‘Noli Me Tangere’ opera coming to Manila

Marga Andrews

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‘Noli Me Tangere’ opera coming to Manila
If you've read the books, seen the movies, or even watched the straight play version, you may want to check out the upcoming opera version of the classic, 'Noli Me Tangere'

MANILA, Philippines – A different version of the classic Noli Me Tangere will soon be showing in the Philippines – this time, in opera form.

The intimate gathering held last week, hosted by director Freddie Santos, gave audiences a look at the production. Guests were regaled with the powerful voices of local opera group Primo Vera. The venue was also abuzz with eager anticipation for the main event: songs performed from the original opera. 

Ms. Loida Nicolas Lewis, the mastermind behind the bringing of the opera to the Philippines, was also in attendance. Through the passion and dedication of Lewis, along with executive producer, costume and set designer Jerry Sibal, and assistant executive producer Edwin Josue, Manila will soon have the pleasure of seeing a classic story from Philippine history retold through a different medium.

EMOTION. Rizal's masterpiece is about love, loss, passion,and the feelings that drive a revolution

The story of Noli is one that Filipinos know all too well, from Crisostomo Ibarra’s discoveries after his return to the country, the sad fate of the unfortunate Sisa, to the truth about Crisostomo’s love, Maria Clara. Set in the Spanish occupation, Rizal’s novel tells of the cancer that plagued society, and what actions can spark a revolution for change. 

This operatic rendition breathes new life into Jose Rizal’s masterpiece. “It’s an opera made in the same spirit of Verdi, of Puccini, of Bernini. Grand opera in the Italian style,” Lewis said. The difference? It is sung entirely in Filipino. The brainchild of two national artists, the Noli opera boasts music composed by Felipe de Leon and libretto by Guillermo Tolentino.

Lewis first had the idea to bring the production to New York after attending the 100-year celebration of Felipe de Leon in Chicago last year.

“They were singing in Tagalog and napakaganda. (It was so beautiful.) It touched my heart, and I said, ‘This cannot stay in Chicago. I have to bring it to New York because if it didn’t happen in New York, it didn’t happen,’” she says. And so it happened. Lewis, Sibal, and Josue successfully staged the Noli Me Tangere Opera in New York. It sold out all the three days that it ran, and was even reviewed by the New York Times. (READ: ‘Noli Me Tangere’ to make opera debut in New York

IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS. The look and feel of the opera calls the Spanish occupation to mind

The opera intends to showcase the world-class talent of its Filipino cast. From the moment director Freddie Santos introduced the first performance by the ensemble from the US production, guests were immediately treated to the unique feel of the opera, from the traditional costumes to the fluid lyrics in Filipino. Noteworthy also, was the solo performance of soprano Kirby Asunto, who played the pivotal role of Basilio, Sisa’s son. 

SUFFERING, INJUSTICE. Rizal took the collective experience of oppression and gave that a face, through the characters in his 'Noli Me Tangere'

Noli Me Tangere Opera will once again play out on Philippine stage in September 2014 at Resorts World Manila’s Newport Performing Arts Center. Freddie Santos will direct, with Camille Lopez Molina at the helm as vocal master. The team will stage 21 straight shows, a feat unheard of in the opera world.

“This cannot be done with the same cast every night,” Santos says, “The amount of actors coming from abroad is very minimal.” With plans to have two alternate groups of 40 actors each, the team is in search of more talent. Open auditions will be held on May 2 (4pm), and May 3 (11am). Actors must come prepared to sing an aria from the Noli opera, or an aria of their choice if they are unfamiliar with songs from the production. 

With the Philippines soon to be checked off the list, the team will next stage the production in Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center. “It is now high time that the Philippines take its proper place,” Lewis explains, “We are not only economically no longer the sick man of Asia. We are the new tiger, but we have to show the world that we are also world class artists.” Sibal adds, “We are trying to put this Noli Me Tangere Opera in the world so that the international opera companies could adapt this and present this all over the world.”  – Rappler.com









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