Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Remains of the Day


My phone rang at 6:00 p.m.

It was Roman, my friend and one of my ex-business partners.

I winced and debated about taking the call or not. The last time I had spoken to Roman, he was still going on about the non-existent division of final profits from our unfortunate business venture that shut down two years ago. An unpleasantness  beyond remedy that I had already decided to bury in the past, but which he seemed determined to keep alive.

I bit the bullet and pressed Answer. I heard the discordant noise of what seemed like a child singing, so I thought he'd just butt-dialed me when his voice, full of his trademark happy grin, came on.

"Asan ka?"

"Ha?" I yelled over the din of what was clearly a videoke in the background.

"Asan ka? Punta ka dito."

"Bakit?"

"Birthday ko."


-------------------------------


It should be abundantly clear to anyone who's read this blog that I am hopeless when it comes to significant dates like birthdays and anniversaries. My success as a producer would be impossible were it not for the existence of PMs and PAs to constantly remind me of meetings and bookings and other schedules.

And of course, I have friends like Roman who thoughtfully remind me of their birthdays, like an annual tradition.



"Deretso lang ito, sa Intramuros golf club. Andito rin si Kiko, hintayin ka namin."


Kiko is another mutual friend. Roman's lieutenant, and another business partner in the failed venture.

I normally bail on birthday celebrations - particularly ones that feature live, tuneless singing as the primary entertainment - but it is a testament to how highly I value Roman's friendship that I managed to drag myself out of bed. Sure, it took three hours later, and fifteen minutes more debating whether to drive or take a cab to Intramuros.

Laziness won out, as usual, and another ten minutes were spent waiting for a cab.


And then it was off to see old friends.


-------------------------------



The undeniable sound of a live band - not a videoke machine, as I had surmised - was the only sign of life in the darkened fortress called the Intramuros Golf Club. I fumbled my way along the unlit, abandoned back entrance and eventually emerged at the roofdeck, awash in stage lights. 


"Asan si Major?" I asked the maitre d'.

"Who, sir?"

"Major Roman, the celebrant."

"Oh, si Colonel? This way, sir."


So it's Colonel, now. It really HAD been a long time.



-------------------------------



Roman was in his cups, but looking precisely the same. The unflappable smile, the boyish bonhomie was still there.

He bounced his 9-year old son off his lap as he got up to hug me.

"Is that your kid?" I asked, incredulously. "Grabe, ang laki na!"


My colleagues' children have had, of late, the annoying habit of turning into adolescents and worse, teenagers.

I've burned them into children in the CD-RW of my brain, but overwrites are as insistent and annoying as prompts for system updates.



-------------------------------



Bottles of San Mig Light instantly appeared and I leaned over.


"Halos one year na 'ko di umiinom!" I yelled at Roman over the din of the band.

"Bakit?"

"Sumakit tagiliran ko, eh. Yoko malaman. Para surprise."


Roman just grinned and, ever hospitable, had his minions produce a bottle of white wine, and graciously poured me a glass.

Kiko, still the irrepressible party boy - if getting a little thick in the middle - was the de facto Master of Ceremonies, alternating between plying everyone with drinks and harassing the female band singers.

It seemed just like old times - with the conspicuous absence of my ex-bff, Vincent.



-------------------------------



"Any news from Vincent?" I inquired as I tentatively sipped my first taste of alcohol.

"Ayun, nasa Vegas pa din."

"His press releases on FB say he's in Spain," I snickered. "Nice to see he hasn't changed."

"May bago siyang lover," Roman grinned. "Purong Pinoy."


I am perplexed. Then I figure the white guy he had been with shortly after his flight to exile was ancient history.


"Why is he with a brown boy when he could be swindling the locals instead?"

Roman grinned wider.

"Lahat ng credit card, nakapangalan sa boyfriend."


I'd forgotten that Pinoys are even easier to grift - especially when they're star-struck and madly in love.

And Vincent is an unchangeable aspect of nature, just like gravity, and just as irresistible. He sucks people in, and then they fall hard.

Nevertheless, I find myself slightly missing him, on this night so reminiscent of countless other nights when we'd drink ourselves stupid while lackeys and toadies of all stripes attended to us like kings. The promise of easy, casual sexual adventures ever-present in the air, the arrogance of our handsome youth, the oyster that was the world.


