MANILA -- While Giacomo Puccini’s famous three-act opera “Turandot” will be staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on December 9 and 11, the general rehearsal on December 7, at 3 p.m., will be opened to 700 high school students from underprivileged areas of Metro Manila.
“I am so proud of being able to involve the CCP, the artists of ‘Turandot’ and the office of the Vice President of the Philippines [Sara Duterte] in a very important educational project,” Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Marco Clemente told ABS-CBN News.
“We are offering the school children the live performance of ‘Turandot,’ which is really unique and not very, very common. It’s impossible for obvious reasons to invite them all to productions.”
Clemente acknowledged that producing an opera is an immensely difficult enterprise. He could not imagine how much is behind the cost of staging “Turandot” at the CCP.
“Opera is a combination of different arts,” Clemente explained. “We have dance, scenery, acting, singing, warm music, symphonic orchestra music and much, much more. It is unique. Opera is not part of your DNA, that’s why it needs to be promoted.”
He thanked the Italian director of “Turandot,” maestro Vincenzo Grisostomi Travaglini, and all the members of the artistic team to allow that to happen.
“That is not normal because all opera artists are so sensitive,” Clemente said. “Come and convince your colleagues from the arts, the media sector and from the education. Your role is crucial.
“This is highly valued education for children, We have 700 students who will experience ‘Turandot’ for the first time.”
Travaglini previously conducted operas at the CCP like Donizetti’s “L’Elizir d’ Amore” in 2017 and “Lucia di Lammermoor” in 2020.
Guest conductor maestro Valentino Favoino leads the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), with choral ensembles of the Turandot Opera Chorus and Tiples of Mandaluyong Children's Choir. Completing the visual spectacle is Giovanni Pirandello as lighting designer.
“Come on December 7 to meet these children and ask them what they felt and divulge their experience after seeing the performances of the night,” Clemente said. “Help us. We are doing this for the future of our country.
“You have a big responsibility. If you don’t make the public aware of what is opera for the cultural life of this country, you will regret that in the next years.
“If we miss this last ‘streetcar,’ to quote a famous American play, if you let that go that there is something so important for your culture called opera, this streetcar will not go back anymore.
“In the future generation, the cultural life of this country will be different. There won’t be many others. Definitely, opera will not belong to our children anymore because they don’t know what’s opera.
“We need this to have a continuation if you are interested to experience this unique moment of education about Italian opera. If there is interest, people like [Rustan’s] Nedy Tantoco and [CCP’s] Margie Floirendo will do that again.”
When the performance venues started opening up and shows were scheduled starting August this year, the CCP reopened its doors.
“Everybody loves a love story,” CCP president Margie Moran Floirendo declared. “There is no hidden fact every love story may encounter conveys a different facet of love. Each love story affects us in different ways and inspires us to live through their own story.
“There are love stories that are timeless and transcend beyond cultural boundaries and social barriers such as the classic tale of ‘Turandot.’
“The opera is a story filled with personal suffering, passion, determination, ancestral trauma and unrequited love amid the pomp and pageantry of ancient China.
“Puccini’s final opera is a must-see for every Filipino. Its beautiful set, magnificent arias and melodies bring extraordinary brilliance. It should be a blockbuster here in the Philippines.”
Floirendo watched “Turandot” abroad three times – twice in Beijing and one at the Metropolitan Theater in New York.
Philippine opera has a very rich history when it was first introduced to the country as zarzuela, a Spanish art form. As early as 1878, the first Tagalog opera, “Sanduggong Panaginip,” was composed by Ladislao Bonus.
“So why is opera so important?” asked Floirendo. “They offer sincere reflection of who we are. How we relate to others and what it means collectively and individually to the human.
“Watching opera allows us to experience emotional and imaginative truths, and share profound, transformative cultural experiences.”
Floirendo has been a staunch supporter of the opera in the Philippines and an advocate of Italian-Filipino relations. Project director for “Turandot” is recently-appointed CCP artistic director, Dennis Marasigan.
“With the closing of the CCP building for rehabilitation, it will take another two to three years before we can bring another opera,” Foirendo noted. “Turandot’ is one of the last shows CCP will stage at the Main Theater.
“It is really my ardent wish that every Filipino will get to experience this classic opera masterpiece. One of the most favorite operas and create wonderful memories to last a long time after the final curtain.”