Vissi d'arte

from lullaby to requiem

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Mimi's farewell

I'm leaving blogger... My vox blog is just easier to update. So please change your links, and visit my new (ok, not so new...) blog:

Addio... senza rancor... ^_^

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hope for the Flowers

Tag me

Hope for the Flowers (An article for the UP Manila Collegian)
Mikee Nuñez-Inton

A few months ago, Justice Isagani Cruz wrote a rather hateful article entitled “Don we now our gay apparel,” published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. In our modern News world where things happen fast and headlines are forgotten just as easily as last week’s crossword, the article can be (and is actually) considered old news. But allow me to open the healed wounds caused by this atrocity, because I believe that these are not meant to be healed or forgotten.

Justice Cruz referred to homosexuals – gay men in particular – as pansies, fairies, and every other word short of calling us fags. By using vile words that portrayed our kind as unnatural beings, he warned the country of our so-called invasion. He says that if Filipinos are not careful, gays will overrun the country, painting everything pink and turning everything floral. I’m paraphrasing, or course. And while I do not deny that pink has become one of the symbols for gays and that many of us are quite fond of flowers (they do call many of us Flower Children, modern-day versions of hippies), I resent that Cruz thinks this ‘invasion’ a bad thing, and feels morally obligated to warn his countrymen so that they can wipe us out with one fell swoop.

The article has been answered by many – through blogs, text messages, e-mails, etc. – the most poignant being Manuel Quezon III’s own reply, which was also printed in the Inquirer. Even one of my blog posts was used by the Inquirer when it decided to print an anti-homophobia spread in its Saturday Super section. Still, though, homophobia and gay bashing is alive and well. Allow me to tell you some stories of my own experiences with discrimination.

I am what the Flower Children refer to as a Transgendered woman. Translation: while my body remains physiologically male, my heart, mind, and soul are female. Many transgenders are on their way to fixing the dissonance between matter and spirit, I’m a pretty long way from that. Although many people mistake me for a real girl (perhaps because of my tiny stature, and signature curly hair *wink, wink), I’m not quire ready to be a real girl – at least not yet.

Unlike many gay men who can tell you the exact time, date, and place where they discovered their difference from other people, I can’t. I really, honestly can’t. My earliest memories involve me asking my Kindergarten teacher, Miss Cinco, to transfer me to a seat next to a boy I found cute whose name was Jeremy, if I remember correctly. This is also one reason why I hate being asked “when did you know you were gay?” I don’t know; when did you know you were straight? It was the simplest, most natural thing for me. Although many people don’t see being asked their preferences a form of discrimination, I do. At least, it’s one of the more tolerable forms. Some people are just genuinely curious.

Discrimination, though, comes in many different types, ranging from unintentional stares, to hateful words, to violence. For example, as I was walking out of the building where I live, I noticed this Muslim man gawking at me. I thought I had something on my face, but then I realized that I was just wearing a woman’s blouse, strappy sandals, and fabulous shades. I looked like a movie star who had no boobs. I found the stare coming from a Muslim man weird because, I’m sure by the way he was dressed, people look at him the same way – with confusion in their eyes and their mouths half-open, disgust in between their brows (or at least, people who think Muslims are terrorists; I personally don’t. I would convert to Islam if only for the pashminas, but that’s how nonchalant I am with all religions). I see the same look on Security Guards who have no idea whether to let me in the Male entry way or the Female. To solve their problem, I go into the Female entrance; I don’t like being frisked by men. It also happens in bathrooms. I still use the male bathroom – but only because I have to. When I can, I take my friends inside, so I don’t have to go alone. I learned that trick in high school – none of us (gays) ever went to the bathroom alone.

My high school was pretty special though. We ruled, as Bette Midler would say, with an iron fist in a velvet glove. It’s an exclusive school for boys and although it does have the reputation of producing a lot of gays, in high school, we were tolerated, even venerated. We were the brightest, most talented, and vocal of the cliques in school. My batch was the biggest batch ever because the 6th and 7th graders were merged. Through this merge I have discovered my true friends, whom I love with all sincerity. We’ve been through a lot together – from our first loves to our more recent ones. Still, we were not sheltered from discrimination.

