'Noli Me Tangere' opera premieres in Washington

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Aug 16 2014 12:00 PM | Updated as of Aug 16 2014 08:00 PM

WASHINGTON, DC – "Noli Me Tangere", the first full-length Filipino opera done in Western style, premiered at the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington, DC over the weekend.

Sung entirely in Tagalog, "Noli Me Tangere" or "Touch Me Not" was composed by Felipe De Leon, the same composer who brought the Philippine National Anthem "Lupang Hinirang" to life in Tagalog.

Based on Jose Rizal's popular novel of the same name, "Noli Me Tangere" tells the story of star crossed lovers Crisostomo Ibarra and Maria Clara caught in the middle of a socio-political unrest during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.

Washingon, DC producer Dr. Edward Seidel said, "'Noli Me Tangere' really does tell a very important story of the history of beginning of independence in the Philippines from Spain."

Praising Sal Malaki's portrayal of hero Crisostomo Ibarra, the Washington Post said "this golden tenor anchored the opera and his expressive singing sent it soaring."

The Post also praised Antoni Mendezona's captivating performance as Sisa – the deranged mother of Basilio and Crispin.

The Post said, "Mendezona's coloratura dazzled and pulled heartstrings during her lament in the woods."

Filipino community leaders said the message of "Noli" is as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1888.

"'Noli Me Tangere' is still very current, because it shows that abuses of power when power is exerted unjustly, unfairly, without thought of the other person, it will create a revolution," said community leader Loida Nicolas-Lewis.

"Noli" was first staged in Chicago and then in New York before its debut at the nation’s political capital, Washington DC.

And as "Noli Me Tangere – The Opera" goes to the Resorts World in Manila with 21 performances this September, community leaders are hoping this opera would serve as an eye-opener for kababayans back home to the socio-economic problems in the Philippines such as corruption, power manipulation and hypocrisy of the wealthy and the privileged.

"The message given to the Filipino people is to be vigilant, to be fully aware of their current national situation," Migrant Heritage's Arnedo Valera said, "so they would be able at least to participate within the peaceful means on how to reform the country and address the root causes of corruption."

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