Last year, in the midst of so many foreign pop acts and imported musicals, one small theatrical effort made waves. It was a revue featuring traditional and contemporary Filipino songs, sung not by the established legends of Classical singing, but by a troupe of ten young, relatively unknown, but dedicated classical singers.
The show was the Philippine Opera Company’s “Ang Bagong Harana”. And it was a show that had the audience who came to see it for four nights at the RCBC Theater, weeping and applauding with joy.
What was the secret of this small revue’s success? “Ang Bagong Harana was envisioned as love song to our country,” says Karla Gutierrez, who heads the Philippine Opera Company.
” We wanted to show audiences that there is so much wealth that modern Filipinos can mine from our traditional and contemporary music. In this age of Globalization, it is all the more crucial for us to know who we are and what we have that we can call Pinoy. A lot of performers may say that we are the best in the world. But we wanted to go a step further and prove it by using our own traditional and contemporary material. And we wanted to showcase young singers who have committed themselves to classical singing and to our traditional material.”
The company of ten singers is made upo f theater actors and singers Karla Gutierrez, Aizel Prietos, Charley Magalit,Janine Santos, Marian Santiago, Lawrence Jatayna, Jack Salud, Nazer Salcedo, Marvin Gayramon and Al Gatmaitan. Most have appeared in plays and musicals. None of them are what you would call “mainstream”. And that is precisely what makes their performances all the more poignant and powerful.
The show, as conceived by Floy Quintos, begins with an evocation of a lost innocence, as expressed through traditional children’s songs sung by the company. From there, the love song to country moves through various evocations—a kundiman suite, framed against the backdrop of revolution, a tribal suite based on the indigenous respect for the environment, a suite of folk songs framed against the backdrop of a fiesta, a tribute to Sylvia La Torre that reconnects with our bodabil roots. But more than just mining the past, “Ang Bagong Harana” moves swiftly into the present, using OPM classics like Fredddie Aguilar’s “Anak” to make pointed social commentary.
“We kept getting inquiries about a repeat run”says Karla, “which is why we are bringing back the show in it’s original form, with most of the original cast. It is a difficult effort to try and do something truly Filipino nowadays. But after the warm response that we got last year, we know that there is an audience that is hungry for this kind of entertainment that reconnects us to our souls. In this age of globalization, it’s the one thing we cannot face the future without.”
“ANG BAGONG HARANA” will have a re-run on June 6-9 at 8pm with matinees on at 3:30pm on June 9 and 10 at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater, RCBC Plaza, Makati.