MANILA, Philippines—As part of its Drama-in-Education Program, St. Scholastica’s College Manila (SSC) has been staging since 1990 Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” with its magical atmosphere, mortals, immortals, fairies, love potions and quarreling quartet of lovers.
This year it restaged the popular play to celebrate 25 years of presenting it. And what a major production it was! There was a large cast of children and young adults, felt performances, lavish sets and costumes, and special effects.
What also made the production special was the fact that many who appeared in the play ten years ago as students now acted in the play as young adults.
Kudos to the school’s Grade School Unit and the SSC Children and Teachers Theater; Divine David, head of the directorial team; and director emeritus Naty Crame Rogers, PhilStage Gawad Buhay! awardee and a high school alumna of St. Scholastica.
It was ingenious to bring opera—well, opera arias and duets—to audiences in the form of a storyline stringing together works by Mozart and Verdi (“Seasons of Desire” at Abelardo Hall, University of the Philippines Diliman). The performers were soprano Elaine Lee, tenor Ivan Nery and baritone Lawrence Jatayma, with Dingdong Fiel at the piano. The narrators (Jacqui Amper and Ruth Alferez) were even bilingual. The Valentine show was directed by multitalented Nazer Salcedo.
For adults only
Rody Vera’s “Bilanggo ng Pagibig” was a powerful for-adults-only play (Dulaang UP, Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater), directed with vivid imagery by Jose Estrella. It was inspired by “Prisoner of Love,” the memoirs of Jean Genet: inmate, thief, male prostitute, homosexual and celebrated French novelist-playwright.
The play highlighted events in Genet’s life, notably his support of the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Ensemble acting was compelling, with a clutch of hunky, handsome young actors playing Genet’s lovers, including a circus acrobat (Paul Cedrick Juan), a race car driver (JC Santos) and Palestinian revolutionaries (Ybes Bagadiong and Io Balanon).
Vera and director Loy Arcenas are at it again.
After having transplanted Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” (“Tres Marias”) to the Ilocos, they have now adapted Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard” to the Visayas (“Arbol de Fuego” at the Peta Theater Center, Quezon City).
Agrarian Russia in the late 19th century became semifeudal Negros in the l970s, during martial law, when the price of sugar fell and the sugar barons faced ruin. The production was riveting, the cast headed by the luminous Cherie Gil as the Señora. It was like watching an original Filipino play, with class-war overtones.
Hacienda Carmen at the end was sold, and the flame trees (los arboles de fuego), Chekhov’s cherry orchard, were destroyed.
It’s the season for adapting foreign classics to Filipino settings. This time, Elmer Gatchalian set the French novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” in Manila on the eve of the 1896 revolution, with references to “insurectos” (“Juego de Peligro,” directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio with his flair for eroticism).
They may not always have been convincing as snooty Spaniards, but the cast was outstanding, with knockout performances by Shamaine Centenera as the evil Señora (Glenn Close in the film version) and Arnold Reyes as the seducer Vicente.
It was another for-adults-only play.
Ballet Manila celebrated its 20th anniversary with a heady mélange of classical and contemporary works (Aliw Theater, Pasay City). Soloists Abigail Oliveiro and Brian Williamson stood out in Marius Petia’s “Paquita.” Striking was “Bloom” by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Belgian-Colombian choreographer, which focused on Asian rituals of prayer approximating the formation of petals.
“Ecole,” by Osias Barroso, a tribute to the demands of classical ballet, started with the dancers limbering up as if in rehearsal. Then the pace became faster, the performers increased in number until they filled the stage, the music by Czerny rose to a crescendo, and the audience during the matinee—mostly students—erupted in applause.
Composer-conductor Chino Toledo, the apostle of modern music, strikes again.
In a recent concert at the Unilab Compound in Pasig City, in celebration of the Metro Manila Concert Orchestra (MMCO), Toledo presented works by four new composers: Jimuel Dave Dagta, Jourdann Petalver, Timothy Kyle Siaton and Jem Robert Talaroc.
This brought to 33 the original works produced by the MMCO under its pioneering program Music UnderKonstruction.
The evening was capped by the premiere of a major work by composer Alfredo Buenaventura, “Maharlika,” commissioned by the MMCO through the heirs of Vicente Rufino and dedicated to the late cultural organizer Conchita Sunico.
The recital of Romanian soprano Nelly Miricioiu at the Meralco Theater was a triumph. The audience was impressed by her still-powerful voice and her emoting, as she interpreted art songs and arias by Verdi, Rossini, Respighi, Chausson, Puccini and Bellini, with gestures and expressions suited to each composition. But they were simply bowled over by her heartfelt rendition of three iconic Filipino songs: Velez’s “Sa Kabukiran,” Abelardo’s “Mutya ng Pasig” and the Visayan folk melody “Ay, Kalisud.”
Miricioiu was accompanied by the always excellent collaborating artist Najib Ismail. Translations into English of the lyrics on the screen helped in appreciating the repertoire.