MANILA -- Singer and actress Bituin Escalante is excited to be part of “Rise," a twin-bill production that features the return of Ballet Manila’s long-running series “Ballet & Ballads.”
“It’s an honor to be part of the rebirth of Aliw Theatre and the return of Ballet Manila to its home,” Escalante told ABS-CBN News.
Escalante will sing OPM ballads in English and Filipino in Act 1, which also has ballet pieces choreographed by Gerardo Francisco Jr., Tony Fabella, Martin Lawrance and Ballet Manila’s CEO-creative director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, who also functions as concept director and overall artistic director in "Rise."
“I’ve shared the stage with BM in omnibus productions but it’s my first time to appear in a Ballet Manila show,” Escalante added.
“Ballet & Ballads” was conceptualized in 1998 by media tycoon Fred Elizalde, who is Macuja-Elizalde’s husband.
Way back in 1985, Elizalde was appointed director and chairman of the Manila Broadcasting Company. Years later, he thought of merging the talents of the singers from the radio and the dancers from the company.
Since then, “Ballet & Ballads” has been staged here and abroad with performers like Lani Misalucha, Side A, Basil Valdez and Christian Bautista.
On having Escalante for the return of “Ballet & Ballads,” Macuja-Elizalde told ABS-CBN News in an online message: “She has the most powerful voice with an incredible range. A complete professional to work with.”
“I’m truly amazed by her,” Macuja-Elizalde added.
Escalante said she will perform four songs with a 60-piece orchestra to be conducted by Gerard Salonga.
The orchestra is made up of freelancers mainly from the now-disbanded ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the casualties of the non-renewal network’s franchise.
“It also feels like home to be singing with Gerard again. Gerard and I have performed together many times but it is my first time with the bespoke orchestra,” Escalante told ABS-CBN News.
Multi-platform actor-singer-director Michael Williams, meanwhile, is directing the singers and handling script direction, which makes Escalante feels more excited even during rehearsals.
“I’ve actually been directed by Michael many times. It’s a breeze kasi he has such sound instincts as a performer,” Escalante said.
For his part, Williams shares the excitement of everyone in the production.
“It’s quite exciting! I am very happy that Aliw Theater and Ballet Manila are rising again from that terrible fire and also from the pandemic. Great to see people back on stage more and more,” Williams told ABS-CBN News.
Act 2 is solely for BM’s “La Traviata,” which was the company’s last production before the pandemic hit. It was performed in March 2020 at the Samsung Hall of SM Aura as a twin-bill with Rudy De Dios’ choreography of “Carmina Burana.”
“'La Traviata' has always been my favorite opera of all time, and we are going to have live singing, with a 12-person opera ensemble and our soloists –- Jade Riccio as Violetta, Ivan Nery as Alfredo, and Chris Arceo as Giorgio Germont,” Macuja-Elizalde said in an earlier interview.
“It is a dream come true for me to be able to choreograph to the music of Giuseppe Verdi.
“As a director, I’m very excited for my dancers because [it’s been] two years of not being able to feel the energy of a live audience while dancing on stage. And the energy and the artistic rewards that you get from performing live, with an audience, with a curtain call at the end, with a live orchestra, with live singing,” Macuja-Elizalde added.
“Rise” scriptwriter is the veteran Luna Griño-Inocian and lighting designer Johnsy Reyes. “Rise” symbolizes the baptism of fire for the newly renovated, refurbished Aliw Theater.
“Why 'Rise'? Because that is what we do, we rise after every catastrophe. We rise to face every challenge. We rise to fulfill our calling. We rise to make dreams come true," Macuja-Elizalde said.
“Rise” runs on October 7, 8pm and October 9, 5pm at the Aliw Theater.