Noli Me Tangere, The Opera turns 60
National Commission For Culture and the Arts chairman Felipe de Leon Jr. (center) with Noli Me Tangere The Opera director, stage, scenic and costume designer Jerry Sibal and executive producer Edwin Josue
Noli Me Tangere, The Opera turns 60
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2017 - 12:22am

The Philippines’ first full-length opera, Noli Me Tangere, The Opera, which premiered at the Far Eastern University (FEU) in 1957 and made its Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) debut in 1974, will mark its 60th anniversary with a limited six-performance run at the CCP’s Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo from Jan. 28 (gala premiere) to Feb. 3.

It is co-presented by the CCP and J&S Productions, Inc., in cooperation with Ayala Foundation.

The 60th-anniversary production of Noli Me Tangere, The Opera is chaired by philanthropist Mercedes Zobel.

Based on Dr. Jose Rizal’s 1887 classic novel of the same name, Noli Me Tangere, The Opera was written by National Artist for Music Felipe de Leon (Payapang Daigdig, Sarong Banggi) and was set to a libretto by National Artist for Sculpture Guillermo Tolentino. Both creators, who were obsessed with Dr. Rizal’s landmark novel, finished the opera in 1957. According to New York-based dramaturg Randy Gener, the opera was, however, “not the first Filipino opera ever written. That honor belongs to Sandugong Panaguinip, a 1902 work with a Spanish libretto by Pedro Paterno, which was translated into Tagalog by Roman Reyes, and music by Ladislao Bonus. Sandugong Panaguinip was a one-act opera made up of five scenes, while De Leon’s Noli opera was written in three acts, making it the country’s first full-length grand opera.”

This production, which earlier had critically-acclaimed engagements in N.Y., Washington D.C. and at the Resorts World Manila, will feature more than 200 opera singers, musicians and crew, 16 scene changes and a brand-new staging under the directorial reins of debuting stage director Jerry Sibal, a sought-after event designer in New York City, who is also designing new sets and costumes.

The show’s score and orchestrations, arranged in the Western operatic tradition with overflow passages reminiscent of Mozart, Puccini and Wagner, and sung in Tagalog (supertitles in English to be provided), will be played by the newly-formed 53-piece Noli Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Herminigildo Ranera.

Renowned tenor Ronan Ferrer in the role of Crisostomo Ibarra will lead the cast, together with Bianca Camille Lopez (Maria Clara), Stephanie Anne Aguilar (Sisa), John-Andrew Fernandez (Padre Damaso), Greg de Leon (Elias), Mari Yapjoco (Basilio) and Santino Juan Santiago (Crispin).

The cast also includes Nomer Narito Nival, Resty Yongco, Aretha Angcao, Jade Rubis Riccio, Nerissa de Juan, Mary Louise Alcantara, Irene Quiso-Ednave, Charina Althea Balmores, Rachelle Jasmine Balunes, Elisanta Gregorio Cortes, Mecho Joy Manlangit, Thea Perez, Katrine Jamar Sunga, Jillbert Chua, Jan Briane Astom, Eugene de los Santos, Erwin Dimaculangan, Harold Nikko Forton, Paul Dominique Galvez, Allison Rose Cervantes, Anne Abigail Garza, Jane Florence Wee, Ruzzel Adrian Clemeno, Renz Nathaniel Cruz, Radnel Ofalsa, Octwen Jade Cabilan, Rare Jireh Columna, Ivette Vanerrie Salas, Courtney Gomley, Marianne Maxielom, Claudine Nitura, Grace Pedrocillo, Larian Villamarin, Francisco de Guzman Jr., Nestor Estoque, Thomas Julian Hollon, Matthew Vallo, Earl Cristobal, Mark Anthony Cruz, Frederick Maturan and Inno Angelo Montellano.

Besides musical director Ranera and stage director Sibal, who is also designing the new sets and costumes, the production’s creative team also includes assistant director Jose Jeffrey Camanag, sound designer Edwin Mendiola and lighting designer John Batalla.

Noli Me Tangere, The Opera follows the story of Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, who returns to the Philippines after pursuing scholarly studies in Europe. He plans to open up a school and marry Maria Clara, his betrothed. However, parish priest Padre Damaso, the archenemy of the Ibarras, is out to hinder Crisostomo’s plans, which creates a dramatic storyline of forbidden love, betrayal and revenge.

Both the novel and the opera depict the abuses suffered by the native Indios at the hands of Spanish tyrants. Both forms also paint a clear picture of the so-called “social cancer” such as the rotten system of governance, the illicit ways of the church and the unfavorable trade of the privileged class, which is still very much relevant today. “We’d like to instill in the youth that nationalism is very important. We’re very educated, talented and skillful. The only problem we’re facing right now is the love of country,” explained Sibal.

“We’d also like to create more appreciation of the opera art form. The opera is highest form of art because it has architecture, literature, theater and classical music combined together. The beauty of Noli Me Tangere, The Opera lies in its use of our own language, Tagalog and the Filipino love song kundiman combined with Western opera influences,” he said.

Dr. Raul Sunico, CCP president, said, “We’re glad to welcome back Noli Me Tangere, The Opera to the CCP main stage after 30 years since Fides Cuyugan-Asensio’s Music Theater Foundation staged it in 1987. Theatergoers and music lovers shouldn’t miss this rare musical experience; it’s every Filipino’s story set to one of Felipe de Leon’s finest scores.”

“Noli Me Tangere, The Opera unfolds as an elegant affair.”

—Washington Post

“Jerry Sibal creates the attractive costumes and sets.”

—New York Times

“It’s a tribute to the Filipino spirit of nationalism.”

—Former DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario

For special ticket deals and discounts to the 60th-anniversary production of Noli Me Tangere, The Opera, contact J&S Productions Inc. (0926) 038 0548, (0921) 890 3816, (632) 998 2356, or the CCP Box Office (632) 832 3704/06, or visit

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