The Philippine Premiere of Rusalka went beyond our expectations. It was awesome, great, and blessed, in so many ways.
So, how did opening night go?
The cast was called in at four in the afternoon. But I was already there at the backstage dressing room at two in the afternoon, and some cast members even earlier. I came from lunch with my two former officemates from the Center, and I even asked a paracetamol from them because I was starting to feel unwell. That paracetamol worked wonders!
So, as we were waiting for the Alexander exercises led by our director at six in the evening, we started doing hair and makeup, and some had dinner as well. Hair and make up artists were there to assist us. I was too excited and nervous so I was just able to eat during the second act, wherein the woodsprites, were not part of.
We’ve been doing Alexander during my undergrad classes under our director, Alegria Ferrer, who was my teacher for several classes during college. Indeed, this was one of the reasons why we were all relaxed during opening night!
And so, we open the opera with this scene:
The opera was done in a Filipinized setting, as is evident with the set, costumes, even adapting Filipino translated names of the characters as our peg. I believed it worked, and made the Czech opera a step closer to our culture.
The opening scene was with the wood sprites and water gnome. The wood sprites for this cast were yours truly, Fay Dee Reyes, and Poli Laurito. It was the first time the three of us are working together, but we managed to blend well especially since almost all of our parts were ensemble singing.
Known baritone Nomer Son is the Water Gnome for all the shows. What can I say, he was simply amazing!
Bianca Lopez (Rusalka) and Christian Nagano (Prince) were both first timers in opera, and they nailed it. With their solid experience as choristers (from the Philippine Madrigal Singers and Coro Tomasino, respectively), Bianca and Titan gave convincing performances in their characters. We were surprised to see Bianca dyed her hair red a la Ariel of The Little Mermaid on the dress rehearsal day.
Jade Riccio was the Foreign Princess for this performance. I’ve heard Jade a few times already, and her voice gets stronger. Jose Miguel Espiritu was the night’s Hunter, and he performed his part really well.
One of the most interesting sections, for me, is that of the Turnspit and Gamekeeper. Christina Bojocan-Espiritu as Turnspit and Leslie Diaz as Gamekeeper delivered their roles well, especially during the part where they’d meet the witch, Jezibaba, outstandingly played by Aya Tanciongco with her “mini-me”, the cute Aimee Joson.
Grupo 20/21 ably accompanied us. Such a small ensemble but with a big sound. Great work by our conductor, Prof. Chino Toledo. The chorus led by Bajo Zaldua and the UP Dance Company also did their parts well. Much gratitude to JM Cabling who choreographed the wood sprites!
We’re glad to see family and friends there who supported us in the premiere, including my own family and my daughter, who, surprisingly, was well behaved and watched the opera in its entirety. We’re both singing my part as refresher for me while the opera is on break this week. School officials and the Czech Embassy were also there to support, saying they’d watch again next week.
The following day, some Cast 1 members supported and watched the performance of Cast 2. They did a great job as well, to think that some of them also are first time opera performers. Wood sprites were Charlene Ramos, Krystl Buesa, and Jane Wee. Fame Flores was Rusalka, Malvin Macasaet was Prince, Gereberne Lozada was Foreign Princess. Jhom Chua-So gave a really interesting take as Jezibaba. Paul Dominguez and Miguel Aguila played Gamekeeper and Turnspit, respectively, while Neil Chua was the Hunter.
On behalf of the whole cast, I would like to thank our director, Alegria Ferrer, for choosing us to be part of this production. It is as special to us as it is to her. More than doing this work, we are blessed with the relationship we’ve created among each other. It was a joy to have worked with everyone in this production– from the cast to our staff (especially to our beloved Stage Manager, Kuya Boy Sanchez!) to the orchestra, chorus, and dancers.
I know reading this will make you wonder what this looks and sounds like. Wonder no more, because we present one more run at the UP College of Music Abelardo Hall on September 23 and 24! Our cast plays on the 23rd, so we do hope to see you at that performance!
Get yout tickets for Rusalka’s UP Run by calling 929-6963. Look for Ms. Eva. P500 each, student discounts for currently enrolled students are given as well. Tickets are selling fast, so don’t miss this chance!
(Photo credits: from cast members of Rusalka during the technical rehearsal and the opening nights)