar enthusiasts note that his transcriptions stretch the instrument’s technical limits to the utmost, while retaining each score’s original music line. He is part of the pioneering group that launched the Philippine International Guitar Festival and Competition since 2010.

So what is in store for mandolin beginners in the November 5 Ayala Museum concert?

Demetillo said that while the mandolin is strongly associated with Italy, the coming concert will showcase the instrument playing music from various genres. “The music from different genres and different music eras will surely uplift their spirit as the music is mostly light, joyous, virtuosic in character. On the whole, it will be a re-discovery of music not heard in local concert halls and will surely reveal the mandolin as a prolific instrument of note.”

Poster of November 6 Ayala Museum concert. The mandolin now up for wider audience scrutiny.

Poster of November 6 Ayala Museum concert. The mandolin now up for wider audience scrutiny.

The November 6 mandolin repertoire includes Vivaldi’s Allegro in C Major and Concerto in G Major, Handel’s Sonata in D Major, Suarez’s Bakya mo Neneng and Kataka-taka, Toredo, Bolero, Napoli, Tarantella by E. Mezzacapo, Air du Fat puni by F. Devienne, Desvairada by Anibal Sardinha, Fishers Hornpipe (Traditional), Cattle in The Corn “Traditional”) and Sonata in D Major by J. G. Scheidler.

“Mandolin Delights” is presented by The Independent Philippine Art Ventures Inc. and the Ayala Museum.

Tickets available at the lobby before the concert. Prices at Php700 (regular), Php560 Discounted (Ayala Museum members, Ayala Group of Companies employees, Ayala Rewards Circle members), Php500 (senior citizens and Php300 (students).

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THREESOME

Film Notes
THREESOME
by Pablo A. Tariman

There is a resurgence of films with gay characters in local cinema and the good news is that they are finely done with no attempt to arouse the moviegoers’ prurient interest.

Some are delivered as pure whacky comedy and indeed without the redeeming moments of rare insight so difficult to come by and indeed so blatant as exemplified by a box office comedian high on hysteria and low in discernment.

Angel Locsin, Zanjoe Marudo and Sam Milby in "The Third Party." Ensemble acting has never been better.

Angel Locsin, Zanjoe Marudo and Sam Milby in “The Third Party.” Ensemble acting has never been better.

Some output in the early batch of gay-themed films tend to overly explore the sensual side and the result is that it is patronized by mostly gay crowd and given cold shoulders by the mainstream audience.

But Paul Jason Laxamana’s “The Third Party” is a pleasant surprise because it has something very positive for both the gay and the straight crowd. It highlights the trimmings of conventional relationship (notably that of the character of Beauty Gonzales and her boyfriend) and alas managed to put gay relationship (that of Sam Milby and Zanjoe Marudo) in a more respectable plane minus the bed scenes and unnecessary lip services.

Superbly written by Charlene Sawit-Esguerra and Patrick John Valencia, “The Third Party” manages to inform and entertain in equal doses (there is a regular volley of shrieks, gasps and laughter from the audience) and ends with such coming of age moment you wanted to give it a standing ovation.

Apart from its well-written screenplay, the lead actors’ performances show both depth and intensity leaving no gaping hole in which one could find lackluster delineation.

Angel Locsin’s character (Andi Medina) manages to be natural and her character’s vulnerability looks really spontaneous from moments of bliss to moments of shocking discovery. In fact, she recovers easily after minor hysteria and has taken to accepting her former boyfriend for what he is. Friendship takes over the lover status and what happens after are the rare scenarios of noble acceptance so rare in Philippine cinema.

One must say that both Milby (as Max Labrador) and Marudo (as Christian Pilar) have reached a level of rapport that is at once both refreshing and commendable. They know their characters inside and out and have given them enough humanity to last a lifetime.

With Marudo as the aggressive one and Milby as the subservient partner, you can see that their characters blend naturally you are almost tempted to suspect: could they be like that in real life they didn’t have to act (and just be themselves)? Indeed, their level of acting is so real and so true one can safely say that in this project, they have given what could be the best performances of their careers.

From the supporting cast, there is also the marked performances of Cherrie Pie Picache (as Locsin’s mother) and Al Tantay (as the straight patriarch) and Matet de Leon who held her own in the tense dinner scene. This is a well-thought out scenario when a straight father is irritated by two necking gays near their table while Milby is trying to confess his gay relationship. How his father reacted gave him a real scare he decided to become father of a pregnant friend to the consternation of the character of Locsin.

A good script, excellent ensemble acting with a discreet scoring of Jessie Lasaten and sensitive direction gave moviegoers one of the most rewarding moments in cinema.

Finally, here is one millennial director who can think beyond his generation and surprisingly has an ample supply of subtlety, delicacy, humor and humanity — all in one package.

By the looks of it, his latest film deserves the A rating from the Cinema Evaluation Board. One believes this is one of his best output after “Babagwa” (The Spider’s Lair”).

“The Third Party” directed by Jason Paul Laxamana opened in cinemas last October 12 and earned P10 million on opening day.

