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Spoliarium,an opera about Juan Luna debuts October 1 in NYC

Enough said about the patriot Heneral Luna.  Antonio Luna's brother, Juan Luna also has an interesting controversy that rocked the 19th century Europe and the Philippines, a focal story of an opera that will be shown at Tribeca Performing Arts Center on October 1, 2 and 3. The opera, composed by Ryan Cayabyab with libretto by Fides Cuyugan, is directed by Anton Juan who was flown in by the production just for this opera.  

A scene taken from the rehearsal of the opera, 'Spoliarium'. The opera, composed by Ryan Cayabyab with a libretto by Fides Cuyugan, is directed by Anton Juan. The show promises to be another celebration of Pinoy talent in New York.

  The opera revolves around the expat life and love of Ilocano patriot and painter Juan Luna. Born in Badoc, Ilocos Norte and educated in Manila, Juan was sent to Europe to further pursue art studies. He settled in France and was married to Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera, a beautiful Spanish and Portuguese Philippine-born woman whose status and wealth was of esteem. As a painter Juan won awards and much acclaim. As a reformist, he worked with other foremost Filipino expats such as Jose Rizal, his brother Antonio Luna, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Pedro Paterno, Isabelo depot Reyes, Felix Hidalgo and other notable propagandists. Known in the Philippines as the 'illustrados', they were an elite group of Filipino expatriates in Europe whose aim was to increase Spanish awareness of the needs of its colony, Las Islas Filipinas. Juan was such a popular figure in Europe that even the King of Spain was among his friends. Yet despite his talent and social status, Juan was infamous for his violent temper like his general brother, Antonio. In a very publicized family drama in September 1984, Juan was in front pages of French newspapers for shooting his wife, mother and brother-in-laws in a fit of rage and jealousy. Only the brother-in-law and  a friend, Felix Pardo de Tavera, survived the tragic event. Everything was witnessed by his son, Andres.  

A Juan Luna painting, probably of his wife Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera

  Juan painted in the Renaissance tradition and his favorite subject and model was his slain wife. His most famous painting that won him awards is 'Spoliarium, an allegorical painting about injustices of the Spanish colonizers in the Philippines. This opera was named after this painting.   

Spoliarium, Juan Luna's masterpiece, currently hangs at the National Museum, Philippines.

  Notes About Production Director Anton Juan, started out in the University of the Philippines- Diliman and ultimately becoming its foremost theater professor whose mentorship produced numerous award-winning and critically acclaimed artists. Professor Juan has contributed significantly to and made an impact on the evolution of Philippine culture and drama. His influence and fame spans the world. Peter Holland writes: “Anton Juan is one of the most exhilarating directors in the world.” Juan’s moving poetic style has been seen and widely admired in the Philippines, in Asia, the USA, and Europe, not only as innovative and visually exciting, but also as merging inner space, movement, sound-sense, with the urgent cry for insularized, marginalized, and emergent cultures." Ryan Cayabyab is a prolific composer, musician, and conductor whose work include not just popular music of which he is wildly popular, but also spans full-length ballets, opera, theater musicals, choral pieces, and orchestral pieces, to commercial recordings of popular music, film scores and television specials. In the opera's gala night on October 3, production mentioned that Ryan Cayabyab will play as a guest musician. Fides Cuyugan Asencio, Spoliarium's librettist is an accomplished stage actress, opera star and then a long time voice mentor at the University of the Philippines College of Music. She stars as Sisa in the opera's Act 1. The show promises to be another showcase of Pinoy talent in New York. Tickets will be sold at the door or available online at SpoliariumNYC.com.  

photo by Troi Santos

  SOURCES and additional readings  Love That Kills, Ambeth Ocampo, http://opinion.inquirer.net/23057/love-that-kills. Anton Juan, Full Biography http://ftt.nd.edu/faculty-staff/faculty-staff-by-alpha/anthony-anton-m-juan-jr-ph-d/anton-juan---full-biography/ Ryan Cayabyab, Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Cayabyab Fides Cuyugan Asencio, a Grand Dame of the Philippine Stage, http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/112129/fides-cuyugan-asensio-grand-dame-of-the-philippine-stage.