Vissi d'arte

from lullaby to requiem

Friday, September 30, 2005


I've always considered myself just a little bit hardcore. I teach hardcore, I (try to) sing hardcore, and I live hardcore - but it's only today that I've realized that I really am hardcore...

Last Tuesday, while napping on my mom's new tumba-tumba rocking chair, I got a call from Ms Juliet Bien. She was out teacher in Humanities II - Art, Man, & Society. She was a great teacher, she knew everything she had to know about art, and she taught it really well. Anyway, I got a call from her and she told me that she'd found three books about operas containing complete recordings of the operas, their respective libretti and annotations, and commentaries on the composers and the operas. In all, these operas were Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Beethoven's baby and only opera Fidelio, and Wagner's The Flying Dutchman (that's not the original title, but the title's in German something like Der Fleder-something Hollander). And they all cost only 360php each!!! I didn't want to impose, but she said it was fine so she bought the last two (because I already have Barbiere), and gave them to me today - I paid her back, of course!

Anyway, up until now, my operatic repertoire is limited to mostly Italian bel canto roles like Norma, Traviata, Medea, Annina, & Leonora (in both La Forza del Destino, and Il Trovatore), and a few French roles like Carmen & Dalila. My German is limited because, for one thing my German accent sucks. As a Filipino who studied a bit of Spanish, I found the Italian words very easy to pronounce; and being naturally nasal has helped me with the French repertoire. But German is very hard and glottal (tama ba?), and so my roles are limited to the arias that I have - the most notable would be Mozart's Der Holle Rache aria by the Queen of the Night in the composer's Magic Flute. I'm also a bit familiar with Isolde and Brunnhilde, but the former I know in Italian, and the latter I find too heavy to sing.

So anyway, these two additional gems to my collection will help me even out the score, and make me a more well-rounded opera cognoscenti. I've always considered the German repertoire extremely heavy - especially Wagner, who developed the style of highlighting emotions with the use of orchestrations (so a Wagnerian singer has to be able to raise her voice above the veil of Wagner's orchestra). His Isolde is particularly moving - the last aria Mild und Liese especially, which is most commonly called the Liebstod where Isolde decides to die after Tristan has died (if you've seen Romeo+Juliet with Leo di Caprio - and who hasn't - you should be able to recognize the 30+second clip of this aria being played at the very end, just as Juliet pulls the trigger on Romeo's Sword). But the liebstod that I own is in Italian, I know I have the German somewhere, I just can't find where I put the mp3.

I'm also familiar with the Ring of the Nibelungs, but only some parts of it. The entire Ring cycle consists of 4 operas: Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold), Die Walkure (The Valkyrie), Seigfrid, and Gotterdamerung (Twilight of the Gods aka. Ragnarok). The last three operas contain the most famous soprano role - that of the obese Diva dressed in a Viking's costume belting out loud, unintelligible notes - Brunnhilde, who is the chief of the Valkyries, daughters of Odin. She falls in love with Seigfried, who has come to the possession of the powerful but cursed Ring of the Dwarves. Because of this love, she defies her father and brings about the end of the Norse Gods. Of course, she is punished for her betrayal - thus, The Immolation of Brunnhilde - a 14++ minute aria (solo) where Brunnhilde is chastised for bringing about the death of the Gods.

I'm listening to The Dutchman right now, and I can hear touches of the Ring Cycle - lots of heavy orchestrations, and a deep, rich soprano rising above all the instruments. As I've said, I've always considered the German repertoire (especially Wagnerian roles) very heavy, so I'm having a hard time appreciating this CD. But I like it so far, the story's really simple, but the music is so complex that it lends a certain amount of umph into the entire opus. The singers, by the way, on both CDs are not really famous, I've never heard of them, and the one name that sounds familiar is cast in a minor role, nevertheless, I'm listening to this CD and not minding at all that I can't sing along with it. I'm not hating it either, which means that if I keep playing this CD, I'm going to be able to memorize it, and love it later - unlike another CD that I got on sale, Il Turco in Italia, which is really weird, I mean fine, the ensembles are ok and Callas is in the lead, but I find it really boring - plus, it's a comedy, so it leaves little space for true singing.

