Noli Me Tangere: The Opera “Touch Me Not”

Noli Me Tangere: The Opera “Touch Me Not”




Noli Me Tangere: The Opera Manila Gala Night to celebrate Irma Ponce Enrile Potenciano and Fides Cuyugan Asensio prior to opening historic 2-week run

Two of the country’s top opera divas, Irma Ponce Enrile Potenciano and Fides Cuyugan Asensio, will receive Lifetime Achievement Recognition at the Gala Night of the anticipated Noli Me Tangere: The Opera, a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of Filipino history, art and literature.  

“While known in the industry as outstanding performers, Irma and Fides  are also respected music educators responsible for mentoring generations of voice students at the UST Conservatory of Music and UP College of Music,” says Noli Opera Manila Honorary Chair Loida Nicolas Lewis. “Some of their students are the most sought-after singers of world-class music companies, which extends their impact as mentors not only the performing arts in the country but all over the world,” she adds.

Known at the UST Conservatory of Music as Maestra Irma, Potenciano believes that on top of great talent, hard work and discipline must be equally important to young performers. She shares her mantra about the arts: “There is no art without perfection, no art without discipline, and no art without sacrifice.” 

Potenciano has no other way of doing her art but to walk the talk. Born to a musically gifted family, she started her musical training at age 12 with her mother Purita Ponce Enrile who is also a singer. At the age of 16, she made her debut as soloist of the Filipino Youth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the late Prof. Luis Valencia, and continued to sing lead roles of operas and zarzuelas for the past seven decades while holding key positions in art institutions. Until now at 83, she makes it a point to be a part of a production at least once a year. 

Some of her most notable achievements include being the only Filipina singer to record with the London Philharmonic Orchestra with her rendition of the Philippine love song “Iniibig Kita,” portraying the role of Frasquita in the opera “Carmen” staged not only in the Philippines but also in the United States and Canada, and as Mimi in “La Boheme” and as Nedda in “Pagliacci.” She had also done tours in the country and by invitations across the globe for months on end with the Vocal Ensemble Philippines, where she is a co-founder.  

“It is difficult to be a performing artist,” she says while skimming through two volumes of huge red scrapbooks holding her mementos, including reviews and photos of her performances, and even flowers given by people close to her. The rave reviews she got though portrays her as a graceful total performer, the same skills and fervor that she passes on to her students with passion. 

A true blue Thomasian, Potenciano got her bachelor’s and master’s degree in music from the Conservatory. Except for a brief stint as music teacher at the Ateneo de Manila Grade School, she has been a faculty member of the Conservatory for 54 years. 

Asensio, on the other hand, is the first Filipina to be accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Jose Rizal’s literary masterpiece Noli Me Tangere is very close to Asensio as she sang “Awit ng Gabi,” a piece for the character of distressed mother Sisa, for her graduation recital. Her mentor and teacher commissioned Felipe de Leon, later named as a National Artist, to write that single song, which became the germ for the completion of the opera seven years after. She was handpicked by De Leon to play the same role in the world premiere of Noli Me Tangere with the Manila Symphony in 1956. 

From 1969 to the present, Asensio taught at the UP College of Music, a 45-year career which earned her an honorary alumna of the institution. “Because of its democratic atmosphere and the students, UP did a lot to stir the creative juices in me,” she says. Aside from singing, she was also librettist for operas with nationalistic themes: from composer Lucrecia Kasilag’s “Larawan ng Kababaihan: Mascara at Mukha” (1980), Francisco Feliciano’s “La Loba Negra” (1984-85), to Rey Paguio’s “Mayo: Bisperas ng Liwanag” (1997), among others. These works were staged to great popular and critical acclaim at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila, and “Mayo” was even staged in Scotland in 2000. 

Aside from being an outstanding soprano, librettist and lyricist, she has also produced and directed several musicals and starred as an actress in independent films like Peque Gallaga’s epic “Oro, Plata, Mata” (1982), and recently in Loy Arcenas’ “Nino” (2011), Vincent Sandoval’s “Aparisyon” (2012) and Gabby Fernandez’s “Mana” (2014). 

“I keep up with the times,” says Asensio. While she was trained for opera, she has written and directed productions that add a bit of popular culture. “It’s so enjoyable to see kids appreciate the sung word because it’s very hard [to get them to watch].” 

“If you are watching musicals, you should also watch operas,” Potenciano says in Filipino. “The difference between musicals and operas is that musicals have dialogue while opera is all continuous singing. You can expect nothing less than great singers with the best techniques in operas.”




Spearheaded by Fil-Am philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis and supported by Jerry Sibal (Executive Producer), Edwin Josue (Assistant Executive Producer), and Mark and Christine Manalang (Ultimate Shows, Inc.), NOLI ME TANGERE: THE OPERA will run for a limited time from September 11 to September 28 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila in Pasay City.

Directed by multi-awarded Freddie Santos, NOLI ME TANGERE: THE OPERA stars an ensemble of world-class Filipino performers:

Maria Rachelle R. Gerodias and Myramae T. Meneses Maria Clara

Sal Malaki and Ivan Niccolo C. Nery Crisostomo Ibarra

Antoni Mendezona and Jean Judith Z. Javier Sisa

Noel P. Azcona and Greg A. De Leon Elias

Andrew Fernando and Jonathan Velasco  Padre Damaso

Maria Carmila L. Molina and Maria Carmila L. Molina Tia Isabel

Roby Malubay and Roby Malubay – Pilosopo Tasio

Reginald Santiago B. Velasco and Joaquin Ignacio D. Samonte Basilio

Jose Luis Mari F. Yapjoco and Mark Cedrick Imperial Crispin


The Manila Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Maestro Rodel Colmenar, will lend their musical prowess to the production.

The Honorary Chairs of the NOLI ME TANGERE: THE OPERA are Boy Abunda, Gemma Cruz-Araneta, architect William V. Coscolluela and Marion Coscolluela, Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario, Margie Moran Floirendo and Loida Nicolas Lewis.

For more information, visit or or call (02) 99-7938 or 39.

For ticket inquiries, visit or contact Dennis Villaluz at (02) 788-9108, 0916-857-1553, 0932-175-8599.

Students with valid identification cards will be able to avail of discounted tickets for balcony seats at P500 each through the generosity of San Miguel Corporation and Ramon Ang, Chair and CEO.




Noli Me Tangere: The Opera “Touch Me Not”