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Manila Grand Opera House Historical Research

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Manila Grand Opera House Historical Research

  1. 1. UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMASCOLLEGE OF ARCHITECTURE Historical Research: Manila Grand Opera House Submitted to: Arch. Norma Alarcon, fuap Professor Submitted by: Vinson P. Serrano AR 5-5 August 18, 2009 1
  2. 2. Table of ContentsTitle PageAcknowledgements 3Manila Grand Opera House: History and its Greater Glory 4Manila Grand Opera House: Cultural, Political and National Importance 8Manila Grand Opera House Photographs from 1900- 2009 10Bibliography 14 2
  3. 3. Acknowledgements I would like to thank the following people for their valuable contribution tothe development of this paper. To Ilona Castro, Kimberly Sebastian, and JoanAngeles of Manila Grand Opera Hotel for having conducted a successful interview, tothe National Historical Institute for providing me written documents needed for thisstudy, and to Dionella Marie Francisco for the camera used in taking pictures. And last but not the least, to Arch. Norma Alarcon for giving me anopportunity to explore the wonders of Manila through this research. To the Almightyfather, thank you for being a great provider of knowledge and wisdom.V.P.S 3
  4. 4. Manila Grand Opera House: History and its Greater Glory Even before the Philippines be known for the famous Cultural Center of thePhilippines and considered as the world-class theater in the country, very long agowhen it was the Manila Grand Opera House, The Clover Theater and MetropolitanTheater gave limelight to the brightest stars of the 19th century during the Americanoccupation. The Manila Grand Opera House, located at the corner of Doroteo Jose St. andAvenida Rizal St. was once a huge structure of wood and nipa-roofed structure havinga circumference of about one fourth of a mile which was designed for cyclingcontests. Avenida Rizal was then called the Entertainment Capital of Manila duringthe prewar and postwar years. 1 Documents proved that it was built on the 1890’swhen it was acquired by a foreigner named N.T. Hashim, and was then known asNational Cycle Track. Later then it became the Teatro Nacional where the RussianCircus and some American theater companies performed in the 1900. Improvementswere imperative and plans were hatched as early as 1901 to redesign and remodel it. 2 In 1902, the theater became Manila Grand Opera House after it wastransformed into an opera house by Italian impresario Balzofiore in time for a visitingItalian Opera Company. Seats were divided into the palco proscenio for thedignitaries, butaca or orchestra for most theatergoers, and gallery, the least expensivesection. 3 Also, the Italian Company supervised the installation of its acoustics. At thetime, its acoustical equipments were said to be so sophisticated that even a whisper ofthe actors could be heard by the audience. 41 T.G. Santos. “Remembering Avenida Rizal”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 20092 V.R. de la Torre. Landmarks of Manila 1571- 1930. Manila: Paragon Printing Corporation. 19813 T.G. Santos. “Old Manila’s great theaters”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 10/09/054 C.P. Morallos. Once upon a theater: Remembering the great Manila Grand Opera House.Manila: Boulevardier: Nightlife, Travel and Tours. 2009. 4
  5. 5. On August 9, 1905, an important political event was held at the theater. This iswhen the Chambers of Commerce met in a convention where they endorsed then USSecretary of War William Howard Taft as a candidate for the US presidentialelections. More than 500 guests attended that assembly which included the popularAlice Roosevelt, daughter of then US President Theodore Roosevelt. On the following year, on Oct. 16, 1907, the occasion of the inauguration ofthe first Philippine Assembly in which the most important American and Filipinopersonages were in attendance and was held on this theater due to its size andprestige. Present dignitaries were then Governor General James P. Smith, themembers of the Philippine Commission, Justices of the Supreme Court,representatives of foreign governments, officers of the US Army and Navy,ecclesiastical dignitaries and provincial and municipal officials of the government. Itis on this event when the first Filipino Bishop of Nueva Caceres delivered theinvocation in the presence of Right Rev. Jose Barlin. Another political event was held in the theater when a meeting organized bythe American Community in the Philippines passed a resolution banning the displayof the Filipino Flag anywhere and for whatever purpose, an action that the local pressand Filipino nationalists opposed and attacked. Grand concerts of the Filipino as well as foreign artists, zarzuelas, vaudevillesand the like found a home and an audience in the Opera House. One significantperformance in this opera house is the La Argentina, In dans Bolero Classique whichran for a week during the 1920’s. A major concert of a Spanish Tenor named MiguelFleta was also held during this era. But after two decades of hosting opera andzarzuela productions, ownership changed in 1942. By then, the building looked morelike a warehouse than a theater. 5