I blame the wine, then one of Roman's boys pours me a second glass as I try to recall the moment when I turned into the immovable object to Vincent's irresistible force.



-------------------------------



"Speaking of swindling," I segued into the inevitable. "How are our Chinese friends?"


Roman made a face.


"They stole P200,000.00 from us."

"Did the bank verify?"



Roman swigged his drink and poured out another.

"Sarado na yung account."


I'd long accepted my share of P200,000.00 as a very small price to pay for not choosing business partners more wisely, but it had rubbed Roman like a pebble in his shoe and he had been bruising for two years now.


"Nakita ko nga yung isang mokong sa taxi one time. Kinawayan pa ako."

"Why didn't you just shoot him on the spot? You do control Chinatown, after all."


Roman grinned.


I always did say "Kung hindi mo kayang ibaon sa limot, ibaon mo na lang sa lupa."



-------------------------------


But I'd long gotten over the bitter truth that the Chinese partners in our doomed enterprise had swindled us out of profit. Roman is a trusting guy - well, we all were - but the fact that Vincent was the most vocal proponent of that consortium should've rung alarm bells like Balangiga.

Because trusting Vincent with money is like trusting a fox with chicks. And he has a head for business the same way a mudfish has an aptitude for applied chemistry.

Nevertheless, even Vincent, shifty as he is, got shafted in the end, so I guess there's always a bigger crook.

We should've just burned the place down when we had the chance.

Still - it no longer really bugs me the way it did. We were stupid, the Chinese confirmed a stereotype and got the better of us, end of story.

I'd still dance on their graves, though. It's one of the few things that keep me alive.


-------------------------------


Kiko came over and whispered that the band was about to end its final set. But Roman was just getting started, and decreed that he would just pay the band for an extension.

Kiko scampered off to take care of matters, and the music switched to 80s hits as the band broke for dinner.

Roman and I both grinned like idiots as Seona Dancing's "More To Lose" came on.

"Kapanahunan!"

He grinned even more.


"So, kumusta naman si Colonel?" he asked.


-------------------------------


We used to cry
About the day when one of us might fall
Weak and blindly
Into another's arms
Demands all gained from jealousies
Would flow like water, drowning us
But leaving us with just another
Lover's false alarm


-------------------------------


I have too many Colonels in my life. Maybe I'm impressed by rank too much. Or conflating it with accomplishment, which I in turn conflate with worthiness.

Then again, I am the son of a military man, and grew up thinking we were the Von fucking Trapps.

Must be them goddamned daddy issues.


I shrug.


"Why don't you ask him? We never talk anymore."


Roman looked deep in thought, and for a moment seemed about to disclose a confidence to me. But I'd long learned not to ask too many questions, especially if there was a clear and present danger I wouldn't like the answers.

The moment passed.


"Tell him to go talk to General Trias," he finally said.


-------------------------------

A thousand tortured lives have fallen
Wounded, dying, cut down by the
Questions that we'd sharpened 
Just to save our losing days

We thought with nothing more to lose
We'd tear our hearts with jagged truths 
And everything we'd hung to for so long
Just slipped away


-------------------------------



But the wine had gone to my head by that time.

Used to be we'd drink people under the table. I remember the infamous Jagermeister launch, open bar. The first and last time I touched that German abomination. The first time I blacked out due to alcohol, the first time I had to leave my car behind out of sheer full-on plasteredness.

From the few flashbacks I recall, the night ended with me being asked by Vincent not to puke in his mom's brand-new car as he brought me home, where I would hug the downstairs toilet bowl praying for death to come.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of EDSA, Roman and Kiko, in a haze of digestif-induced mania, were peppering the pre-dawn air with semi-automatics.

Clearly, one of the few times Vincent was the lesser evil.


-------------------------------


And now it's over
Both of us through
And I feel older


------------------------------


But now, years later, two glasses of wine and I am undone.

Vincent in exile. No more private club to call our own little playground.

At least Roman's career seems to have recovered. Colonel Roman, now. He's a good guy and a decent man, and deserves it.

Some other officers arrive at the party - senior ones, from the way Roman greets them - and I take the opportunity to sneak off to the restroom.

And from there, tipsy with memories, I slip away into the night.