The Beethhoven CD, on the other hand, is a bit lighter than the Wagner, because it's been part of contemporary music, and it's written in a very Italian style, with recitatives. If it were French, it would be called an opera comique like Carmen. But since it's German, it's a Singspiel - an opera with incorporated spoken dialogues in between the songs. It's actually quite fun. My Carmen CD has spoken French in it, and this one has German. Parang gusto ko tuloy mag-aral ng German!

Beethoven actually kept revising this opera, and now we're left with five different overtures: Leonore 2, 3, 1, and 4 (written in chronological order because some idiot thought Beethoven wrote number 1 before all the others, when it's actually the third already), and the less performed, but more appropriate Fidelio Overture. I haven't listened to this opera yet, but I got a glimpse kanina when I tested if the CDs were running. There's this quartet in Act I with two sopranos, a tenor, and a bass - danda!! There's also an aria for the lead soprano which aims to showcase the singer's talents. Translation: lots and lots of trills and high notes!!! ^_^

I'm really looking forward to listening to these operas, I just don't have a lot of time yet. It's almost finals and I have a TON of papers to check. Speaking of school stuff - I made a student cry kanina!!!

I told all my students to submit all their requirements by 4:00pm today. I gave them more than a week to revise their major papers, and submit two other minor papers. But this girl came in at 4:15 reasoning that she had waited for her classmates to finish their papers so they could submit their papers. When I told her that I was sticking to my rules, she just fell to the floor and started weeping!!! She actually cried!!! And all the other faculty members fell silent and just waited for me to respond! Of course, when I saw how miserable she was, I wanted to accept her work; but I glanced at some of my colleagues, and they were just waiting for me to break. So I told her to wait for her classmates outside and I will talk to them when all of them were there.

So after a few minutes, I went out the room to see cry-baby with dimple-lady holding her paper plus two other papers. I wonder where the other two girls were? I told them that I had to stick with my rules and that I would only accept their papers after I have checked all the other papers which came on time. If I can't do that before the semester ends - and I have no plans of checking later papers - I would give them Incompletes: their classcards would be marked Incomplete but they have a year to complete that. Since they already had their final papers, all they had to do was to wait for me to finish checking papers this sem, and hand theirs to me so I can give them grades - no deductions, no nothings. Translation: Late papers = late grades. Ang bait ko no? If I had given them 5.0s (and I could have!), they would all probably fail the course because the papers that they needed to submit accounted for 60% of their final grade.

That's it for now!! My cousins just arrived from the States, and we'll be taking them to Boracay next week. It's my first time to go there, hihihi! Excited aku! Hihihi!!!

Anyway... ang cute talaga ng Dutchman, hihihi! Gusto ko na tuloy maging Wagnerian soprano!!! Hojotohoooooo!!!!!

Friday, September 23, 2005

South Pacific

A Wonderful Guy
Rogers and Hammerstein

I expect everyone
of my crowd to make fun,
Of my proud protestations
of faith in Romance.

And they'll say I'm naive
as a babe to believe,
every fable I hear
from a person in pants.

Fearlessly I'll face them
and argue their doubts away.
Loudly I'll sing
about flowers in spring.

Flatly I'll stand on my
little flat feet and say.
is a grand and a beautiful thing.

I'm not ashamed to reveal,
The world famous feeling
I feel.

I'm as corny as Kansas in August
I'm as normal as blueberry pie
If you'll excuse an expression I use
I'm in love with a wonderful guy!

She's as trite and as gay
as a daisy in May
a cliche comin true.

She's bromidic and bright
as a moon happy night
pourin light on the dew.

I'm as corny as Kansas in August
High as a flag on the fourth of July
If you'll excuse an expression I use
I'm in Love, I'm in Love, I'm in Love,
I'm in Love with a wonderful Guy!

I'm as corny as Kansas in August
High as a flag on the fourth of July
If you'll excuse an expression I use
I'm in Love, I'm in Love, I'm in Love, I'm in Love
I'm in Love, I'm in Love, I'm in Love, I'm in Love
I'm in Love witha Wonderful Guy!!!!

