Monday, November 21, 2016

‘Cosi fan Tutte’ targets millennials

From left: Carlo Mañalac, Carlo Falcis and Roby Malubay

The title of this Italian opera by Mozart means “all women are the same.” Its plot concerns two friends betting about their respective fiancee’s loyalty. When a third friend warns them not to be too trusting for all "women are the same," they test their sweethearts’ loyalties by disguising themselves and wooing their lovers to see who remains true.

The Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation (MCOF) production on Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. at Ayala Museum stars members of the Viva Voce Ensemble: soprano Anna Migallos as Fiordiligi, soprano Aissa Guilatco as Dorabella, tenor Carlo Mañalac as Ferrando, baritone Carlo Falcis as Guglielmo, mezzo soprano Roxy Aldiosa as Despina and bass baritone Roby Mahusay as Don Alfonso.

The male cast shared that the opera’s setting will have a contemporary feel. Falcis said, “It will be different in a sense that it is more ‘now’. Our characters are living in the present. They’re like yuppies living in the age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The characters are more adult, not teens. Their relationship problems are real as they are today. But we remain faithful to Mozart’s music, the Italian text and how the story goes.”

Malubay agreed, “This ‘Cosi’ is different because it is in a modern setting. We think millennials can relate to it, especially those with complicated love lives.”

Directed by and under the musical supervision of Camille Lopez Molina, “Cosi fan Tutte” also features recitative parts which Mañalac, 28, a voice graduate of St. Scholastica’s College (SSC), finds challenging. These are what he called “the conversations in the opera. All the while I thought it was easy. A recitative has its own style. It’s another discipline.”

He described his role of Ferrando as a “hyper and energetic guy but a control freak” who finds it hard to let go. He added, “The opera is basically about letting go and having fun. The high tessitura of my role needs a lot of stamina. I don’t know why Mozart does this to his tenors and sopranos! Anyway, I’m working really hard to have that stamina.”

Also an SSC graduate, major in voice, and the oldest among the guys at 35, Falcis said the part of Guglielmo “has been the role I've been doing ever since. But we always have different takes on it. Aside from relearning the songs and adding the recitatives, this Guglielmo is different from the ones I’ve played. He’s more serious and mature, not as playful as before. So I had to pull back a bit from that playful side and become a more adult.”

He continued, “What makes ‘Cosi’ special is the ensemble work—how Mozart married the words with the music and with the characters themselves, how he let lines flow from one character to another with his whole music. I have learned so much on how to be a team player in an ensemble because of ‘Cosi.’”

Malubay, 25, an SSC student taking his second degree in voice, has to strike a balance between his studies and performing professionally. He said, “Studying the opera is a challenge because i did some parts of it before, but now we will add recitatives. Mozart’s work sounds easy, but if you work and perform it, it has big, big obstacles for a singer when it comes to technique and endurance.”

He plays Don Alfonso in his favorite opera. To prepare he has watched different versions of the opera so that he has an idea what the story is about, who Don Alfonso is in the story.

Food and water play a huge part in their pre- and post-performance. Manalac always treats himself to warm soup before going onstage, adding, “I always like performing with a full stomach. I find it easier for me to sing when I’m full. And after performances, anything goes. Usually the group goes out for good food again. We talk about the funny things that happened during the performance.”

Falcis likes some quiet time before the performance “to get my mind and whole being focused on the work at hand and calm down my nerves. Afterwards, we can chill. Chilling takes a lot of forms: eating out, having coffee or ice cream.”

Malubay prefers to just drink water to hydrate his body and vocal folds, practice his lines and keep his mind full of happy and positive vibes. He also exercises.

For tickets, call Ticketworld at tel. no. 891-9999, MCOF, 997-9483, 782-7184 or cell phone nos. 0920-9540053 and 0918-347-3027. --Elizabeth Lolarga

The cast of Cosi fan Tutte

This article was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer's Lifestyle section on Nov. 21, 2016.

Monday, November 14, 2016

‘Dictatorships are literature’s natural enemy’ –Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas Llosa, 2010 Nobel laureate for literature, flanked by officials of De La Salle University at last Tuesday's conferment of doctor of literature, honoris causa. Vargas Llosa was educated at the De La Salle Academy in Bolivia and Colegio La Salle in Peru.

