Since its inception in 1969, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) has been the bastion, patron, and nurturer of Philippine art. It may have gone through political strife, cultural discord, and internal feuds but even after all the challenges it has faced, it still stands along Roxas Boulevard fulfilling its duties to the country.
Now, 44 years since its conception, the CCP continues to live up to its name as it pushes through with its latest season offering numerous events throughout the year.
Opera In High Definition
The 2013 season of the CCP has thus far been very vigorous with competitions, videos and, of course, live performances.
For one of its first offerings this year, the center, in cooperation with the Opera Guild Foundation of the Philippines, screened 5 of the latest operatic productions from the Metropolitan Opera (the Met) of New York via satellite. This year, the CCP, showcased the Met’s encore performances of “AÏDA,” “Rigoletto,” “L’Elisir D’Amore,” “Maria Stuarda,” and “The Tempest.” Shown through high-definition video, it was a most unusual experience. It was cinema-meets-opera-meets-video-meets-documentary-meetstelenovela in one fell swoop.
Every time I watched opera, it was basically to hear and revel in the music and the emotions being conjured. Never mind that I didn’t understand a word that was sung, the voices and the emotional connections I experienced were enough to grant me emotional highs. But this particular presentation far exceeds those highs.
For “Maria Stuarda” I did not have to second guess what the characters were doing, the emotions they were experiencing, and the anguish they were going through. I didn’t have to second guess the secondary characters as well, who they were and what their roles were in the grand scheme of things. Close-ups inevitably made the emotions more real.
On stage, nuances of facial expressions are practically non-existent to some members of the audience. If you’re more than two rows away from the singer, it’s a lost cause to appreciate their facial expressions. But because this was done on high definition video, practically every crease on the face, every half smirk, every raised eyebrow helped the performers form a better emotional connection with the audience. And because it’s an opera, nothing is more important than sound quality. Since I’m not a sound engineer (not even a music pedagogue; just a mere enthusiast) the sound was as clear to me as it would’ve been had the singers been within reach.
The presentation did not disappoint. The counter points and the meshing of the voices—a signature of Donizetti—were as clear as crystal. After everything has been sung and acted, the biggest addition to this presentation were the behind the scene interviews with the producers, the actors, and even the set designers. These are details that are simply lost to the audience. Through this, the backdrop comes alive, the costumes have more impact, and the characterization of each individual becomes clearer. So purist or not, opera on high definition is definitely worth a try.
The Madz turns 50
When one talks about ensemble singing, can there be any one better than the Philippine Madrigal Singers, the only group to win at the European Grand Prix, the Olympics of choral singing, twice?
The year 2013 has become very important in the life of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, known informally as the Madz. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary and, in line with the CCP’s 2013 season, they planned to launch the Andrea O. Veneracion International Choral Festival.
Aside from honouring the Madz founder and late national artist who the event was named after, the CCP’s website states that the Andrea O. Veneracion International Choral Festival was expected to “see the fruition of the first international choral competition in the history of the art of choral music in the country.” As of the writing of this article, the said competition was planned to occur in three categories:
Folk Music, Chamber Choir, and Vocal Ensemble. Meanwhile, it was expected to be judged by choral conductors from North and South America, Europe, South Africa, and the Philippines.
As a fan of the Madz for so long, I could not wait to watch this competition. Of course a concert by the Madz was most necessary. Aside from this competition, a choral workshop conducted by Eric Banks, a US based choir conductor and composer, was also planned. This kind of cultural exchange is exactly what we need to proclaim to the world our superiority when it comes to certain art forms, one of them being ensemble singing.
Speaking of perfect performances, nothing could be more perfect than mounting the most popular of all art mediums, the cinema.
For years, the CCP has encouraged young film makers to explore, experiment, and take film to the next level and this season was no different with the country’s biggest independent film showcase, the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival and Competition.
A major project of the Cinemalaya Foundation, Inc, this film festival was launched to develop and support the production of cinematic works of Filipino independent filmmakers that, according to the CCP’s website “boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity.” The festival is held yearly to provide encouragement, support and training to gifted local filmmakers and, this year was no different. This year, Cinemalaya showcased a roster of 25 films in three competition categories. It also showcased performances from big local showbiz names including Vilma Santos, who is the lead star of Jeffrey Jeturian’s “Ekstra.” This officially marks Vilma’s first appearance in a Cinemalaya film.
In line with this year’s film festival, the CCP has given up all its venues and then some to accommodate all those cineastes. As always, thought-provoking is the order of the day.
Art—it has the power to make us laugh, to make us cry, to make us angry, and to make us think. At the end of the day, it challenges all of us to become more human, to know that we can all feel, think, and create. And this is what the CCP has guarded for the last 44 years.
With Filipinos, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an ensemble or just by your lonesome; our ability to express emotions through a song is unparalleled, and this is precisely why Chris Millado, CCP’s Artistic Director created “Triple Threat,” a series of solo concerts featuring luminaries Nonie Buencamino, Audie Gemora and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo.
In theater parlance, a “triple threat” is someone who can sing, dance and act. And, with this series being named as such, it was conceived to showcase the multiple talents of these theatrical stalwarts as they perform renditions of music they personal selected from their vast repertoire.
I was fortunate enough to watch and hear one of my favorite voices in the country, Audie Gemora. During his concert, he began with the de rigueur “Corner of the Sky.” Of course it set the tone and ambience of the night.
Hopeful, joyful, and definitely magical—that’s exactly how Audie’s voice sounded. The whole concert was a walk through memory lane. With a majority of the crowd coming from theater scene, it felt like a whole barkada (gang of friends) filled up the Little Theater of the CCP. With every private joke made more hilarious with the boisterous laughter of the audience, with theater and concert director, Freddie Santos, behind me, there was no missing a beat, and an occasional impromptu dance, as well, from them.
Since the show was meant to showcase Audie’s voice, the only instruments accompanying him were a piano, a double bass, and drums. His crystal clear voice and enunciation really brought the crowd to its feet. When he sang “A Piece of Sky” by Michele Legrand, never mind that I have listened to that song 20 times in a row on my earphones, it took great effort for a tear not to fall. I personally thought he should have used that as an encore piece. It would have been the perfect period for the perfect night for the perfect concert.