During our 4th year retreat, all the gays (around 15 of us) were sequestered from the straight boys. We really didn’t think it was discrimination because we stayed in air-conditioned rooms and had private showers while the boys were left to roast slowly in the heat of their rooms and icky communal showers. But then, why did we have to be kept separate? Did the teachers and priests actually think we would indiscriminately sleep with the entire class? As if. And then, when some of us applied for college in that same school, they were asked to sign what we called the Pink Form – a contract that said you can’t cross-dress in campus, put make-up, wear earrings, carry a fan, or even act effeminately. In short, you can’t come to this school – your high school Alma Mater – if you continue to become gay. One of my friends’ moms actually went to the counselor who gave him (my friend) the form to complain about it. The only answer she got was that it was a new school policy – in frustration, she stormed out of the room, but not before snapping at the counselor “Mas-maganda pa nga ang anak ko sa ‘yo e!” And it was true – my friend was so much prettier than Ms. _________.

There are, of course, harsher forms of discrimination. All over the world, gay boys are verbally abused, beaten up, and hated. Some are denied access to schools, some are refused to be taken into a company, some are thrown out of restaurants, and others are banished by their own families. But, my dear Flower Children, there is hope. In the , we now have our first possible Party List candidate – Ang Ladlad. Under the wings of Professor Danton Remoto as its newly elected president, the group is a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights advocate. Currently, the party is hoping to run for a position in Congress – and aims to speed up the adoption of the first Anti-Discriminatory Bill that would seek to protect LGBT Filipinos from, well, being discriminated upon – in offices, schools, restaurants, and perhaps even from their abusive families. The group stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration to many, like myself, who are tired of hearing stories about hate-filled acts against people who are different. It will take a lot of serious effort to get into Congress and enforce a bill, but at least we are making baby steps to get to our goal of abolishing discrimination and hate altogether. I know it sounds a little too ideal, but perhaps the future will be kinder to our cause. Who knows? Perhaps in the future, comments like Isagani Cruz’ will disappear, and be replaced by kinder, gentler words for a race that is so rampant but is so very much misunderstood.
For more information about Ang Ladlad, you might consider joining their Yahoo! group:

go to: - much prettier. ^_^

Monday, November 06, 2006


NEW BLOG!!! Although I'm not really moving... ^_^


Friday, November 03, 2006

20 Operas - part II

11. Madama Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
Ciocio-san, the 15 year old daughter of a disgraced samurai who had killed himself, had been sold off to work as a Geisha. She marries B.J. Pinkerton, an American naval officer, giving up her own Buddhist beliefs and converting into Christianity in the process. Pinkerton leaves to go back to America, leaving a pregnant Butterfly. After two years – disgraced and impoverished – Butterfly is still waiting for Pinkerton to return. He does, along with his new American wife. At this news, Butterfly tries to save her honour – by killing herself with her father’s sword.

Points to look forward to: Butterfly’s aria Un bel di vedremo (One beautiful day we will see) is always a show stopper. Her first act duet with Pinkerton is another masterpiece, as well as her flower duet with Suzuki (her maid), and the Humming Chorus in the second act.

12. Turandot – Giacomo Puccini
The story of the Chinese Ice-Princess and how her heart finally melts at the insistent – if not pesky – Unknown Prince is a great contrast to that of the Prince’s servant girl, Liu. Turandot asks all her suitors three questions, if they can’t answer them, she has them killed. The Prince answers all three, but gives her an ultimatum – discover his name and he will subject himself to the executioner. Liu is captured and tortured, but she would still not give up his name – she kills herself to protect the Prince’s secret. In the end, Turandot is shaken by the slave girl’s sacrifice, and falls in love with the Prince - Calaf.

Points to look forward to: Nessun Dorma! Pavarotti’s signature aria. Turandot’s In questa reggia (In this palace), the Riddle Scene, and Liu’s showstoppers: Signore, ascolta (My lord, listen) and Tu che di gel sei cinta (You who lives behind icy veils).

13. The Barber of Seville – Giachino Rossini
This comic opera revolves around Rosina and her love affair with Lindoro – except that’s not his real name. Lindoro is the count and asks Figaro, the Barber of Seville, for help to conceal his identity so that he could woo Rosina in spite of her guardian, Dr. Bartolo.

Points to look forward to: Rosina was written for the rare coloratura mezzo-soprano voice, which is why she’s mostly performed by coloratura sopranos. If you’ve been fortunate enough to find Conchita Supervia’s cover of Rosina’s Una voce poco fa (A tiny, little voice)

Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci – Pietro Mascagni/Ruggiero Leoncavallo
Rustic Chivalry and The Clowns - often offered as a double bill, the two operas are each over an hour long. They were also released within two years of each other, and stand as the classic examples of Italian verisimo. Both are the stories of women doomed by the fickle nature of love – Rusticana’s Santuzza has been forsaken for another woman, and Pagliacci’s clown Nedda has betrayed her husband for another (clown…). Both end with a brutal murder… it seems that these two operas are just meant for each other.

