Vissi d'arte

from lullaby to requiem

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Blind Windows...

*Blind Windows is from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical Sunset Boulevard. Wala lang!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Reflections... and then some

From Verdi's La Traviata, we now move to Puccini's tragic opera Tosca and her desperate plea to the heavens - Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore, which translates to "I lived for art, I lived for love."

As Traviata was the story of a dying courtesan and her doomed love, Tosca is the tale of an actress desperate to escape Napoleon's grip on Rome. Her lover, Mario Cavaradossi, aides an escaped prisoner from Castel Sant'Angelo (the same Castle used in the da Vinci Code) from the Roman consul Baron Scarpia. Scarpia arrests Mario and tortures him for information about the prisoner (forgot his name); Flora Tosca tries to help Mario by agreeing to sleep with Scarpia in exchange for Mario's freedom and a safepass to get out of Rome - per sempre (forever). So Scarpia gives orders to his minions that Cavaradossi was to be given a false execution at 4 o'clock at the highest tower of Castel Sant'Angelo, come Conte Palmieri (like Count Palmieri). As Scarpia makes his move towards Tosca, she grabs his (steak) knife and stabs him to death - Ti suffoca il sangue?? Mouri dannato!!! Mouri! Mouri! MOURI!!! (Is your blood choking you? Die you #*##*$@#*!!! [I'm paraphrasing] Die! Die! DIE!!!).

Before she leaves, she takes the safepass which Scarpia had written prior to his stabbing, and takes off to give Mario the good news - he will be given a mock execution, and they will leave Rome together. But it turns out Scarpia had given his minions orders to go through with the execution anyway, just as they had done with Count Palmieri. So, Tosca sits in a quiet place admiring how well Mario was playing his role of execution-victim. She walks over to his body, and realizes that he is indeed dead. Scarpia's minions then appear (apparently they'd discovered Scarpia's body and with a quick CSI study, they come to the conclusion that Tosca had murdered Scarpia). Tosca, knowing that all is lost, runs towards the edge of the tower, and with departing words - O, Scarpia, avanti a dio! (Scarpia, before God!) - she leaps off the tower to her death.

Sometime in between the torturing and the stabbing, the opera's action breaks and Puccini inserts the wondeful aria Vissi d'arte. Some people view it as a prayer actually, since it's addressed to God - in the middle Tosca complains that after doing good all her life and devoting it to Love and Art; why, in the end, is this my reward? Although oddly placed, the aria lends life to the opera's second act; still I love the part where Tosca turns the tables around and tortures Scarpia - Questo il baccio di Tosca! (This is Tosca's kiss)... Mouri dannato... E uccisi da una donna! M'hai assai torturata? Odi tu ancora? Parla! Son Tosca! Oh Scarpia! (You are killed by a woman! Did you torment me enough? Can you still hear me? Speak! I am Tosca!) Here Tosca shows her inner strength; her shouts of Son Tosca amidst Scarpia's cries of Aiuto! (Help!) are exclamations of her revealing herself for the first and final time in the opera - that she, instead of being a lousy push-over actress, was actually a tigress. But then again, she does jump off the tower. In one production, a somewhat overweight soprano was singing Tosca (can't recall if it was Montserrat Caballe or Nellie Melba), and instead of leaping off the stage into the background, she simply walked off... hihi! Incidentally, this was the opera with which Callas started her professional career in Athens in 1942; and she ended it with a revival of Tosca at Covent Garden, London in 1965 - standing room tickets sold for around 50 pounds, equivalent to almost 600 pounds today.

I chose to change the title from La Traviata (The One who Strayed) not only because 'The one who strayed' strangely reminds me of cats dying in the streets, but also because the last year has taught me more about art than any other year. I'm not talking about opera as my art - the gods didn't exactly bless me with a beautiful voice, neither did they gift Callas with this, but then they gave her an excellent ear for music and an innate understanding of its artistry - they only gave me good ears. I'm talking about the art of Communication, which I teach. Segue to another of Puccini's operas, this time the sad tale of Cio-cio San as Madama Butterfly.

