BALLET MANILA’S prima ballerina Lisa Macuja returned as “Carmen” in Eric V. Cruz’s ballet. Although the version was highly condensed choreography, Lisa produced a tremendous impact with her impeccable technique and profoundly moving expressivity, thus proving Shakespeare’s line: “Age has not withered her.”
Firmly supported by Rudy de Dios as her lover Don Jose, and by Romeo Peralta/ Alfren Salgado as the toreador Escamillo, Lisa flirted in wild abandon and coquetry with Escamillo. After the jilted Don Jose stabbed her, Lisa electrocuted the audience as she recoiled, drawing her last breath agonizingly, her face twisted in pain and anguish.
Pas de deux sequences were enlivened by startling lifts, fish dives and the danseurs’ swift airy leaps. In Petipa’s Kingdom of the Shades, 18 ballerinas in white tutus glided and twirled in near perfect precision, creating an exquisite vision. Catherine Barkman, Nikiya combined beauty and brilliance; Romeo Peralta, Soler, danced with aplomb. Lead shades Tiffany Chiang, Abigail Oliviero and Joan Sia personified fluid grace.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s balletic treatment of gymnastics made “Bloom”– performed by 15 danseurs, distinctive and unique—incomparable in its vitality, vigor and vibrance. The awesome spectacle was enhanced by Dawna Mangahas, Mark Sumaylo, and a mixed ensemble which likewise projected mind-blowing dynamism.
A predominantly male choir of over a hundred members consisting of the Madrigal Singers under Mark Anthony Carpio, the UE Chorale, Song Weavers Philippines, Philippine Youth Choir and the UP Chorus Class, sang Brahms’ “German Requiem,” the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under Maestro Olivier Ochanine assisting.
The choral and orchestral interpretations were aptly lugubrious and elegiac through the long passages interspersed with thunderous climaxes.
Eminent Korean baritone Byeong In Park sang twice in the first movement, his voice ringing with dramatic intensity, in between, leading soprano Rachelle Gerodias Park sang the widely-ranging dynamics with supreme control. Ochanine magnificently retained the composition’s underlying solemnity.
Herminigildo Ranera, PPO’s associate conductor, described his “Philippine Symphonic Folksongs,” which opened the concert, as a “kaleidoscope of folk songs from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao freely developed and treated in the modern idiom.” Native folk songs are beautifully melodious but precisely because of Ranera’s contemporary treatment, a degree of their lyricism was lost. Nevertheless, they arrested attention and interest.
The Bankers’ Association of the Philippines headed by Cesar Virtusio presented the outstanding young violinist Joaquin Maria “Chino” Gutierrez at the Makati Shangri-la hotel in an uncompromisingly formidable, prodigious, virtuosic program. It consisted of romantic music by Brahms and Wieniawski, impressionistic by Ravel, neo-classic by Tartini and a contemporary native song.
Appearing shy and diffident, Chino strikingly contrasted this manner with his supreme confidence in the opening “Devil’s Trill Sonata,” his execution of its demanding intricacies presumably gratifying composer Tartini himself.
Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 4 reflected the sparkling, vivacious, fiery gypsy spirit which Chino infectiously projected with an easy command which likewise characterized “Polonaise No. 2 in F Major.” Bristling with the most demanding complexities, it ended in fast-paced scales and arpeggios. Similarly unfazed, the intrepid soloist played the folk song Paro-Parong Bukid intricately transcribed by Gilopez Kabayao.
Chino dazzled in the cadenza which made-up the first part of Ravel’s Tzigane, his consummate dexterity and emotive resources evoking divergent feelings throughout the piece.
Leading concert pianist Greg Zuniega gave flawless assistance. A richly deserved standing ovation ensued for the pint-sized violinist with giant-sized talent!