March 8, 2010

Story time!

The Filipino sarsuwela is a dramatic form that is rooted in the 19th century Spanish sainete, a comic skit with music, and zarzuela, a play that alternates song and dance with dramatic prose. Its typical theme is romantic love and "Walang Sugat" (no wound or not wounded), the play that I mentioned last month, features the problematic love between Julia (Laura Cabochan) and Tenyong (Arman Ferrer), who have been friends since childhood.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - Julia and Tenyong

The sarsuwela typically incorporates commentary on the social, political and economic issues current at the time of its writing or performance. When Tenyong's father is arrested by the Spanish army as a rebel and dies in jail after being tortured at the order of the friars, Tenyong decides to join the revolutionary army to avenge his death.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - the death of Kapitan Inggo

Julia's widowed mother does not approve of her daughter's relationship with Tenyong. She has higher hopes for Julia, wanting her to marry Miguel, a rich but stupid nephew of the parish priest. While Tenyong is away, the mother pressures Julia to accept Miguel's proposal of marriage.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - Miguel courting Julia

The sarsuwela usually features more than one pair of lovers. The secondary pair is typically the earthier and more comic relationship, compared to the main couple's loftier and purer love. In "Walang Sugat," the lusty and comic foil is provided by Lucas (AJ Constantino), Tenyong's manservant, and Monica (Delphine Buencamino), Julia's maid.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - Lucas and Monica

Miguel's father (Mike Coroza), is a widower, and one scene shows him courting Julia's widowed mother (Sonia Roco), trying to convince her that they can still experience love and companionship in their old age.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - Julia's mother and Miguel's father

When Julia receives a letter from Tenyong's general that her lover has died fighting, she finally says yes to marrying Miguel. On the day of the wedding, a heavily bandaged Tenyong is wheeled in on a cart. He is pronounced by a medic to be on the brink of death and the parish priest is called to hear his last confession. Tenyong announces his dying wish: to be married to Julia before he dies. Thinking that Julia will be widowed immediately and that her marriage to Miguel will still push through, Julia's mother and Miguel's father agree.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - Tenyong dying at the church

I think you can guess what happens after the wedding ceremony: Tenyong jumps up from the cart, walang sugat! And during the final dance, the director Ricky Abad makes one grand gesture that would not have been out of place during a performance more than one hundred years ago: the church's facade opens up into a sunburst containing the words of the Malolos Constitution, which established the First Philippine Republic.

Ateneo de Manila University's production of Walang Sugat - the finale, Julia and Tenyong with the declaration of independence

The wonderfully quirky, cartoon-y set, which emphasizes the lighthearted and comic aspect of the sarsuwela rather than its political and social commentary, was designed by Philippine National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal, faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University's Fine Arts Program.

22 comments:

Olivier said...

une tres belle serie de photos du spectacle, bravo

Jacob said...

Great photos, Hilda...and the commentary is perfect! What a terrific post. I almost felt like I was there. Loved the play, too.

Tulsa Gentleman said...

Thank you for this view into your theater. Your photos and narrative let me appreciate the spirit of this drama. I learned something and enjoyed it very much.

Vernz said...

I used to be a stage actress ... hahah, yes true but when I got married I have to think of spending time practicing or taking care of my children and they won... huhuu! I missed it ...

ρομπερτ said...

How very wonderful to see and read. Very interesting indeed. Beautiful as well the pictures, which are able to express the words so very much.


Please have a wonderful start into the new week you all.

Don and Krise said...

Excellent narration Hilda. With your photography I feel like I had the best seat in the house. It sounds like it really was a play that could give you a chuckle.

Louis la Vache said...

What a plot! «Louis» would have liked to see this!

Great narrative and photos, Hilda!

Rob and Mandy said...

Reminds me a lot of Spain's 17-19th century zarzuelas. Excellent pictures and narration

Kcalpesh said...

Sounds like a nice story! I'm sure it must be very entertaining with the drama, comedy and music... Entertaining post to read...

Pixellicious Photos

Marie said...

This is very interesting, Hilda. The photos are superb and so colorful!

brattcat said...

What an outstanding post, Hilda. Thank you for taking us through the experience of this play.

the donG said...

wow! photos are great what more when one is really there.

Lois said...

The set decoration and lighting are just beautiful Hilda and you did a great job with the pictures!

JOE TODD said...

Thank you for sharing your culture. Looks like fun

arabesque said...

wow, interesting read,
it was like i was really there watching the play.^0^

Halcyon said...

The sets are beautiful, I love the colors. Sounds like an interesting story too!

Cezar and Léia said...

I'm envious, what a great night!Thanks so much for showing this event, this play looks fabulous!
And your pictures are great!
Have a blessed week
hugs
Léia

Deden said...

It is not easy to get a story telling picture, but You did it great. with the story you wrote itself, makes me feels like I'm actually watching the scene. great.

JM said...

The first pic is my favourite! Very interesting explanation of the (new to me) word after the zarzuela.

VP said...

A very good series of pictures for an interesting story and a kind of show I knew nothing about. I really like the funny sets, sketched out by the talented hand of your great Salvador Bernal!

Dina said...

Thanks for taking us through (if not TO) the play. Fun!

Tash said...

Fascinating theater. I am very impressed with your clear & crisp photography under these conditions.