Points to look forward to:
Cavalleria Rusticana: Santuzza’s aria (Voi lo sapete o mama – You know very well, mama) and Turridu’s opening siciliana, O Lola. Of course, the ever famous and LSS-inducing Intermezzo, which has been used in several commercials (including one for the Kapamilya comedy ad), and even transformed into a version of the Ave Maria called Sancta Maria (for Charlotte Church).
While you won’t find any semblance of Barbra Striesand’s Send in the Clowns in Pagliacci, there are quite a few other songs worthy of proper attention – Tonio’s opening prologue and Canio’s show stopper – Vesti la guibba (Put on the costume) which basically says ‘the show must go on’ despite heartache and sorrow.

15. Lucia di Lammermoor – Gaetano Donizetti
Made famous by 5th Element’s Diva Dance, Lucia, daughter of the Ashtons, is forced to marry Arturo despite being in love with her family’s rival, Edgardo Ravenswood. On her wedding night, she goes insane, stabs her new hubby Arturo, and dies. Fun…

Points to look forward to: Another masterpiece of the bel canto school, Lucia is best sung by a dramatic-coloratura, one of the rarest of all voices. Few have been able to sing her properly before (or, for that matter, after) Callas. But then again, she was Callas. Anyway: Lucia’s well-side recollection of a ghost – Regnava nel silencio (The night reigned in silence), the wedding sextet, and of course, Lucia’s Mad Scene – 20something minutes of trills, pure bel canto, and a couple of e-flats to top everything off.

16. Macbeth – Guiseppe Verdi
Although not quite as important (musically and dramatically) as Verdi’s other Shakespearean works – Falstaff and Otello, Macbeth is one of Verdi’s most challenging operas, especially his Lady Macbeth. Anyone who’s gone through high school English literature knows the plot of the feeble Macbeth and his demonic sleepwalking wife, and Verdi stays quite loyal to the text, except when he uses three choruses of witches instead of Shakespeares’ three.

Points to look forward to: I’m quite fond of the witches, but then that’s me. As I said, Lady Macbeth is a difficult role to cast (and to pull off). A soprano needs the darkness characteristic of many mezzos and altos, but also the range and agility of a coloratura. Her opening recitative and aria, Vieni t’afretta! (Come, hurry!) is deliriously difficult. It’s used in Terrence McNally’s Masterclass – a play in which Callas lectures some students, one of which decides to sing this song. She asks whether she should sing it with the cabaletta (a short aria which is repeated over and over, with the music going higher and higher). Callas answers yes, “An aria without its cabaletta is like sex without an orgasm.” Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene is another wonderful aria.

17. Tristan und Isolde – Richard Wagner
As the movie said, before there was Romeo and Juliet, there was Tristan and Isolde. Tristan is Marke’s knight and he brings the king his princess bride Isolde. They fall in love, and in around four hours of music, Tristan gets stabbed, Isolde decides to die, and Marke grants both of them pardon.

Points to look forward to: I can only think of one – like most of Wagner’s work, listening to an entire Tristan and Isolde will make your ears bleed. The finest piece of music (in this whole ENTIRE world), however, is written in this opera – Isolde’s Liebstod – her death. As many of Puccini’s arias are great for sopranos who can weep with their voices, the Liebstod (Mild und liese – Softly, gently) is perfect for sopranos who can have orgasms with their voices. The entire aria is rapt in ecstasy, and should be sung as if one were in the middle of the most intense orgasm in one’s life. That’s how beautiful the aria is. The world’s finest, most pleasurable – and perhaps even the longest – orgasm.

18. Der Ring das Nibelungen – Richard Wagner
Wagner’s masterpiece is still very often performed today despite its difficulty (technically and vocally) and length. The Ring is actually composed of four separate operas, re-telling the Norse Myths of Ragnarok – the end of the gods. The first opera (Das Rheingold) tells how the Rhine Maidens had lost the cursed Rhine Gold to two dwarfs who forge the gold into a Ring. The second (Die Walkure) is the story of how the Valkyrie Brunnhilde aids a pair of siblings (Siegmund and Sieglinde) from Fricka’s wrath, incurring the wrath of Wotan for herself. In the end, she is placed in a ring of fire under a cursed sleep – only the greatest warrior can wake her. Siegfrid, the third opera, tells the story of Siegfrid (Sigmund and Sieglinde’s son) and how he awakens Brunnhilde (read: Brynhilde), and attains the Rhine Gold for himself. The final opera, Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods) tells how, by disobeying Wotan’s orders to destroy the ring and the bearer, Brunnhilde brings forth the end of all the gods and Valhalla.

