by Pablo A. Tariman


After the typhoons and weekly earthquakes in the South and pestilence in the North in 2019, we all welcomed 2020 with a ray of deep optimism.

We haven’t enjoyed our share of peace and quiet in January when Taal Volcano erupted resulting in a shower of boiling mud and volcano ashes shooting more than 15 kilometers into the skies.

The tales of displacements among people living around the volcano area are horrifying.

Houses in volcano island were submerged in ashes, countless animals were found dead but a few managed to survive, letting out a cry of relief while found cringing underneath abandoned houses.

This was the first month of the year when Donizetti’s opera, Lucia di Lammermoor, was in full rehearsal.

For non-opera followers, this is the same opera famous for its heroine’s bloody Mad Scene and the leading tenor’s gripping Tomb Scene.

On the week the Mad Scene of the French soprano Melody Leloudjian was being tried out on the CCP stage with initial ideas from the Italian director, this public servant famous for her pre-Duterte girlie shows, acted out another of a series of her mad scenes. She was promptly unmasked by netizens for what she is: a purveyor of fake news for which she receives a salary of P150,000 a month.

The lack of token intelligence was unmasked in another Lucia of Malacanang who resorted to red-tagging in an attempt to fast-track the imagined legacy of her big boss.

The wrath of the volcano has not quite died down when the spectre of coronavirus which started in Wuhan, China reared its ugly head and soon transported by Chinese visitors unto our shores.

For days since the story broke out in the papers, there was mysterious silence from Malacanang and not even a call for patience and vigilance from the country’s father figure. Earlier, he made tasteless jokes about volcanic ashes that he said he could pee on anytime and later, he said there was nothing to worry about the China virus finding its way in the Philippines. While other countries were closing their Chinese borders and cancelling flights, this leader voted by 16 million Filipinos did one more outrageous remark: Chinese visitors should be welcomed to avoid political repercussions.

Talk of a president worried to death about political repercussions while death toll on the deadly virus continues to rise.

In another theater at the CCP, a Belgian film called “King of the Belgians” was showing on the eve of the matinee performance of the Donizetti opera. It is about Belgium’s fictional king who goes to Turkey on a state visit and tries to refurbish his image through the help of a British filmmaker.

Filmmakers Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth added elements which include scenarios of an Icelandic volcano erupting. “Let’s drop a Belgian King in Istanbul, stir up a natural disaster, spark a political crisis and then launch him on a homeward overland journey that features trip-ups, show-downs and revelations.”

Talk of displacement as the essence of bizarre comedy.

The Mad Scene in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor pretty much reflect the country’s social and political landscape.

The Mad Scenes in the Palace acted out by a head of state and his minions continue to enjoy prime time TV exposure.

As if to divert attention from more Mad Scenes in the Palace, basketball superstar Kobe Bryant dies in a helicopter crash along with her daughter and seven others two days after the last performance of Lucia di Lammermoor.

Pianist Cecile Licad learned about Kobe Bryant’s death before her performance of Bach’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with Seattle Chamber Music Society. She was doubly shocked to learn that her only son was devastated by the news.

She probably channeled the image of the basketball star crashing down a California mountain in Bach’s larghetto movement which has a melancholy dance form associated with lament.

There was standing ovation for Licad’s A Major Bach concerto.

As much as there was deafening applause in the Mad Scene and more so in the Tomb Scene of Lucia di Lammermoor at the CCP.

One tries what to make sense out of these natural and man-made calamities in our lives.

And then one discovers that the great basketball icon Kobe Bryant actually plays Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

Kobe Bryant playing the piano. His best kept secret: playing classical music.

One posted Kobe’s rendition of Moonlight Sonata on FB and realized later he was actually in love with the composer he did piano and sneaker designs inspired by his love for that classical musician.

As I listened to Kobe’s shortened version of Moonlight Sonata with the Luring Quartet, I also remembered the night Licad played the same movement in full in an intimate private gathering.

It was enough to make me remember what U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black powerfully invoked in his opening prayer ahead of Trump’s impeachment trial: “Lord… as millions mourn the deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, and those who died with them, we think about life’s brevity, uncertainty, and legacy.”

To be sure, Bryant’s life wasn’t all about excellence. He excelled in his field but he also erred with a rape case that blighted his professional life. His married life wasn’t all that rosy either. It had rocky stages but he was determined to make it work.

But he worked hard to set things right. He fixed his marriage, he apologized to those he had done wrong and his name became synonymous not just with the game but with the new person he has become.

And then he discovered classical music.

One reflects on Kobe and why he liked the Moonlight Sonata.

He posted on his Instagram thus: “Moonlight Sonata calms me down when I reach my breaking point.”

To be sure, we have our own share of breaking points.

It is not a coincidence that Kobe turned to music. Many of us turn to music not only as escape but for redemption.

In Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti chose death to end a life gone mad.

Kobe Bryant turned to Beethoven to make sense of his past life.

To Donizetti’s music, Lucia goes mad and Edgardo ends his life.

On stage, those scenes get endless ovations.

In real life, we cannot see ourselves cheering death and madness.

Talk of music as reflection of life and death.

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