How do you translate into dance the work of a master like installation artist Gabby Barredo?
The humongous eyes, the skeletal frames once metallic now in plastic mannequins, hanging headless or decapitated in steel cages, all these occupy the stage of Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, spilling out to the main lobby, even encasing the chandeliers once gray but now polished and cleaned.
“It’s the CCP bleeding to death,” Barredo said with a newly-opened San Miguel Beer Pale Pilsen in hand.
He’s describing his installed art at the lobby, which has those decapitated mannequins and rib-cage bones-like structure stretching out of the bigger cage, with reddish paint obviously depicting blood.
It was a few minutes after the first performance of Ballet Philippines re-imagining of “Opera” on Saturday night. “Opera” was Barredo’s art exhibit at Silverlens Gallery in January last year. For this show, BP and Silverlens collaborate to literally give life to Barredo’s masterpieces.
A scriptwriter-actor friend who shall remain nameless for privacy reasons asked him if there’s something political about the enormous installation art piece at the CCP Main Lobby.
“I was actually thinking of Imelda Marcos when I did it,” Barredo said, making the scriptwriter-actor laughed in amazement.
“But you know, she knows me and she likes me, I think,” Barredo quipped. “When we met at a gathering once, we talked for almost three hours.”
Among other musings, Barredo went on to recount how he gave–with a heavy heart– his only copy of a catalogue of an exhibit he did in China to “The Madam Imelda.”
“You know what, I don’t want to give it because it’s the only one I have but she really want to have it so what can I do.”
Before he gave more details, the tete-a-tete was interrupted by well-wishers wanting to have a word or two and photos here and there. After the usual artsy “chika-chika”, the naturally shy and reclusive Barredo suddenly looked exhausted he pulled out a cigarette from his pocket. He lit it at once before realizing it’s prohibited to smoke at the CCP main lobby.
“Oh my God, I’m breaking all the rules here,” he said, craning his neck at the rear end of the hall as if looking around for the security guards and ushers who might have noticed or smelled.
But no one seemed to mind him. A journalist who stayed and saw him lit a cigarette asked him to pose for a photo-op. Barredo gamely obliged before he hurriedly got his beer at a nearby chair and continued to smoke and drink outside.
He continued to converse with the scriptwriter-actor about how “Opera” came to be. He said upon seeing the final dress rehearsal on the actual stage, co-librettist and creative producer Erwin Romulo couldn’t contain the overwhelming emotion of the performances, he cried.
“Anak-anakan ko yan si Erwin. Matagal na ‘yang nag-co-collaborate sa kin. (Erwin is like a son to me. We’ve been collaborating for a long time.)”
Romulo was reportedly sick and wasn’t able to catch the Saturday performance. Romulo’s team includes musician-composers Malek Lopez, Caliph8, Fred Sandoval on bass and electronics, vocalist Armi Millare of Up Dharma Down and award-winning writer Yvette Tan (librettist).
Barredo recounted how he found a creative soulmate in French-Algerian dancer-choreographer Redha.
BP artistic director Paul Alexander Morales said it’s a dream come true for the company to finally stage “Opera”, which will have its second run tonight at 6 and on Tuesday, February 16 at 8pm for a fundraising gala.
“Having a master, a living art icon like Barredo, it’s indescribable,” Morales told the journalist who stayed.
And added come-on of “Opera” is the return of BP’s principal dancer Carissa Adea. She plays Mother in this three-act ballet that explores God, Sex and Death.
Here, bodies collide intensely with the drum-and-bass techno music suffused with Millare’s wailing and some electric guitar riffs. At some point, we heard a ‘kulintang’ or was it a “kudyapi”?
But why only three performances–now only two—for such a masterpiece baffles most members of the audience, who promised to watch it again later.
Those who saw it last night left the CCP Main Theater still wide-eyed and overwhelmed of the experience.
The animated conversation between Barredo and the scriptwriter-actor was interrupted again when two lady-art patrons came out of the main lobby to join them in their nicotine session while having San Miguel Beer Pale Pilsen.
And just to give an idea how “Opera” affected the audience, one quipped she was stunned seeing how the seemingly permanent pretty face of a powerful, popular socialite-culturati finally moved.
From artistic, “opera” has become scientific.
Here are more photos…of the show.
The artworks will be auctioned off after the run though there are plans for “Opera” to be brought to other Southeast Asian countries.
For its remaining performances, “Opera” runs tonight at 6 and on Feb. 16, Tuesday, at 8 pm, in Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater). For tickets call 891-9999 or the CCP box office at 832-3704.