Karylle brings ballet background, life experiences in return to Rama, Hari

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Karylle brings ballet background, life experiences in return to Rama, Hari
Karylle Tatlonghari reprises the role of Sita in the latest staging of the Filipino rock opera ballet Rama, Hari. The actress-TV host first became part of the musical in 2012.
Photos courtesy of Karylle’s Facebook page

Karylle is proud to be part of the long and fabled history of the Filipino rock opera ballet Rama, Hari.

The actress-TV host first played Sita in 2012 and 11 years after, she’s back breathing life into the female lead role in the only Philippine production involving five National Artists.

Rama, Hari boasts of direction and choreography by National Artist Alice Reyes and music by National Artist Ryan Cayabyab, with lyrics and libretto by National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, production design by National Artist Salvador Bernal and translations by National Artist Rolando Tinio.

Told through song and dance, the production debuted in 1980 as part of Ballet Philippines’ 10th Season with Karylle’s Sita originated by Kuh Ledesma.

“Doing Rama, Hari is beautiful because it’s the work of five of our National Artists. As younger artists, it’s also our responsibility to make sure that we learn their work and that the younger generation continue to know what these important works are, and how (they’re) true to form and also relevant to the times,” she recently said in a one-on-one interview with The Philippine STAR.

For Karylle, what makes the biggest difference then and now in her portrayal and performance are her life experiences. She also had more time to dig deep into the great Hindu epic that Rama, Hari is based on, the Ramayana, which is about King Rama who must rescue his abducted wife Sita.

Asked why this story needs to be retold, she said, “For the Southeast Asian region, it is a story that is very important. It has spanned for many generations. And it’s good to learn about other people’s cultures, other religions, since this is about the Hindu religion.

With leading man Arman Ferrer who plays Rama.
Photos courtesy of Karylle’s Facebook page

“For example, si Rama is the reincarnation of the god Vishnu, and my character of Lakshmi. Ang tawag nila dun, avatar na ako ni Lakshmi kasi yung mga gods sa Hindu religion nag-re-reincarnate. So the love of Rama and Sita spans several years, kind of like the (hit K-drama) Goblin,” she related.

Karylle finds herself anew in her favorite territory, ballet, in Rama, Hari. She recalled how she got into the dance form. “Because I have scoliosis, my mom (Zsa Zsa Padilla) had scoliosis as a child, I went to a school at Virra Mall Greenhills, our school shared space with a taekwondo studio. I was part of Amelia Garcia Yulo’s ballet repertory,” she said.

“So, being onstage with a ballet group is very, very special to me, that’s why I like to feed them (laughs), alam mo yun? Growing up with ballerinas was a special thing. It was a family for sure. We would go on trips to the beach, to Our Lady Manaoag.

“So, ever since I was young (I was dancing). I had thought one day, I would be a prima ballerina. I still dream that I’m super good but I’m better in my dreams than in real life… Siguro din nalang yun ang nangyayari kasi (Rama, Hari) is like a multiverse. Sita is me and a dancer as well. Parang naghahalo yung anyo namin,” she said.

Worth-noting is that Karylle has been accepting one theater work after another since 2022. She said it was the pandemic that inspired her to actively pursue stage projects these days.

“Just thinking I would never be able to step onto the stage again really opened my eyes to the truth in my heart that I am a theater performer,” Karylle shared.

Karylle performs at the newly-restored Metropolitan Theater for Rama, Hari, the acclaimed Philippine production that has five National Artists attached to it
Photos courtesy of Karylle’s Facebook page

“I love to do it. I love the challenges. I love the art, I love the people, I love everything that goes with it — the sound of the orchestra, the dancers stretching on the side, the dancers dancing their hearts out.”

In Rama, Hari, in particular, she feels privileged to be in the company of the masters. “I’m very, very fortunate to be surrounded with National Artists — Ms. Alice Reyes and Mr. Ryan Cayabayab. Mrs. C (Emmy Cayabyab) is also helping me with my music classes,” she said.

“All the singers with us, my alternates (Shiela Valderrama and Nica Tupas) — we all have this wonderful energy that we share as Sita. ‘Di ba parang nakakatuwa rin yun na marami kayo playing the same role? Some of us are alternates, and some of us, yun nga are the multiverse (referring to the dancers). Sabay kami nagiging Sita. Ang saya gampanan yung role na ito.”

When audiences watch her in Rama, Hari, her goals are clear. “I want to make sure na naririnig nila yung napakagandang likha ni Bienvenido Lumbera kasi napakaganda nung Filipino language,” she said. “Of course, the music of Mr. C, he will be playing piano for the orchestra, which will be conducted by his son Toma. The beautiful connections are also there. These are things na parang nakakatuwa.

“(The audiences) would be able to read as well the English translation of another National Artist, Mr. Rolando Tinio. I would love for people to really understand the story and to hear the beautiful words.”

Karylle also loves the fact that she’s surrounded by young people in this 2023 edition of Rama, Hari such as the Orchestra of Filipino Youth and the newly-formed Alice Reyes Dance Philippines.

“One of the nice things during this time is we have a youth orchestra. It’s also very exhilarating to know that it’s our music scholars who come from all over the country. ARDP is also a very young group,” she said.

“Nakaka-excite din because the energy of young performers is something else. It’s infectious! If you have young ones who are very excited to step onto a stage for the first time or for the first couple of times, (the atmosphere is) different. It’s electric!”

Rama, Hari 2023 premiered over the weekend at the Metropolitan Theater in Manila and will be performed at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater on Sept. 22 and 23. Tickets are available at Ticketworld.

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