-------------------------------


And now we're moving to new beginnings
But as we move we look once behind
To see what we might find of
Lost loves and old thoughts 
Of our nights of winnings
That lunge, tear and grasp
At lost wanting minds








last post for the year.

I hated you 2013.









Monday, December 2, 2013

The Bare Bones of Andrew Good Fate.





I'm not big on Philippine history and national heroes, but for some reason I felt like observing Andres Bonifacio's 150th birth anniversary by watching San Andres B. A new opera boasting of a pedigreed line-up, from librettist and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario; Prof. Chino Toledo, composer and musical director; and esteemed director Floy Quintos.


In his production notes, Quintos candidly states that San Andres B. 


"is not opera in the classical mode, nor is it a pop or rock opera. Rather, in Chino Toledo's words: it is a new new opera."

"Toledo's score captures the conflict, the struggle, the dilemma with unrelentingly jagged and edgy musical lines," he added.


Well. 

I thought it was a jangly mess. The music was unmelodious, the libretto unmemorable, and there were no outstanding set pieces that, imho, immortalized what the opus was trying to say. And as a casting aside, the guy portraying Emilio Jacinto had more physical presence and stronger vocals than the one playing the eponymous lead.


Sorry, Floy. Then again: 


"In the local art scene, it is time for something unfamiliar, disturbing, strange. It is time to hear something new. I told the singers na ang dream ko for San Andres B. is, well, remember how Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring' was first greeted by the audience during its premiere? Riots. Hisses. Boos and bravos! Ganun ang gusto ko mangyari,' he said."


But it's an ill wind that blows nobody good. Because I could barely make heads nor tails of what was going on in Bonifacio's life from the goings-on onstage, in between the orchestra often drowning out the singers and me nodding off like a peasant (horrors!) at the opera, I promptly researched the next day on the life of Gat Andres de Castro Bonifacio. The man who, for some people, should rightfully be regarded as the First President of the Philippine Republic.


--------------------


From what little I can recall from school, I remember Bonifacio was the Great Plebeian hero, who ultimately got the short shrift and was murdered on the orders of a treacherous, power-hungry Emilio Aguinaldo. Even as a child I could not comprehend the injustice of a cold-blooded, calculating turncoat becoming President of the Republic. But since then, local history has abundantly shown that any son of a bitch (or simply a bitch, ain't it so, Madame?) can sit and lay waste to the land from the throne of Malacañang.


And if it is the victors who truly write history, then the story of Bonifacio is truly Filipino, and truly one of woe.





Unlike his illustrado counterpart Rizal, Bonifacio was a true picture of the Filipino masses. Even his life story reads like a telenovela. Born of a working-class father and a mestiza mother, young Andres had to stop schooling when his parents both died from illness. He supported his younger siblings by making canes and paper fans,as well as posters for business firms.

Bereft of further formal education, he was largely self-taught. He avoided ignorance by becoming a voracious reader, devouring anything from Victor Hugo's Les Miserablés, to his own countryman Rizal's Noli and Fili. Doubtless these novels influenced his later political and social leanings.

When he grew older, Bonifacio became a bodeguero, while acting on the side in moro-moro plays. Continuing the theme of a storied life, he was married twice: first to a woman who contracted leprosy and died. And then the second time, to Gregoria de Jesus, who bore him a son, Andres, who soon died of smallpox in infancy. This was after their house burned down during Holy Week of 1896, of course.

Needless to say, the etymology of the name "Bonifacio" is "good fate."





Bonifacio joined Rizal's short-lived La Liga Filipina, an organization which called for political reforms in the Spanish colonial government. The league was disbanded after just one meeting due to Rizal's arrest and deportation to Dapitan. On the day of Rizal's arrest - 7 July  1892 - Bonifacio and others founded the Katipunan

The Kataas-taasan Kagalang-galangan Katipunan was a secret society with links to Freemasonry, that advocated armed struggle against Spanish colonial rule. The Katipunan was composed largely of lower and middle class men, but later opened its membership to include women, as well. It was within this society that Bonifacio formed a lasting friendship with Emilio Jacinto, who would become his adviser and confidante.

Even after founding the KKK, Bonifacio continued working simultaneously with La Liga Filipina, which eventually fractured along socio-economic lines as much as ideological ones. The more conservative, wealthier members opted to support the Cuerpo des Compromisarios - political reformists located in Spain. "Radicals" from La Liga, like Bonifacio, were subsumed into the KKK.