At age 80, Mario Vargas Llosa, 2010 Nobel laureate for literature, described his relationship with the brothers of La Salle as “quite ancient.” His memories of these brothers, who taught him how to read and write, are “rich, vivid and moving.” There is one particular brother, a Spaniard named Justiano, to whom he owes a debt of gratitude for “the most important event in my life” –learning how to read.

At the recent conferment of the honorary degree of doctor of literature at De La Salle University in Manila, he spoke extemporaneously and called this skill “a magical operation” that transformed the letters of a book into “images and a living experience.” He felt his world enriched and transformed. Each time he discovered a book, reading remained magical after all these years.

He respects the invented life created by writers. His role as story teller was born in those early years “as a result of the extraordinary pleasure I had in reading.” But Peru then had a limited literary life so his “vocation wasn’t integrated with life. I felt eccentric and marginalized.” He was consecrating days, months, years to his writing with great difficulty in finding a publisher, “but I persevered.”

At one point, he supported his studies and writing by taking on seven jobs, among which was as a radio man and a journalist for the Agence France Presse.

He said writing has fulfilled his life “in an extraordinary way” and at the same time added that “it is difficult to demonstrate how books change the lives of readers for the better. Sensibilities, desires are stimulated. This shows the importance of books in daily life.”

He continued, “Good books are the best defense against prejudices, distorted views of people in different languages.”

Vargas Llosa signs a copy of his novel for short story writer-journalist Amadis Ma. Guerrero. The latter approached the Nobel laureate and introduced himself thus, "Yo soy Amadis Ma. Guerrero. Buenas tardes" and showed his copy of The Green House, a 1982 pocketbook edition well-preserved by a thick plastic cover. Pleasantly surprised, Vargas Llosa grabbed the book, scrawled his signature and said, "Mucho gusto!" After which others followed with assorted books and publications for autographing.

Despite these differences, the common denominator that is of utmost importance, he said, “is we are all humans challenged by the same obstacles” in order to continue to live.

By reading good stories, he said, “we make more accessible to us certain values” like the “freedom needed for societies to become modern and prosperous. Good books develop in us a kind of dissatisfaction with the world as it is. We hope that life will change, that we create societies that are more fair and nearer the worlds we create with our imagination.”

Vargas Llosa is convinced that reading good literature “is not only a great pleasure but also fundamental for the training of citizens in free and democratic societies.”

He warned that “all regimes that try to control human life have suspicions about literature. They try to control this activity and eliminate spontaneity. Dictatorships are literature’s natural enemy.”

He praised reading and writing of good books for helping “develop natural criticism of the world as it is.”

And he returned to Brother Justiano for having started all this with the young Vargas Llosa as he learned how to read and write.

He bemoaned how for some sectors of society, litearature is considered as “just entertainment.” Society pressures the youth to go into what he called “practical skills”

Yes, he said, literature is “the best entertainment but at the same time, it is a kind of knowledge of the world. Literature is able to make us feel we are having living experiences.” Through literature, he continued, “we enter into an intimacy with a culture, know the most secret personality of persons.”

Reading, he concluded, is not just for pleasure but also for the shaping of “better citizens to face the challenges in our existence.”

He thanked DLSU for the honorary degree conferred on him, quipping, “I will try my best not to deceive you.” -- Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga

This article and the photos accompanying it were originally published in, Nov. 14, 2016.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Julie's time

"Night Spa with Lorca"

Sculptor Julie Lluch's text inviting me to her solo show "In the Fullness of Time" came with a reproach-cum-veiled threat, "I will make tampo if you don't come." The Tagalog word tampo cannot find an equivalent word in English, short of saying it cannot be translated. "Sulk" doesn't come even close, but I got the message.

I cut short my semestral break in Baguio with husband Rolly's blessings and took the Monday morning bus, non-stop, to Quezon City, taxied home to Pasig, showered and changed into fresh clothes, found a cab and hightailed it to Finale Art File at La Fuerza compound on Pasong Tamo, Makati.

