Sunday, August 3, 2014

A little afternoon music in one's brief life

Soprano Myramae Meneses, second from right, with the other members of Viva Voce, leads the singing of Francisco Santiago's "Pilipinas Kong Mahal" that ended the second and last part of "Complicated the Concert" at the Lopez Museum and Library. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

The second time around "Complicated the Concert" was as lovely as the first, if not lovelier and more colorful in terms of costume and production details.

Camille Lopez Molina, Viva Voce founder who also served as assisting artist on the piano to the 10 classical singers (many, if not all, of them her students in voice), promised us earlier: "We've tweaked the program so it will be interesting even to those who saw the first concert."

We were at the May 31 concert, a prelude to June's historical milestones (Rizal's birthday and Philippine Independence Day). During that performance of art songs, from bel canto arias to kundimans, what struck the listener/viewer was the program's potent political content as images from the exhibit of Leslie de Chavez, Mike Adrao and Ea Torrado were flashed on one side of the wall, alternating with more slides of the museum's permanent collection of works by Filipino masters and photos of notorious figures in front-page news. (The exhibit, by the way, has been extended until tomorrow, Aug. 4.)

During the July 19 re-staging at the same venue, the singers' formal wear and an elevated platform that served as stage added a dramatic element. And this time the "tweaking" that Lopez Molina did with the program drew more dramatic responses. This audience member found herself copiously and silently weeping at Kristine Marie Balingcos' interpretation of Catalini's "Ebben, ne andro lontana" from the opera La Wally, a heroine's death aria before she throws herself in an avalanche. It's not an ordinary soprano who can acquit herself with that aria, especially if one has heard versions by Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi or the young Angela Gheorghiu.

Certain types of music invite that kind of visceral response. By the time tenor Ivan Niccolo Nery was singing Schumann's "Stille Tränen," to mean "Silent Tears," with a slide closeup of an unknown man, a survivor of supertyphoon Yolanda aboard a C 130 plane that was evacuating him and hundreds of other survivors from Tacloban, Leyte, my handkerchief was soaked.

Romance filled the afternoon air with soprano Myramae Meneses' "Ah! Love but a Day." Not included in the first staging, this is from a song cycle by American composer Amy Beach with lyrics by the English poet Robert Browning: "Ah, Love, but a day,/And the world has changed!/The sun's away,/And the bird estranged;/The wind has dropped,/And the sky's deranged;/Summer has stopped./Look in my eyes!/Wilt thou change too?/Should I fear surprise?/Shall I find aught new /In the old and dear,/In the good and true,/With the changing year?"

But it was upon hearing for the very first time baritone Raymond Yadao sing Juan Celis Bautista's kundiman "Parang Maghapon Lamang" that one felt as though one's Filipino chest was being cut open without anesthesia. Levi Celerio's haunting lyrics tell of youth wasted. Even if it feels like the length of a life, whether it ends at age 27 or at age 88, is long in earth-time, in the eyes of Eternity, it is only the equivalent of an afternoon.

Ang buhay ko’y maghapon lang pala
Tila isang saglit sa akin ang ngumingiting umaga!
May awit ang ibong tanda ng pag-asa!
Pagsapit ng hapon, ay!, kay lungkot sa puso kong nagdurusa!
Kung katotohanan ay ganyan,
Bakit sinayang ko yaong unang sigla ng aking buhay!
Di na magbabalik kahit na kaylan man
O! ang buhay pala ay parang maghapon lamang!

Camille Lopez Molina and Myramae Meneses bracket two similarly dressed music fans (the blogger and Mercy Lactao Fabros).

With Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation's Joseph Uy, tenors Nomher Nival and Ivan Niccolo Nery. Joseph once reassured me during a sad period in my life (I never seem to run out of these periods): "A golden tone from a good singer's voice erases all the frustrations in life." Amen to that, Joseph, amen.
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