The KKK grew so rapidly, from 300 members in January of 1896, to 30,000 by August, that it was inevitable that the Spaniards would eventually learn of the existence of the secret, seditious society. It's sad to note that it was a disgruntled Katipunero, Teodoro Patiño, who confessed to a Fr. Mariano Gil about the existence of the secret, sacrilegious Freemason-like society. 





Bonifacio wanted to launch an armed revolt as soon as possible, but Aguinaldo demurred, citing a lack of available firearms. The decision was made to consult Rizal in Dapitan, who also advised against a premature revolution and recommended more preparation.

But events soon overtook everyone, as history happens, and the Spaniards cracked down on hundreds of Filipinos - Katipunan members and innocent non-members alike. Bonifacio, Jacinto, and Guillermo Masangkay disguised themselves as sailors and boarded a ship where Rizal was being held, awaiting to sail to Cuba, where he had agreed to work as a doctor for the Spanish colonial forces in exchange for his release from Dapitan.





Bonifacio and company had wanted to rescue Rizal so he could join the revolution, but Rizal rejected their offer. Eventually, he, too would be arrested, tried and executed.•

After eluding a massive manhunt, Bonifacio called for a massing at Caloocan, where the Philippine uprising was to be launched. The "Cry of Balintawak/Pugad-Lawin" opened with a symbolic gesture of the tearing of community tax certificates: the infamous cedulas. Bonifacio reorganized the KKK into a de facto revolutionary government, with himself as President and Commander-in-Chief.


The rest, as they say, is history. But what's far more interesting to me are the footnotes, rather than the Big Picture.


------------------------


There's Bonifacio's little-known National Anthem: a hymn he commissioned from Julio Nakpil entitled Marangal Na Dalit Ng Katagalugan.** Aguinaldo later rejected it in favor of an anthem he in turn had commissioned: the Marcha Nacional Filipina, which was to become the basis of the Lupang Hinirang we know today.






Then there was the infamous fracturing of the Katipunan chapters. The Magdalo, headed by Aguinaldo's cousin Baldomero Aguinaldo, and the Magdiwang, headed by Mariano Alvarez,the uncle of Bonifacio's wife, Gregoria. In time the friction between the nepotistic factions would result in a chasm that would eventually engulf Bonifacio.

There were also the shady elections at the Tejeros Convention, assembled to determine once and for all who was in charge of the fledgling Philippine government. While Bonifacio received the second highest number of votes next to Aguinaldo, the suggestion to proclaim him as Vice-President of the Biak-Na-Bato Republic was ignored, and elections proceeded. Instead, he was nominated Director of the Interior, a move contested by eternal malcontent Daniel Tirona on the grounds that Bonifacio was not a lawyer and thus could not hold that office.

So fraudulent were these elections, so marred with whispers of cheating that Bonifacio declared them null and void in his Acta de Tejeros. His rejection of the election results and his accusations of treason against its hastily-inducted President (for negotiating with the Spaniards) led to Aguinaldo promptly consolidating his power and ordering the arrest of Bonifacio.

Leading us, of course, to the infamous trial of the Bonifacio brothers, a mockery of justice resulting in their execution (some say legal murder). Prompting Mabini to declare it as criminal and the "assassination …the first victory of personal ambition over true patriotism." (Interestingly, one of Bonifacio's supposed murderers was Gen. Lazaro Macapagal, grandfather to Gloria Arroyo.)


----------------------





In San Andres B., the Greek chorus repeatedly warns Andres that "Mahirap maging bayani."

They predict the future, with its treachery, disappointments, and Bonifacio's own ignoble end. And when they ask if he is willing to accept these as the price of freedom, he immediately, defiantly proclaims "Yes!"


Nothing seems to have changed much since then, from where I stand.


Which kind of makes you wonder if our heroes only die in vain. Or whether the Filipino - in his great unwillingness and/or inability to learn from history - is truly worth dying for.


And then, there's this: Police, soldiers dismantle parts of photo exhibit about Bonifacio.