The subtext on the new title is taken from the first few lines of yet another aria, Un bel di. See, arias are named after the first few words of each song - Casta Diva (Bellini: Norma - Casta diva che inargenti, questa sacre antiche pianti.. blahbityblahblah), O Mio Babbino Caro (Puccini: Gianni Schicci - O, mio babbino caro, mi piace e bello, e bello....), Ritorna Vincitor! (Verdi: Aida - Ritona vincitor! E dal mio labboro usci l'empio parole) - you get the picture. This time it's Un bel di, vedremo levarsi un fil di fumo sull'estremo confin del mare; e poi la nave appare (One beautiful day we shall see coming from a strand of smoke over the far horizon of the sea; and then a ship appears). Taken also from Act II, Cio-cio San sits patiently at her window and explains to her maid, Suzuki, her hope of one day seeing the return of her American Navy officer husband Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton. Another heart-wrenching plea, this time for hope, comes from Puccini's heroine, an act and a few scenes away from killing herself - this time so that her son could become an American.

If you're thinking that I'm gonna kill myself - you're wrong. I don't have suicidal tendencies - I outgrew them, along with wearing my hair short. The point is, the past year has become one of the most exciting - albeit completely harassing - years of my life. Try finishing your thesis, defending it, graduating (with, ehem... honours), finding a job that you like, adjusting to your "new" life, going into grad school (where one of my former professors is my classmate), standing in front of students when your barely older (or wiser) than them, worrying about what to wear, your weight, and trying to find the love of your life in one year and see how well you'll do. The fact is, last year was a whirlwind of new experiences which have made me mature far too fast - not even a year ago, I was ogling at cute freshies (who happen to be my students now - hello ***s and *e***! You know who you are...) and thinking how my baon of P150 a day would allow me to buy my next opera having gotten bored with the others I've studied and memorized. Now, I have money to buy cute girly/gay shirts that I want, sandals which were designed for women, colourful sarongs, gay-oriented books, Oscar de la Renta glasses, and recordings of Macbeth, Butterfly, Tristan and Isolde, Turandot (none of which feature Callas), and other stuff... Please do not misunderstand - my salary does not allow me to buy these luxuries. I am solely able to buy these because I don't pay for my food at home, or the electricity which I squander downloading mp3s, or most of my clothes and shoes (sandals). My mom takes care of all of these. If I had to, I can spend no more than P50 a day - 30 pesos going to school (pedicab - bus - jeep) and P20 going home (Fx - Fx - asenso na, hindi na ko nagji-jeep papunta Quiapo and then home... I walk home though, exercise... Hihi!). I can skip lunch because I don't like eating at the cafeteria (okay, sometimes I do), at home I can make Macaroni and Cheese or have steaks and lambchop with mashed potato sidings (So much for the exercise!) for free (courtesy of my mom). But spending my money - or not spending it - hasn't exactly made me feel mature.

What really makes me feel mature (old...) is the fact that I have responsibilites now... I have a ton of papers to grade, and I have to check all of them... I read all of them, even though sometimes I skip a few paragraphs (or pages, depending on how well, or rather how badly it was written). I feel guilty when I don't give a paper enough time and effort, so I have to re-check the ones which scored low. I also have bills now... In addition to paying for opera recordings and my own clothes and kikay stuff, I now have to pay for my Globe line, my DSL, and my phone (which I got at zero interest - thank the gods)... plus the constant gimmicks and going-out with my friends (whom I'm getting to know better - thanks to our maturity, as well... hey, no one said growing old doesn't have its perks). Not that I don't like going out with them; I actually love going out with them, I've been very close to a few of them since Darcy left - I sort of filled in for his position. I've been going out with Nelson, Boom, Patrick, and the Kanto girls more often since I graduated - I haven't seen so much of these people since High School - during my undergrad days, we had to schedule a get-together months ahead; now, I'm only one text away.

