NY Filipinos Welcome Momentous Premiere of ‘Noli’ Opera
A cornerstone of Philippine history is set to land in New York with the fall premiere of “Noli Me Tángere” (Touch Me Not), an opera based on a novel by Dr. José Rizal that chronicles the abuses and inequalities in the Philippines during Spanish colonial rule, reports Randy Gener for The FilAm.
Rizal, an author, physician and patriot, fought for reform in the Philippines in the late 1800s and ended up being executed in 1896 at the age of 35.
The Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue, home to the Philippine Consulate General, hosted a town hall event on January 21, in which a committee headed by philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis and Consul General Mario L. de Leon Jr. revealed that “Noli Me Tángere: The Opera” – “the operatic retelling by Felipe Padilla de Leon of Rizal’s 1887 novel with a libretto by Guillermo Tolentino” – will entertain New York audiences at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse in October . The staging in New York represents a momentous occasion for the Filipino community.
“Nothing happens in the world if it does not happen in New York,” said Nicolas Lewis. “Here is a Filipino who has created a world-class opera based on Rizal’s ‘Noli.’ It will be sung by a diverse cast in the Filipino language.”
The premiere of “Noli” comes at a period of global and cultural emergence for the Philippines and Filipino-Americans.
“The Philippines has now shed its title as ‘Sick Man of Asia’ and is now considered a rising star,” said Nicolas Lewis. “Our mother country [now has the third highest growth rate] in Growth Domestic Product for 2012. We extended a $1-billion loan to the International Monetary Fund to stabilize the economy of our former colonial master Spain. It is time for us Filipino Americans to show the world that we are a cultured people.”
This ambitious staging of the “Noli” opera promises to be a milestone in almost every respect. It comes at the heels of the 75th year of the proclamation of a national language based on the Tagalog dialogue on December 30, 2012. That date also marks the 100th year since the remains of Rizal were reinterred in the Luneta monument.
De Leon’s “Noli” is the second Filipino opera written, after 1902′s “Sandugong Panaginip,” though “Noli” does take claim to the country’s first full-length grand opera, complete with a full orchestra.
A comment by “Noli” music director Michael Dadap reveals that the significance of “Noli” comes not just from who wrote it but from the continuing relevance of the words he wrote.
“Today, we are facing different faces of oppression caused by greed, poverty and intolerance,” said Dadap. “Rizal was God’s messenger to awaken us all. De Leon’s opera version from the novel is a vehicle serving as a powerful reminder that we Filipinos must not forget the struggles of our race. Over a century later, Rizal’s words and wisdom still ring true.”