Points to look forward to: Lots of different choruses, arias, and orchestrals – from Brunnhilde’s Battle Cry (Hojotoho!!!) to the Ride of the Valkyries, to the Magick Fire Music, to Siegfrid’s death and funeral, to the longest aria EVER – Brunnhilde’s Immolation.

19. La Sonnambula – Vincenzo Bellini
Wikipedia calls this opera a semiseria, that’s an icky name, but it applies. Norma’s twin sister, Bellini wrote the tale of the Druid High Priestess and Amina, a sleepwalking villager in the same year – for the same soprano (Giuditta Pasta in 1831). Amina is now engaged to Elvino, to Lisa’s dismay. However, she sleepwalks right into the room of the count. Elvino finds her and cancels the wedding. In a little over an-hour-and-a-half, the conflict is solved and Amina wakes in Elvino’s arms ready to be wed.

Points to look forward to: Amina’s first aria, Compagne… Come per me sereno (Friends… So softly for me) is sung as she thanks her friends for her happy engagement. The opera ends with two wonderful arias, leagues apart when it comes to mood – Ah! Non credea mirarti (Ah! They will not believe) and Ah! Non giunge! (Ah! No more!)

20. Medéé – Luigi Cherubini
The daughter of the sun-god has never stopped being on stage – from Euripedes to Broadway. Cherubini composed several versions of the opera in several languages – what we have today is an Italian version with recitatives, popularized by Callas in the 1950’s. Medea is the sorceress daughter of Aeetes, king of Colchis, and Eidyia, daughter of Helios. She was the high priestess of Hecate, and keeper of the Golden Fleece. Jason had needed her to attain the Fleece, now in Corinth, he betrays her in favor of the King Creon’s daughter. To exact her revenge, Medea tasks Neris, her maid, to deliver gifts to the princess - a cloak and diadem. The moment she puts it on, she bursts into flames – her father along with her. Medea then locks herself inside a temple to kill her two young children – Jason’s sons. She leaves Jason alone to suffer.

Points to look forward to: The Princess Glauce’s aria Amore, vieni a me (Love, come to me), Creon’s aria Pro nube dive dei custodi (Gods of marriage), Medea’s powerful entrance and first aria Dei tuoi figli la madre (I am your children’s mother), and her duet with Jason – reminiscing about the fateful Golden Fleece and cursing each other. And that’s only in the first act! The second act has Medea’s duet with Creon pleading with the King to be allowed one last day to be with her children, which, of course, he grants. Then in the midst of all the turmoil – Medea’s pleas, Creon’s warning, and the people’s shouts to have Medea driven out – we are given a respite in the form of Neris’ only aria, Solo un pianto (Alone you weep). The act ends with a wedding chorus in the background, and Medea swearing her vengeance on Jason, Glauce, Creon, and everyone else. Act three opens with Medea’s spooky invocation to the gods – Numi, venite a me! (Gods, come to me). She ends the opera with an aria (Figli miei, miei tesor – My children, my treasures), a fabulous cabaletta (Atre Furie volate a me! – Dark Furies fly to me!), and a curse to Jason – My shadow will wait for you in the underworld! Of course after that she was granted immortality by Hera for refuting Zeus, flew to Athens and married Aegues, had a son Medus who became the next ruler of Colchis, and then retired in the underworld with uber-hotty Achilles. ^_^

Sunday, October 01, 2006

20 Operas - part I

The following is a list of the world's most loved and most famous Operas... ^_^

20 Operas for the Uninitiated and the Cognoscenti

In no particular order:

The Magic Flute
La Boheme
La Traviata
Il Trovatore
Madama Butterfly
The Barber of Seville
Cavaleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci
Lucia di Lammermoor
Tristan und Isolde

Der Ring das Nibelungen
La Sonnambula

1. Norma – Vincenzo Bellini
A must for all opera-goers; this is the tragic tale of three lovers – Norma is the Druid High Priestess who has forsaken her sacred duties for her love of the Roman proconsul Pollione, who has left her for another priestess, Adalgisa. The opera’s music reflects the beauty of Norma’s love, her rage towards her philandering lover, Pollione’s passion for Adalgisa, and Adalgisa’s youth and confusion.