  6. 6. When World War II broke out, the theater continued to operate and was usedsurreptitiously and cleverly by the Filipino actors as a venue for anti-Japanesepropaganda. Through patriotic songs the anti-Japanese movement was kept alive. Toribio Teodoro, a shoe magnate and known as the “shoe king of thePhilippines”, lived there when the Japanese seized his house and shoe factory duringWorld War II. The building was badly damaged by flood and at that time, theDepartment of Labor which happened to be a neighbor of the theater caught fire andits flames spread to the theater razing it to the ground on November 16, 1943. 5 Thetheater was reduced to ashes that only the theater basement remained. 6 By 1945, the theater was completely demolished and reconstruction beganwith a modern concrete edifice which is Air-conditioned and equipped with the latesttechnology, part of the area occupied by the former theater gave way to commercialoffices and was meant to be a first-class cinema for occasional cultural shows. TheManila Grand Opera House was then billed as “The Theater with a History.” On April10, 1947, the theater formally reopened. In 1947, an important exhibit of murals celebrating great Filipino men fromthe rajahs to post-war Republic personages was held. Rizal Day program were alsoheld on the historic theater where the program enthralled the audience as the peoplelistened to a kundiman written by Rizal, being the Philippines’ national hero. During the time that performances were at its peak and people highlypatronized theater shows, a rival theater called Clover located at the foot of theMacArthur Bridge at the corner of Echague Street in Quiapo, opened its doors to the5 C.P. Morallos. Once upon a theater: Remembering the great Manila Grand Opera House.Manila: Boulevardier: Nightlife, Travel and Tours. 20096 V.R. de la Torre. Landmarks of Manila 1571- 1930. Manila: Paragon Printing Corporation. 1981 6
  7. 7. public. Clover was owned by Spanish-Portuguese impresario Don Jose Zarah. Clovermainly catered audiences that enjoyed vaudevilles. The Manila Grand Opera House provided daily entertainment for the masses.Its main fare was stage shows and movies with an occasional concert, opera and playsby Lamberto Avellana and Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero, among others. 7 Jose A. Estrella, afamous composer of during the early 1900’s was also part of the Opera House’shistory. Practically all the country’s Who’s Who in entertainment performed at theGrand Opera House such as the matinee idol Rogelio de la Rosa, Carmen Rosales, thesinging idol Eddie Mesa, called the Elvis Presley of the Philippines, DiomedesMaturan, Pilita Corales, actors and actresses Shirley Gorospe, Gloria Romero, BayaniCasimiro, Gloria Selga, Bobby Gonzales, Elizabeth Ramsey, the Reycard Duet,Sylvia La Torre, and ballerinas Jovita Fuentes, Isang Tapales, Katy de la Cruz, anddozens of other big names in the local entertainment galaxy. Comedy actors such asDolphy, Cachupoy, Balot, Bentot, Chiquito, Pogo and Togo, Tugak and Pugak, DelyAtayatayan, Lopito, Patsy, Toto and his Kids and German Moreno are also used toperform at its grand glittering stage. Unfortunately, due to technological advancement and the rise of popularity oftelevision as a common household appliance and the existence of cinema houses, thefame and spotlight of the Opera House declined, forcing it to close sometime in the1960’s. On the other hand, same destiny fell into Metropolitan Theater, designed byJuan Arellano, famous for its magnificent Art Deco style for it did not survive duringthis golden period of operatic shows and performances.7 T.G. Santos. “Old Manila’s great theaters”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 10/09/05 7
