Thursday, September 18, 2008

Philippine Opera Company reimagines 'La Boheme'

In an effort to make opera more accessible to the modern audience while remaining true to the original score, Philippine Opera Company and the Cultural Center of the Philippines has transported Giacomo Pucinni’s “La Boheme” to a modern-day gathering of young independent artists in Manila in search of their rightful place under the sun. Rodolfo is now an indie art director and Mimi a struggling artist on the big screen.

The storyline is simple enough: Mimi and Rodolfo find love, lose love and then find love again at the end of the play, right before Mimi dies. A second storyline involves the relationship between Marcello, a bohemian writer, and Musetta, a vivacious redhead who makes a living by feeding off of her sugar daddy. Rodolfo and Marcello are supported by their roommates, a professor named Colline and a musician named Schaunard. The storyline might sound familiar to anyone who knows “Rent,” (winner of the 1996 Pulitzer/Tony–award winning musical), which was based on “La Boheme.”

The story also bears a striking resemblance to “Moulin Rouge.” And much like “Moulin Rouge,” the plot is not what makes this production worth seeing--instead, it is the beautiful music and stunning visuals that make this production a stand \out. Puccini's score is sung in Italian by classically trained opera singers. The leads are played by rotating casts. there are two Mimis, three Rodolfos, two Marcellos, and two Musettas.

Playing the lead roles are tenors Juan Alberto Gaerlan, Dondi Ong and Gary del Rosario, who sang Parpignol in the Rolando Tinio version of “Boheme” at the CCP in the 1990s and is presently with the Seattle Opera after a long stint with Cleveland Opera as Rodolfo. Mimi will be performed by Jennifer Uy, a finalist in the 2001 Maria Callas Opera Grand Prix in Athens, Greece, wherein she worked one-on-one with Dame Joan Sutherland and Gundula Janowitz. Alternating with her as Mimi is Maribel Miguel, who is making her opera debut.

Sopranos Ana Feleo (2007 Aliw Awardee and fresh from The Juilliard School of Music) and Elaine Lee (Bachelor of Music graduate in Opera Performance at the University of British Columbia) play Musetta. Baritones Lawrence Jatayna (several productions with Singapore Lyric Opera) and Jesus Baang (Singapore Lyric Opera) play Marcello, while Joseleo Logdat and John Ocampos plays Colline and Schaunard, respectively.

Director Floy Quintos directs, with sets by Jo Tecson, a high-tech video design by Furball and lighting design by Monino Duque. Sharing the stage is the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of international conductor Helen Quach (assistant conductor of Leonard Bernstein).

“La Boheme” Manila is set to open on October 3 with a cocktail gala at 8 p.m., October 4 at 8 p.m., and a 3 p.m. matinee on October 5 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Main Theater.

Other upcoming and equally exciting productions of the Philippine Opera Company (POC) include Mozart’s “Magic Flute” and Terence McNally’s Tony-award winning play, “Master Class,” on the life-story of Maria Callas as portrayed by highly-respected movie actress Cherie Gil.

For tickets, block sales, sponsorship and other information, call 8928786 or visit www.philippineopera Tickets are also available at all TicketWorld outlets 8919999.


Anonymous said...

I wonder why they compare it to Moulin Rouge when the parallels to Rent are even more apparent. But it could still work, so whatever floats their boat. Sorry, random observation. I just couldn't help noting.

Anonymous said...

How does one enjoy an opera without hearing it? You can’t!

Immediately after Act 1 of “La Boheme”, at least 20 people left the theatre. Some went straight to the parking lot. While others, Filipinos and foreigners alike, went straight to the table (where the programs were sold) to express our disappointment and frustration. We simply could not hear the opera. With the exception of Rodolfo, one can barely hear the rest of the characters. Only Rodolfo’s soaring high notes that made an impression. This would have surely been a goose bump moment had there been a sound system.

The lack of acoustic enhancement was the tragic mistake. It is mind boggling to me that the Philippine Opera Company did not take careful measures to ensure the enjoyment of the first ever, full length opera with an all Filipino cast.

It was also quite annoying to see some characters dressed as if they were appearing in “Rent”. Layers of clothing, beanies and scarves were worn while they huddled in front of a fire. Seriously, it never gets that cold in Manila. The set design was a very poor and uninspired version of the “Rent”set design.

Whenever I watch an opera, I am prepared to hear magnificent voices, spectacular sets and grand costumes. Now, take the period costumes away and you are left with what looks like a run-through or rehearsal for an opera. I am not saying they need to be in evening gowns or showgirl costumes. But they could have at least given it more thought.
Rodolfo and Mimi’s outfits in Act 1 were beyond horrendous. Being Bohemian does not mean being “baduy” or devoid of style. In fact, the Bohemian style has even inspired haute couture.

Only three things were praise worthy of the October 4 performance: Rodolfo, Musetta and the video backdrop.

I immediately texted everyone I knew of this utter waste of time. Many had planned to go on the last night but opted not to because they have received similar warnings from other victimized friends.

gibbs cadiz said...

hi ANONYMOUS, moulin rouge? hmmm, only because their female leads both die of consumption, i think. :)

hi ANONYMOUS, sorry to hear that. i watched the 3pm show, sunday. could the change in cast account for the seemingly vast difference in our experience? i hope your observations reach philippine opera company. in fact, may i suggest that you drop by karla gutierrez's multiply site ( and let her know of your concerns? i think it's important that she hear from you directly about this. of course, if you do decide to formalize your complaint, i think you'd also have to drop the anonymous tag and attach a real name to your comments. :)

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