That's not all. Since Butterfly and Tosca sing of Hope and Despair, respectively, I figured I could change the title of this blog to Vissi d'arte because I find most of my hope siphoning off from finding a great boyfriend to having great students. Translation: My art has moved from Boy Watching to Teaching - Career Development ito! It's not very likely that I'll meet my future partner in the academe, and it's very likely that I'll end up as an old maid occupying the Dean's office - my God, can you imagine a bitter old Mikee telling students off for running in my prestine hallways (which I plan to redecorate, along with probably the entire RH building, starting with the DAC and Speech classrooms)? But I really don't care now. I'm more at peace with the fact that I'll be living alone in my three-floor condo, with probably 10 toy dogs and a few cats, and a statuette of my beloved Bailey (my boxer, who currently has breast cancer, poor deary... sob), inviting friends to have high teas and chatting about whom we had sex with in high school (well... whom they had sex with in high school; I spent my high school days worshipping at the altar of Vesta - and Hecate... I still do, occasionally).

There is hope, of course. It is pointless to live a life without hope, and since we already decided that I wasn't suicidal; I choose to live life with hope, still. Afterall, Pinkerton returned to Butterfly at the end of Act III; of course, he was late and the opera ends (exactly like Miss Saigon) with Pinkerton calling out Butterfly! Butterfly!!! as Cio-cio San strangles herself with a silk scarf. Note to self - stay away from silk scarves... Stick to the silk neckties your father left you... Hihihi!

Still, you could always go back to Violetta Valery:

Sempre libera degg'io
Folleggiar di gioia in gioia,
Vò che scorra il viver mio
Pei sentieri del piacer,
Nasca il giorno, o il giorno muoia,
Sempre lieta nè ritrovi.
A diletti sempre nuovi
Dee volare il mio pensier.

Forever free, I will be
Frolicking from one joy to another,
I want my life to run
Through the roads of pleasure.
Although the day is born and dies,
I shall always be happy with my [friends]
To new joys,
My mind will always fly.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Flangangang flat na pagtinapon mo ay babalik sa 'yo na ang tawag ay frisbee!

My last post was about gay literature - well, here's a bit more. *Warning spoilers ahead

Last Saturday, my friends (Boom, Mark, Nelson, and Patrick) saw a musical at CCP. The musical we watched was far from the usual musicals with young singers falling for masked genuises; it was gay-themed and extremely hilarious - Zsazsa Zaturnnah: Ze Muzikal.

It's based on a graphic novel called Ang Kagilagilalas na Pagsasapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah by Carlo Vergara. It's the story of this gay parlorista (Ada) and how he transforms into the red-haired superhero (Zsazsa), as her/his (I'm confused now - damn the sexist English language) assistant Didi plots to him together with hunky neighbor Dodong. It's gonna be difficult to write a review of this in English, so magtotogalog na lang ang lola nyo! Maraming nawawala kasi pag nag-English akech.

Mega-wait ever kami sa lobby, checking out the people there. Maraming boys - puro paminta; except for that junior OrCom student who was there, wearing a green tight-fit shirt that hugged his body, and his usual killer smile. This guy is so adorable, he could give equally hunky Dodong (played by Arnold Reyes) a run for his money (and his shirt). Ang mga kampon ng lola nyo (aka. my friends), mega-gawk ever, of course. Nakakahiya nga e; we entered the Little Theatre (Tanghalang Huseng Batute) early because we arrived more than an hour before the show. We got to pick the best seats. The theatre was small and square-shapped, with a phallus-shapped runway that was colored baby blue and pink. OC-boy was sitting in the third row on the left side of the room, perpendicular to our seats (2nd row) - as such, maganda ang view ng kabaklaan - both of the stage and of OC-boy.