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THE EVOLUTION OF FPJ’S ‘ANG PROBINSIYANO’

TV Notes
THE EVOLUTION OF FPJ’S ‘ANG PROBINSIYANO’
by Pablo A. Tariman

In one setting, one got to see the entire cast of “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano” who joined the media in celebrating its first anniversary as a prime time leading teleserye Wednesday night.

Coco Martin and Susan Roces during the first anniversary presscon for "FPJ's Ang Probinsiyano." The success of the teleserye is a product of good collaboration with the creative team.

Coco Martin and Susan Roces during the first anniversary presscon for “FPJ’s Ang Probinsiyano.” The success of the teleserye is a product of good collaboration with the creative team.

Coco Martin said the project was conceptualized out of his pure admiration for the late action king Fernando Poe, Jr. He was profuse with thanks as he turned to Susan Roces who not only approved the project but agreed to play the part of Kapitana Flora Borja, the feisty but gentle barangay captain.

Said Susan: “One year of this teleserye brought me closer to the characters, more than the actors who portrayed them. When I was on the set interacting with Coco (Martin), I really felt it that Cardo and Ador are my real life grandsons. Of course you have to feel that way to make your part credible. The story of this teleserye feels so real I felt like I was part of true-to-life happening unfolding on television. Funny but I already feel like a real sister of Police Chief Supt. (General) Delfin S. Borja played by Jaime Fabregas.”

Coco pointed out some episodes in the teleserye making their way in prime time news are purely accidental and unintentional. “Our writers do a lot of research and I always meet with the creative team to assess what we have. Then it happens that one episode closely resembles one operation of the anti-drug team combing bars and other entertainment places to monitor peddlers of prohibited drugs. Yes, our story should look real but we are also careful not to get in the way of government’s operations against drug dealers. We insert pointers during commercial breaks and I think they are highly appreciated especially in the provinces.”

What he learned from one year of the teleserye the actor shares with media friends.

Onyok is given an advance  birthday treat as he turns 6. Believe it or not, peace is all he wants on his birthday.

Onyok is given an advance birthday treat as he turns 6. Believe it or not, peace is all he wants on his birthday.

The actor who is also creative consultant of the project looks back. “The consistent high rating of this teleserye is a product of hard work. It didn’t happen overnight. When it received nation-wide patronage, the more I became aware of our responsibility to our viewers. Because I believe we should not only entertain. More than anything else, we should also try very hard to inform. The government is trying very hard to put this country in order. For this reason, this teleserye is also a tribute to our policemen. They deserve our recognition for putting their lives in danger just to protect us. For the same reason that I believe we should also do our part. But we should not also forget that we have our rights which we should defend at all cost. After every episode there is regular assessment of how the show was received and how we can reach out to wider audiences.”

Thus the entry of two kids — Simon Ezekiel Pineda as Honorio ‘Onyok’ Amaba and McNeal “Awra” Briguela as Macario ‘Makmak’ Samonte, Jr.

Onyok turns 6 this month and was given advance birthday treat in the presscon.

Said the popular kid in the teleserye. “I already got an advance birthday gift from Kuya Cardo (Coco Martin) in the form of a Starwars saber sword. How did the teleserye change my life? For one, I learned how to act in this teleserye thanks to Kuya Cardo. Now I feel like a real actor. My birthday wish? Kapayapaan (peace).”

To which the media reacted with a buzz and a howl of amusement.

Gen. Ronald "Bato" de la Rosa with Coco Martin. The teleserye is also a tribute to good and hardworking policemen.

Gen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa with Coco Martin. The teleserye is also a tribute to good and hardworking policemen.

Noticing the uproar he created, Onyok pleaded, “Peace lang po.”

Present in the presscon were the bad men in the cast namely Eddie Garcia as Don Emilio Syquia, Arjo Atayde as Police S/Insp. Joaquin Tuazon and Albert Martinez as Tomas Tuazon.

“It feels good to be a bad man for one year,” said Albert Martinez. “To be bad, you need good people in the cast to provide the contrast. That is why I am grateful to my co-stars for a very fruitful collaboration.”

Added Arjo Atayde whose very expressive eyes define evil in his character: “You can only give your best if your co-actors are just as good. They motivate me to do good in every scene. Every acting I do is a product of a reaction from my co-stars. They are just so good you have to do your best as well.”

The high-rating teleserye is based on a 1997 film with the lead actor originally played by Fernando Poe, Jr.

Will there be other vintage FPJ films turning into teleseryes in the future?

Pablo Tariman with Susan Roces. She felt closer to the characters after one year as barrio captain in the teleserye.

Pablo Tariman with Susan Roces. She felt closer to the characters after one year as barrio captain in the teleserye.

“That will depend on Coco (Martin),” said the actor’s widow. “I believe he know the pulse of his audiences and he knows what past FPJ films will suit the new generation. For now, I am happy I to be part of a project originally conceived by my husband. One way or the other, it will keep his legacy alive.”

(Dreamscape Entertainment will mount FPJ’s Ang Probinsiyano Isang Pamilya Tayo The Anniversary Concert on October 8, 7:30 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum. Admission is free.)

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