RWM to help reignite Filipino patriotism with Noli The Opera

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

Revisiting Dr. Jose Rizal’s immortal opus Noli Me Tangere via a Philippine opera slated for September at Resorts World Manila (RWM) couldn’t come at a more opportune time when Filipinos are once again in the midst of purging undesirable leaders and rotten system of governance, which were in Rizal’s mind when he penned in the 1880s the explosive novel that cost his life and freedom, and sparked the Philippine revolution.

That was Funfare’s Big Apple correspondent Edmund Silvestre was thinking when we attended the recent presscon to launch the RWM staging. I agreed with him.

More than its artistic merits and its actors’ brilliant talent, Noli Me Tangere The Opera’s timely relevance is what probably compelled Loida Nicolas Lewis, one of today’s most influential and conscientious Filipino-American leaders, to bring to Manila the musical that she and her team successfully produced in New York City for three days in October last year.

At the presscon held at the vestibule of RWM’s Newport Performing Arts Theater at Resorts World Manila, Loida was joined by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, along with RWM president Kingson Sian and RWM VP for entertainment/chief entertainment officer Colin Kerr, and other prominent members of the society.

“Our main objective here is to preserve the ideals and legacy of Dr. Jose Rizal, as well as our cultural heritage,” said the Sorsogon City-born Lewis who’s always been in the forefront of promoting the welfare of all Filipinos in America and elsewhere. The wealthy Fil-Am philanthropist and political leader is, among other activities, behind the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) and the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA).

“We also want to keep the fire of patriotism burning in the heart of every Filipino, most especially among the next generation of public servants,” she added.

Also present at the event were the opera’s original executive producer and costume and set designer Jerry Sibal (whose visual work at the NY production was hailed by The New 
York Times), and assistant executive producer Edwin Josue. 

“It has been 27 years since Noli was presented in full production,” noted Jerry Sibal, one of America’s topnotch event designers and floral artisans. “They said we are crazy in mounting 21 shows because it’s expensive to mount an opera. But we believe it could be done with the full support and trust of our sponsors, especially Resorts World Manila.”

Josue said the opera is an adaptation of the music of national artist Felipe De Leon, and the libretto of Guillermo Tolentino, another national artist.

“Every Filipino can clearly understand the opera as it is sung in Tagalog with English subtitles,” Josue, an accomplished Halstead realtor, pointed out. “What with full orchestration, the music of De Leon and Tolentino will make you proud that we are all Filipinos.”

The Manila production will be directed by Freddie Santos, with Camille Lopez Molina as vocal master. Mark Manalang and Christine Manalang of Ultimate Shows, Inc. will line produce.

According to Santos, the Manila team will stage 21 straight performances, with two alternate groups of 40 actors each. The actors who will play the major characters of Crisostomo Ibarra, Maria Clara, Sisa, Basilio and Padre Damaso will be flown in from New York, while open auditions were recently held for Manila-based talents who will fill the supporting roles, according to Santos.

The team is also reportedly working to accommodate public school students through bulk or subsidized discounts for them to experience the opera. Part of the proceeds will go to the preservation of the original manuscript of the Noli Me Tangere at the National Museum, as well as scholarships of Filipino artists and musicians, and relief and scholarships for survivors of Yolanda, according to organizers.

“We are so proud and happy that we are part of this production,” said Sian. “When we built this theater, some doubted that a big theater scene in the country existed, but we’ve proven there is the love of theater and musicals. When this opera came to us, we met Loida and her team. They are so passionate about what they are doing that we can’t help but be inspired. We’re fortunate that they came to us.”

During the launch, excerpts from the opera were performed by premier Manila opera groups Primo Verra and Vivo Voce, as well as by Fil-Am teen soprano Kirby Asunto.

“It was Asunto who essayed the role of Sisa’s son Basilio in the New York production,” said Edmund, “and he received raves from the New York Times for demonstrating ‘a clear, attractive voice as the altar boy Basilio.’”

Spotted at the well-attended launch were Architect Willy and Marion Coscolluela, Dinggay Lao, Finex president Ed Soriano, Grace Palma Tiongco, Dr. Ching Ojeda Legarda, Manny Alandy, Wilson Tieng, Nelson Navarro, Butch Meily and Joy Virata, to name a few.

Before the Manila staging, the opera will have a two-night performance on Aug. 8 and 9 at Washington, D.C.’s Eisenhower Theater in The Kennedy Center.

“Loida and her team said there are already plans to tour the opera to other parts of the globe,” added Edmund.

(E-mail reactions at [email protected] You may also send your questions to [email protected] For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)









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