Three renowned artists share the same sentiments on the current state of opera in the Philippines. They all agreed that opera, which is considered as the most dynamic form of art and a major form of cultural expression, struggles so much to stay alive.
Soprano Maria Rachelle Gerodias, Filipino-American tenor Arthur Espiritu and bass baritone Andrew Fernando believe that musical dramas are losing its audience mainly because of its major competition, younger generation is not exposed to classical music and producers are reluctant to shell out funds because of its restrictive production cost.
Gerodias, Espiritu and Fernando are starring in the CCP’s production of Italian opera La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi and they are hoping that with this stage production, they would be able to encourage more audience to help promote classical music and ultimately foster the young generation’s interest in stage plays and theater performances.
Gerodias who is regarded as one of the country’s most awarded soprano is essaying Verdi’s fascinating titular heroine named Violetta, the doomed courtesan who fights for love while she also battles tuberculosis. The New York – educated artist will play the role on March 3 at the CCP Main Theater while on March 2 and 4, the title role will be performed by Korean soprano Yun-Kyoung Yi.
The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Prof. Jae Joon Lee, will provide live orchestral music, while the UST singers will render choral support. Floy Quintos will direct the production with set and costume design by Eric Cruz.
La Traviata (literally means the fallen woman), an opera in three acts, is a tragic story of a beautiful but doomed prostitute. The production is best remembered for the widely performed Libiamo ne’lieti calici (The Drinking Song), Addio Passato, and Sempre Libera. Composed by Verdi and set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, it debuted on March 6, 1853 at the La Fenice Opera House in Venice. The opera was said to have failed at its premiere. Audiences of the time rejected the opera’s modern setting, preferring period costume, and the cast members were, for one reason or another, incapable of performing their roles.
This time around, audience might reject the opera because of its classic music and setting but La Traviata is still very much relevant (Moulin Rouge is based on La Traviata, incidentally) because of its universal theme of ultimate love and sacrifice. In 1854, the opera attained success in the same city where it premiered and went on to become a timeless classic as one of the world’s most popular operas, second only to Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
“Opera is a relatively unknown art form in the Philippines, although it has been around for some time already,” CCP president Raul Sunico says, “It is a complete art that combines music, theater, dance and design.”
Dr. Sunico hopes that the CCP’s cooperation with with the Opera Guild Foundation of the Philippines, and Daejeon Opera Company of Korea will renew and reinvigorate interest in art of opera.