Points to look forward to: Nearly every scene is filled with thrilling moments and glorious music which, coupled with the proper technique of singing, can rocket a singer to fame – or crush that singer’s dreams to smithereens! Act 1, Scene 1 ends with Norma’s prayer (Casta Diva – Chaste Goddess) and its cabaletta (the tail end of an aria – a short verse whose key goes up each time it is repeated). Scene 2 ends with a trio – Norma cursing and threatening Pollione, Pollione entreating Adalgisa to come with him, and Adalgisa swearing to be faithful to Norma. The opera ends with a shocking revelation that sends Norma and Pollione to the funeral pyre together, sparing Adalgisa and her youth.

2. Carmen – Georges Bizet
The world’s favorite opera, and arguably its most famous, Carmen is the story of a gypsy and her doomed love for a guard captain – Don Jose. For the first time in operatic history, sopranos step back and allow mezzos to revel in their limelight. Carmen’s music has become so popular, it’s been used in several TV ads – from tissue paper to canned milk – and even in many cellular phone ring tones.

Points to look forward to: Carmen’s songs – the ever-famous Habañera, her Gypsy Song, and her semi-trio, the Card Song, brings out the beauty, coquettishness, and versatility of many great mezzos (and even some sopranos!). On the other hand, Don Jose’s Flower Song is a great showcase for the tenor voice, and Micaela’s aria, for the soprano soubrette. The opera is also filled with fabulous orchestral pieces – the Overture and the 4th Act Intermezzo in particular – which have helped immortalize the opera. Plus, you also have a great selection of scenes and ensembles to choose from: The chorus for the little orphan boys, the Toreador song, and the last scene where Jose confronts (and kills) Carmen.

3. Aida – Guiseppe Verdi
The timeless tale of a love so forbidden, it leads an enslaved princess and her pharaoh-to-be lover trapped and buried alive within a pyramid. Aida is the Ethiopian princess who has become Amneris’ (the Pharaoh’s daughter) slave. She has fallen in love with the Egyptian Army Captain, Radames, who is betrothed to Amneris. The opera was later translated into a Broadway musical, with the same name and relatively the same plot, by Sir Elton John.

Points to look forward to: Ritorna vincitor! Aida’s outcry (Return victoriously!) at the end of the first act is always a big crowd pleaser. Sung properly with the correct balance of loathing for the Egyptian troops and longing (and love) for their Captain, Aida’s first aria may make or break the opera. Her second aria, O patria mia (My dearest country), is more dramatic and tragic than her first outburst. Here, the princess longs for the country which she has been forced to leave, and dreads that she may never see her homeland again. Amneris (mezzo-soprano) is given the wonderfully devious aria, L’aborrita rivale a me sfuggia (My rival has fled me), in which she plans her revenge on Radames and his lover. After questioning Radames about Aida, and asking him to denounce the slave in favor of the pharaoh’s daughter (which he, of course declines), she sends him off to his doom. Regretting her decision to end a good man’s life, she ends the opera with a prayer to the gods to allow Radames (and Aida) to find peace in death.

4. The Magic Flute – W.A. Mozart
The fairytale-ish story of Zarastro (bass) and his battle with The Queen of the Night (coloratura soprano) is another of the world’s most frequently performed operas. The opera is filled with dualities and counterparts – the Queen and the Priest Zarastro, Tamino and Tamina, Papageno and Papagena.

Points to look forward to: One of the most desired voices in the operatic repertoire is the coloratura soprano. Her aria’s are among the most famous aria’s in the world – O zittre nicht (Do not be afraid), and her coloratura tour de force, Der holle rache (Hellish rage), which has been used in a number of movies (like Miss Congeniality 1). Also the chorus Isis und Osiris, and the Chorus of the Three Graces are among the most popular songs in opera.

5. La Boheme – Giacomo Puccini
The inspiration behind the Broadway musical Rent is the story of four Parisian friends living the bohemian lifestyle: Musetta is your typical Parisienne, a coquettish, flirty, beautiful little thing; Mimi is a consumptive seamstress; Rodolfo is a poet; and Marcelo, the painter. You can see very clear parallels between the characters of Rent and La Boheme. Rent has the junkie Mimi, dying of an OD, while Boheme has Mimi’s tuberculosis; Musetta is your average prima donna wannabe, Maureen has her tango; Marcelo has a portrait, Marc, a documentary; Colline the philosopher has become Collin, the teacher; Rodolfo has insecurities about Mimi’s mysterious aura, so does Robert.

