‘Noli Me Tangere’ to make opera debut in NY

Carol RH Malasig

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Jose Rizal's classic work is set to be staged in New York

SITZPROBE. The first run-through where the singers and the orchestra do a sit-down rehearsal together. All photos provided by Oliver Oliveros

MANILA, Philippines – “Noli Me Tangere” is one of the most famous pieces of literary work ever produced by a Filipino. Written by National Hero Dr Jose Rizal, the novel exposes inequalities in Philippine society under Spanish rule.

This novel, along with its sequel, “El Filibusterismo,” earned Rizal the ire of the Spaniards who had him jailed and, later on, executed.

Today, “Noli Me Tangere” remains a symbol of the Filipinos’ fight for freedom and equality. Aside from being translated to several languages, and it has also been adapted to film, play and opera.

The “Noli Me Tangere” opera is considered to be the finest work of Filipino National Artists Felipe de Leon [music] and Guillermo Tolentino [liberetto]. The two artists are said to have been obsessed with Rizal’s work, and converted the novel into a two-act production, making it the Philippines’ first ever full-length grand opera in 1957.

Loida Nicolas Lewis, a Filipino businesswoman and philanthropist based in New York, first saw a performance of the “Noli Me Tangere” opera at the Harris Theater Millenium Park in Chicago in 2012. The diverse cast and Filipino songs gave her a rare musical experience which prompted her to bring the opera to the city where all the best plays are staged: New York.

WATCH! #TalkThursday with Loida Nicolas-Lewis

“The music of de Leon is world-class in that vein of Puccini and Verdi. However, de Leon’s kundiman strain throughout the piece is very strong,” said Lewis. “Filipinos should be proud. This is our own. Ang galing natin. [We are great.]”

The play follows the story of Crisostomo Ibarra who has returned to the Philippines after studying in Europe for years. He plans to open a school to promote education in the country and marry the beautiful daughter of the cabeza de barangay, Maria Clara.

However, parish priest Padre Damaso, who is also the arch enemy of the Ibarras, is set on thwarting Crisostomo’s plans. This creates a dramatic storyline of forbidden love, betrayal and revenge.

CHEMISTRY. Malaki and Mendezona portray Crisostomo Ibarra and Maria Clara

The cast of the “Noli Me Tangere” are:

  • Sal Malaki as Juan Crisostomo Ibarra
  • Antoni Mendezona as Maria Clara
  • Andrew Fernando as Padre Damaso
  • Robert Perla Gomez as Elias
  • Maria Christina Navarro as Sisa
  • Kirby Asunto as Basilio

It also features a diverse ensemble:

  • Brad Arreglado
  • Jonathan Estabrooks
  • Rosemarie Flores
  • May Hackett
  • William Lim
  • Brittany Palmer
  • Allan Samonte
  • Rina Saporantos
  • Elijah Sirilan
  • Zion Sirilan
  • Ulises Solano
  • Sherwin Su
  • Lisa Villamaria
  • Resty Yongco

Seasoned Filipino-American conductor Michael Dadap holds the baton, leading the 34-piece orchestra.

MAESTRO. Dadap leads the orchestra during rehearsals

Lewis, during her last visit to Manila, said that she wants Filipinos in the US to be made aware of the artistic talent Filipinos naturally posses. She wants to use this talent to promote the Philippines’ rich culture and history. – Rappler.com

‘Noli Me Tangere’ the opera will run at the Kaye Playhouse in Hunter College from October 4 to 6. For more information, call 646-415-1853, email filartists@gmail.com or visit nolimetangereoperanyc.org.

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