The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and J&S Productions Inc. is proud to co-present the 2017 staging of Philippines’ first full-length opera, Noli Me Tangere, The Opera. The opera, which premiered at the Far Eastern University in 1957 and made its CCP debut in 1974, will mark its 60th anniversary with a limited six-performance run at the CCP’s Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo from January 28 (gala premiere) to February 3.
Based on Dr. Jose Rizal’s 1887 classic novel of the same name, Noli Me Tangere, The Opera was written by National Artist for Music Felipe de Leon (“Payapang Daigdig,” “Sarong Banggi”) and was set to a libretto by National Artist for Sculpture Guillermo Tolentino. Both creators, who were obsessed with the national heroe’s landmark novel, finished the opera in 1957.
According to New York-based dramaturg Randy Gener, the opera was, however, “not the first Filipino opera ever written. That honor belongs to Sandugong Panaguinip, a 1902 work with a Spanish libretto by Pedro Paterno, which was translated into Tagalog by Roman Reyes, and music by Ladislao Bonus. Sandugong Panaguinip was a one-act opera made up of five scenes, while de Leon’s Noli opera was written in three acts, making it the country’s first full-length grand opera.”
This production, which earlier had critically-acclaimed engagements in New York, Washington DC and at the Resorts World Manila, will feature more than 200 opera singers, musicians, and crew, 16 scene changes, and a brand-new staging under the directorial reins of debuting stage director Jerry Sibal, a sought-after event designer in New York City, who is also designing new sets and costumes.
The show’s score and orchestrations, arranged in the Western operatic tradition with overflow passages reminiscent of Mozart, Puccini, and Wagner, and sung in Tagalog (supertitles in English to be provided), will be played by the newly formed 53-piece Noli Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Herminigildo Ranera.
Noli Me Tangere, The Opera follows the story of Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, who returns to the Philippines after pursuing scholarly studies in Europe. He plans to open up a school and marry Maria Clara, his betrothed.
However, parish priest Padre Damaso, the archenemy of the Ibarras, is out to hinder Crisostomo’s plans, which creates a dramatic storyline of forbidden love, betrayal, and revenge.
Both the novel and the opera depict the abuses suffered by the native Indios at the hands of Spanish tyrants.
Both forms also paint a clear picture of the so-called “social cancer” such as the rotten system of governance, the illicit ways of the church, and the unfavorable trade of the privileged class, which is still very much relevant today. “We’d like to instill in the youth that nationalism is very important. We’re very educated, talented, and skillful. The only problem we’re facing right now is the love of country,” explained Sibal.
“We’d also like to create more appreciation of the opera art form. The opera is highest form of art because it has architecture, literature, theater, and classical music combined together. The beauty of Noli Me Tangere, The Opera lies in its use of our own language, Tagalog, and the Filipino love song kundiman combined with Western opera influences,” he said.
To this Dr. Raul Sunico, CCP president, added, “We’re glad to welcome back Noli Me Tangere, The Opera to the CCP main stage after 30 years since Fides Cuyugan-Asensio’s Music Theater Foundation staged it in 1987. Theatergoers and music lovers shouldn’t miss this rare musical experience; it’s every Filipino’s story set to one of Felipe de Leon’s finest scores.”
Tickets to ‘Noli Me Tangere, The Opera,’ are available at the CCP Box Office 832 3704/06 and at ticketworld.com.ph.