Racial inequality as musical subject | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

PIANIST Aima Labra Makk
PIANIST Aima Labra Makk
PIANIST Aima Labra Makk

THE MUSIC of Beethoven galvanized Moises Kaufman’s “33 Variations,” as ingeniously directed by Jenny Jamora (Red Turnip in Whitespace, Makati City).

It is the story of Katherine Brandt (played by the luminous Shamaine Centenera) and her mission to discover why Beethoven (Teroy Guzman) created the masterful variations based on a “mediocre” waltz by Anton Diabelli (Paolo O’Hara). At the same time, Katherine has a troubled relationship with her concerned daughter Clara (Ina Fabregas), whom she considers “mediocre.”

So the scenes shift back and forth, sometimes juxtaposed—the early 19th century side by side with the present.

Beethoven and Katherine are both physically deteriorating. And their condition is reflected in the live pianist Ejay Yatco, who does a terrific job playing Beethoven’s music while simulating the sickness of the composer.

When the actors discuss the music, the piano notes are reproduced on the giant video screen, resulting in a hypnotic effect. For music lovers, “33 Variations” is the most satisfying and appealing play yet by Red Turnip.

Women soloists

Three women artists shone during the “Romantic Rachmaninoff” concert of the Metro Manila Concert Orchestra (MMCO) led by composer Chino Toledo at Meralco Theater in Pasig City: flutist Crystal Rodis Concepcion, soprano Gerphil-Geraldine Flores and pianist Aima Labra Makk.

Concepcion was the soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Scherzo in D Minor while Flores sang familiar and beloved songs such as “Speak Softly, Love” and “The Impossible Dream.”

Labra Makk has a furious attack on the chords, which leaves one breathless, and with a highly popular piece like Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, she could do no wrong.

Labra Makk is truly one of our finest pianists, an artist of international caliber.

A big crowd was in attendance.

Kudos to Toledo and the MMCO for its successful concerts on the 15th crystal anniversary concert season, which included another master pianist, Raul Sunico, tackling the difficult Piano Concerto No. 3 by Prokofiev.

“The Amazing Brahms” featured pianist José Artemio Panganiban III last Oct. 11 at Meralco Theater.

Coming shows are “The Amazing Tchaikovsky” (pianist Albert Tiu, Nov. 30, Meralco Theater); “The Enchanting Ravel & Rodrigo” (pianist Cristine Coyiuto and flutist Caitlin Coyiuto, Jan. 11, CCP Little Theater); and “The Magnificent Rachmaninoff” (pianist Abelardo Galang II, Feb. 5, CCP Little Theater).

Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” (Cinderella) was a thoroughly delightful comic opera, with bravura singing all around.

Tenor Arthur Espiritu (who was supposed to be indisposed) thrilled the capacity crowd at Meralco Theater with his high notes, as did mezzo Karin Meshegain, Armenian-American, and up-and-coming soprano Myramae Meneses (she appeared as Maria Clara in a Gantimpala Theater production).

Music director Darell Ang of Singapore conducted the Manila Symphony Orchestra with flair and flourish, cutting a dashing figure on the podium.

Kudos again, this time to presentor-producer Joseph Uy and the Cultural Arts Events Organizers.

Pianist, spirit quester, etc.

This Nick Nañgit seems to be a remarkable fellow: CPA, lawyer, professor of law and taxation, spirit quester, and a classical pianist who has performed here and in France, Italy, Thailand and Vietnam.

A memorable moment was when he played in Paris for the first time in 2006, while working for the Siguion-Reyna law offices.

“Music makes me more human,” he told a recent press conference at Azuthai Restaurant in Makati City. “And my knowledge of accounting has helped in playing difficult pieces like those of Bela Bartok.”

Nañgit is not a full-time musician and plays only for a cause, specifically his advocacies: rights of women; rights of children; and environmental awareness.

His last concert, “Lunas,” was held at UP Manila’s Museum of a History of Ideas in Padre Faura, Manila. It was for the benefit of women and children.

Racial discrimination

Following up the success of “Bituing Walang Ningning,” which will have a rerun, Resorts World Manila came up with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” in concert form. It is one of the finest of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, second only to “Carousel.”

The leads were in formal wear, looking like they were going to a ball instead of off to war. The visuals, including World War II footage, were arresting, though, and the performers were A-listed: Joanna Ampil, Mark Bautista and Ima Castro.

Jan Meer Vera Perez of the show-biz clan, coming from out of nowhere, surprised everybody with his engaging bass-baritone voice and overall excellence as the Frenchman Emile de Becque.

In a press conference before the show, director Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo opined: “‘South Pacific’ is hard to stage. How do we cast it here?”

No problem. Repertory Philippines did it some years ago. In fact, Lauchengco-Yulo’s younger brother, Raymond Lauchengco, played the dashing Lieutenant Cable.

In this play, librettist Oscar Hammerstein II took a stand against racial discrimination, in the same way he did in that great operetta of the late 1920s, “Showboat.” His social awareness must have been due to the fact that he was a Jew, a race also very much discriminated against, if not persecuted, in the past.

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