Days after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was declared in Metro Manila, suspensions and cancellations of the current and upcoming productions of local theater companies followed.
The rest of REP’s 2020 season was postponed and will reopen its theater doors in 2021. Miong, REP’S first original Filipino musical in English, written by its former artistic director Joy Virata who contracted and survived the coronavirus infection, had its TV premiere. REP transitioned its intensive summer workshops online designed for kids, teens and adults including voice, dance and movement classes and introduced its digital newsletter REPartee.
ATEG canceled all March performances of The Band’s Visit and June performances of Oliver. Days prior to the ECQ, 9WT decided to postpone the next original musical production slated this month to next year.
“As the pandemic dragged on for four months, with no visible signs of letting up, we decided to postpone the November musical staging of The Bodyguard as well,” managing director and executive producer Santi Santamaria shared to Daily Tribune.
The same halting of shows held true with The 78Sandbox Collective, 9WT sister company, as confirmed by managing and artistic director Christopher “Toff” de Venecia. Pangasinan 4th District Representative de Venecia revealed to Daily Tribune that its festival was canceled, the restaging of Lungs and Every Brilliant Thing is slated on the 2nd quarter of 2021.
Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) resident drama company Tanghalang Pilipino streamed previous hits of the season in Pantawid Ng Tanghalan, online conversations with actor’s company in “Usapang Tanghalan” and recently introduced online concert series Handa Awit.
PETA’s artists and educators are offering summer workshops and creative webinars and streaming hit shows from last season.
The Philippine Opera Company (POC) presented online classical concert “Crescendo” followed by a seven-episode online series Dati Akong Paraluman featuring crossover performers and short verses poetry reading written by Jose Rizal. Although the PPO Concert Series VII was postponed, CCP’s resident symphony orchestra rendered an online performance billed as “Music for Healing,” a quarantine pocket concert series to uplift the minds and hearts of Filipinos in the midst of the quarantine period.
PPO’s other pocket concerts are by your bedside, in your living room and in your workplace. To promote the orchestra’s individual instruments, a virtual instrument petting zoo for children and families is being held every Sunday.
BP, the resident dance company of the CCP, unveiled its virtual stage for its 51st season with Redha’s Opera and emerged with an online masterclass featuring prima ballerinas and premier danseurs around the world. BM’s prima ballerina Lisa Macuja Elizalde offered online ballet fitness class and her thrilling and exciting performance from the company’s classic repertoires is being live-streamed.
Live experiencing vs live streaming
Performances from the MET, RoH, La Scala and other world-renowned theater and opera houses are being broadcast in cinemas and art centers worldwide in high-definition (HD) long before the pandemic started, including Broadway HD and National Theatre Live that features performing arts genres from the different theater districts.
In the Philippines, the CCP and Ayala’s Greenbelt Cinema regularly show the annual MET season.
Being a loyal admirer of the arts and devoted theatergoer and opera patron for 30 years, experiencing live performance is the most thrilling and rewarding experience. And the best way to catch the action is inside a venue equipped with the latest technology in lighting and acoustics.
From a very good sightline either in orchestra or parterre, the imaginative acts and creative scenes are impressive in front of the stage proscenium while the orchestra is playing on the pit. The liveliness of play monologues and musical soliloquies, opera arias, music compositions and arrangements and stunning movements and placements makes live performances unique. Unless you are willing to pay for the price and place, going to a theater and watching an opera will be just fine. Here in the Philippines, staging an opera is unusual due to the cost of mounting and lack of interest from the public, and to see Verdi or Puccini’s works, one must fly to New York, London or Milan.
There’s no show without an audience.
But when Barcelona’s Liceu Grand Theater reopened, the Uceli string quartet performed Puccini’s single-movement “Crisantemi” (Chrysanthemums) to 2,292 potted plant patrons enjoyed through live streams. Streaming live in the comfort of your home is now on-demand to enjoy the artistic quality and cinematic effects of this art masterpieces. Not only that it saves money and travel time, but you are also safe from contracting the coronavirus and infecting others.
While the experience is not as thrilling and rewarding compared to experiencing it live, streaming it live from your TV, phone and tablet is the most comfortable and affordable means to attend world-class theater and opera performance. With the help of technology, an innovative and immersive experience is achieved with educational, cultural and entertainment value.
From cinema broadcasts to live streams, it brings live performances to a wider audience and allows more people to discover the beauty of art genres without age restrictions. It also gives special access and features of the performance which are sometimes impossible and difficult to obtain on a live performance.
Instead of reading supertitles either on top of the proscenium, individual screens on the seatbacks or on stanchions while standing during a live performance, reading subtitles on the screen during live streaming is much easier. There are also backstage views for set changes and behind-the-scene interviews of the principal cast either during intermission or after the performance. To catch facial expression onstage, you must be seated near the orchestra pit while in live streaming be amazed at close-up shots which you can stare by pausing or hitting the playback button on your screen.
While the theater and opera are dark and performances are in hiatus around the world, the future of arts and culture is struggling during this pandemic. The economy is falling and government funding cannot sustain such great loss alone. While watching these art genres are free of charge, consider donating or subscribing to these companies and organizations to save and protect the arts. It is through the arts that we express and explore life’s story of faith and hope regardless of color and gender.
(With additional information from Jude Cartalaba of ABS-CBN Lifestyle, Oliver Oliveros of BroadwayWorld, Broadway.com, NationalTheatre.org.uk, Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House and Teatro alla Scala)