Opera greats, fashion giants in dazzling CCP show

Edmund Silvestre - The Philippine Star
Opera greats, fashion giants in dazzling CCP show
Marawing Salamat, with its artistic brilliance and noble purpose, deserves restaging with government support

MANILA, Philippines — Imagine the Philippines’ cherished opera singers, backed by a large orchestra, performing an array of Filipino classics like Maalaala Mo Kaya, Mutya Ng Pasig, Sa Kabukiran and Bituing Marikit, as dozens of top mannequins paraded in resplendent Carnival Queen-inspired Filipiniana creations of some 30 acclaimed designers led by Renee Salud, Fanny Serrano, Oskar Peralta, Cary Santiago, Lito Perez, Toni Galang, Rocky Gathercole and Albert Andrada. 

That’s exactly the highlight of Marawing Salamat, a triumphant opera meets fashion spectacle at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo to raise funds for Duyog Marawi, a church-based foundation directly assisting the displaced and traumatized children of the war-torn Marawi City in Lanao del Sur.

Duyog Marawi’s Bishop Edwin dela Pena, along with two young representatives of the Maranao children, were joined by CCP president Nick Lizaso and wife Belen in giving the two-act show a standing ovation, while the beaming cast waved and blew kisses to the culturati.

In Act 1, Lyric Opera of the Philippines’ Noel Azcona, Ana Guillen Feleo, John Glenn Gaerlan, Randy Gilongo, Tonton Pascual, Naomi Sison, Sherwin Sozon, Rica Nepomuceno and Mary Patrice Pacis beautifully depicted in their arias the ugly and lasting effects of war on people. It was from an original script by Bibeth Orteza, who wove music from 19th century operas into a contemporary story of women readjusting to their soldier-partners at the end of a military campaign.

Multi-awarded filmmaker Carlos Siguion-Reyna directed the opera, supported by a topnotch technical team of Joey Nombres, Jay Batoon, Kenneth Cataylo, William Roxas Guillermo, Holland Lou Buela, Peter Porticos and Dingdong Fiel.

Featured were the much-loved pieces from Tosca, Carmen, La Traviata, Rigoletto, I Pagliacci, Rusalka, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Samson et Dalila and Turandot, with the 70-piece UST Symphony Orchestra providing terrific music under the baton of American guest conductor Maestro William Barkhymer.

Meanwhile, Act 2’s fashion extravaganza relived the glorious era of the Carnival Queens (circa 1908 to 1939) showcasing the dazzling modern Filipiniana creations of some 29 Pinoy couturiers. Among them were Eddie Baddeo, Delby Bragais, Steve de Leon, Edgar Madamba, Edgar Allan, Ronaldo Arnaldo, Nolie Hans, Ricci Lizaso and Peri Diaz, along with a host of beauty goddesses such as Teresita Marquez, Bea Rose Santigao, Bianca Guidotti, Cynthia Thomalia, and Justine Gabionza, to name a few, who were glamorous in highly-stylized baro’t saya, traje de mestiza, Maria Clara, kimono at saya, and costume balls of the era.

Completing the list of featured renowned designers were Roland Lirio, Jojie Lloren, Jontie Martinez, Ole Morabe, Jerome Navarro, Richard Papa, Joyce Penas Pilarsky, Rholand Roxas, Ditta Sandico and Edgar San Diego, with haute couture jewelry designer Gerry Ereneta Sunga and Felizo for accessories.

Written and created by Zardo Austria and directed by Raymond Villanueva and Nathan de Leon, the fashion show featured the Lyric Opera artists, Faith Gospel Singers and the Philippine Tenors, who thrilled the audience with immortal kundiman classics, accompanied by the UST Symphony this time under Maestro Herminigildo Ranera.

Another highlight of the gala was the emotional tribute to the living legends of Philippine opera: Irma Ponce Enrile Potenciano, Fides Cuyugan-Asencio, Gloria Dizon-Coronel, Jose Santos, Teresita Agana-Santos, Francisco Aseniero, Noel Espiritu Velasco and Armida Siguion-Reyna.

The legendary pillars of Filipino fashion were recognized as well: National Artist Ramon Valera, Jose “Pitoy” Moreno, Ben Farrales, Aureo Alonzo, Christian Espiritu, Jose Salazar and Salvacion Lim-Higgins of Slims.

Marawing Salamat, with its artistic brilliance and noble purpose, deserves restaging with government support, CCP patrons said of the event produced by Sherwin Sozon, Lito Perez, Zardo Austria and veteran film/stage actress Lorli Villanueva, who conceptualized the show in New York City.

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