The cast for that performance included Agot Isidro as Queen Femina Suarestellar Baroux, Arnold Reyes as Dodong, and the staples Eula Valdes as Zsazsa, Tuxqs Rutaquio as Ada, and the fabulous Ricci Chan as Didi. When I heard Eula was doing Zsazsa, I was a little apprehensive. I didn't know that she could sing (my voice si lola, in fairness!), and she's known for her dignified, noble and refined/poised roles on TV - hindi ko alam kung carry nyang maging bakla. In fairness ulit, mas bakla pa sya sakin!!! Her performance was absolutely marvelous - who knew she could belt out "Babae na ako" while showing the audience her fake boobs and flaming red pubic yarn? In all, she was the play's biggest revelation.

Agot Isidro as the English-speaking Queen Femina Suarestellar Baroux was perfectly suited for the role. She was tall, refined, and graceful with the right amount of villainy (and little-girl idiosy) required of the role. Her voice was perfect as well, there were some shrill parts, but it was a wonderful vocal performance in all. Her Amazonistas - Nora A., Vilma S., Sharon C., and Dina B. - were also very well suited to their roles. Dina B was played by Wilma Doesnt - who can't sing, so her solo had parts of breaking glass sound effects. Sharon C. has a great voice, pang birit - and I could tell Vilma C. was a classically trained soprano. ^_^

Hotty Dodong was hottttt!!! Grabeh! His first scene was appearing at this curtained stall on the left side of the room - on the far end of OC-boy's row. He took his clothes off - and I forgot all about Ada and Didi as they sang their respective desires for love - some more explicitly than others - "Braso pa lang ay ulam na, bigyan mo akong tinidor at ng kuchara." In the immortal words of Didi - buong-buo ang noodles!!! He could sing too! Like Agot, every time he would sing "Ikaw ang superhero ng buhay ko," the ikaw sounded a little shrill, pero carry naman. In the scene where he was being molested/abused by horny zombies - we actually see the top part of his butt - ay, umikot ang bahay-bata ko... hihihi!!! At the end of the show, I asked him to sign my newly bought Zsazsa book, and he signed: "Ang superhero ng buhay ko... IKAW." O, kaya nyo yun?!?! Ang haba ng hair ko, ang tagal nya kasing pumipirma, kala ko nilalagay nya ung number nya - hahahahahaha! Nangarap ang bakla...

Tuqxs as Ada was perfect. He was refined, reserved, and was cynical about love. Sounds like someone we know... His voice wasn't good, but it was ok - it sounds much better on the soundtrack. The humour he employed was very under-the-table, very subtle and (at some points) unexpected. Nakakatawa ung last part, when Ada was contemplating on leaving for Manila, and he pulls out a bag that perfectly matched his pink polka-dotted shirt and headband. Hihihi!

Despite fabulous performances by all the leads - the show belonged to Ricci Chan's Didi. He was as bakla as is humanly possible, and so funny; the audience loved him! As he announced the intermission, he spoke in gay lingo - although even my friends could not understand most of it, we understood the gist. Lots of people in the audience were clueless, so Ricci said it again in bad English, with a side comment to the pamintas - "Out na si Rustom, kayo kelan pa?" Hahaha!!! And in the scene, just before Didi dies, he gets up and walks along the phallic runway looking for gays in the audience - momentarily stopping in front of me and my friends (but we were all so obviously gay, it would be redundant to point us out). He settles on OC-Boy - "Sana bakla ka..." I know he's not (but he does look like your typical "bisexual"). It was really funny.

The show itself was hilarious - because the comic book was, and the play was very faithful to the novel. There were, of course, adlibs and additions like Didi's making pansing the VO's (voice-over) saying Zaturnnah! every time Ada transforms; and Didi putting on make-up ("O, walang salamin!") and a surgical mask before Zsazsa appears complete with smoke effects. Although some jokes, you need to be gay to understand - like the Flanganah jokes. Flanganah means correct or equivalent to a Duh! Didi makes three flanganah jokes: Flanganang flat na ang tawag ay tray; Flanganang malalim na ang tawag ay drum; and my favorite: Flanganang flat na pagtinapom mo ay babalik sa 'yo na ang tawag ay frizzbeee. Another gay joke was in the scene where Ada was in the shower singing (something obscene), and the Zaturnnah stone hits him. He rushes out of the shower in a bathing gown yelling "Didi!!! Binabato ang bahay natin! Hate crime ito!!!" Of course, I know how serious hate crimes are (although they're not very common in the Philippines), I thought it was ok to poke fun at hate crimes - since Ada was gay and all.

