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Starweek Magazine

Noli Me Tangere: A beautiful opera that is truly Filipino

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine national hero’s masterpiece is getting the opera treatment and will be shown in Manila in a once-in-a-lifetime production celebrating Filipino history, art and literature.

JS Productions Inc., in cooperation with Resorts World Manila, is bringing the musical masterpiece that is Noli Me Tangere: The Opera back to Manila after a successful run in New York and recently, in Washington D.C.

An adaption of Jose Rizal’s novel of the same name, Noli Me Tangere: The Opera features the collaborative artistry of two Philippine National Artists, composer Felipe de Leon and Guillermo Tolentino, who is responsible for the libretto.

Beyond the portrayal of the stories of Crisostomo Ibarra, who symbolizes the dreams of the Filipino youth, or Sisa, whose story represents the tragedy that was the oppression of an entire country, is the need to engage the passion, love and pride of a nation that extends outside the borders of the Philippines.

“It is the perfect time to bring back the Noli opera to Manila because there have been a lot of Broadway productions staged here recently,” said Jerry Sibal, president of JS Productions Inc. “The younger generation is so immersed in the Internet that they’ve forgotten history and culture. I think it’s high time that we educate them, as it is our history that identifies us as Filipinos.”

The Manila production of Noli Me Tangere: The Opera will be headlined by two world-class talents – Sal Malaki as Crisostomo Ibarra, the liberal-minded, outspoken and idealistic youth whose eyes were opened to the harsh reality of revolution, and Rachelle Gerodias as Maria Clara, Ibarra’s sweetheart whose birth is a crucial part of the narrative.

Gerodias received her Master’s degree in Vocal Performance and Vocal Literature from the famed Eastman School of Music in New York and graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music. She is also an awardee of “The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service.”

Malaki is one of the most seasoned artists of the Los Angeles Opera Company, housed under the general direction of world-renowned tenor and conductor Placido Domingo. He has performed in more than 105 Los Angeles Opera productions – a very rare feat which he achieved since joining the company in 1995.

Despite having performed in virtually every opera masterpiece created in his 19 consecutive seasons with the company, Malaki is very excited about Noli.

“This is our very own and we can claim this tunay na Filipino,” he said. “We learned about Noli when we were young in a classroom setting per requirement but here, we continue to learn. We continue to look and examine this work again and learn something about national pride and be proud about it, and move forward to make at least one significant change.”

Gerodias looks forward to interpreting Maria Clara’s character, especially her beautiful aria Kay Tamis ng Buhay sa Sariling Bayan.

“Noli Me Tangere is probably the most beautiful operatic work that is truly Filipino,” she said. “I feel so proud to be part of this production. Aside from the beautiful music everyone will surely enjoy, it is a story about love, honor and hope, things we all need to draw inspiration from.”

Playing alternates for Ibarra and Maria Clara are Manila-based undiscovered greats, Ivan Nery and Myramae Meneses.

Nery and Meneses, who both hail from St. Scholastica’s College in Manila with bachelor’s degrees in music, train under the illustrious soprano Camille Lopez-Molina.

They have been in multiple opera and theater productions in the past years and have actually portrayed Ibarra and Maria Clara in previous stages. This will be their first time performing the Noli opera in such a grand scale.

“I’m so excited because it’s a new production and it’s a new experience for me to be working with director Freddie Santos,” shares Meneses. “This is also the first time that I’ll be singing the Noli opera with a full orchestra. Before, it was just with two pianos.”

The 25-year-old tenor and 22-year-old soprano are both optimistic that the Noli opera in Manila will do wonders for the reputation of opera among Filipinos. They feel that for the younger generation to really appreciate classical music, they need to be more exposed to it. Noli is a wonderful jumping point for this.

“There’s a misconception about opera productions,” said Nery. “People think it’s for older people and that it’s boring. If people gave it a chance, they would realize that it’s a beautiful art form and something that should be appreciated just as much as mainstream productions.”

Spearheaded by Fil-Am philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis and supported by Jerry Sibal (executive producer), Edwin Josue (assistant executive producer) and Mark and Christine Manalang (Ultimate Shows, Inc.), Noli Me Tangere: The Opera will run from Sept. 11 to 28 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila.

The Manila Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Maestro Rodel Colmenar, will lend their musical prowess to the production, which will be directed by acclaimed theater director Freddie Santos.

Honorary chairs for the opera include Boy Abunda, Gemma Cruz Araneta, Willy and Marion Coscolluela, Secretary Albert del Rosario, Margie Moran-Floirendo and Loida Nicolas Lewis.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/nolioperamanila or call 899-7938 to 39. For ticket inquiries, contact Dennis Villaluz at (02) 788-9108, 0916-8571-553, 0932-175-8599.

Students with valid identification cards may avail of discounted tickets for balcony seats at P500 through the generosity of San Miguel and chairman and CEO Ramon Ang.

CRISOSTOMO IBARRA

FREDDIE SANTOS

IBARRA AND MARIA CLARA

JERRY SIBAL

MANILA

MARIA CLARA

NEW YORK

NOLI

NOLI ME TANGERE

OPERA

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