After more than two years, live opera returns to the Cultural Center of the Philippines main theater this weekend with Puccini’s monumental “Turandot.” It will be one of the last productions that will grace the CCP stage before operations close for the building’s three-year renovation.
The Puccini opera will have a gala night at the CCP main theater this Friday, December 9, and a gala matinee on December 11 at 3PM.
Rustan’s Group of Companies’ Zenaida “Nedy” Tantoco, one of the producers, said she decided to tie up with the CCP for the “Turandot” staging in time for the 60th year of the Philippine-Italian Association (PIA). “Presenting Turandot by Puccini would be an appropriate way to further promote Italian arts and culture in the Philippines and in the process raise funds for PIA,” she pointed out.
Italian Ambassador Marco Clemente encouraged Tantoco to produce and mount Turandot. “It is just timely that we are commemorating 75 years of diplomatic relations between Italy and the Philippines. The ambassador said he would be happy to co-sponsor two nights of the opera,” Tantoco added.
“Turandot” is a fantastical tale that takes place in ancient China in which a Princess Turandot poses three riddles to any prince who desires to win her heart; those who are not successful, however, will meet their death. According to Tantoco, the Puccini opera is one of CCP president Margie Moran Floirendo’s favorites, that’s why the former beauty queen was only too happy to support the staging.
“I got to like opera because of early exposure to it along with my daughters,” said Floirendo who asserted that ‘Turandot’ is one of those works that prove opera is one of the most powerful art forms. “It combines music, voice, dance, drama, theater, storytelling and uses massive sets and costumes. It evokes vivid emotions ranging from joy to anger and sadness.”
Having produced operas before, Tantoco knows all too well the high cost of mounting one. “Anywhere in the world, it takes a lot of financial resources to mount grand opera. The sets, the costumes, the artists need gargantuan budget. I was just lucky to get the support of people who care about arts and culture in the Philippines,” she added.
Among those who endorsed and supported the mounting of “Turandot” were Governor Chavit Singson of LCS Group of Companies, Dr. Jaime Laya of Filipinas Opera Society Foundation, Inc., Mr. Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation, Alice Eduardo of Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corporation, TG Limcaoco of Bank of the Philippine Islands, Kevin Tan of Hilton Manila, arts patron Danny Dolor and the Rustan Group of Companies.
Tantoco believes the staging of Turandot is a welcome development in the local arts and culture scene. “I am sure the Filipino music lovers will enjoy the Puccini opera. The costumes and sets will dazzle them. Plus, the most popular aria in the opera, ‘Nessun dorma,’ will be heard live accompanied by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under seasoned Italian conductor Valentino Favoino.”
The Filipinas Opera Society Foundation, Inc.(FOSFI) is another moving force behind the production. FOSFI previously co-sponsored another opera production organized by Tantoco together with the CCP, Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” which was staged just before the pandemic.
The foundation was created under the leadership of the late Imelda Ongsiako-Cojuangco to promote the appreciation of opera in the Philippines and to support talented Filipinos. “We are delighted to join hands with PIA and CCP in this endeavor that brings the rarely staged Puccini opera in Manila,” said Dr. Laya of FOSFI. “It is also a great opportunity to hear distinguished Korean and Filipino singers in one big opera collaboration.”
Clemente said the Italian Embassy was just too happy to support the project and has committed a substantial financial contribution. “Opera was created by a group of Renaissance intellectuals in Florence more than four centuries ago,” said the Italian ambassador. “It is undisputable that the general public still tends to associate the very concept of opera to Italy and to the Italian language. For that reason, it is important for an Italian Ambassador to strongly support live performances of Italian operas especially after the long closure of theatres due the pandemic.”
The Italian Maestro Vincenzo Grisostomi Travaglini is directing the production. He also directed the aforementioned 2020 production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the CCP. Meanwhile, three distinguished Korean singers lead the cast namely tenor James Lee (Calaf), soprano Lilla Lee (Princess Turandot) and bass Jinsu Lee (Timur, the exiled Tartar king). Soprano Rachelle Gerodias sings the role of Liu, Byeong In Park takes the part of Ping the Grand Chancellor, with tenor Ivan Nery as Pong, the Grand Intendant. Also in the cast are tenor Nomher Nival (Emperor Altoum) and baritone Greg de Leon (Mandarino).
Maestro Favoino will lead the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra along with the distinguished choral ensembles of the Viva Voce Voice Lab. Members of the opera dance ensembles will come from the ranks of Alice Reyes Dance Philippines.
The two-day opera gala is sponsored by LCS Group of Companies, San Miguel Corporation, Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corporation, BPI, Danny Dolor and Hilton Manila. For inquiries and ticket reservations, contact Lulu Casas at 09175708301; email@example.com; Maricar Alamodin at 09175384508; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rustan’s Makati - 8813-3739 Loc 280; Rustan’s Shangrila - 8633-4636 Loc 400; Rustan’s Alabang - 8850-5592; Rustan’s Gateway - 8931-2460; CCP Box Office 8832-3704; TicketWorld 8891-9999 and SM Tickets 8470-2222; 0917-870-2222.