With “Flights of Fantasy” as the theme for its 22nd season, Ballet Manila opens with the world premiere of “Ibong Adarna,” featuring the choreography of principal dancer Gerardo Francisco.
The beloved Filipino folktale follows the journey of three brothers —Pedro, Diego, and Juan—as they search for the magical bird whose voice possesses healing powers for their bedridden father.
The Aliw Theater becomes the magical kingdom of Berganya from August 26 until September 3 as Francisco brings his mastery to the production.
“It is a masterpiece of original Filipino dance, music, and theater. We can all understand the triumph of goodness and kindness over greed and evil. The visuals, dynamics, and magic—this ballet is all about moments of pure theater to entertain, educate, and inspire. It’s truly a collaboration of creative minds and bodies in epic proportions!” Ballet Manila chief executive officer and artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde enthusiastically shared.
The ballet features original music by Diwa De Leon, son of National Artist Felipe de Leon Jr., adding magic to the script by Angela Blardony Ureta. New costumes and sets were designed by Make It Happen Workshop just for this production.
Everything is tied together by Francisco’s libretto, which showcase its range and creativity through scenes such as the Alitaptap Dance, the Monkey Dance, and the scene between Juan and the Ibong Adarna.
Francisco related why he decided to propose Ibong Adarna to the prima ballerina.
“I have a fascination with avian creatures, so I thought of a show with a magical bird as the hero. It made sense to use the familiar Adarna, since Ballet Manila’s goal is to ‘bring ballet to the people and the people to the ballet’,” he said.
Ibong Adarna promises a world-class show that will make any Filipino proud. Other than the magical story itself, Francisco used elements like music and traditions from all over the Philippines. Through this combination, he shows the country’s rich culture not only a Filipino audience, but also to the whole world.
Taking on the starring role of the Singing Adarna is Macuja-Elizalde’s sister and West End actress, Gia Macuja-Atchison, whose credits include “The Lion King” as Princess Nala, “Miss Saigon” as Gigi and Ellen, “Jesus Christ Superstar” as Mary Magdalene and “Here Lies Love” as Estrella Cumpas.