Since its debut 15 years ago and after 400 performances worldwide, the highly acclaimed production of National Ballet of China (NBC)—Raise The Red Lantern—has finally reached Philippine shores.
A ballet in three acts, Raise The Red Lantern is based on the novel Wives And Concubines by So Tung and adapted from Zhang Yimou’s movie of the same title.
A diverse group of world renowned artists of Chinese descent—filmmaker Zhang Yimou, composer Qigang Chen from France, choreographer Xinpeng Wang from Germany, Wang Yuanyuan, stage designer Zeng Li and noted French costume designer Jerome Kaplan—conceived and produced this modern ballet fusing cinema, shadow play, Peking opera and all sorts of Chinese culture elements with Western ballet touch.
As shown and seen in this superb production—humans from all walks of life, across cultures and borders feel and operate around the same notions and emotions —love, hate, friendship, anger, loyalty, betrayal, forgiveness, familial or clannish affinity and celebration of life…and death.
It took three years, countless personal meetings, reams of written communications and thousands of phone calls between stakeholders and a number of ocular inspections for the spectacular staging of China’s longest running show materialized for a limited engagement at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on October 27 and 28—and free at that.
How the strings were pulled together for the mounting of this production—what with hundreds of cast and crew and three 40-foot container vans for the set—National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) International Affairs Office head Annie Luis told The Manila Times that the production was supposed to have highlighted the 40th year anniversary of Philippines-China bilateral relations last year but negotiations fell through due to the enormous cost of bringing the production to Manila.
“Even at half the cost, NCCA and CCP could not afford the enormous budget. We invoked our cultural ties agreement as it has no expiration, unlike the executive agreement that already expired. And the fact that they were going to Jakarta, they made their stop in Manila a side trip before proceeding to Indonesia, and it’s for free,” Luis shared.
When they were told that NBC was ready to come, NCCA and CCP were in fact dumbfounded as they have very little left in their budget to accommodate the surprise and sudden opportunity.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua asked how much the Philippine organizations needed to fill the budget gap and was generous to shoulder the rest, the NCCA executive further revealed.
On Thursday morning, NBC artistic director Feng Ying, the principal artists and creative team honchos also conducted a Master Class for Filipino ballet dancers, and it was also for free.
“Getting to a Master Class is expensive, but again, because of our cultural ties, it was conducted for free,” Luis said.
Asked if the friendliness of China to the Philippines is brought about by President Duterte’s stance magnified by his pronouncements, Luis said everything was falling into place just in time, not necessarily because of the Filipino leader’s pivoting towards China.
She revealed that, in fact, CCP hosted Russia the previous week.