================
Footnotes from Wikipedia:

* José Rizal is generally considered the National hero, but Bonifacio has been suggested as a more worthy candidate on the grounds of having started the Philippine Revolution. Teodoro Agoncillo writes that Rizal is a "United States-sponsored hero" who was promoted as the greatest Filipino hero during the American colonial period of the Philippines - after Aguinaldo lost the Philippine-American War. The United States promoted Rizal, who was taken to represent peaceful political advocacy, instead of more radical figures whose ideas could inspire resistance against American rule. Specifically, Rizal was selected over Bonifacio who was viewed as "too radical" and Apolinario Mabini who was "unregenerate."

** The term Tagalog historically refers to an ethnic group, their language, and script. While historians have thus tended to view Bonifacio's concept of the Philippine nation as restricted to the Tagalog regions of Luzon, as compared to Aguinaldo's view of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao (comprising the modern Philippines), Guerrero writes that Bonifacio and the Katipunan in fact already had an all-encompassing view. The Kartilya defines "tagalog" as " all those born in this archipelago; therefore, though Visayan, Ilocano, Pampango, etc. they are all Tagalogs."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Post Script


And now, quite by accident, I stumbled upon the story behind the heartbreaking note.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Matter of Fact



In a previous post, we discussed the power of brevity in six-word short fiction stories.


I had no idea that such a short time later, I would be so moved with this - one that, unfortunately, is all too real :


                                             "Patay Na Si Mommy At Daddy."


From here.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

And Now For Some Short, Short, Short Stories.


If there is something I, an irreparably verbose writer, cannot be accused of, it is brevity.

Not only is it the source of wit; sometimes, it is the wellspring of some lovely, compact stories.


According to legend, Hemingway was once challenged to come up with a six-word short story. The famous result, of course, was this:



For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.


It is in this spirit of brevity that io9, my favourite sci-fi blog, recently conducted a similar challenge.


The results were as varied as they were interesting. A few of my favourites, below:


"The Universe died. He did not."


Some were stark in their tragedy:

"New world. Cryogenic failure. Seeds dead."


Others, simple in their terror:

"Dad? What's happening to the sun?"


Or prosaic in their horror:

"Oh, God. Mom! Were you bitten?"



This being io9, there was also no shortage of cleverness: 

"Schrodinger," said the cat, "is dead."


Humor:

"Oh, bother, an asteroid," said Styracosaurus.


Irony:

"This means war!" shouted Gandhi V.


Or blasé weariness :

"Another day, another extinction-level event."


There's also a sense of adventure:

"Let's see what's out there, then."


And bittersweetness:

"Gradually, they forgot their own names."


Bleakness:

"Finally sentient, it switched itself off."


Revelation:


"We were all God, all along."


And hope:

Transmission Received: "Not alone."
Hope. Tears.



Check it out yourself. And better yet, try your own hand at it in the comments.


In this age of Twitter that's decimated Blogger, short stories such as these should be a cinch.



------------------------


EDIT: What bad form! I asked you to try it yourselves, but didn't provide a six-word story of my own.

No matter; one just finally came to me:



"No rush. The dead will wait."











Friday, November 1, 2013

Repose


Cimitiere Père Lachaise, Paris, 2011



Here's to all the dead blogs out there.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Clique of Claqueurs.


"Everything's beautiful at the ballet...hey," sang the character Sheila in A Chorus Line.


And it is.

Mostly.


If you ever saw Black Swan, you'd have had some idea how ruthless things can get in the business of producing ephemeral works of art and beauty. And as if to drive home that point, in Russia, there is a middle-aged clique who controls the professional-applause racket at the Bolshoi.

That's right. This is a thing.


"Don't cry. Pay."


If the Chinese have professional Crying Ladies, the Russians have professional Applauders. And while the very idea sounds farcical at first thought, giving credit where credit is due was not always the norm in the performing arts:


The idea that applause in response to performance should be spontaneous is a relatively new one. Roman emperors trained professionals to mingle with crowds at key moments, encouraging the dull roar of approval that speaks of a mandate. This behavior was refined in the theaters of 18th- and 19th-century France, where the term “claque” — from the phrase “to clap” — was coined. At the Paris Opera, claqueurs became mighty arbiters of theatrical success; Balzac writes in “La Comédie Humaine” that the chief of the claque had “the endorsement of the boulevard playwrights, all of whom have an account with him, as they would with a banker.”


