Noli Me Tangere, The Opera: A Caliber of Philippine Artistry

Noli Me Tangere, The Opera is an outstanding collaboration of skillful Filipino artists that exalts the already magnificent masterpiece of the National Hero – Jose Rizal, and National Artists – Felipe Padilla De Leon (music) and Guillermo Tolentino (libretto in Tagalog). Adapting the novel to the opera that it is today speaks volumes on how each artist compliments the work of another artist and honors the work of each other through commemoration and elaborate works of art.

Photo courtesy of Mark Francis Parallag

Noli Me Tangere, The Opera premiered at Far Eastern University in 1957. The opera made its debut at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in 1974, and there, too was restaged in 1987 led by soprano Fides Cuyugan-Asensio’s Music Theater Foundation. The CCP and J&S Productions Inc. presented the 60th-anniversary production of the opera at the CCP’s main theatre, Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, in 2017. And it returns once again from March 8-10, 2019 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines as one of the highlights in celebrating the latter’s 50th anniversary.

J&S Production has tested the waters of the foreign land for Philippines’ first full length opera when it premiered at the Kaye Playhouse in New York City in 2013 prior to its 60th anniversary in CCP last 2017. The opera has also been staged at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D. C. in 2014 and locally, at Resorts World Manila in the same year.

Photo courtesy of Mark Francis Parallag

The opera was warmly received by the audience in its return this 2019. In today’s current generation where local artists seek more patronage from our fellow Filipinos, Noli Me Tangere, The Opera timely steps in and shows the quality of combined Filipino artists in a production that a Filipino can proudly call our own. Our country has been influenced by multifold of foreign elements in arts and most especially in music. Yes, this opera’s orchestral arrangements were influenced by the Western classical music tradition but most importantly, kundiman. This gives the audience a sense of awakening that we Filipinos have our own identity – this identity is beautiful, but we sometimes tend to take it for granted.

Allison Cervantes as Sisa, photo courtesy of Mark Francis Parallag

Jerry Sibal, director, scenic and costume designer of the opera shares on producing Noli Me Tangere, The Opera for the third time, “For the love of country, for me, there’s no boundaries, no limits,” Sibal said in his speech at the preview of the opera on March 7, 2019. He mentions that they have come a long way from the west to be with us Filipinos and to bring us the best of the best of the Filipino artists as they believe that they are all world class. He adds that as long as there is a stage to perform in and an audience to watch, these artists would be here. He iterates that this performance is sariling atin (our own). Sibal points out that we should be proud of it because this is how we’re being identified as great Filipinos.

Noli Me Tangere, The Opera manages to seep into one’s emotions as the music and the words narrate the tragic fate of the characters, we Filipinos, have grown to know so well. Bringing life to the visionary protagonist of the story – Crisostomo Ibarra are Ivan Nery and Nomher U. Nival. Portraying the role of Maria Clara, ang dalagang Pilipina (Filipina maiden) are Nerissa De Juan and Bianca Lopez.

Ivan Nery as Crisostomo Ibarra, Bianca Lopez as Maria Clara, photo courtesy of Mark Francis Parallag

Nerissa De Juan as Maria Clara, Nomher U Nival as Crisostomo Ibarra, photo courtesy of Mark Francis Parallag

The iconic role of Sisa is played by Allison Cervantes, Kelly Peralejo, and Bernadette Mamauag. Also part of the cast are Joseleo Logdat (Elias), Greg Abelardo de Leon (Pilosopo Tasyo), Nil’s Flores and Ronaldo Villaruel Abarquez (Padre Damaso; Abarquez also plays Kapitan Tiago at certain performances), Miguel Espiritu (Kapitan Tiago), Noel Comia Jr. and Mari Yapjoco (Basilio), and Santino Juan Santiago (Crispin). This 2019 production is composed of about 200 actors-classical singers, featuring featuring the 53-piece NOLI Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Herminigildo Ranera, and production crew cooperating to bring the Filipinos a classic that is worth all the expense.

Everything in this opera is marvelous. The stage design is a spectacle to behold and the costumes are extravagant. The singers exemplified magnificent mastery of their technique, reaching deep to the hearts of the listeners right through their ears. The music was exquisitely performed, especially by the soloists, in a virtuosic manner that certainly gave justice to the works of the national artists, leaving the  audience in awe after the performance.

Noli Me Tangere, The Opera triggers an array of emotions in all its three acts. From tickling the audience in the love and courtship of Crisostomo Ibarra and Maria Clara, the betrayal and slavery in our own land, the ill fate of the oppressed, the loss of a loved one, how corruption is rooted in our history, and finding hope amongst all the bitterness. (If you are emotional like I am, get ready to be moved to tears.) These three acts of an opera, the way I see it, reflects the reason our country is what it is today. There is so much to process, a lot of thoughts that will be triggered after witnessing this opera.

Mari Yapjoco as Basilio, Bernadette Mamauag as Sisa, photo courtesy of Mark Francis Parallag

Bianca Lopez as Maria Clara with Jose Mari Javato as Padre Salvi, photo courtesy of Mark Francis Parallag

The whole production has the label world class all over it, that by the end of the opera, you might also think, Philippines is undoubtedly capable of producing masterpieces in this scale, then why don’t we do it more often? And it brings us back to the reality: our local artists need more support. This is our own, this is talent we ought to recognize, world-class productions are just right under our noses. This is a call to all generations to recognize and patronize Philippine theater, Philippine culture, Philippine music, as it is worth so much more than the credit it is given.

Noli Me Tangere, The Opera is a timeless masterpiece every Filipino should not afford to miss. This is a legacy we should keep alive. It ignites an inexplicable flame of affection towards our own language, culture, and national identity.

Noli Me Tangere, The Opera has just been confirmed for a re-run due to insistent public demand! Catch them at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on May 2-5, 2019!

50% off for students, 20% discount for senior citizens, PWD, government and military personnel

Ticket Outlets: J&S Productions Inc. 0947 168 1714, 0915 819 3459, or 02 998 2356, CCP Box Office

02 832 3704/06, or TicketWorld 02 891 9999, https://ticketworld.com.ph/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/nolioperamanila






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