‘Opera:’ Beautiful visceral madness

Karen Kunawicz

Karen Kunawicz

Over Valentine’s weekend and in the run up to Art Fair 2016, Ballet Philippines staged a stunning performance of Gabriel Barredo’s Opera. Around this time last year, I devoted one column to raving about the Opera sculpture and installation exhibit at the Silver Lens gallery along Pasong Tamo—which I visited and got immersed in twice.

The ballet and dance version of this artistic marvel is exciting. First, you have that same trademark feel of the exhibit—dark, strange and gothic—even if it explores the familiar—our human bodies. But instead of the traditional black and dark hued pallets to reflect the gothic nature of the piece, Barredo and Ballet Philippines makes use mostly of flesh tones, bone white and blood red to tell the story. To get us to reflect on our soul cages—its marvels and ultimate mortality.

Barreddo’s installations—complex, interesting and fascinating, are all over the stage and above it. Cut out mannequins, fetuses—many lodged inside frames of what looks like sinew and veins are everywhere. The audience gets a chance to view the pieces up close after the performance.

The performance is divided into three acts: God, Sex and Death. It is the story of a mother, her twin boys, a homunculus and a watcher—to be honest, while watching the first act, I had very little idea of what was going on. I just knew that I enjoyed it—the interplay of the dancers in their flesh body stockings sometimes accented with random black or red lines (again like blood vessels or sinew) with the mesmerizing music and the installations made for an incredible treat to the senses.

At the end of the first act, God, I went out to buy the program to see if I could figure out the story. And while I still had trouble doing so, I was nevertheless engulfed in the mad world of Opera. It is fiery, elegant and so very sexy.

What also helps push the unusual, sometimes contorted choreography by the accomplished artist, Redha is the equally sexy music. Written by Malek Lopez and performed by Caliph8, Fred Sandoval, Erwin Romula, Armi Millare and Mr. Lopez himself—it is the sound you would imagine of heartbeats, of life, of sex, of power, of madness and of beautiful deaths. It brilliantly matches the movement and the set pieces.

It’s just a pity that Opera had only a three show run! As I wish this column would promote it even but a little. It is fresh, original, Filipino and captivating.

I can only hope, despite the elaborate set design and the pains it must have taken to set it up, it can be re-staged.


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