‘Rama Hari’ returns onstage for two weekends this month

Leah C. Salterio - The Philippine Star
�Rama Hari� returns onstage for two weekends this month
Arman Ferrer and Shiela Valderrama- Martinez play the leads Rama and Sita in the Filipino modern rock opera ballet ‘Rama Hari.’ The last three performances are happening this weekend — Feb. 23, 24 and 25 — at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater.
STAR / File

An ancient epic and five National Artists.

The scope that the Filipino modern rock opera ballet, “Rama Hari,” delivered more than four decades ago, has yet to be equaled onstage.

The adaptation of the Sanskrit epic poem, Ramayana, “Rama Hari” returns onstage for two weekends, with the last three performances happening this weekend — Feb. 23, 24 and 25 — at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater.

he principal dancers of Alice Reyes Dance Philippines.

Five visionaries who would later become National Artists, collaborated on this landmark production — Alice Reyes (dance), Ryan “Mr. C” Cayabyab (music), Bienvenido Lumbera and Rolando Tinio (literature), and Salvador Bernal (theater design).

Although three had passed on, their respective legacy was carried on in “Rama Hari.” Badong Bernal created the grandiose stage and was credited for his set design that was recreated for this present staging.

Rolando Tinio did the English translation that is still used to this day for the new presentation of “Rama Hari.”

Poet and dramatist Lumbera wrote the lyrics for the original songs — all of 24,000 verses divided into some 500 chapters — which have been relived occasionally in special events and in the restaging of “Rama Hari,” the last one in 2011 before this new one.

Ever since, that has been the strong pedigree behind “Rama Hari’s” selling point. That brought audiences to the theater to see the rock opera ballet anew.

Not another groundbreaking production has been staged and restaged on a grand scale like “Rama Hari.” Clearly, the classic opera ballet has been introduced to a younger generation today.

Most of them were not even born yet when “Rama Hari” was first presented onstage, but they appreciated seeing the ballet musical today — 44 years after it was first presented.

Even the artists who essayed the lead roles today — Arman Ferrer and Shiela Valderrama-Martinez respectively portrayed Rama and Sita — admitted “Rama Hari” was a “dream production” for them.

Singing and memorizing the deep, Tagalog lyrics of the opera proved to be daunting for the lead characters, but they delivered and definitely, didn’t disappoint. Each character had a dancer and singer counterpart.

Valderrama-Martinez carried out a hair-raising and beautiful Magbalik Ka Na, Mahal, her solo that clearly merged Mr. C’s music with Lumbera’s deep, Tagalog lyrics that raise the level of pure poetry in music.

Ferrer, meanwhile, soared with his vocals as Rama, always set to astound the audience with his powerful tenor.

Not to be missed is Poppert Bernadas as the scheming Ravana, making his mark in this next generation of performing artists.

Other lead cast members are Karylle Tatlonghari and Nica Tupas (Sita alternates), Vien King (Rama alternate), John Mojica, Bernadas, Paw Castillo, Jon Abella, and Audie Gemora,

with Katrine Sunga, Miah Canton, Marynor Madamesilla, and Raflesia Bravo. The ballet is danced by the Alice Reyes Dance Philippines.

Mr. C had just won the Metropop Music Festival in 1978 with Hajji Alejandro’s Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika, when he was called on by Reyes to meet with her and Lumbera for the new production of “Rama Hari.”

For the present staging, all shows are accompanied by live music from the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth, with Toma Cayabyab wielding the baton. Chorus is the Ryan Cayabyab Singers (RCS), with members from Baihana and Conchords.

Not to be missed is Poppert Bernadas as the scheming Ravana, making his mark in this next generation of performing artists.

However, the Feb. 23 performance will see National Artist Cayabyab conducting the orchestra for one special performance of “Rama Hari.” On Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m., the closing show is a special gala performance for the Angat Buhay Foundation.

“I am very excited for this last run of ‘Rama Hari’ this weekend and next,” Mr. C wrote on his Facebook account.

“Come and watch this (habang buhay pa kami ni Alice!!!). I don’t think it will be restaged in the next 10 years. The last time there was a major re-staging was in 2011. That was 13 years ago!”

“The dancers are sooooooooo good and sooooo disciplined. Iba sila talaga. The costumes and stage design by Badong Bernal are classic. Bienvenido Lumbera’s libretto is moving, lyrics are sublime in the arias and scintillating in the production numbers.”

vuukle comment




  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with