3rd quarter report card on performing arts | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Vince Tañada as Bonifacio
Vince Tañada as Bonifacio

Pramoedya Ananta Toer is an Indonesian novelist who spent many years in a bleak island-prison during the Suharto regime. He was also a supporter of the dictator Sukarno, who persecuted writers. And the Left-leaning Pramoedya refused to help these writers because he considered them pawns of the military.


Thus, when Pramoedya won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Literature, there was an outcry from Indonesian and Filipino writers, including our National Artist F. Sionil José.


This is the background to the Virgin Labfest play “Pramoedya” by Benjamin Pimentel,  directed by Chris Millado with style and brio (Tanghalang Huseng Batute, Cultural Center of the Philippines). Excellent ensemble work was turned in by the cast, led by Nanding Josef as Pramoedya and Cris Villonco as the Filipino journalist.


Pimentel does not gloss over the political sins of Pramoedya but emphasizes his indomitable spirit, which can stand for all writers and poets who have been imprisoned and lived to tell their tale.


The large video screen and Indonesian dancing heightened the intensity of the play, giving it the feel of a dance drama. “Pramoedya” should be restaged by Tanghalang Pilipino and The Writer’s Bloc and presented during the regular TP season.


TP’s “Sandosenang Sapatos” (adapted by Layeta Bucoy from a story by Luis Gatmaitan and directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio at Tanghalang Huseng Batute) was a sweet, sentimental, fairy tale-like play (with music by Jed Balsamo and Noel Cabangon) about the power of love and dreams.

As the loving father, Jonathan Tadiowan dominated the stage with his stage presence, but it was little Trixie Esteban, backed up by a singing-dancing ensemble, who was the star of the show.


Hail the Supremo!


Right after Rizal comes Andres Bonifacio’s 150th birth anniversary, and the performing arts groups are busy with their tributes to the Supremo. Bulwagang Gantimpala Foundation is coming up with a musical play, and Ballet Philippines is presenting a rock band dance concert!


Composer Chino Toledo has written an opera with libretto by National Artist Virgilio Almario, to be mounted by Tanghalang Pilipino.


JON Vera Perez as theMikado

The University of the East and the UP School of Music presented the first part (first three acts) of the landmark musical by Jerry A. Dadap, “Andres Bonifacio: Ang Dakilang Anak Pawis,” with libretto by Dionisio Salazar and Rogelio Mangahas. In the latter production at the Abelardo Hall, directed by Alegria Ferrer, standouts were baritone Keith Segura as the Supremo, soprano Fame Flores as his wife Oryang, tenor John Borja as Rizal, and bass Joanaf del Fiero as Padre Gil.


Vincent M. Tañada’s “Bonifacio ang Sarsuwela” (at SM North Cinema 9 and Teatro Pasigueño) was an emotional, heartfelt musical imbued with the intensity the award-winning Philippine Stagers Foundation is known for.


Best of all, it was a dance drama and the choreography by John San Antonio (and music by Pipo Cifra) helped to sustain the interest of the students who flocked to see the show.


Wicked satire


“The Mikado” is Gilbert & Sullivan’s most popular operetta, a wicked satire on old Japan (take that, land that killed Lorenzo Ruiz). Its latest incarnation, in a “much-abbreviated” concert form by the Philippine Opera Company (POC) at Opera Haus (Bautista St., Makati City) was zestfully directed by Floy Quintos.


After 32 years, bass Nomer Son played the Lord High Executioner again and was able to toss new, updated jokes and lines like “salvaged,” “pork barrel,” an unexpected “Saan siya nagpunta?” (where did she go) in this English-language work, and an even more jarring “I’m going to study at La Salle…”


There were tongue-in-cheek performances by soprano Karla Gutierrez, tenor Al Gatmaitan, mezzo Clarissa Ocampo and baritone Jon Vera Perez as the Mikado (Japanese emperor), whose singing impressed musicologist Bert Robledo. Young Roden Araneta, as the propsman, was funny without uttering a word.


Triumphant ‘Giselle’


The perennial favorite “Giselle”—with its great score by Adolphe Adam, tale of love beyond the grave and creepy, achingly beautiful final act—is strictly for the starry eyed and incurably romantic. Ballet Philippines staged it recently (at the Cultural Center of the Philippines) in full for the eighth time in more than four decades, and it exceeded one’s expectations.


Kudos to Katherine Trofeo who triumphed as Giselle, as did Jean Marc Cordero as Prince Albrecht, with strong support from the soloists, corps de ballet, and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) under the baton of Olivier Ochanine. The ballet was restaged by choreographer Nonoy Froilan.


Chilean charmer


A disarming, articulate and spectacularly talented flutist from Chile, Viviana Guzman, descended upon the CCP stage during the opening concert of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra led by Olivier Ochanine, and brought the audience to its feet with her stage presence,  charm, and ability to communicate (she speaks five languages).


Guzman interpreted Vivaldi’s Flute Concerto in D Major; played flutes from all over the world, including our indigenous nose flute, backed up by an “incredible” foursome from the PPO’s percussion unit; and fittingly rounded up the evening with Monti’s Spanish-influenced “Czardas.” Brava!

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