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Friday, October 3, 2008

La Boheme – the greatest love story ever sung

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
-- Corinthians 13:7-8

This verse resounded in my mind as I watched the rehearsals of La Boheme. I knew nothing of this opera and shrugged it as another one of those play. But after watching some acts and hearing from Floy mentioning it as one of the greatest love story ever sung, all I could do was nod.

The History:

La Boheme is considered one of the "three or four most popular operas in the repertory" (Groos and Parker, xi). The opera, with music by Giacomo Puccini and libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa is based on Murger's Scenes de la Vie de Boheme; it was Puccini's 4th opera and the second of his four most mature works: Turandot, La Boheme, Tosca and Madame Butterfly. It debuted in Turin, Italy on February 1, 1896 (Ashbrook, 115).

Its plot centers around a community of artists in Paris, particularly between the romantic relationship of poet Rodolfo and grisette Mimi. Like the parallel relationship of Rodolfo's roommate Marcello and the beautiful Musetta, Mimi and Rodolfo's love is not without conflict. At the end of the opera, however, they are united tragically as Mimi returns to the garret and dies there, surrounded by her friends. Musical devices emphazise the libretto, which consists of common language turned poetic. For example, when Rudolfo and Marcello burn Marcello's play for warmth, "the orchestra depicts the reviving fire with a brilliant texture of pizzicato strings and detached woodwind and brass chords" (Groos and Parker, 13).


The Rehearsals:

I was privy to a night of knitting for La Boheme ala Manila. It was just a rehearsal. But even with just Act 3 and 4, I wasn’t disappointed. Rather, I was like a child clamouring for more.

The rehearsals were non continuous as they needed to polish some orchestra – singer harmony and timing, but even with those, I was able to feel Puccini’s songs and possibly would’ve cried if not for the breaks. And it was in Italian for pete’s sake. My explanation? Love transcends language, time and place. La Boheme was a story of love. A story that makes every tune stand on its own even without the understanding of words.

I couldn’t comment much on technicalities as the rehearsals were still void of all those details. But even without microphones, each singer was able to be heard to most four corners of the theatre. They were not just actors. They were opera singers. Powerful voices. Powerful delivery. And I ask myself: How much more can they deliver on actual showing with all the microphones and light effects in place? I say a lot. I say a lot.

The Casts:

I didn’t know watching a rehearsal would be such a personal experience. I didn’t just see great singers belting out notes, what I saw were real people having fun. I saw how real and how un-diva like they were. With Gary goofing around each breaks and Jennifer and Ana flapping their arms flying back to their original position for a repeat act.

And it doesn’t help how Sir Floy Quintos built these actors in our hearts. It wasn’t just them being un-diva-ish nor their expected professionalism, its their passion for their art that caught my attention. They didn’t just sing for money (though that would really help much though), but for the exhilarated feeling of singing a wonderful opera. “Masabi ko lang na nakakanta ako sa CCP, ok na (With just the mere thought of me singing in CCP, is something already),” Floy quotes one singer.

*more of Floy Quinto’s thoughts on http://karlagutz.multiply.com/journal/item/124/LA_BOHEME_IN_MODERN_DAY_MANILA_WHY_NOT_by_Floy_Quintos
Rodolfo, a poet: Played by Gary Del Rosario, JUAN ALBERTO GAERLAN,
Mimi, a seamstress: Played by Jennifer Uy
Marcello, a painter: Played by LAWRENCE JATAYNA and
Musetta, a singer: Played by ANA FELEO and ELAINE LIM LEE
Schaunard, a musician: Played by JOHN OCAMPOS

*I might have missed some, so please pardon me and just seek the official list at Karla's site.

The Recommendation:

This will be my first opera. I expected boredom and a lot of yawning. But what I got was a happy heart and a couple of jumping feet (with excitement and inspiration).
A couple of tickets would be gateway to one memorable experience. Why a couple? GET A DATE. You’ll need a warm hand to hold hands with during the show, and cold lips to warm after the show.

Thank you Lorna

Thanks to the wonderful Lorna, I was able to watch Acts 3 and 4. And got a chance to talk with Floy Quintos (though he was addressing all of us, hehe).

Though I was a bit embarrassed with unexplainable shyness with her.

“Oh! I don’t have posters right now, sorry!” Lorna muttered as I said my thanks before leaving CCP.

Darn, I was remembered as the kid who asked for free posters for each play that I watched (First was Hamlet, then I think Avenue Q). Hehe.

Thanks again, Lorna!


For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
-- Matthew 6:21

13 mga umutot:

TheBachelorGirl said...

Oh, I'm so happy you liked it! And, I really think it's great you love the posters. We used to do that too and have them mounted. ;-)

Jowell said...

