Manila, Philippines – In Manila’s small and sometimes incestuous world of music, opera seems to be the most rarely performed, possibly because it is fiscally taxing to mount an entire production; also because it is physically, mentally and musically exhausting for the directors, conductor, stars, chorus, musicians and even propsmen.
And yet – proof of the much vaunted ne’er-say-die attitude of Filipino artists – Manila has not one but three (or four?) opera companies, despite the dwindling resources of corporate donors suffering from culture-vulture fatigue. The youngest company (at five years old) is MusicArtes Inc., which is exhibiting its grit and glitter tomorrow and Saturday with a fullblown production of Puccini’s beloved “Madame Butterfly” at CCP. As if grit were not enough, the producers have brought in a Japanese Cio-Cio San, a Mexican Pinkerton, and a Singaporean conductor to join the stellar Filipino cast.
The year 1994 was the last time Butterfly was staged in Manila. How many among today’s under-30’s care to know that the opera was the model and inspiration of, and template for “Miss Saigon”? This time around, director Anton Juan, who has received numerous grants and awards from foreign governments, will move Butterfly from Nagasaki in the early 1900s to the holocaust of, again, Nagasaki after the second atom bomb was dropped in 1945.
Nagasaki or “hanggang Pier lamang,” the story of Butterfly lives forever. A wife waiting for her husband’s homecoming, a mistress and her love child pining for his return – an old story that grows new as it recurs every day everywhere.