And even in this late day and age, the modern claqueurs wield enough power to actually sabotage a danseur's performance:

It is possible, for instance, to clap off-rhythm when a dancer is performing the series of difficult turns called fouettés, he said. “Kolya fell down because of us many times, because I was at war with him for years and arranged these things for him,” he said, of Mr. Tsiskaridze. “Poor guy, in ‘Raymonda’ he screwed up the whole variation and flew off and ended up with his nose on the floor. In ‘Nutcracker’ once, I made him drop his fouetté, from way up high, and he sat down on his bottom, butt facing the hall. And we all laughed.”

Faux-pas de deux?


Read more at the link. 


In the meantime, this gives me a deliciously wicked idea for Giselle tomorrow night.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Love Potion No. 9



Worshipping at her feet: Adina reads Tristan Und Isolde, 
giving impressionable Nemorino the idea of finding a love potion.


Love is a drug.

But love is also a disease that seeks a cure.

Entonces: let's brew a love potion.

After the Verdi double-whammy of a lovers' sacrifice in Aida and the karmic retributions in Rigoletto, Donizetti's comic L'Elisir d'Amore - the third in CCP's ongoing Met Operas in HD series - is a breath of fresh air. An opera that, for once, doesn't end in tragedy.

It is the bel canto equivalent of a rom-com, although this 2012 Met season opener is played more "straight" than the usual loopy stagings. The formula for L'Elisir is familiar: klutzy boy pines after popular girl; girl is disinterested. Boy feigns losing interest in girl; girl suddenly sits up and takes notice. Add a cocky rival and a sly charlatan to the mix, and you've got the ingredients fit for a vehicle for a 19th century Katherine Heigl.



Bizarre Love Triangle : Decisions, decisions.


While opera's themes are timeless, I'm still grateful the Met didn't transpose L'Elisir to a more modern era like what they did with Rigoletto, but kept it firmly in the original 19th century Italian countryside setting. The rustic period costumes and painterly sets all help contribute to the flight of artistic fancy, although I must admit I'm curious to see the 1978 production that set it in the Wild West, with its homesteads, frontier towns, and of course, its snake-oil salesmen peddling hope and quackery in equal measure.

Again, the Met isn't lacking for talent, and the key players in this production deliver spectacularly. Russian soprano Anna Netrebko - a dead-ringer for Lynda Carter - is perfectly cast as the coquettish yet headstrong  landowner Adina. Italian-American lyric tenor Matthew Polenzani is sympathetic and endearing as the lovestruck, simple-minded commoner Nemorino. And Polish baritone Mariusz Kweicień makes an effective - if a tad nasty - contrast as his rival, the arrogant ladykiller Sergeant Bercole.



Hawking Hopes and Dreams: Dr. Dulcamara makes his pitch.


Italian baritone Ambrogio Maestri essays the role of Dr. Dulcamara, the quack doctor in a fancy traveling carriage who sells the gullible Nemorino the titular elixir of love, which sets the events of the opera in motion. He brings an irresponsible, irrepressible jollity to the part - almost as though Santa Claus came to town and conned cure-alls for a crown instead of bearing gifts. Maestri's big, majestic voice and great comic timing lend the part a quirky, gleefully amoral weight, and he conveys a presence large enough - literally and figuratively - to play Louis XIV if ever an opera about the decadent Bourbons were to be penned.



Coy with boy : Adina donna é mobile.


Netrebko plays the village prima donna Adina with an easy earthy sensuality, complemented by her robust, full-bodied voice. It's a shame Adina's solo early on isn't remarkable enough to showcase Netrebko's shimmering pipes; instead, her soaring curlicues are mostly spent embellishing (admittedly-lovely) duets with her male co-stars and adorning the rousing ensemble numbers.




Fickle femme: I've set you free. Now stay with me.


Ironically, I wasn't expecting Donizetti's light, airy opera to move me the way Verdi's heavy tragedies couldn't. But Matthew Polenzani's rendition of Una Furtiva Lagrima - the most famous aria in this oeuvre -poetically brought a furtive tear to my eye:






Polenzani starts off pretty unremarkably, misleading us with what seems like a competent but average rendition, but ambushes the audience as he kills the solo toward the end (starting at 4:20). If the thunderous minute-long applause and shouts of "Bravo!" aren't proof enough, your ears - if not your very soul - are dead as lead.


