A spectacular Nutcracker, a unique ballet history /Scala tenor sings Dec. 14
SUNDRY STROKES - Rosalinda L. Orosa () - December 11, 2010 - 12:00am

At each Ballet Manila performance — the current one being “The Nutcracker” — amazement never ceases. The much larger cast now includes tiny ones dancing way past their bedtime while wonderfully keeping in step with the rest, grown-up ballerinas preserving high consistency in grace, precision and discipline, Ballet Manila’s hallmark, and danseurs showing increased buoyancy, their multiple tours and jetés en l’air soaring higher and ending in soft, controlled landings.

The age-old favorite Christmas ballet presents a fantastic fairyland, excitingly evocative, with giant toys and puppets magically coming to life. The Yuletide tree suddenly shoots up before the incredulous eyes of Little Masha, here portrayed by Lisa Macuja’s 12-year old daughter Missy Elizalde. She must have inherited her mother’s genes, enchanting viewers with her delightfully clean, neat technique, intelligent and eloquent miming that conveys innocence and wonderment.

Against fabulously radiant set designs — as can be seen only in Ballet Manila productions — national dances are performed, each riveting in its own distinctive style: Spanish (Francis Cascaño and Zaira Cosio), Chinese (Gerardo Francisco and Mylene Aggabao), Russian (Nino Guevarra, Yanti Marduli and Anne Gelvoria), Arabian (Nazar Salgado and Sarah Abigail Cruz), pas de trois (Alvin Santos, Sofia Peralta and Tiffany Chiong).

The soloists dance briskly and piquantly: Columbine (Mylene Aggabao), Harlequin (Roduardo Ma), the Moor (Gerardo Francisco), King Rat (Francis Cascaño) and Drosselmeyer (Marcus Tolentino), Little Masha’s uncle who “emcees” for the Christmas eve party of her parents (Eileen Lopez and Marvin Medina).

The costumes for this party do not quite blend harmoniously, but in the ensuing sequences, they are ravishingly elegant, creating with the stage settings an unmatched spectacle.

The toy soldiers and the horsemen battling the rats generate considerable excitement but it is the ballet blanc that is particularly arresting, the snowflakes in white tuttus turning and twirling in perfect line formations against white giant Christmas trees of varying lengths and sizes. The vision almost takes the breath away.

But the best comes when Little Masha and the Nutcracker are transformed into the Princess, Lisa, and the Prince, Rudy de Dios. The diamond in the jewelled crown, Lisa sparkles as usual, executing her arabesques, pirouettes and fouettés with an ethereal grace that goes with her assured, solid, brilliant technique, as impressive when she dances with five danseurs.

A splendid partner, Rudy lifts Lisa in daring stances that give the illusion of Lisa floating in mid-air while the audience watches in awe. De Dios, already authoritative, is steadily acquiring panache.

The solo divertissements are similarly spellbinding as Lisa and Rudy dance to Tchaikovsky’s score, one of the most grandiloquent and majestic in ballet music history. Again, the engaging ballerinas dance with crisply articulated, nuanced phrasing.

Every single ballerina and danseur, from the youngest to the oldest, contributes to making “The Nutcracker” the marvelously glittering show that generates the season’s joy and cheer.

Lisa, artistic director, Osias Barroso, artistic associate, and the Russian Natalia Raldugina, guest ballet mistress, play major roles in Ballet Manila’s rousing success, the latter two restaging the choreography of Vassily Vainonen. Fred Elizalde is credited with the architectural concept.

Amidst thunderous applause, Lisa and Missy deservedly take a special bow for the unique, incomparable bonding between mother and daughter, the first ever in ballet history.

* * *

On Dec. 14, 8 p.m. at the Philamlife Auditorium, Arthur Espiritu, the second Filipino singer to make it to La Scala Opera House (the first was Jose Mossesgeld Santiago Font), will sing in “Viva Bel Canto”. Co-featured is soprano Rachelle Gerodias, with the MSO assisting.

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