Arts & Leisure

By Camille Anne M. Arcilla, Reporter

Fresh new staging for a classic of Filipino literature and music

Posted on February 01, 2017

Noli Me Tangere the Opera
Feb. 1 to 3 at 8 p.m., and Feb. 3 at 2 p.m.
Main Theater of the Cultural Center of
the Philippines, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City

NATIONAL HERO Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) is nothing new to Filipinos -- after all, this look at the conflict between the locals and the Spanish friars during Spanish colonial period is required reading in high school and college. But taking it on stage in an operatic presentation gives it a fresh perspective.

SCENES from Noli Me Tangere the Opera -- ALDWIN KU
On its 60th year, Noli Me Tangere the Opera has returned for a limited six-performance run until Feb. 3.

With a libretto by Guillermo Tolentino and music by Felipe P. de Leon, both National Artists, it first premiered in 1957 at the Far Eastern University.

The opera was most recently staged at the Newport Performing Arts Theater at Resorts World Manila in 2014, in a P60-million production featuring elaborate and digitally aided sets.

For its most recent iteration, the opera features over 200 singers, musicians, and crew, with 16 scenes utilizing “modern digital imaging screen projection” and new sets and costumes. This production cost P35 million.

True to its word, the opera does not disappoint when it comes to its grand stage design, its interchanging sets and engaging digital imagery taking the audience back to the Spanish colonial era.

While the opera is sung in formal Filipino which may intimidate some, this staging provides English subtitles for the audience to easily follow the lyrics. This, however, makes the viewing experience a bit challenging because it requires one to switch one’s focus from the action onstage and the flashing translations above the curtains.

During the Jan. 29 performance, the cast was led by Nohmer Nival and Bianca Camille Lopez as the star-crossed lovers Crisostomo Ibarra and Maria Clara, respectively. Though the first few scenes were a bit slow, both managed to build on their chemistry and their role’s impact after the show’s intermission.

Just as in the novel, Padre Damaso, played by John-Andrew Hernandez, is someone one would clearly hate. The friar’s antagonistic motives drive the whole opera’s conflict -- notably in the scene where he asks Maria Clara to marry the Spanish bachelor Alfonso Linares but she declines to do so.

Supporting actors Mary Louise Alcantara (Sisa) and Jillbert Chua (Elias), however, were the show’s scene-stealers. Ms. Alcantara’s powerful performance during Sisa’s search for her missing sons and Mr. Chua’s attack during his character’s death in the forest truly moved the viewers.

Noel Comia is a promising young actor. Even as an emergency substitute for the role of Sisa’s son Basilio -- he was not named as part of the cast at the opera’s launch -- he proved his acting and vocal prowess which even stood out from his older co-actors. Santino Juan Santiago played his younger brother Crispin.

The opera featured live music from a 52-piece orchestra under the baton of Herminigildo Ranera of the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music.

Noli Me Tangere the Opera serves as a refresher course not only of a classic in Philippine literature, but also on our history which seems to have been neglected by the younger generation. Beyond what a textbook can offer, one can also learn one’s history through a different form of art.

Tickets are available at the CCP Box Office (832-3704), TicketWorld (, and at J&S Productions, Inc. (0926-038-0548, 0921-890-3816 and 998-2356). For more information, visit or its corresponding Facebook page.