I arrived an hour before opening time. A scaffold was still up as the spotlights were being adjusted. The Tall Gallery, still devoid of guests, left me lots of quiet time to go around and look at Julie's works closely, caress the cold-cast marble, the new medium she is working with.

What can I say? You have until Dec. 3 to catch the exhibition. Come alone, come with a group. Can't help but agree with Alma C. Miclat who, in her Inquirer interview with Julie, quoted her as saying, "“Yes, I do look for God in the art gallery.”

I looked and I found Him, too.

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"Kairos 3" with Julie's daughter Aba as model


From the "Georgia Series" Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Eating away my grief

"In existence, I think one’s mother is, generally speaking, the strangest, most unpredictable and elusive person one meets." Marguerite Duras

Gliceria Yatco Dula in 1946

Mommy and I didn’t have the most buoyantly cheerful of mother-daughter relationships. But whatever differences we had, things were always patched up by food, especially food prepared and cooked by her.

Since she died last May, I’ve dealt with her absence by filling it with food. Not just any kind of food but the kind that reminded me of what she used to serve the family on regular days and special occasions—humba, menudo, mechado, kare-kare, callos, adobo.

Because I still, by choice, don’t cook, I sought out the food of my childhood and youth in various restaurants in the resto hub that Barangay Kapitolyo in Pasig has become.

What put a halt to my overindulgence (dining alone in restaurants, even enjoying a buffet lunch by my lonesome) was a case of gastroenteritis and severe dehydration that landed me in the hospital.

My creatinine level shot up to the hundreds, my kidneys were doing only 24 percent of their function.

The doctors and medicines were able to turn the numbers around to normal in 24 hours during which I did a thorough examination of conscience. Certain realizations surfaced while I was flat on my back with an IV drip attached to my arm.

“Was it possible that I might be expressing my grief by overeating?” I asked my doctor.

She said it was, citing her own experience. When her own father died, her family made it a Sunday ritual to visit the grave, then go out for lunch every week for a year. Then they noticed they were all putting on weight and they decided to stop and just have monthly reunions.

I envied my sisters who could express their grief through copious tears shed when certain memories of Mommy were triggered—finding Mom’s hairband, preparing her clothes for giving away to charity (I kept her shawls and handkerchiefs for myself), praying for her soul’s repose at the family altar.

Mom’s ashes were inurned in a columbarium four months after her death. Again I watched my sisters cry their eyes out when the day came to say goodbye to the urn holding her remains.

But my tears wouldn’t come. I did look forward to the comida china afterwards where the family gathered around a table while a lazy Susan was swung clockwise and counterclockwise as we helped ourselves to food, food, glorious food—that was all in my mind and rumbling tummy.

I still am the object of fat lady jokes from the family although I’ve made the effort to cut down on binge eating, and do gentle exercises that aren’t hard on my joints.

Mommy Lolarga in a recent photo

“Why did I let myself go on your account?” I’d ask while gazing at Mommy’s picture when she was a slender young adult.

Maybe it was a form of rebellion going as far back as my teens. Mom kept her figure all her life, even after her eighth baby—I didn’t want to be like her.

She cooked like a pro—her morcon is irreplaceable. I never did the dutiful daughter role by learning how her dishes were done. She followed no recipe and relied on her estimates and instinct the way most of her generation did.

Mom was a loyal office worker. Her years of service ran to decades whereas I would leave at the first sign of discontent.

I guess I harbor a vestige of guilt. Her deathbed request to me was to give her a sip of Coca-Cola after a meal of broth and gelatin. I explained to her that because of the scarring in her guts, Coke would only hurt her so I practically forced water on her.

Bad girl! I should’ve, I should’ve given her a few sips of Coke! But I wouldn’t have been able to stand the sight of her cringing in pain from stomach spasms.

After I texted friends and family announcing Mommy’s death, Sr. Perla Macapinlac, ICM, of the House of Prayer in Baguio immediately responded: “My prayers for her and you. She has only gone home to God, but God’s home is everywhere in the universe, including our hearts, so your mother has not gone away. She is right there in your heart.”

And in my gut, I hasten to add, where Mommy, early in my life, left her indelible imprint.-- Elizabeth Lolarga

This article originally was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer's Lifestyle section on Oct. 30, 2016.