After “La Traviata” and “Rigoletto,” make way for the Philippine-Korean production of Puccini’s “Tosca” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on Oct. 2 and 4.
This was announced at a recent press conference at CCP presided over by Raul Sunico, CCP president and concurrent dean of University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music.
Presenting a major opera has been an annual project of CCP. Recent productions and coproductions through the years were “Barber of Seville,” “La Traviata,” “Rigoletto,” “Eugene Onegin,” “Die Fledermaus” and “La Boheme.”
Playing the title role of the celebrated singer Florina Tosca is Korean soprano Yae-Jin Han, with the tenor Ji-ho Kim as Mario Cavaradossi, her lover, and baritone Daesan No as the evil Baron Scarpia, Tosca’s nemesis.
The cast includes tenor Lemuel de la Cruz, baritone Noel Azcona and Byeong-In Park.
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) performs under the baton of Jae-Joon Lee, along with the Coro Tomasino under Ronan Ferrer and the Hail Mary the Queen’s Children Choir under Maria Teresa Roldan. Floy Quintos is stage director.
Based on the play “La Tosca” by Sardou, the work is tale of lust, murder, deceit, betrayal and suicide, with none of the romanticized lyrics of “La Boheme” and “Madame Butterfly.” Even Puccini was at first daunted by the power of the story, but the opera has at least two memorable arias.
The setting is Rome, and the time 1800. Italy is under attack from Napoleon’s Grand Armee. In fact, it is the false report of an Italian victory over Napoleon’s forces that sets things in motion. For giving sanctuary to a political prisoner Angelotti (Park), Cavaradossi (Kim) is ordered arrested by Scarpia (No).
A deadly menage a trois ensues among Scarpia, Tosca (Han), leading to torture, death through a knife, a fake execution which turns out to be real , and a suicide.
“At the end all the characters die except the choir and, of course, the orchestra,” Sunico quipped during the press launch, which saw tenor Randy Gilongo and soprano Thea Perez performing famous arias from the opera, “Visi d ’arte” and “E luceran le stelle.” They were accompanied by pianist Najib Ismail.
The CCP president said the production will be staged “as close as Puccini wanted it, in the original way, true to the original concept. So it’s no to modernization. If you want a Philippine setting, do a sarsuwela.”
Why are all the leads Korean, and the Filipinos relegated to supporting roles?
“It’s just a matter of casting,” Sunico said. “We have had double casting (Koreans and Filipinos) before. Besides there are only two performances and it would not be practical (to have double casting). We are not inferior performers. We learn from them (Koreans) and perhaps they can learn something from us.”
He observed that one of the “deterrents” to appreciating opera is lack of exposure, also lack of understanding and the need for talents: “We have many talents but not all are geared for opera.”
Sunico added: “It’s always an uphill climb to promote classical music. There is only one classical music station (dzFE). The youth prefer Madonna (who’s no spring chicken). So we go to the schools, the provinces. We should expose people to classical music, make them understand, let them know what ‘Tosca’ is. Now many people speak Italian? So there’s a need for exposure, understanding, and patronage or support through attendance. ”