Manila, Philippines. Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the national hero, the novelist, the doctor. Rizal is known to Filipinos, at least to those who have first engagement with him in schools, textbooks, and literary pieces. His face is engraved in coin changes and seen in many museums.
In high school, gets to know him better through his literary pieces, Noli Me Tangere and El Felibusterismo. The works of Rizal were made popular and institutionalized for nobler agendas and for commercial gags. His works were mostly seen in books that a few really understood until his Noli Me Tangere came into life through an Opera.
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Noli Me Tangere
Written by Dr. Jose P. Rizal is an 1887 novel. It was written during the Spanish colonial era to expose the injustices of the Catholic priests and the ruling government.
Two of the novel’s characters became classics in Filipino culture: the loving and unwaveringly loyal Maria Clara, and her biological father, Dámaso, a member of the Spanish clergy.
The original version, printed in Berlin, is in Spanish because the novel was intended to be read in Spain. However, in the Philippines today, the book is mostly published and read in Filipino or English. Along with its sequel, El Filibusterismo (The Riot), Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) is required reading for high school students across the archipelago. Read a summary of the novel on the Panitikan website
Noli Me Tangere – The Opera
The literary piece had first been set to music in 1957 through Felipe de Leon, a national artist who wrote the first full-length opera of the novel. The full piece writing had been set to a libretto by Guillermo Tolentino. In the same year, it was premiered in Far Eastern University, then at the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines), Resorts World Manila, and soon had invitations and tours abroad.
The opera consists of 200 singers, musicians, and crew. All serenading the audience with songs based on traditions, the Kundiman.
“Most of the principles that are shown here continue to be important to us: injustice, corruption, deceit,” said CCP director Raul Sunico. “We would want to infuse in the children that nationalism is vital,” adds Sibal. “We are rather knowledgeable, gifted, and skilled. The sole issue we are struggling with now is the pure love for our nation, our country.”
To a high degree, the storyline was primarily meant as propaganda to serve as a national agenda. The Noli, at some point in history, inspired reformists and revolutionists to act as one to gain national freedom. To this day, the artists and the creators of Noli the Opera hope that it will act the same way it did during the revolution, to be an inspiration to the youth who have somehow forgotten about love for the country.