Points to look forward to: Mimi’s arias – her hello (Si, michiamano Mimi – Yes, they call me Mimi) and her farewell (Donde lieta usci – Back at the place I left). As there are parallels with the characters, there are parallels with the songs. Rent’s La Vie Boheme can be likened to the Boheme quartet; Maureen’s fight with her lover is a distorted version of Musetta’s Waltz, where she walks through the street while men keep staring at her. The great love duet (O soave fanciulla – O beautiful little girl) between Rodolfo and Mimi in Act I has been transformed into a lesser love duet (Will you light my candle?) ending, this time, with Boheme Mimi’s ‘they call me, they call me… Mimi.’

6. La Traviata – Guiseppe Verdi
The One who Strayed – the tale of yet another operatic consumptive, Violetta, is a story of a love interrupted by family reputation and brought to an end by pride. Violetta, a courtesan, has fallen in love with Alfredo Germont – who comes from a relatively well-known and well-reputed family. Alfredo’s affiliation with a courtesan has upset his father, and he comes to Violetta to end their affair. Violetta shows the elder Germont the nobility of her heart by showing him that Alfredo has not spent a penny since they have been together. She agrees to part with the younger Germont to save their reputation on one condition – that Alfredo be left in the dark with regard to their agreement. Alfredo takes Violetta’s withdrawal from him as a personal insult (thinking that Violetta left him because of their financial situation) and insults her back publicly.
Left alone and dying, Violetta reminisces the joys of the past and makes herself ready for death. Until her maid bursts in announcing Alfredo’s return. The older Germont has told Alfredo of Violetta’s sacrifice, and now they have come to make amends. But all is too late. Violetta gets up and dresses to go out (to Church – to thank God for Alfredo’s return); just as she feels her old strength returning, Violetta stumbles onto a couch and dies. Based on a book (The Lady of the Camellias) by Alexandre Dumas fils, and immortalized on black and white in the film Camille with the great Greta Garbo.

Points to look forward to: Violetta’s tour de force and first aria, E strano… Sempre libera (How strange… Forever free), has her musing about Alfredo’s love and affection, and dismissing them as follies, consoling herself to a lifetime of fleeting joys and freedom. Her moving duet with the older Germont (baritone) is also something to look forward to. Her last aria, Addio del passato (Farewell to the past), is a showpiece for great sopranos who can weep using their voices.

7. Rigoletto – Guiseppe Verdi
Another of Verdi’s great masterpieces, Rigoletto is the story of a bitter old hunchback and his youthful, arrogant, womanizing master. In vain, the hunchback court-jester tries to keep his only daughter – Gilda – away from his master, the Duke, only to find out that Gilda has fallen in love with him already. Rigoletto’s plot to murder the Duke goes awry and Gilda ends up being killed… tragic, but with infinitely beautiful music.

Points to look forward to: One of the highlights of this opera is Gilda’s aria, a coloratura must, Caro nome (Sweet name), in which the young girl muses about her affections for the Duke (who has disguised himself as a student). The two duets between father and daughter are also quite thrilling. Rigoletto’s Pari siamo (We are equally skilled) is a difficult aria, which requires an artful understanding of Rigoletto’s inner turmoil, is also a great aria. Of course, we cannot mention Rigoletto without the Duke’s showpiece aria La donna e mobile (Women are fickle). This aria is another crowd favorite, and the second most popular tenor aria, after Nessun Dorma.

8. Il Trovatore – Guiseppe Verdi
Yet another Verdi classic, Trovatore is the story of Manrico (a rebel troubadour), Leonora (a courtier loved by Manrico), Azucena (Manrico’s step-mom and your local Gypsy weirdo), and the Count di Luna (Manrico’s brother, although only Azucena knows this). The story is built on a tragic tale of a gypsy being burned at the stake for witchcraft and her charge to her daughter for vengeance. Azucena is the gypsy’s daughter; she abducts one of the Count’s sons, and while carrying her own child, takes pity on the baby. In a delirium caused by her mother’s cries for revenge, she mistakenly throws her own child into a pyre. She raises, instead, the Count’s son who has grown up to be Manrico. The new Count di Luna has been trying to capture the rebel Manrico, who also happens to be his rival with regard to Leonora.
Upon capturing Manrico (and Azucena), Leonora gives herself up to the Count in exchange for his freedom. But before the Count can marry her, she poisons herself. In the end, Count di Luna has Manrico executed, amidst Azucena’s victorious cries of Sei vendicata, o madre! (I have avenged you, mother!)

