How CCP's 'Figaro! Figaro!!' came about

The creative tandem of theater virtuosis Jaime del Mundo and Dennis Marasigan

Creative tandem of Jaime del Mundo and Dennis Marasigan-min.jpg
Creative tandem of Jaime del Mundo and Dennis Marasigan

With intricate elements of scenery, costume, acting, and song, producing an opera can be challenging. But with theater virtuosos Jaime del Mundo and Dennis Marasigan on the helm, anything is possible when one thinks outside the box.

Fresh from the success of "Isang Gabi ng Sarsuwela," a concert featuring well-loved songs from Philippine sarsuwela productions, the Cultural Center of the Philippines goes out of the box again with the back-to-back abridged versions in Filipino of Gioachino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" for the second installment of its newly-minted CCP Out-Of-The Box Series.

Dubbed "CCP Out-Of-The-Box: Figaro! Figaro!!", the opera production is slated on Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m, and Aug. 26, 3:00 p.m, at the Tanghalang Ignacio B. Gimenez (CCP Blackbox Theatre).

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Dennis Marasigan

“The feedbacks and the reactions to Giacomo Puccini’s "Turandot," which has its Philippine premiere in December 2022, was more than what we expected. We felt the need to continue building on the opera audience that we had somehow, should we say, discovered and revived. There was an opportunity for students to actually watch the production, so we felt that we needed to continue that. And so the idea was that we can continue to do opera, under the program of CCP Out-Of-The-Box,” said CCP artistic director Marasigan on the rationale behind the second installment of the series, which was created to cater to adventurous performers and audiences.

“I was thinking of something that I know has never been done, or is not usually done. The two operas, "The Barber of Seville" and "The Marriage of Figaro," actually owe their story from the same source material, and I thought, why not put the two of them together in one evening?” Marasigan shared.

Marasigan tapped into his good old friend, director Jaime del Mundo, who has made it his life career to work on operas, and who is one of the few Filipino directors who can actually interpret and talk about opera.

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Jaime del Mundo

Director del Mundo proposed to do an abridged version, instead of just excerpts. “I grew to not be a fan of excerpts basically because you never get an emotional journey. You never get a story. You just have bits and pieces connected, and I felt that was kulang. So, I suggested we have to do the full Barber and the full Marriage. And this guy [Marasigan] said ‘okay, go ahead, but you have to do it in one night.’ I was intrigued. I wondered if I could make an abridgment.”

Not only did the duo agree on doing an abridged version, but they also thought of having the same cast for the two operas – which is something that has never been done before.

“We were lucky to have Floyd Tena and Noel Rayos to do both Figaros. So we were able to have two casts. There were some crossovers. What we have is one big ensemble cast, where the leads of one opera would play support and extras in the other opera. So, both casts appear in both operas,” explained del Mundo.

Figaro Figaro creative duo Jaime del Mundo and Dennis Marasigan-min.jpg
Figaro Figaro creative duo Jaime del Mundo and Dennis Marasigan

The back-to-back opera production follows the adventures of Figaro, the main character of the two operas, which is based on The Figaro Trilogy by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais. The trilogy – "Le Barbier de Séville" (The Barber of Seville), "Le Mariage de Figaro" (The Marriage of Figaro), and "La Mère coupable" (The Guilty Mother) – revolves around the adventures of a resourceful servant named Figaro, as well as the fascinating recurring characters.

For this production, Marasigan was more than happy to do the translation, believing that an abridged version of operas in Filipino adds a layer to the production.

“I’ve done a lot of opera concerts in English and this is the first time I’m going to do it in Filipino. It’s cool that I’m doing it with Dennis’ words,” enthused del Mundo.

With venue proportions as a consideration, he wanted people to understand what was going on, especially if the venue was small. “There’s nothing wrong with opera in the original language, but for me, in a small venue, it’s great that they’re singing in the vernacular.”

When asked what the challenges of translating opera are, Marasigan shared “When you’re translating lyrics, you have to be careful in terms of not only making sure that the meter is right and that the pronunciation is right in terms of how you’re going to be singing it, but at the same time, you have to make sure that there are points where if the mouth is going to be in an open position, when you’re translating it, it also has to be in an open position."

He added that Filipino actually takes a lot more syllables to say than English. The syllabication has to be right with the pronunciation, but another consideration is that when the singers are singing it, it also has to be easy for them to sing especially with the high notes. High notes cannot be sung when a close consonant is used.

After a successful audition, "Figaro! Figaro!!" features Filipino talents Bianca Camille Aguila, Roxy Aldiosa, Diego Aranda, Angeli Benipayo, Ruzzel Clemeno, Nerissa de Juan, Roby Malubay, Nomher Nival, Noel Rayos, Jonathan Tadioan, and Floyd Tena.

“We’ve had weeks of music rehearsals and doing absolutely insane things. They’ve been working really hard. We’ve been rehearsing every day. And it is amazing that they continue singing because basically opera singers don’t like singing every day. They like resting in between,” concluded del Mundo.

Words by Sophia Eugenio

Catch the amazing cast of CCP Out-Of-The-Box Series: Figaro! Figaro!! on August 25 and August 26, 2023, at the Tanghalang Ignacio B. Gimenez. Tickets can be purchased for P1500 via TicketWorld. For the latest updates, follow the CCP official social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tiktok, and visit the CCP website for other inquiries.