Grandiose show marks CCP’s 45th year
Dr. Raul Sunico, who as president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) continues his mission of promoting and developing Filipino talent, delivered opening remarks at the concert marking CCP’s 45th year.
Internationally celebrated actress-singer Lea Salonga, who portrayed Annie as a child decades ago at the main theater, paid tribute to the institution and its artists.
The printed message of Sunico and CCP vice president Chris Millado who directed the show pointed to the following agencies behind the grandiose show: Tanghalang Pilipino, Ballet Philippines, PETA, Trumpets, Spotlight Artists Centre, Bit by Bit Company, Culture Shock Productions, 4th Wall Theater C., Green Wings and Ateneo Blue Rip.
With two overtures of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under Gerard Salonga, the concert consisted mostly of ensemble singing, with one or more soloists. The choreography of Gerard Mercado for Sandosenang Sapatos was highly original and creative with dancers performing on roller skates and engaging in vivid, precise, and fascinating movement.
Katy! with libretto by Jose Javier Reyes, music by Ryan Cayabyab, Isay Alvarez Sea as Kathy, and Stageshow choreographer by Denise Reyes—both of which conveyed zestful, energetic, bouncy dancing and spirited belting—matched the best of Broadway musicals.
Rivalry (between Ateneo and La Salle) had five Maryknoll girls amusing the audience by each singing “I want a boyfriend.” In San Andres B., Margarite Roco as Oryang, Bonifacio’s wife, was one of the few who sang without a hand microphone.
The Madrigal Singers under Mark Anthony Carpio achieved a feat, their remarkable dynamics interspersing short pianissimos and fortissimos with long sustained pianissimos and fortissimos.
Magsimula Ka! with libretto by Nestor Torre and Gines Tan, lyrics and music by Tan, was both in words and music an urgent appeal and encouragement to face life’s ardors without flinching, to start all over again after a tremendous loss.
Caredivas seemed like a fabulous fashion show of gay models in white gowns with huge angel’s wings or skimpy skirts with five-inch heels!
The extensive program—excerpts from 22 original Filipino musicals—which ended with an elegant staging of Ballet Philippines Mata Hari, lasted three hours. Half-way through the show, I asked Sonny Verzosa what he thought of it. He said, “I would like to see more musicals,” which to me meant that he was hugely enjoying Musikal!
The spectacle of mass appeal, indubitably proving the Filipino’s inherent musical, dance and dramatic gifts, repeatedly drew long and lusty applause.
La Boheme: Incomparable
In La Boheme, Puccini hewed closely to verismo or realism, as did Anton Juan who infused the opera with novel, ingenious, innovative ideas while retaining its substance and essence, as he directed an outstandingly talented cast.
Although Margarita Gomez Giannelli was far from appearing like the consumptive Mimi, she was magnificent vocally and dramatically. Her luminous bravura passages soared in exquisite phrases; her portrayal of a wan, gentle, sickly woman was utterly persuasive.
As the poet Rodolfo, Mimi’s lover, tenor Scott Andrew Ramsay conveyed admirable musicianship; his top notes were firm, forceful; his thespic action subtly eloquent.
Brazilian-Italian Fernando Araujo, the painter Marcello, created a tremendous impact, his every gesture, every aria rendered in thunderous volume electrifying and dynamic.
Attractive Myramae Meneses dominated Act II as the coquettish Musetta in Café Momus, conveying grace, abandon and elan as she flirted with the men, enthralling in her waltz aria.
Juan turned the café scene into the most festive, spirited and vibrantly I had ever seen locally, with the added voices of Mimi, Rodolfo, Marcello and Viva Voce Choir enhancing the merriment.
Throughout, the set designs of Otto Hernandez were fetchingly descriptive. Further, in supporting roles, Nonon Baang (Colline), Greg de Leon (Schaumard), and Raymond Yadao (Alcindoro) strongly asserted their presence.
The death scene, with tearful Rodolfo, the mournful Marcello and Musetta watching Mimi breathing her last, wrenched the heart.
Meticulously, Jonathan Velasco conducted the Manila Symphony Orchestra; Camille Lopez Molina served as assistant music director. Musicartes’ La Boheme, with Juan incomparably integrating music and drama, received a richly deserved standing ovation.
An internationally celebrated Korean cast and leading Filipino opera singers combined talents in Verdi’s four-act Rigoletto, reduced to three acts, at the CCP main theater. Despite challenging budget constraints, which CCP president Raul Sunico audaciously met, Rigoletto, his personal choice for presentation, was a magnificent success. It proved highly gratifying from the vocal, histrionic, visual and orchestral aspects.
Baritone Daesan No admirably portrayed the title role as the lame (rather than hunchback) jester and sidekick of the Duke. Singing robustly and acting convincingly as Rigoletto, he later received a curse from Count Monterone, played by Noel Azcona, one of our best baritones, the curse leading to the death of Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda. Tenor Jae Wook Lee as the Duke, Gilda’s suitor, was a formidable presence, his ringing voice resonant. Tenor Ronan Ferrer was an impressive Borsa, a courtier. For some unknown reason, Jun Francis Jaranilla, the hired assassin Sparafucile, did not emit his usual tremendous power and sonority; in the role, however he radiated a threatening, sinister air.
Soprano Nenen Espina as Maddalena, the Duke’s flirtatious companion at the casino, was vocally riveting, arresting attention. The quartet as rendered by the Duke, Maddalena, Rigoletto and Gilda mesmerized.
Greg de Leon was Marullo, one of the Duke’s courtiers; Aristotle Molina and Katrina Jamar Sunga were the Count and Countess Ceprano, the former enraged by the Duke’s amorous attention to his wife. Thea Perez, Gilda’s maid Giovanna, essayed the role with flair.
The opera’s crowning glory was the slim, attractive, winsome Yun-Kyoung Yi. Her rendition of “Caro Nome” (Dear Name), one of the most daunting coloratura arias, was superb. As she gracefully moved onstage, she was refinement and sensitivity personified.
She infused her role with drama and passion, sustaining top notes with power and control while displaying a wide range of dynamics. As she reminisced on her new-found love, the Duke, her excitement and gaiety sent the pulses beating.
Male members of the University of Santo Tomas’ Coro Tamasino under Ronan Ferrer were a tremendous asset, their massive, cohesive, sonorous power movingly expressive.
Another significant contribution to the opera’s success was the firm, authoritative, subtly nuanced direction of Jae Joon Lee, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra conductor.
From every consideration, including the visual—Ricardo Cruz’s sets were stunning—Rigoletto will long be etched in the memory particularly the deeply touching father-and-daughter scenes, the final one poignantly enacted by the agonizing, slowly dying Gilda.
Behind the brilliant stage direction was Floy Quintos.