Winged ballets: Ang Prinsipe ng mga Ibon
Birds are the focus of some of ballet’s best known pieces such as Swan Lake and Firebird, and continue to spur the creation of new ones. There’s just something about these winged creatures that apparently challenges choreographers to channel their unique movements and character through dance.
When Ballet Manila opens its 22nd performance season billed as "Flights of Fantasy," a bird takes centerstage once more. The famed mythical bird of Philippine lore becomes the subject of resident choreographer Gerardo Francisco’s Ibong Adarna, promising to be a dazzling spectacle in the tradition of Ballet Manila’s blockbuster Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang and its equally successful sequel, Tatlo Pang Kuwento ni Lola Basyang.
To usher in the world premiere of Ibong Adarna in August and the return of the ballet classic Swan Lake in October, we look back – through this series – at the bird-inspired ballets that have taken flight and even soared at Ballet Manila.
Lisa Macuja-Elizalde describes Ang Prinsipe ng mga Ibon as the “Swan Lake switch-around” and proclaims, “It’s one of the most romantic ballets I’ve ever seen!” In Swan Lake, Odette is cursed to turn into a swan every night, preventing her from being with Siegfried. But in the story penned by Severino Reyes (a.k.a. Lola Basyang), the princess chooses to transform into a bird to be with her beloved who is, as the title suggests, the prince of the birds.
Ang Prinsipe ng mga Ibon was part of the trilogy Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang which had its world premiere in December 2008. It also featured the fantasy ballet Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Maria and the comedy Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin. All three were based on Severino Reyes’ stories, as retold by Christine Bellen and illustrated by Frances Alcaraz.
Choreographed by Osias Barroso, Ang Prinsipe ng mga Ibon used music by National Artists Levi Celerio, Lucrecia Kasilag and Antonino Buenaventura and music greats Nicanor Abelardo and George Canseco, as arranged by Mon Faustino.
The colorful tale told in dance shows the princess introducing the bird prince to the king and asking for the latter’s blessing for them to marry. The king refuses, however. When the kingdom is attacked by giants, the princess suggests calling out to the prince for help, securing a promise from the king to agree to their marriage if the giants are defeated. But when the birds manage to repel the invaders, the king again refuses to accept the prince. With a heavy heart, the princess decides to bid goodbye to her father.
She grows wings and reunites with her prince. Together, they fly off to the kingdom of the birds – amid cheers from the audience.