Even without glancing at the subtitles, the music was more than enough to convey the breadth and depth of the emotion.


Living proof that music - like love - truly has the power to move you.


Except with music, you don't need no magic potion.




Will They Or Won't They? Are you kidding?




You can watch the entire thing here. Enjoy!


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Culture Clash



Actually, more like a ballet brawl.


Gene Kim's animation thesis Fighting Spirits puts a new, tech spin on the battling Odette and Odile from Swan Lake.


Maybe if we had more cyborg ballerinas, more young people would come to watch the ballet.


Well, we can always dream.







On a side note, I'm sure nothing of this sort will happen tonight at the Stars of Philippine Ballet gala.




I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Riding In Cars With My Boy





Just look at that guy. It couldn't be more obvious he loved cars as much as I do.


He knew when I was getting ready for a drive and would scramble in a mini-panic to tag along. With no prodding he would climb into his car seat and arrange himself in a proper sitting position. And with heavy panting breaths, he would anticipate the joyride ahead.

He was always remarkably well-behaved; even more so in a moving vehicle. A picture of contentment and happiness as he sat there, taking in the world as it sped by. Oblivious to the delight and stares of everyone who saw him: a happy Chow Chow smiling in a sports car.

I guess that's why it was fitting that he would take his last gasping breaths in my car, lying in the arms of his loving yaya. As I stroked his head after having asked him to hold on as we raced to the hospital in the dwindling traffic of Friday night.


----------------------------------



I had come home from a gruelling week and was dead-tired.

He lay on the floor like a Sphinx - his usual pose of choice - worshipping the electric fan. My first inkling that something was wrong came when he didn't get up to greet me as he normally would. He just lay there, turned his head, and smiled at me.

It was when I came close to pat him that I heard his heavy, labored breathing. "Matamlay siya buong araw, ser," said my maid. "At hindi po kumain."

"Dalhin sa vet ito bukas," I replied. I was so exhausted I really wanted nothing but to lie down and rest my weary body.

But not ten minutes later, the maid said he was vomiting dark blood. I rushed down and his breath was even more ragged, more laboured than it was scant minutes earlier.

And ten more minutes later, my exhaustion forgotten, we were speeding down EDSA. On what would be our last journey together.




----------------------------------





It happened quickly. He did not seem to suffer. 

From his huddled position on his yaya's lap, he suddenly reared up with what seemed like a surprised gasp.

And then one more. A softer one.

More like an exhale.

Then he was gone.




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I never did get a picture of him in the car, happily sitting in the passenger seat, smiling at the journey ahead. I always meant to, but there are many things in life we put off till the morrow, till the morrow never comes.

We'd taken many trips together, my baby boy and I. The last time bringing a buttload of cakes to Mom on Mother's Day, as I fed him colorum pastilles. But the thing with the last time is, you often don't know when the last time will be the last time.

No one will ever ride shotgun with me - opera blaring, the wind in our hair in a convertible with the top down - like you did.

And now, I don't even know if I'll vaccuum the last traces of the fur you kept shedding on the car seat.




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All dogs go to heaven, they say. So godspeed on your final destination, and say hi to Fritzi and the others for me when you get there. Unlike the time he left, at least, I was there with you at the end.



Daddy loves you. 



And. I. Will. Miss. You. 




My loving, darling, lovely Rufi.






Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rigoletto Redux





In a previous post, I brought up the issue of the artistic updating of classic works.


Art, like language, is ever-evolving. And I agree that one reason why the young are often averse to the classical performing arts such as ballet and opera is because these forms are perceived as stuffy and outdated - which, to be honest, they often are.

But while moldy, ossified art is not something desirable - a dead, empty thing - I'm still very much a purist at heart. Updating the classics to be more accessible to a modern audience is a good thing. Updating it for the sake of updating it, well, that's a whole other kettle of fish.

Which leads us to the Metropolitan Theater's Rigoletto in HD, the second offering in CCP's ongoing Operas in HD at the Little Theater.

