I'll refer you to Joey Ting's succinct breakdown of the performances, especially the one thing we agreed on unreservedly: Of the generally competent corps, Wenah Nagales--sexy, funny, fearsome and fearless in The Lover--shone brightest that night. I've seen Wenah in many TP plays in the last three years. She's admirably grown from role to role, switching easily from drama to comedy and even musicals (in the modern sarsuwela Pilipinas Circa 2000 and in the rock musical E.J.). In The Lover she unveiled something new: a ripe, brazen womanhood of equal parts elegance, wiliness and sexuality.
The bad news is, Wenah is also leaving the country for abroad. She's taken a one-year leave of absence from the TP Actors' Company to sing with an acoustic band in Jakarta, Indonesia. It's a sad thing to see her go at the moment of her most glowing promise. But if she had to leave, that knockout performance was perhaps the best way to say goodbye to the Philippine stage for now.
Sunday, 3 p.m., La Boheme. At the Main Theater of the CCP, staged by Floy Quintos for the Philippine Opera Company. I have stacks and stacks of full-length opera DVDs at home. I've yet to finish one in one sitting; I always end up dozing off. My batting record is better with bite-size excerpts--greatest-hits cavalcades, recitals or opera samplers.
This La Boheme, therefore, was the very first full-length live opera I've sat through. Ring the bells! I didn't fall asleep. True, it got to be a drag in moments (would English supertitles have helped?), but I kept pinching my arms every time to keep myself alert. A good thing, because, first of all, Floy's unconventional staging--La Boheme among indie artists in Manila--deserved praise. Interesting concept, even if the set and costumes looked a tad too art-directed for supposed denizens living in poverty row.
But the music (Puccini by way of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Helen Quach) was magnificent. More than once, the exquisite pianissimos sent shivers down my spine (I was sitting in the 11th row, I could see Quach's hands slashing the air majestically above the orchestra pit). Jennifer Uy was Mimi that afternoon; she sang beautifully. Ana Feleo was Musetta--not as forceful voice-wise, but she vamped her character to bits.
I didn't know the other featured performers, but I thought they did well overall: Conrado Ong III as Rodolfo, Leo Lagdat as Colline, John Ocampos as Schaunard. (Notice the similarities in names to characters in Rent?) Special hat tip to baritone Lawrence Jatayna, a very appealing Marcello, and the one performer who looked physically perfect for the show's reimagined indie-scene milieu. Oh, everyone sang unaided by microphones--in the cavernous Main Theater. Take that, pop singers.
The afternoon offered a heartening sight--a theater two-thirds full, with many young people in attendance. Hey, this is opera, after all--never an easy sell, especially to the Ragnarok generation. Lorna also reports that 33 fellow bloggers showed up during La Boheme's open rehearsals last Oct. 1, with males outnumbering females. A nice round-up of their thoughts on that singular experience can be found here, and a video here (by the apostate Fritz, rockstar-turned-opera fan). Philippine Opera Company, take a bow!
Sunday, 9 p.m., Spanish Film Festival, Greenbelt 3 Cinemas. Tickets to the 7 p.m. screening of a gay film had been sold out three hours earlier. Bummer. I had rushed all the way from CCP to catch it. Friends and I settled instead on the 9 p.m. movie, J.A. Bayona's The Orphanage (El Orfanato), which has 7 Goyas to its name.
I'd seen the movie on DVD, but didn't mind watching it again in the theater. It's that good--a ghost story akin to The Others, but better. The only downside: the movie's scary highlights still had me jumping in my seat, effectively adding to the fatigue I'd begun to feel from the hectic weekend of culture cramming.
It struck me--theater, opera, film in a little over 24 hours. I'm drowning in kultur. Too exhausted afterwards for a nightcap, I went home and, 15 minutes into my one-DVD-before-bedtime-routine (this time, the PBS documentary The Windsors: A Royal Family), I was a goner.
I need to get drunk again soon.
[Photo credits: Pic 1/Ed Lacson; Pic 2/Fritz Tentativa]