Ballet Manila restages ‘Lola Basyang’ trilogy

Ballet Manila once again unearths the magical baul of Lola Basyang as it transports its audience to a world of fantastic dance, music, and spectacular visuals with “Ang Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang” at Aliw Theater on May 11, 2024, at 8 PM, and May 12 and 18, 2024 at 5 PM.

The second show for Ballet Manila’s 26th Performance Season, Ballet Masterpieces, “Ang Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang,” revolves around Christine Bellen Ang’s retellings of Severino Reyes’ stories.

An engaging mix of romance, adventure, and comedy, the trilogy touches on universal themes of loyalty and commitment to family, humility, and love.

“Choosing three stories out of twelve (12) Lola Basyang books was interesting because so many great tales were worth sharing. In the end, we felt that the themes we chose could truly resonate with an audience across many generations,” shared Lisa Macuja Elizalde, artistic director and chief executive officer of Ballet Manila.

“As a publishing company known for producing books about Philippine culture, it is part of our duty to ensure that the magic of these stories is not lost among the younger generation,” said Xandra Ramos-Padilla, president of Anvil Publishing and publisher of the Lola Basyang books.

“Ang Mga Kwento Ni Lola Basyang is among the books that have mesmerized generations of Filipino children, and we are confident they will love the ballet version,” Ramos-Padilla shared. “We are thrilled that these stories will once again be brought to life through compelling performances, thanks to our partnership with Ballet Manila.”

The cast of Ballet Manila’s Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang standing from left: John Ralp Balago, Stephanie Santiago, Ris Camaclang, Gerardo Francisco,  Jessica Pearl Dames, Jasmine Pia Dames, and Romeo Peralta; along with (seated from left) Singer-actress and comedienne Mitch Valdes as Lola Basyang, Ballet Manila artistic director and CEO Lisa Macuja Elizalde and Anvil Publishing Inc. managing editor Jordan Santos

Awarded artist Mitch Valdes plays the enduring character of Lola Basyang.

Valdes won the Gawad Urian Best Support Actress award for her role in Lunes, Martes, Miyerkules, Huwebes, Biyernes, Sabado, Linggo. She also starred in Oro, Plata, Mata, Manila by Night, Bulaklak sa City Jail, and the wartime epic Oro, Plata, Mata, among other acclaimed Philippine movies.

An advocate for nationalist causes, Valdes admits the role of Lola Basyang has touched her sense of patriotism.

“We’re familiar with all the international classics, but this is a rare chance to see one of our beloved folklore come to life in classical ballet. It will be beautiful because the story is one of our own,” she said.

The trilogy opens with “Ang Prinsipe ng mga Ibon,” a tale about a princess who wishes to marry her beloved bird against her father’s will. The princess turns into a beautiful bird to join her beloved bird, who happens to be a prince in his kingdom.

Principal dancers Jasmine Pia Dames and Shaira Comeros alternate as “Prinsesa Singsing,” while Romeo Peralta and Joshua Enciso alternate as “Prinsipe ng mga Ibon.”

Choreographed by the late Osias Barroso Jr., Ballet Manila’s co-artistic director until his passing in December 2023, the production hopes his legacy will live on through the choreographies he has created.

Barroso once said, “I want ‘Ang Prinsipe ng mga Ibon’ to be very romantic. I want people to fall in love after watching it.”

Complementing his vision is the award-winning musical arranger Mon Faustino, who arranged music for the production using compositions of national artists for music.

From the soaring magic of enchanted birds, the production moves on to focus on the dark ramifications of greed in “Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Maria,” which tells the story of a couple who are folk healers, thanks to the leaves of a magical tree that their three daughters would pick every morning.

Because of the couple’s greed, they were punished by the serpent living in the tree, taking their three daughters to marry them off to beastly animals. The couple soon had another child, this time a son, and before the father’s death, he requested his son to look for his three sisters.

“Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Maria” is a collaborative partnership between Lisa Macuja Elizalde, the choreographer, and Filipino Music legend Joey Ayala, who composed the music for the entire ballet.

“For Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Maria, I wanted to merge the movements of the folk dances of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to represent the three worlds to show the cultural diversity and color of our nation,” explained Macuja Elizalde.

Apart from the magnificent ballet, the production is an auditory treat. It will feature a rare combination of raw sounds from kawayan (bamboo) and metal, complemented by orchestral synthesizer sounds to stimulate the audience’s imagination.

For this story, Anselmo Dictado and Sean Pelegrin will perform the role of Pedro. Rissa May Camaclang (Maria Trining), Stephanie Santiago (Maria Loleng), and Jessa Balote/Jessica Pearl Dames (Maria Upeng) will play the Tatlong Maria.

No less than National Artist Ryan Cayabyab composed the lively and catchy music that will accompany the dancers in “Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin.”

The last installment in the trilogy tells the story of Rodrigo, a young man who receives a magical violin for his kindness to an old woman.

Completing the creative powerhouse for this final tale is the late award-winning Filipino ballet dancer Tony Fabella, whose outstanding choreography reaffirms his belief that, while the story is easy enough to understand, audiences will have a deeper appreciation for the beautiful message of “Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin” if told through ballet. True enough, theatergoers must prepare to be enthralled by the performances of Gerardo Francisco Jr./Anselmo Dictado as Rodrigo and John Ralp Balago/Junmark Sumaylo as Ahab.

From the brilliantly written word to the beautiful stage of ballet, “Ang Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang” is a production mounted with the heartfelt intention of giving birth to a newfound appreciation for our vibrant Filipino culture: “We hope that they come out of the theaters having learned so many valuable life lessons,” said Macuja Elizalde.

For tickets, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph. To learn more about Ballet Manila and its shows, visit www.balletmanila.com.ph

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