~Wala lang!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


You know back in highschool or in college, when you sleep over at a friend's house, and you're so careful and polite to the point that you can't move so much (especially when your friend's parents are around)? Well, turn that thing topsey-turvey, and you have me right now. My incredibly annoying, alcoholic, cigarette-addicted uncle is staying over with us this week - and I am at the end of my line! Check my Big Fat Filipino Family post, he's the stupid drunk who outed me to our other relatives.

I woke up at 5:30 this morning becase I had classes at 8:30 and it usually takes me an hour++ to take a bath and dress up, and another hour to get to school (the remaining 30-45 minutes, I spend at the department checking papers >.<). He woke up at around five, and by the time I got upstairs, he was already on his 3rd (?) cigarette and three-quarters of his way down his first bottle of beer! MY GOD! At 5:30 in the morning on a typical day, this old man has already drunk and smoked what I drink and smoke over the course of a year!

In addition to this, he asks me and my brother to buy his beer for him - my booger brother has to go down 5 storeys just to buy it for him! The nerve! And he is soooooooooo spoiled he doesn't clean up after himself. He eats supper really late and he called me just so I could clear his plates for him! THE NERVE!!!! Inirapan ko nga!

And he keeps smoking those dreadful cigarettes inside the house, so the entire third floor smells like a fucking bar during happy hour! I couldn't stand it! I stood from the couch (while watching Desperate Housewives) and opened the door so, at least, some relatively fresh air could come into the house. When he remarked that I left the door open, I looked at my mom and said I couldn't breathe! I've been sort of ill the past month, I've been coughing steadily (as my Echoes co-members and students would be able to note clearly), and my condition's only started to improve the past weekend. Now, my asthma is back, and my breathing is shallow again - translation: I CANNOT SING!!!!!!!!!!! WAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!! And my uncle had the guts to pretend as if he didn't notice I had been coughing the entire night! AS IF!!! Ganoon ka ba talaga ka-tanga?? I mean, I know you failed the Law Bar Exams twice, (count that TWICE! 2x! Not just once, TWO (2) Times!!!), but really?

I swear, there is something extremely wrong about this person. He is stingy as hell, he wouldn't give my brother pamasahe to buy his beer. He's my godfather (GOOD choice Mom and Dad!), and he's given approximately 1000php over the last ten years. That's about 100 pesos every year - 50 pesos for my birthday and 50 pesos for Christmas. AND NOW, he wants me to help his darling daughter to get into the BS Bio program in UP Manila.

I told him that Nicole should get at least 1.5 in all her subjects, and he said that she only gets 2s - well, sorry na lang sya! A lot of people want to get into Bio, and I don't think she can make the cut if she has lower grades than her competitors. So he said that she could still try shifting to the Bio program in Diliman instead, and if I could help her do it. FUCK HER! FUCK HIM!!!! Anong gusto nya, pumunta pa ako ng Diliman para lang tulungan ung Puñetang makapasok sa Bio dun, e magji-jeep lang naman sya nasa Bio na sya - tiga Diliman din naman sya, lilipat lang sya ng building, ano bang kaputahan yan!!! Is she really that incompetent? I mean, she and her sister (plus their abnormally tall 10 year-old brother) are really sheltered, but hello!!! After they eat, they don't clear their plates, and yung mga tita ko pa ang nagliligpit ng pinagkainan nila - kapal ng muka! Di na nahiya, naki-kain na nga sila, pagkatapos, umupo na lang sa gilid at nagpa-cute, as if no! Magtigil kayong magkapatid, muka kayong mga maid!!! I'm not kidding, I haven't seen them for years, when they were kids they were cute (except for the older one, matagal nang pangit un!), but when I saw them last year, my gosh! Alam nyo ung itsura ng maid na bagong luwas sa Manila? Ganon sila! Blank faces, icky fashion sense, and all!

And these kids have it all! Pampering parents na konting tantrum lang, e tapon agad ng salapi! As I wrote before, my stupid uncle gave them 10,000php just so they could go on a shopping-spree, dios me! Ang spoiled na nga, ang tatanga pa rin! Buti na lang magaling magpalaki ng anak ang Mommy ko - yun nga lang, namana ko sa kanya ung katarayan ko (sa Dada ko rin, masungit din un e!). I don;'t take orders from people I don't respect, kaya pesteng tito, magligpit ka ng pinagkainan mo no! AND STOP SMOKING IN THE HOUSE!!!! Lahat ng tao dito may asthma, my God, how inconsiderate can you be???