As I said earlier, Ricci Chan stole the show. Did's character livens up the production with outrageous costumes (I want one of his 'Dyosa' shirts!) matched with silly hairstyles - not to mention his great punchlines. He used language that was very bakla at the appropriate times - Malaysia Truly Asia; Sa keps! Tirahin mo sa keps! (as he was coaching Zsazsa as she was battling Queen Femina); in his own solo - Ricci breaks off and says "Puta! Ang taas!" refering to the high notes; and the part as Didi suddenly gathers strength and courage and defends Dodong from the mumu crowd. That was another funny thing - imagine hotty Dodong refering to the zombies as 'mumu' - it was so juvenile, but kinda endearing. Also, Agot Isidro's straight English was great - nakakatawa ung exhange nila ni Eula: Zsazsa was using vulgar language ('Yu madapaking shit! Pak yu!") and Queen Femina with a simple 'Wench!' And of course, who could forget Zsazsa's hoarse shouts of "Ay, potah dila! YAAAKKKK!!!" as she was being swallowed by the giant palaka.

Despite the play being extremely funny, I found the music very good. I was expecting bad music and songs na pinilit ilapat sa story, but no - Vincent de Jesus' score and lyrics very appropriate. I bought the soundtrack - pero I think nagkamali ako, I didn't get the one with Agot and Arnold in the cast - I picked up the one with Kalila Agilos and Lauren Navaro. I've been listening to this soundtrack for days now, ang sarap pakinggan, nakaka-aliw. ^_^ Overall, the songs were happy and funny, but there are appropriate drama moments like Zsazsa and Ada's duet confronting the Multo ng Nakaraan, Zsazsa's Pagmumuni, Ada's Ayoko nang Mabuhay ng Ganito, and my favorite - Dodong's kakakilig-aria Ikaw ang superhero ng buhay ko.

I love the duet between Ada and Zsazsa because it hits very close to home. When the zombies attack, Zsazsa recognizes her dead father who disowned Ada for being gay. Zsazsa sings the first few lines and suddenly Ada appears and sings along with her this touching plea for a father's love. *Iyak (O cge na, psychoanalyze nyo ulit ako! Lalabas na naman ang mga chuvaness angstness). This song is probably the jewel in the entire musical - but it doesn't end up too serious as Ada's zombie father rips his head off to save himself from dealing with his gay son.

But the best part of the musical was when Dodong saves Ada (who has finally deafeten Queen Femina and her Amazonistas), and sings the love song Ikaw ang superhero ng buhay ko, which is reprised for the finale with the entire company. Dodong hands Ada flowers (complete with the nervous trembling of his hands), and asks "Pwede bang manligaw?" Ay putek!!! Ang haba ng hair ni Ada! If only may ganyan talagang tao sa mundo, which is probably another reason why the story is so interesting - hanggang sa pag-ibig Fantasy ang genre nya! Hihi! Ang cute din, when Ada gives in to Dodong, he sort of runs half-way through the runway and pauses - then somebody throws a lot multi-colored confetti on her (and the audience; I saw a lot fell on OC-boy - not that I was looking at him or anything!). Hihihi!!

At the end of the show, the cast greeted the people going out. We got to have our pictures taken with Agot and Eula and Tuqx - and Dodong of course! Arnold was even cuter up close! Hihi! We also got to have Zsazsa author Carlo Vergara sign copies of the graphic novel. ^_^ It was a great night, sana ma-extend pa ung show, I wanna go and see it again! ^_^