Comedy in an unconventional space

As the sun sets, the open-air theater comes alive in one of the corners of the historical Baluarte de San Diego in Intramuros, Manila. Nature becomes the stage for the Tagalized adaptation of one of the best comic operas in history, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Backdropped by 16th-century stone ruins that echo with wartime and colonial history, surrounded by trees glittering with holiday lanterns, a small space transforms into a tiny opera house. It was mounted by the Cultural Center of the Philippines as part of its Out-of-the-Box series, which treats Filipino audiences to artistic performances in new and unconventional spaces.

Between the soil and the December night-sky, a bed, a desk, a bench, makeshift doors and archways face the small, intimate audience seated on monobloc chairs. 

Operatic music and arias fill the air of the archaeological park as the first-rate cast ensemble of Ang Kasal ni Figaro delivers a delightful one-hour-and-a-half performance, accompanied by Farley Asuncion’s piano-playing in place of an orchestra.

Simplified adaptation

Ang Kasal ni Figaro is a fast-paced simplified adaptation of the original Italian translated to Filipino by CCP current artistic director Dennis Marasigan and directed by Jaime del Mundo.

The source material, Le nozze di Figaro, was written in the 18th century, at a time of revolution, by one of the most famous composers of all time, Mozart, with the libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’ play La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro.

A comedic story of servants outwitting their masters, Ang Kasal ni Figaro triggered frequent laughter from the audience. The main cast — Floyd Tena, Nomher Nival, Bianca Camille Aguila, and Angeli Benipayo — are effortless in their heavenly arias and performances as two couples (servants and masters) who find themselves entangled in a hot mess of love and romance. Roxy Aldiosa, who plays a strapping soldier, was a crowd favorite.

Intramuros Evenings revival

Apart from the highly successful National Theatre Live partnership held every last Tuesday of the month in Greenbelt Cinemas, CCP is on a roll this year. Another exciting project of the center is the revival of the “Intramuros Evenings,” a series of cultural shows within Intramuros, Manila, which was first launched in the mid-1990s.

“Intramuros Evenings” used to feature performances from the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Ballet Philippines and Tanghalang Pilipino — all CCP resident companies — until it was dissolved for various reasons. This year, after nearly three decades, it is making a comeback through the CCP Out-Of-The-Box series. 

Its inaugural show was the re-staging of Isang Gabi ng Sarsuwela last 18 November, followed by Ang Kasal ni Figaro last 9 December, both free to the public — one just had to pay for the small entrance fee to the Baluarte de San Diego.

The stunning Baluarte de San Diego, the oldest fort in Manila, is a spade-shaped bulwark located along the Sta. Lucia Street in Intramuros. It was created from the remains of the upper portion of a circular watch tower built in the late 1500s during the Spanish colonial period. Today it has become a popular tourist spot, which also features a garden, a fountain, cannons and other glorious structures.

Intramuros Administration head Atty. Joan Padilla said that Baluarte de San Diego will just be the initial site for “Intramuros Evenings,” but the succeeding shows will feature other historic sites inside the Walled City of Manila.

Since the CCP Main Building is still undergoing renovation, the CCP is bringing shows in new and exciting venues. The revival of “Intramuros Evenings” is another testament to CCP’s continuous efforts in bringing the best performances and great Filipino talents to further promote Philippine culture and heritage beyond conventional means.