Hmmm... I'm not really into Musicals pero when a piece gets good reviews, dun ako nacu-curious and I may or may not watch it. Pero to date, wala pa akong musical, movie man or theater, na napapanood ng buo. Yup! Kahit High school musical...Haha.

Mugen said...

This is interesting. I wonder how it would come out if I blogged about the rehearsals.

Seriously Poi, your entry is a great read. A little more polishing and I tell you that you have a future writing in the lifestyle section of a broadsheet. :)

wanderingcommuter said...

if i remember it correctly, dito yata kinuha yung idea ng RENT... both almost have teh same characters and plots...

Toilet Thoughts said...

@Lorna: thanks sooo much! hmmm. my next play might be Hairspray in December or if I get the chance I'd watch Mulan. hehe.

@Jowel: You would love it. promise. You should have watched Avenue Q. I'm sure you would've completed watching that play.

@mugen: wow. thanks! OA nmn sa pambobola. hehe.

@Ewwik: yup! the Rent idea was based from this one. :)

P0ytee said...

Wow, good thing you watched La Boheme. I missed it! I would have gawked at how much powerful the voices were. :D

Anonymous said...

How does one enjoy an opera without hearing it? You can’t!

Immediately after Act 1 of “La Boheme”, at least 20 people left the theatre. Some went straight to the parking lot. While others, Filipinos and foreigners alike, went straight to the table (where the programs were sold) to express our disappointment and frustration. We simply could not hear the opera. With the exception of Rodolfo, one can barely hear the rest of the characters. Only Rodolfo’s soaring high notes that made an impression. This would have surely been a goose bump moment had there been a sound system.

The lack of acoustic enhancement was the tragic mistake. It is mind boggling to me that the Philippine Opera Company did not take careful measures to ensure the enjoyment of the first ever, full length opera with an all Filipino cast.

It was also quite annoying to see some characters dressed as if they were appearing in “Rent”. Layers of clothing, beanies and scarves were worn while they huddled in front of a fire. Seriously, it never gets that cold in Manila. The set design was a very poor and uninspired version of the “Rent”set design.

Whenever I watch an opera, I am prepared to hear magnificent voices, spectacular sets and grand costumes. Now, take the period costumes away and you are left with what looks like a run-through or rehearsal for an opera. I am not saying they need to be in evening gowns or showgirl costumes. But they could have at least given it more thought.
Rodolfo and Mimi’s outfits in Act 1 were beyond horrendous. Being Bohemian does not mean being “baduy” or devoid of style. In fact, the Bohemian style has even inspired haute couture.

Only three things were praise worthy of the October 4 performance: Rodolfo, Musetta and the video backdrop.

I immediately texted everyone I knew of this utter waste of time. Many had planned to go on the last night but opted not to because they have received similar warnings from other victimized friends.

the majority of the cast (except 2) seriously needed the aid of a sound system. though voices are beautiful, they simply aren't powerful enough to be heard.

patricia dizon said...

We watched the Friday, Oct 3rd show and all I can say was, "Wow".

Mimi (Jennifer Uy) sang so beautifully that by Act 3 I felt Mimi's pain as she was eavesdropping on Marcello and Rodolfo's conversation. Her voice was so focussed and clean. Truly elegant. Her clean lines were a good foil to Rodolfo (Gary Del Rosario).

I found them to be the perfect match.

For Mimi's death scene, I was seriously moved to tears. It was simply beautiful. Heartbreaking.

Bravo to Jennifer and Gary!

Toilet Thoughts said...

@Poyt: Yup. Sana mas masaya kung madami pang bloggers nakapunta.

Toilet Thoughts said...

@Anonymous: There were some things that I found weird that time of the rehearsal but I couldn't comment much as I was told we were watching something void of the polishes.

I'm sorry you felt that way. The voices were powerful and yes, Gary del Rosario's and Ana Feleo's voices were my favorites too. But if they opted to do without the microphones, most voices would have been drowned by the orchestra and seemed inaudible in the theater.

I found the set weird, but as the theater people explained it, they wanted to have the play transend language and time. I wasn't able to see the full set during the rehearsal, but yes, I was told it would be a "Manila" setting. Which I found rather daring. And as explained by one from the production, might make other audiences understand/ appreciate the opera more, even through the lack of Italian language understanding.

In anycase, comments like yours might help improve Philippine Opera productions in the future. Comments were made during the blogger's sneak peak. And i guess, the production staff had their reasons for doing such.

Oh well, I hope another opera comes up and we can compare.

Take care Anonymous! :)

Toilet Thoughts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toilet Thoughts said...

@Patricia: You should hear Jennifer Uy do an Alicia Keys. hehe.

They're good singers. Gary is actually already based abroad. :)

Galing no?

patrick said...

i watched this. it was beautiful.

of course, i love opera and musicals..

i'll see Terence McNally's Master Class this Friday, go see it. ^_^

this will be the first time i will complete an opera season. ^_^

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