by DOM GALEON
Images by NOEL PABALETE
Two lovers from feuding families, forced by fate to be separated from one another—sounds like a familiar plot, right? But it isn’t the story you think it is, not the one from fair Verona.
This love story, between Lucia and Edgardo, is from the 1835 opera Lucia di Lammermoor, with music composed by Gaetano Donizetti and libretto written by Salvadore Cammarano, and loosely based on the 1819 novel The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott.
A staple in the international opera scene and a favorite by avid opera goers, Lucia di Lammermoor comes to the Philippines in all its Italian passion for the first time, but it isn’t technically the first time it has ever been staged here. According to Filipino mezzo-soprano Camille Lopez-Molina, this Donizetti opera had been performed once before at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in 1977 by the Centro Escolar University (CEU) Conservatory of Music’s opera company. The only difference was Cammarano’s libretto was translated into Filipino. Camille, who will play Alisa in the upcoming staging of Lucia, remembers watching the Filipino adaptation when she was a little girl, thanks to her parents who were both part of CEU’s orchestra at that time.
Lucia, therefore, is no stranger to Philippine stages. Apart from that 1977 Filipino version, some of the arias or portions of this opera have also been performed by Filipino singers on countless occasions. The first recorded performance of Lucia happened on Nov. 26, 1886 at the Tondo Theater, which was built in 1841. This was followed by another in 1888 and then in 1897 at Dulaang Zorilla or Teatro Zorilla, which was located along Calle Iris. In the 1930s, Filipino soprano Mercedes Matias Santiago sang Donizetti’s Lucia and Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata on a number of occasions at the Manila Metropolitan Theater and at the University of Sto. Tomas Gymnasium. Mercedes would later on be recognized as the country’s “one and only Lucia di Lammermoor.”
Fast forward to 2020, at the dawn of a new decade, Lucia di Lammermoor returns to the Philippines, thanks largely to the efforts of Rustan’s Group of Companies chairman and CEO Nedy Tantoco, in partnership with the Filipinas Opera Society Foundation Inc., and the Embassy of Italy in Manila, as well as the CCP and its president Nick Lizaso.
This production, set to wow audiences at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2, is headlined by top-caliber, world-class performers and musicians. French-Armenian soprano Melody Louledjian plays the role of Lucia Ashton, opposite Filipino tenor Arthur Espiritu’s Edgardo di Ravenswood. Korean baritone Byeong In Park plays Lord Enrico Ashton, the opera’s villain. Completing the cast are Filipino tenors Ivan Nery and Nomher Narito Naval, Camille, and Chinese bass Shi Zong.
At the helm of this production is Berlin-based Italian conductor Alessandro Palumbo, Vincenzo Grisostomi Travaglini as director, Cambodian prince Sisowath Ravivaddhana Monipong as assistant director, Giovanni Pirandello—great grandson of 1934 Nobel laureate Luigi Pirandello—as lightning designer, and Giampaolo Lomi Ormanni as creative project coordinator.
“The greatest challenge is to create something special and unrepeatable every time, something emotionally touching,” Maestro Vincenzo says in Italian. And like Donizetti’s music, which is a marriage between the classical and the romantic, this Manila staging of Lucia di Lammermoor promises to be nothing but spectacular.
Lucia di Lammermoor is presented in cooperation with Hilton Manila, SSI Group, Inc., East West Bank, San Miguel Corporation, LCS Group of Companies. The opera performances will benefit the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra Society, Inc. (PPOSI) and the Philippine Italian Association (PIA) Endowment Fund.
Tickets are priced at: P5,000 (Gala)/P2,500 (Matinee) for Orchestra Center; P3,000/P1,500 for Orchestra Sides, P1,500/P800 for Balcony I Center; and P1,000/P500 for Balcony I Sides. | CCP Box Office: (028) 832 3704 | TicketWorld: (028) 891 9999 | www.culturalcenter.gov.ph