And the weird thing is, he's a giant coward! He's almost 6 feet tall, but he will NOT enter my brother's room because Benedict has pictures of Slipknot in it - wearing creepy masks! Because of this, I have to share my room with him! So my room also smells like yosi and beer! Kakainis talaga! I just changed my sheets, now I have to change them again, not to mention I have to douse the entire room with my strongest aroma-therapy scents to get rid of any after-smell!

Over dinner he was telling how he couldn't find my door's knob, and he really had to pee so he just opened the window and peed there! YUCK!!!!!!!!!! Thank the Gods I'm a pretty sound sleeper, if I had woken up I would have screamed and been really grossed out!!! YUCK talaga!!! I mean, how uncivilized can you be, even if you're a stupid drunk?!?!

He also doesn't like to sleep without lights - ang duwag talaga!!! Dios me!!! Sorry na lang sya, I embrace the darkness... mas takot ang multo sa kin dahil tinatarayan ko sila. I swear, one time, I felt like there were other things in my room, I got up and yelled at them - Alis, kwarto ko to, lumipat kayo sa iba, puñeta! - nawala sila. ^_^ The only time I got really scarred was when I saw my Dad, kasi suot nya ung pang-burol nya! hihihihi!

The only good thing about my uncle's being here is that he brought crabs with him... and I love crabs! As far as I know, I'm the only person on this planet who can eat an entire crab using a spoon and a fork - everyone else I know uses their hands. It's a talent, what can I say? ^_^ Sana ganon na lang palagi - magdadala si tito dito ng crabs, tapos aalis na agad sya, para masaya ang mga buhay buhay namin dito (and by namin, I mean me!).

Chicken Little

He entered class today with his usual taranta-charm, late again - his fourth tardiness, I believe. One thing was different though, he was wearing a baseball cap - backwards. If he weren't so cute, I'd have slapped him silly for wearing a baseball cap in my classroom, forget the fact that he was wearing it backwards (which would have warranted a high kick in addition to the slaps). I gave him a funny look so he took the cap off... The result, his bangs were up WAAYYYYYYYYY in the air. He looked absolutely precious, I wish I had a camera. I giggled softly, and he put his cap back on.

Oh dear... with hair up like that he looked a lot like Chicken Little! Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ^_^ He really did! But in a good, adorable, I-want-to-hug-and-make-kurot-and-kagat-you way....

Gigil... The uncontrallable urge to bite someone... I heard that from one of the speakers in a youth conference that I attended (yes, I DID attend one, it was good, except Dick Gordon - who was given an hour speak - yapped on and on for 2 and a half hours! DEAR GOD!!!). The gigil quote was from one of the Englishmen there; he'd moved to the Philippines and married a Filipina, and he said that to describe how he felt about her.

That's how I feel for him. Bite, bite, bite!!! Kurot, kurot, kurot!!! Kakainis! Sarap lamutakin! (makes gigil on the keyboard) In a non-sexual way, of course - I don't find him sexy really, he's just immensely adorable. He's not that good-looking either - seriously, the boy need a bit more chin and a lot more fat - but he is nakakagigil. He's not hot at all, as Patrick would describe the occasional hottie who passed our way (btw, I would always choose cute over hot anyday ^_^) He's unlike my other student who is soooooo hot, he makes his classmates' eyes water - literally. I don't think notice, but I've seen a couple of girls looking at him in a not-so-innocent way. Haha!

Anyway, back to Chicken Little... wala na ko masabi e. Basta ang cute nya! Yun lang! ^_^

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Io son Divino - Io son l'amore

I am divine - I am love.

Words from Umberto Giordano's La Mamma Morta from his opera Andre Chenier. It describes how Madeleine de Coigny, a Parisian noble-woman, witnessed when she was young how a mob of angry revolutionists killed her mother at her doorstep then set fire to her home. She was saved by her loyal maid, Bersi, who raised her and "bargained her beauty" for her.

