DECADES ago, I was able to review music, theater and dance presentations at a comfortable pace, because very few of them were on a professional level. And also, because of my background in all the three disciplines.
To wit: My piano lessons and studies in music history, appreciation, theory and
composition were under graduates of Benedictine nun Sr. Baptista Battig who introduced classic music education through St. Scholastica College. My ballet lessons were under Luva Adameit and Leonor O. Goquingco, National Artist in Dance. I studied modern dance under a private tutor. My theater courses were taken at the University of the Philippines and Harvard University.
When Zenaida “Bibot” Amador and Carmen “Baby” Barredo started to establish Repertory Philippines, the joke then was that in the early productions, there were more persons onstage than off. But undeterred, the two persisted with unwavering determination; now, the Rep is a leading, prestigious ensemble with such stalwarts as Miguel Faustmann, Joy Virata, Celia, Cocoy Laurel, and the late Junix Inocian et. al., as members.
The PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) founded by theater icon Cecile Alvarez, has spawned various drama groups which stage plays in English and Filipino.
UP Theater has the incredibly versatile Anthony Juan heading it. There are many other active theater ensembles.
In dance, Ballet Manila under artistic director and prima ballerina Lisa Macuja offers excellent dance concerts. Ballet Philippines (BP), originally a modern dance ensemble, has developed classic repertoire interpreted by highly talented dancers, with Edna Vida and Nonoy Froilan as BP supervisors. Similarly, other dance groups are thriving with distinction.
Years ago, the Austrian Herbert Zipper wielded the baton over the Manila Symphony Orchestra; his wife Trudl Dubsky presented modern choreography. Leonor Orosa Goquingco pioneered in the stylization of native folk dances, thereby wielding tremendous influence on choreographers here and abroad. For instance, New York’s Alvin Ailey adopted her “Flagellantes;” Mexico’s Amalia Hernandez, her “Cockfight;” both after seeing Leonor’s “Filipinescas.”
Cecile Licad and Raul Sunico are our top pianists. Ingrid Santamaria and Reynaldo Reyes have performed in the most remote islands of our archipelago Cristine Coyiuto continues to give outstanding concerts.
Olivier Ochanine masterfully conducts the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra; so did the late Oscar Yatco. Herminigildo Ranera is PPO’s associate conductor. Arturo Molina, Gerard Salonga and Josefino “Chino” Toledo wield the baton over their respective orchestras with aplomb.
The Kabayao family-violin virtuoso Gilopez, pianist Corazon and their violinist children-make their presence strongly felt in musical events.
We critics have to exert tremendous effort to remain objective because we inevitably meet and often, fraternize—and even dine and party together!—with artists whose performances we evaluate.
When Rosamond Gilder, a drama critic from New York, came here for a visit, I asked her: “Do you ever get to know or meet offstage the players you write about?” She replied: “Never!”
While determined to retain objectivity and integrity, we critics have to contend further with the ultra sensitive nature of Filipinos. A negative observation, even a mild one, can incur displeasure or even the permanent enmity of the subject criticized.
How to maintain objectivity, credibility and integrity despite personal or friendly relationships with artists will always perennially confront us. Yet, we must rise above such relationships.