Sarsuwela excerpts open CCP’s new concert series

The Cultural Center of the Philippines will hold a new concert series, the CCP Out-of-The-Box (OTB) Series, featuring performances that audiences normally wouldn’t see in conventional programming. Conceptualized by former artistic director Chris Millado, the CCP Out-of-The-Box Series aims to create a space “for adventurous audiences, artists and ideas.”

The OTB Series premieres with Isang Gabi ng Sarsuwela, featuring excerpts and songs from classic and contemporary sarsuwelas, on 30 June, 7:30 p.m., and 1 July, 3 p.m., at the Tanghalang Ignacio B. Gimenez (CCP Blackbox Theater).

“When CCP was planning for this series, we thought about the things we have not yet done or haven’t done in a long time,” shared CCP current artistic director Dennis Marasigan. “We have had discussions on the possibility of producing another sarsuwela, particularly with Tanghalang Pilipino, which has done a number of sarsuwela revivals since the 1980s.”

Tracing its roots to the Spanish zarzuela originally brought to the Philippines in the late 1800s, the sarsuwela became the popular form of entertainment for many Filipinos, particularly in the early 1900s.

“The best proof of this is, when cinema was first introduced to the Philippines, some of the first films produced were based on many of the sarsuwela, such as Dalagang Bukid. The actors of these films were mostly sarsuwela stars,” enthused Marasigan.

The CCP artistic director tapped music director Joed Balsamo, who suggested to include excerpts not only from Dalagang Bukid and other classics like Walang Sugat, Paglipas ng Dilim, and Sa Bunganga ng Pating, but also contemporary sarsuwela productions like Pilipinas Circa 1907, Ang Palabas Bukas, Hibik at Himagsik nina Victoria Lactaw and Ang Palasyo ni Valentin.

A typical sarsuwela generally revolves around a love story set in the context of social realism. Walang Sugat is set during the Spanish revolution and Philippine-American war; Paglipas ng Dilim tackles colonial mentality; Dalagang Bukid, poverty and arranged marriages; and Sa Bunganga ng Pating, the evils of usury.

For Isang Gabi ng Sarsuwela, Marasigan and Balsamo have put together top-notch performers who have all distinguished themselves in musical theater, such as Nenen Espina, Franco Laurel, Ayen Munji Laurel, Reuben Laurente, Lorenz Martinez, Shiela Valderrama Martinez, Jonathan Tadioan and Karylle Tatlonghari.

Nenen Espina

“It would be interesting to see the dynamics of the real-life couples in the cast — Franco and Ayen, and Shiela and Lorenz — as they perform love duets. Tad (Tadioan) and Nenen have done a number of sarsuwelas. Karylle and Reuben are excellent singers eager to immerse in the form. All in all, it will be an entertaining evening,” Balsamo said.

CCP Out-Of-The-Box Series: Isang Gabi ng Sarsuwela will show at the Tanghalang Ignacio B. Gimenez.