Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Celeste Legaspi, Natatanging Artista

An institution in Philippine music and theater is feted for her immense contributions to and bold leadership in the field. As the Philstage citation put it: A multi-awarded singer, actress and theater and music producer, [she] co-founded the pioneering Musical Theater Philippines as its artistic director. Through her efforts, the production of original Filipino musicals flourished for over two decades starting in the 1980s. As founding president of the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit and Philstage, she was also instrumental in steering the country's only alliance of professional performing arts companies.

Here is Celeste Legaspi, formidable and elegant as ever, receiving her Natatanging Gawad Buhay!

PLUS: Reposting--Ms. Legaspi performing Tuliro, one of her enduring hits, in Rubies, the CCP's 40th anniversary concert last year.

PLUS PLUS: Many moons ago, Celeste Legaspi and the late Rolando Tinio, now National Artist for Theater and Literature, collaborated on a unique project: an album of English-language pop songs translated by Mr. Tinio into Filipino. Because Jessica Zafra blogged about it first, I'll just crib from what she wrote about the album:

The finest translations/adaptations of the words to popular songs were by the great Rolando Tinio. He’d already translated Shakespeare into Filipino, so pop music must’ve been a breeze. Take the Burt Bacharach-Hal David songs, One Less Bell to Answer and A House Is Not A Home. Every time I hear them I start giggling. Look at these lyrics:

One less bell to answer
One less egg to fry
One less man to pick up after
I should be happy but all I do is cry

(Note: Were you the lover or the maid?)

A rudimentary literal translation would begin:

Isang timbreng di sasagutin
Isang itlog na di piprituhin...

How about that Philo 11 hommage:

A chair is not a chair
Even when there’s no one sitting there
But a chair is not a house
And a house is not a home


Ang salumpuwit ay salumpuwit pa rin
Kahit walang nakaupo roon...

Instead of a literal approach that would expose the cornball silliness of the lyrics, Tinio went for the literary.

Di na hahainan
Di na susundan
Tuwing siya’y may kinakailangan
Sinong hindi pa
Pasasalamat na


Walang nagpapalit
Sa datihang ayos ng silid
Nguni’t di magpapalit
Ang himbing ng pag-idlip..

The risible has been made poignant, and with Celeste Legaspi’s lovely theatrical delivery (very clear enunciation) it’s positively heart-rending. Remember when singers interpreted songs rather than belting the hell out of them? A lot of what passes for singing these days is actually song abuse.

How do these songs sound in Tagalog? Oh, beautiful--the comfortably familiar now spiked with the tang and texture of the vernacular. Listen to three classic '70s cuts below. Note how adroitly Mr. Tinio recasts the lyrics, and how Ms. Legaspi responds in kind by making the songs completely her own.


Anonymous said...

Walang kupas! I'm a huge FAN! Ka-level ni Babs!:) Thanks Gibbs for the post!


China hiphone said...

Walang kupas! I'm a huge FAN! Ka-level ni Babs!:)

i agree with you, thx for this post~

Dennis N. Marasigan said...

at the risk of reaping the whirlwind, i will admit to my and sister and i having had a copy of the tinio/celeste albm (along with the pre-jem records apo album and the rama hari soundtrack), but having moved residences several time, i no longer know where these are. st. anthony of padua....

Nomer said...

I was at the CCP Little Theater when Celeste premiered these Tinio gems accompanied by Wiily Cruz on the piano in 1975. The full house gobbled up each number but went wild with "Ako'y Bakyang Bakya" (The Lady is a Tramp). This Teatro Pilipino series continued with Broadway and Operatic gems for tenors, sopranos, baritones, duets and madrigals.

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