The Legends and the Classics
Muses of song, dance and music
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte
For the first time, Lea Salonga, Lisa Macuja and Cecille Licad are sharing the stage for two incomparable evenings of show-stopping performances. Dubbed “The Legends and The Classics,” the weekend show, aside from showcasing their individual repertoires, will fuse song, music and dance into one perfect harmony.
The three are kindred spirits; sharing a passion for the performing arts. All have started young and have achieved unparalleled heights in their respective careers. So much so that they have become veritable icons – Lea in musical theater, Lisa in classical ballet, and Cecille in classical music.
“Rehearsing those numbers will be incredible already. I don’t think anything like this has ever been done before. It is three artists, each from a distinct discipline, but all joined by music. This should be something very special. Since we are different from one another in discipline, no one upstages the other. In doing your best, you fuel the others to do the same. We have control over our respective repertoires,” intoned the doting mother of Beverly Nicole. Lea paces and prays, after vocalizing, and stays hydrated all day during performance dates.
A multi-awarded Filipino singer and actress, Lea is best known for her acclaimed portrayal of Kim in the musical Miss Saigon. In the field of musical theater, she is recognized for having won the Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Theater World awards, as the first artist to win these prestigious international awards for a single role. She was also the first Asian to play Eponine (and ultimately Fantine) in Les Miserables on Broadway, at the behest of producer and mentor Cameron Mackintosh.
Salonga started as a child star in the Philippines, making her professional debut in 1978 at the age of seven through the Repertory Philippines’ production of The King & I . In a sterling career spanning three decades, she has performed for five Philippine presidents (from Ferdinand Marcos to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), three American presidents (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush), as well as for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
“The show was originally the idea of Atty. Katrina Legarda who wanted to bring the three of us together in a charity fund-raiser show. I got very, very excited to do something like this together with Lea and Cecille and I immediately said yes and support such a project. It didn’t push through that time and I was disappointed. But the idea stuck,” shared show producer Lisa Macuja. She doesn’t eat 4-6 hours prior to any show. Lisa usually attends ballet classes with lots of stretching, full bars and jumps, and then tries on all of her ten pointe shoes, one by one, before hugging the spotlight.
Fast-forward to several years later, the prima ballerina was thinking of a special production for 2012 and decided that the botched fund-raiser project would be it. She was further encouraged by the enthusiastic response she got from Cecille and Lea when the concept was broached to them.
“It is such a great concept, that it was difficult to keep it at a two-hour running time, because there were just so many things you want to do with this kind of combination. We are all going onstage and doing what we do best. We will all have our individual numbers where we will be solo performers then we will have collaborative numbers together. A concert like this is a very rare occasion. It might never happen again. It’s a dream show worth doing before I retire,” she added.
Lisa has achieved a dream that is generally believed to be impossible for a ballerina in the Philippines – bring ballet to the people and people to the ballet. A true believer not only in the immense talent of the Filipino artist but also the underlying capacity of the local audience to embrace the classical arts, she returned to her Homeland after four years in Russia, determined to be a Philippine-based international artist and make ballet a spectacle that is accessible and enjoyable to her own countrymen.
Undoubtedly the most phenomenal prima ballerina the Philippines has ever produced, the easiest way to sum up her unparalled career is by totting up the numbers: 27 years of dancing the lead in 300 full-length ballets, performing in 90 cities around the globe, spanning five continents.
In 1982, she received a scholarship from the USSR Ministry of Culture to study at the formidable Vaganova Choreographic Institute (Now the Academy of Russian Ballet) in St. Petersburg, where she graduated at the top of her class. She then became the first foreigner to be invited to join as soloist of the Kirov Ballet, a revered institution in Dance that has produced some of the most legendary Russian ballet dancers over the last three centuries.
“I’ve always been open to new things and experiences. They’re crazy like me. This must be fun! We’re always laughing so it’s a good sign. Making an art out of making a mess is good vibes!” laughed of the witty, albeit quiet, piano virtuoso. Cecille eats siling labuyo (fresh chili peppers) prior to playing on stage to keep her ‘alive.’
Called a “pianist’s pianist” by The New Yorker, Licad’s artistry is a blend of daring musical instinct and superb training. Her natural talent was honed at the Curtis Institute of Music by three of the greatest performers/pedagogues of our time: Rudolf Serkin, Seymour Lipkin and Mieczylaw Horszowski. Cecille’s large repertoire as an orchestral soloist spans the classical works of Mozart and Beethoven, the romantic literature of Brahms, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Rachmaninoff; and on the 20th century compositions of Debussy, Ravel, Shostakovich, Profokiev and Bartok.
She began her piano studies at the age of three with her mother, Rosario Licad, and later studied with the highly-respected Rosario Picazo. At seven, she made her debut as soloist with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. As one of the youngest musicians to receive the prestigious Leventritt Gold Medal, Cecille won immediate international recognition, and her career was launched.
“The Legends and the Classics” brings together the outstanding talent and impeccable showmanship of three Filipinas who have shone brightly on the international stage and brought home countless accolades for their country. Each of them represents a lifelong dedication to the arts – whether in theater, music or dance – where success is forged only through long years of training, unwavering commitment and an iron-clad will in the pursuit of excellence.
“It took months to do the concept of this show. The impediment of their big names became a fueling force rather than a stumbling block. It’s such a joy to see all three, blend and collaborate. We will be using video screens as backdrop into various segments. They have to be watched live and not as pictures on a textbook in Araling Panlipunan,” confessed show director Roxanne Lapus.
“The Legends and the Classics” goes on stage on March 17 at 8 pm and on March 18 at 6 pm at the CCP Main Theater (Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo). The concert also features musical director Gerard Salonga & FILharmoniKA, Ballet Manila and internationally-acclaimed cellist Wilfredo Pasamba, who will fly to Manila from the US just for the show. Tickets are available at all Ticketworld outlets. For details, check out www.ticketworld.com.ph or simply call 891-9999.