Surrounded by fear, hunger, poverty and illness, Madeleine was visited by love -

Vivi ancora! Io son la vita!
Ne' miei occhi è il tuo cielo! Tu non sei sola!
Le lacrime tue io le raccolgo! Io sto sul tuo cammino e ti sorreggo!
(You must live! I am life!
Heaven is in my eyes!
You are not alone!
Let your tears fall on my breast!
I will walk with you and be your support)

Sorridi e spera! Io son l'amore!
Tutto intorno è sangue e fango?
Io son divino!
Io son l'oblio!
Io sono il dio che sovra il mondo scendo da l'empireo,
Fa della terra un ciel!
Io son l'amore, io son l'amor, l'amor"
(Smile and hope! I am love!
Is everything around you blood and mud?
I am divine!
I am oblivion!
I am the god who descends from heaven to earth
And makes of earth a heaven
I am love, love, love)
In this aria, Madeleine, who has fallen in love with Andre Chenier and his ideals, pleads with a revolutionary general for the sake of Chenier. She describes how love has saved her at her saddest moments, how love had come to her to offer her hope and oblivion from her troubles. But by the end of the opera, she ascends the gallows (guillotine, actually) with Chenier....
This is one of my favorite arias, and I think I first heard it when I was at Tower Records Makati, they were playing the soundtrack of Philadelphia (where Tom Hanks plays this for the homophobic, opera-ignorant Denzel Washington). When I went to the States, I saw a 2-CD collection of Maria Callas recordings and I bought it. This is track 14. That was 5 years ago, and to this day, it still manages to capture my heart and move me in ways I can't really describe.
The aria is about the saving power of love. We all know that love can be anyone's salvation. Take Eric, the Phantom of the Opera, for instance. Witnessing how Christine would have gladly given her life and freedom for Raoul, he lets them go.
This, I think, is the main reason why people want to be in love - why I want fall in love. I need to be saved from a life of blood and mud. It's difficult to describe the feelings this aria arouse in me without hearing it (so people with MP3s, please download it, check for the lyrics and translations also). That lone, lovely, immensely emotional cello accompanying Madeleine's pleas is as heart-wrenching as is humanly possible. That is the perfect description I can give for what I feel. Immensely alone. (wow... point of illumination in progress....)
I need to fall in love. Like Madeleine, I need my Chenier, and if I cannot have him, I might as well have my head cut off. I remove all pretentions of not wanting love. I need to be honest with myself - I need a leading man in my opera. I don't want this to turn into a lonely Vagina Monologue; I would take even the most self-obsessed, pseudo intelligent man I could find, love him with all my heart, have him break my heart, and then turn this opera into Medea where I destroy the very nature of our love, by destroying what we had created together. I would even take a womanizer, then show him the nobility of my heart by letting him go so that he can be happy - the my life would mirror that of Norma. I could take a man forced to make my lover, while I love another man - then I would go insane and kill him, then I'd kill myself so that I'd be like Lucia di Lammermoor. I could take a lover who hates my family so that I could spurn them, have them curse me, so I would need to hide somewhere, forever cursed like Leonora in La Forza del Destino....
On the other hand, the second part of the aria is not quite as sad as the first, but it is in no way less emotional. In fact, from the time Madeleine utters Porto sventura a chi bene mi vuole... Fu in quel dolore... (I bring misfortune to those who love me... In this sorrow) up until the end when love exclaims her powers, Callas' voice continually ascends, lending further emotion to the song. This is the feeling that I get at the very thought of being in love - excited, frantic, anticipative but dreadful as well.
Why am I so afraid of love? Madeleine answers this as well... Love, whether its presence of the lack thereof, brings a person to oblivion - straight to the guillotine. It is love that saved Madeleine de Coigny, but it is also love that destroyed her.
Still, without love Madeleine would not have been saved by her mother, or by Bersi. Taking love from Madeleine would be like taking the cello out of the aria - it would make it hollow, bland, and useless. And Andre Chenier would not be Andre Chenier if not for Madeleine's love... This is the power of love.
Without Alfredo Germont, Violetta would keep the pretense of being a happy courtesan, content on throwing parties and entertaining friends. No older Germont would approach her, asking her to give up her happiness for the sake of Alfredo's younger sister. There would be no drama, as Violetta wilts away with consumption; she would not be waiting for Alfredo to return to her, so that she may live still. She would fall dead on the floor with only her maid and companion. Without love, Violetta Valery - the one who strayed - would not be La Traviata...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Champagne and Coca-cola...

