New York --- At the sitzprobe, one of the very first rehearsals with the cast of around 30 actors and 35-piece orchestra musicians, seasoned Filipino American conductor Michael Dadap said he hopes that New York audiences would not miss this rare opportunity to catch the limited run of Philippine National Artists Felipe de Leon (music) and Guillermo Tolentino’s (libretto) finest work, NOLI ME TANGERE-OPERA.
Inspired by the 1887 classic romantic novel by the Philippines’ National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal, NOLI ME TANGERE OPERA will run at The Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College Friday, October 4 through Sunday, October 6, 2013.
“Filipino Americans are not known to produce a full-scale opera because it’s very expensive to produce one. At the same time, Filipino American investors, in particular, are more attracted to shows that are not ours; they’re very skeptical. I understand that sentiment though,” said Dadap.
He continued, “However, both Filipino American and American audiences shouldn’t miss this rare musical experience. NOLI ME TANGERE is every Filipino’s story set to Felipe de Leon’s finest score [which Bayani de Leon, son of the esteemed composer, also claims]. This operatic masterpiece by de Leon and Guillermo has great sense of nationalism; the lyrics are in Tagalog [supertitles in English will be provided], which makes it even more powerful for the Filipino Americans in the audience.”
Of note, de Leon and Guillermo, who was obsessed with Dr. Rizal’s landmark novel, finished the opera in 1957. According to dramaturg Randy Gener, the opera was, however, “not the first Filipino opera ever written. That honor belongs to ‘Sandugong Panaginip,’ a 1902 work with a libretto by Pedro Paterno and music by Ladislo Bonus. The difference is that ‘Sandugong Panaginip’ was a one-act Tagalog opera made up of five scenes, while De Leon’s ‘Noli’ opera was written with two acts, making it the country’s first full-length grand opera.”
Loida Nicolas Lewis, New York-based businesswoman, philanthropist and this production’s chairperson, first saw a performance of NOLI ME TANGERE-OPERA—its American premiere performed by a diverse cast singing the songs in Tagalog—at Harris Theater at Millennium Park in Chicago June last year.
That rare musical experience has prompted her to bring de Leon and Guillermo’s opus to New York.
“The music of de Leon is world-class in that vein of Puccini and Verdi. However, de Leon’s kundiman strain throughout the piece is very strong,” said Lewis. “Filipinos should be proud. This is our own. Ang galing natin.”
The musical presentation, an opera in Three Acts, 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 bethrothed. 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."
NOLI ME TANGERE-OPERA stars world renowned Filipino opera singers Sal Malaki (Juan Crisostomo Ibarra), Antoni Mendezona (Maria Clara), Andrew Fernando (Padre Damaso), Robert Perla Gomez (Elias) and Maria Christina Navarro (Sisa) and young singer Kirby Asunto (Basilio). It also features a diverse ensemble cast: Brad Arreglado, Jonathan Estabrooks, Rosemarie Flores, May Hackett, William Lim, Brittany Palmer, Allan Samonte, Rina Saporantos, Elijan Sirilan, Zion Sirilan, Ulises Solano, Sherwin Su, Lisa Villamaria and Resty Yongco.
Besides, Dadap, creative and production team members include Rene Dalandan (stage direction), Kristin Jackson (choreography), Jeff Davis (lighting design), Jerry Sibal (set and costume design), Natalie Qing Zhang (stage management) and Clare Chujie Xu (assistant stage management).
Major sponsors are Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, Goldman Sachs & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Alvarez Educational & Charitable Fdn. CiAT Funds, Philippine Development Foundation, US Philippine Society, Leslie Lewis Sword, GMA Pinoy TV/ GMA Life TV and Maharlika Restaurant.