It is timeless and for good reason—its significance never fades. Considered as the novel which inspired the revolution that ended the 300 years of Spanish colonial rule in the country, Dr Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, published in 1887, still holds relevance in present-day Philippines.
Noli ’s story is one too familiar for Filipinos, many of whom took it as a required reading material in school. Noli has been retold in different ways but the finest adaptation is the opera that was written and composed by two national artists: Guillermo Tolentino for the libretto and Felipe de Leon for music. It is the first full-length Filipino opera which made its debut in 1957 at the Far Eastern University Auditorium. Since then, it has become the most staged Philippine production, the latest of which were held in Manila, New York, and Washington DC in 2014 through the initiative of Filipino-American philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis and J&S Productions, Inc executive producers Jerry Sibal and Edwin Josue.
This year, the classic opera is making its way back home to mark another milestone as it turns 60.
The same forces behind the 2014 productions are set to present the opera in Manila once again in celebration of its 60th anniversary, partnering this time with the Cultural Centre of the Philippines (CCP). This production is the biggest done by the CCP for opera so far, with 200 staff and 70 singers. The newly formed 52-piece Noli Symphony Orchestra brings De Leon’s music to life under the baton of Maestro Herminigildo Ranera from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music.
The production’s choir director and voice coach Ronan Ferrer plays the role of Crisostomo Ibarra while soprano Bianca Camille Lopez plays Maria Clara. Andrew Fernandez and Antoni Mendezona return as Padre Damaso and Sisa respectively, having played the same characters in the United States run, while Greg De Leon plays the mysterious Elias.
This is the first directorial job for Sibal, who is also the set and costume designer. “I’ve tried to be very faithful to Rizal’s book as much as possible,” Sibal says. Taking inspiration from 1870s Binondo, Manila in creating the set and costumes, the producer added, “I want to tell a story that the audience could relate to and bring the memory of the great Noli novel.” As with the previous stages, the opera is in pure Filipino, with English subtitles projected over the set, and is divided into three acts.
“We hope that through this presentation, we’ll be able to contribute to the empowerment of our youth and our society,” Sibal said.
Noli Me Tangere: The Opera runs from 28 January until 3 February at the CCP Main Theatre, Pasay City. For more information, visit ticketworld.com.ph