Points to look forward to: The opera has four acts, all acts have endings as thrilling as many musicals (some, perhaps, even more thrilling). The first act has Leonora’s aria Tacea la notte placida (The night was quiet and still), and her trio with di Luna and Manrico for its ending. Act 2 opens with the famed Anvil Chorus, and Azucena’s aria, Stride la vampa (The fire is crackling). Act 3 ends with Manrico’s famous Di quella pira (The flames of the pyre) which is another powerhouse aria for tenors. Finally, di Luna has Il balen (Her smile), an aria almost too serene for a baritone. Act 3 has Leonora’s solos – D’amore sull’ali rosee (On the rosy wings of love), the Miserere, and her cabaletta Tu vedrai (You will see), which is almost always cut from the opera. The opera ends with a quartet between all the leads.

9. Tosca – Giacomo Puccini
One of the most oft performed operas in today’s repertoire, based on Victorien Sardou’s La Tosca. It is the story of how a diva (Tosca), and her lover (Mario), fall prey to an evil (and lusty) Baron (Scarpia) who just happens to be Rome’s police chief.

Points to look forward to: Tosca is mostly a tenor’s opera – two glorious arias (Recondita armonia - Strange harmony, in the first act; and E lucevan le stelle – The stars are gleaming, in the final act) and a riveting cabaletta (Vittoria! in the second act). Tosca is left, though, with a marvelously difficult aria – Vissi d’arte (I lived for art); an aria which is perfect for sopranos who can weep using their voices. The baritone Scarpia has his glorious moments as well: the ending of the first act and the beginning of the second act.

10. Fidelio – Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven’s only opera, his baby – first entitled Leonore, but then changed to Fidelio when another work was released with the same title. It’s a relatively simple story – Leonore has had her husband imprisoned. She dresses up as a man (Fidelio) to save him, and she does in the end, when the Count (or Duke?) comes to pardon all the prisoners and sets them free from the cruel jailer.

Points to look forward to: Beethoven is a god. Let’s leave it at that. Leonore’s Abscheulicher! (Monster!), Marzelline’s O war’ich schon mit dir vereint (I would be so happy), several quartets and terzettos… The entire opera is an exercise in the beauty of music – and singing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What's wrong with being a pansy?

This is in reply to Justice Isagani Cruz' hateful article, "Don we now our gay apparel" published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Aug. 12, 2006. Maneul Quezon III (and, by now, several other writers) has already written an excellent reply to Cruz' bigotry, but I think Quezon missed something that I feel is rather important.

What's wrong with being a pansy?

Most people view a pansy as someone weak, someone who can't fight for himself. The term, itself, is derived from a type of flower with velvety petals - the cultivated variety of which came from a wild flower called Heartsease. By it's very nature, flowers are delicate and (for want of a better term) squishy. Because of this, all effiminate boys have been labelled pansies - a tradition we could attribute to the British.

Of course, that's one way of looking at it. We learn in school that by labelling something, and inculcating it in the culture of a people, we create our own realities based on these labels. The perception of a pansy, therefore, becomes a person who is a weakling. So? What's wrong with being weak? I might be echoing Ursula Le Guin here, but really? What's wrong with being weak?

Strength is over-rated. Is it not that without weakness, we cannot have strength? So why do we need to reject weakness in favor of masculinity and being 'macho?' Why must we always side with the masculine and ignore the feminine?

Cruz addresses this: he calls us "sexless persons without the virility of males and the grace of females but only an insipid mix of these diluted virtues." Duality addressed; but then we are left with a triad. I refuse to view myself, and others like me, as insipid mixes of the masculine and feminine. Instead, we are, in my opinion, the synthesis of the anima and the animus - a perfect combination of the two sexes. We may be viewed as sexless, yes, but we are not genderless. We are our own gender.

Like many words in the English lexicon, the word pansy may be ameliorated - its meaning changed from mostly negative to somewhat positive. Such has been done with the word "Queer." When people were called queer in the old days (about a few decades ago), that was tantamount to calling someone a whore, or a bitch, or a faggot. But now, because of shows like Queer Eye and Queer as Folk, and perhaps even theories such as the Queer Theory, we can address homosexuals as queers without the negative connotation. Of course, not all words can be ameliorated. The F word which I wrote above, for example. Even typing it is painful. No one should use this term - I believe Oprah had wanted to strike the N word from the dictionary because the connotations that it bears are far too painful. I believe the same for the F word - no living soul should be granted permission to use this offensive word - not even gays.

As for pansy, well... I think art has something to offer the term. In many of Shakespeare's plays, the pansy is a symbol of love. In A Midsummer Night's Dream the pansy's juice actually becomes a love potion. One of the original names for the pansy is actually love-in-idleness, which connotes a love that is asleep and dormant - if only the world were ready for our brand of love.