Diva Maria Callas was once the rival of soprano Renata Tebaldi. Their fans were also very loyal; the Callasites and Tebaldists made their rivalry worse, but it's a lot more fun that way. In a benefit concert in Rio de Janeiro, Callas sang Sempre Libere from Verdi's La Traviata and Tebaldi sang Ave Maria from the same composer's Otello. Callas withdrew after her curtain call, but Tebaldi gave two encores after hers; she did this despite an agreement not to do any encores. Maria took this action as an attack, and from then on, they withdrew their civility.

When Callas was started singing in La Scala in Milan, Renata's home-base, things got really interesting. Tebaldi refused to appear in the same House and was thrown out, so Callas was instilled as the Prima Donna of the House. To this, Callas remarked that Tebaldi was an artist who had to backbone - she had not even fought for her place at the House. Tebaldi, of course, replied: "The signora says that I have no backbone. I reply that I have one great thing that she has not - a heart."

La Tigre, naturally, would not keep silent long. She was quoted, "If the time comes when my dear friend Renata Tebaldi sings Norma or Lucia one night, then Violetta, La Gioconda, or Medea the next - then and only then will we be rivals. Otherwise, it is like comparing Champagne with Cognac - no with Coca-cola."

Another time, Maria attended a performance of Renata's. She was only in the audience but the applause she received was longer and louder than the ones given at the time of Tebaldi's curtain call. This, of course, enraged Tebaldi. She screamed and screamed in the wings of the theatre until she had to go out and greet the crowd - along with Maria, who had come to offer her hand in friendship. "I want to close this chapter of my life." Of course, everything was for show - to quell the Callasites and Tebaldists.

That rivalry still exists today - after both parties are dead: Callas way back in 1977, and Tebaldi only recently in 2004. The Callasites and Tebaldists still lurk in chatrooms and mailing lists. I am, of course, a devoted Callasite.

Callas' singing is passionate, enraged, expressive, and heart-wrenching. Tebaldi’s is sweet, pure, angelic, and divine. Of course, I can’t really compare them. I only have a snippet of Tebaldi’s Un bel di Vedremo (Madama Butterfly: Puccuni) and a copy of her Pace, pace (La Forza del Destino: Verdi), while I have tons of Callas records!

Tebaldi’s Pace, pace is exquisite and refined; angelic, and very well executed. Her phrasing is good, her pronunciation clear. But Callas’ version is shakey, scary, frightful and uncertain. This is how Leonora is supposed to be sung! In this scene, she pleads to God to grant her peace - after she is cursed by her father who is accidentally killed by her lover from a rival family, and now that her own brother is after her life.

The snippet of the Un bel di Vedremo (We will see a beautiful day) aria goes on only for about 30 seconds. But I know that Tebaldi delivers this aria in the same manner she delivers the Pace, pace: pure and cherubic. This works for this role because Cio-cio San is supposed to be a young geisha. For Callas, however, the little girl voice needs a lot of work. We hear with voice in two other works: first, Bellini’s La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker) where Amina is a young, unknowing sleepwalker (duh!); and second in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), where Rosina is a young, coy student, who plots to make Lindoro fall in love with her.

The rest of the aria (Callas’ version) is passionate, hopeful, and heart-wrenchingly sad – with ecstatic overtones that make it appear as if Cio-cio San is actually trying to convince herself that her American Soldier will appear in the horizon to take her and their child off to a better life. (I know… it is soooooo Ms. Saigon!!! Which part? I Still Believe!)

So anyway, as long as there are records to buy and fans to bitch, and mailing lists that serve as venues for bitching, the Callas-Tebaldi rivalry will never end. There will always be unyielding Tebaldi fans who insist that beauty of voice, clarity of tone, and sweet, angelic natures are what make the world of opera go round. And there will always be diva-loving, expression expressing, technique-over-beauty Callasites who insist that operas revolve around one person – the soprano. Then there are those who take the middle ground, like me. After all, you can’t really compare the two divas. They sang mostly different roles, and the ones they did share, they interpreted differently. But, as Maria said, Champagne vs. Coca-cola… your choice…/gg