Verdi's Rigoletto gives us two of the world's most famous and enduring arias. The first of which has become known as the signature song of the late, great Luciano Pavarotti (looking here like a young Jack Black) :





The other, of course, being the lovely Caro Nome, sung here in an excerpt from the 2013 Metropolitan production by the German soprano Diana Damrau (reminding me somewhat of a blonde version of Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray ) :





The 2013 Met production transposes Rigoletto from the original 16th century Mantuan duchy to 1960s Las Vegas. The lecherous Duke of Mantua becomes a Vegas big shot crooner - shades of Frank Sinatra - and his court of nobles and hangers-on form the Rat Pack.

Rigoletto himself, the Duke's reprehensible hunchbacked court jester, gets a promotion of sorts as a handler-cum-toadie. 

Gilda, Rigoletto's precious daughter, remains, somewhat anachronistically, the virginal, convent-bred, never-been-kissed-never-been-touched provincial lass whose innocence is rewarded with tragedy in the end.

There has been plenty of criticism online from fellow purists like me regarding the Met's artistic decision to situate Rigoletto in the swinging sixties. But as I stated in a previous post, Art is a living, breathing thing, and the moment it ceases to evolve is when it ossifies and becomes a dead thing. An object of curiosity, not the affirmation of the human spirit and creativity that it is as its best.





To be fair, the amorality and gleeful licentiousness of the Duke of Mantua fit Vegas - especially 60s Vegas - like a glove. The Duke of Mantua was a suave charmer, and giving him a Frank Sinatra persona in the 2013 staging may grudgingly be called a clever move. Ditto the transformation of his court into The Chairman of the Board's posse.

The other changes, alas, do not work quite as well.

The 2013 Met production practically ignores Rigoletto's hunchback - a physical symbol of his twisted inner struggles between his genuine love and protectiveness for his daughter Gilda, his repressed loathing for the Duke and his court, and his own Machiavellian machinations which come back to bite him in the end.

Serbian operatic baritone Zeljko Lucic - outfitted in a tan overcoat that signals wino more than jester - brings tragic anger and gravitas to the title role, but seems lost amid his surroundings. 

Gilda, as essayed by Diana Damrau in her demure 50s bobbysoxer dress, reminds me of Tracy Turnblad, and all throughout the program I couldn't help imagining the rest of the cast of Hairspray showing up, with Edna Turnblad giving Il Duce whatfer.






And while the Vegas settings - complete with the Folies Bergeré - are visually arresting, the chintz and glitz lend the entire production an unintended tackiness that undermines its artistic aspirations. An argument can be made that the very seediness that lurks underneath Vegas' superficial allure reflect the ugliness beneath the dashing demeanor of the Duke, but the overall impression it left me was of the cheap imitation of class, the hollowness of the massive simulacra that make Vegas what it is, that unfortunately seep into the whole production like a stain.

I guess the purist in me wanted to see lush, romantic 16th century Mantua and its trappings as the contrappunto backdrop for this tale of depravity, false love and the blind lottery of fate - not the harsh, neon-lit, on-the-nose sleaziness of Vegas in any era.

Vegas will always be vulgar, and it just makes everything in Rigoletto look painfully familiar, mundane, and...common.

Happily, none of these "updates" distract severely from the sheer wealth of talent onstage. The Met doesn't pussyfoot around when it comes to talent, and the three headliners -  Zeljko Lucic as Rigoletto, Diana Damrau as Gilda, and Piotr Beczala as The Duke - are perfectly-cast, voice wise, and deliver reliably bravura performances.

Damrau is my new goddess (check out her fierce, vindictive Queen of the Night in Die Zaberflote and compare it to the victimized naif she plays here to see her range, both as a singer and an actress ) but I'm beginning to love Piotr Beczala, in particular. I thought the Polish tenor's rendition of La Donna E Mobile was actually - heresy! - better than Pavarotti's. That pole dance was unexpected but so, so in character. And he was wonderful in Mozart's The Magic Flute as Prince Tamano as well.





Because beggars can't be choosers, I'm still happy CCP has embarked on this program, even though one can fairly easily hunt for the clips online. There's still something about the cinematic experience - the feeling of being in a darkened venue with other spectators, waiting for the curtain to rise, waiting to be captivated, enchanted, and transported into another world by sounds and visions literally larger than life.

Barring attending a live performance at The Met, watching Operas in HD at the CCP Little Theater is as close as we can get to the magic of opera.

See you on the 28th for L'Elisir d' Amore.