So why not think of the pansy as someone frail, but beautiful; as someone who's heart is untapped, but is willing to give love to anyone worthy. With these connotations, I can therefore proclaim, with pride, that I am a pansy. A lovely, wild, velvet pansy. But as for Cruz' warning of creating a flag made entirely of delicate lace, I'm for it. But I do draw the lines at ruffles...

Monday, July 31, 2006

Altas de Sociedad

Last Saturday, my Comm 1 class, Patrick, and I went to a gala thrown at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in honor of the Philippine-Japan Friendship Year. The major event was a recital of sorts - featuring Arias and Scenes from composer Giacomo Puccini's four most popular operas: La Boheme, Tosca, Turandot, and Madama Butterfly - entitled Operanow: An Evening of Puccini.

The evening was hosted by both CCP and The Philippine Opera Company, which is also premiering its first ever opera/concert season. I believe this is the first regular season in the Philippines since the Manila Grand Opera House, which was destroyed during the 2nd World War. The season actually kicked off with performances of Terrence McNally's Masterclass, a hilarious fictional account of Maria Callas' lectures at the Julliard School. I saw it, it was fabulous! Callas was played by the incomparable Jay Glorioso, who radiated La Callas' aura all throughout the performance - from her voice to her mannerisms.

Operanow featured some of the country's most promising opera singers along with some Japanese artists. Among the best performers were Camille Lopez-Molina (who sang Tosca's Vissi d'arte - fabulous to the nth level - I couldn't hold back my Bravas; I hadn't felt that way since I saw Aprille Millo singing the same aria. But La Lopez is infinitely better!); Thea Perez (Mimi in La Boheme and Liu in Turandot, beautiful voice, albeit a little weak); Conrad Ong (Calaf in Turandot, fabulous voice. We saw him the previews night at a dinner-theatre with soprano Alexis Edralin - Patrick's long lost cousin); Sal Malaki (Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly; like Ong, gorgeous tenor voice, very powerful); Hisara Sato (Cio-cio San in Madama Butterfly; gorgeous voice, very dramatic, great actress too; unfortunately, they cut Un bel di from her repertoire); Kazuko Nagai (Suzuki in Madama Butterfly; the playbill says she's a mezzo, but during the performance, she was at par with Sato San... oh well!); and Hiroaki Otsuka (bass; really tall! He sang several roles over the entire evening; gorgeous basso profundo voice, almost ethereal, reminded me of Callas' greatest bases - Nicola Zaccaria and Nicola Moscona). The other performers were, at best, forgettable.

I thought that the evening was going to be all about opera and the Company's first season, instead the performances fell second to the socializing that happened after. Patrick and I met up with (read: stalked) several different singers. We had our playbills signed by Thea Perez, who invited us to see her in Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovski - am I spelling that right???) later this year. We also stalked Camille Lopez - who was, hands down, the diva of the evening - even though she only sang one aria. I really think she was uber-underused! She could have easily sung Turandot's aria - In questa reggia! That would have, quite literally, brought down the house! Camille was later approached by soprano Joanna Go, who sang Liu's death aria at the last Operanow. We took pictures, and voila - the Three Sopranos! We also chatted with soprano Rachelle Gerodias, one of Jaja's teachers, even though she didn't sing that night. Apparently, she would be singing with Thea in Eugene Onegin.

We also met up with Jay Glorioso, twice. The first time was during intermission. I approached her and congratulated her for her Masterclass performance. She took my hand and thanked me, commenting that I looked familiar. The second time we met up with her, during cocktails after the show. She seemed pretty interested; I told her that I was a teacher, and she asked if I could get more of my students to watch some performances (which I already intended to do), so I said of course. We chatted for a bit more, and I learned that she still taught voice to students of all ages and singers of all genres. Deep in my mind, I was thinking if she were willing to teach me to sing! Hahaha! At the end of our little chat, we swapped numbers, and she leant over and gave me a beso.

Later on, the Japanese sopranos came out, and of course, we asked for their autographs and pictures. I asked Madame Sato why she didn't sing Un bel di, she said that she wanted to, but that the organizers said it was, and I quote, "Imposible!" Miss Sato was pretty tall, and she was quite polite. I suppose most Japanese people are. I was confused whether I should bow to her or do something else. I ended up nodding my head. Same thing happened with Miss Nagai.

In all, the evening was pretty fun. I took pics with my class and, after eating, they left. It was raining pretty hard, so Patrick and I had to wait for some time before we could go back to the car. On our way out, we saw Camille Lopez sitting on the steps in the side entrance of the Center. We waved at her, and she waved back...

Altas de Sociedad - here we come!