  8. 8. After the building was abandoned for years, the site where it was currentlysituated were erected with a five-star hotel called Manila Grand Opera Hotel, whichderives its name from a much revered bygone institution called the Manila GrandOpera House. The hotel opened only in September 2008, it is now a great landmark inSta.Cruz, once the favorite shopping center of the Manila of old. Drenched in history,the Manila Grand Opera Hotel rises on the former theater’s 6,000 sq. meters lot thatowner Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua acquired during the 60’s with theoriginal intent of converting it into a movie theater. At the time, the Ambassador wasengaged in movie theater operations aside from other business ventures such as cars,insurance, health, publishing and media operations and others. A sparkling eight-storey edifice on the corner of historic Doroteo Jose St. and Avenida Rizal within thevicinity of the colorful Chinatown in Binondo, the new hotel is wrapped in soft blueand yellow hues. At night the façade is brilliantly illuminated making it the focalpoint in the area. A historical marker at the hotel’s entrance stood to commemoratethe first Philippine Assembly happened in the historical Opera House. 8Manila Grand Opera House: Cultural, Political and National Importance Manila Grand Opera House was the main venue of theatrical shows and operasduring the 19th century in Manila. Prior to cinema houses and the sprouting of muchhigh-class shopping centers and cinemas in the Philippines, it is during the golden ageof Manila Grand Opera House that paved the careers of the most reputable actors andactresses in the country. With the existence and grand capacity of the Opera House, itis where political meetings such as the grand meeting of the First PhilippineAssembly were held. This historical event eventually led into other most importanthappenings in the Philippine politics such as the declaration of Sergio Osmeña as8 C.P. Morallos. Once upon a theater: Remembering the great Manila Grand Opera House.Manila: Boulevardier: Nightlife, Travel and Tours. 2009 8
  9. 9. Speaker while Manuel Quezon, as Majority Floor Leader of the PhilippineAssembly. 9 These happenings gave the opportunity for these two significantpoliticians in their becoming as Philippine Presidents. The flourishing days of operas, theaters, dramas were also considered as themain contribution of this structure in the field of arts and humanities. This OperaHouse gave venue to express the artistic prowess of some of the giants of Philippinetheater as mentioned in its history. For the Opera House showcased the best of thetalents not only of the Filipino people but also different performances of Americans,Spanish, and Russian performers. The appreciation of art and the political events held on this venue proved thatthe Manila Grand Opera House was not just an ordinary Opera House in the 90s. It iswhere people gave much importance to the real value of art and humanities, and thepower of politics to recreate the nation towards prosperity. Manila Grand OperaHouse is indeed, of cultural, political and national importance.9 M.C. Guerrero. Kasaysayan, The Story of the Filipino People: Under Stars and Stripes. HongKong: Asia Publishing Company Limited. 1998 9
  10. 10. Manila Grand Opera House Photographs from 1900- 2009 101112Above: Manila Grand Opera House Façade during its golden years.Left: A cigarette vendor behind the Manila Grand Opera House’s Historical Marker of the PhilippinesHistorical Committee.Right: The comedy “La Raza” played during the eve of Spain’s national holiday honoring its patronsaint, San Santiago, was held at Manila Grand Opera House.10 M.C. Guerrero. Kasaysayan, The Story of the Filipino People: Under Stars and Stripes. HongKong: Asia Publishing Company Limited. 199811 V.R. de la Torre. Landmarks of Manila 1571- 1930. Manila: Paragon Printing Corporation. 198112 Personal Photographs of Vinson P. Serrano, taken August 12, 2009 10
  11. 11. Manila Grand Opera House Photographs from 1900- 2009 131415Above: Closing ceremony of the Flag Rally at the Manila Grand Opera House. Clockwise from Far Left: 1 Centro Escolar de Señoritas left the Opera House after a grand meeting. 2 Manila Grand Opera House façade circa 1920s. 3 US Secretary of War William Howard Taft13 M.C. Guerrero. Kasaysayan, The Story of the Filipino People: Under Stars and Stripes. HongKong: Asia Publishing Company Limited. 199814 V.R. de la Torre. Landmarks of Manila 1571- 1930. Manila: Paragon Printing Corporation. 198115 Personal Photographs of Vinson P. Serrano, taken August 12, 2009 11
  12. 12. Manila Grand Opera House Photographs from 1900- 2009 1617Above: Location map of Landmarks in Manila during1571- 1930 showing the Manila Grand Opera House.Right: A photograph of the First Philippine Assembly.16 M.C. Guerrero. Kasaysayan, The Story of the Filipino People: Under Stars and Stripes. HongKong: Asia Publishing Company Limited. 199817 V.R. de la Torre. Landmarks of Manila 1571- 1930. Manila: Paragon Printing Corporation. 1981 12
  13. 13. Manila Grand Opera House Photographs from 1900- 2009 18 Clockwise from Left to Right: 1Present condition of the Historical marker by the Philippines Historical Committee. 2 Modern façadeexpressed by its materials gave a new light to Manila. 3 Manila Grand Opera Hotel towards LRTDorotero Jose Station. 4Interior view of the MGOH lobby. 5 Man’s eye view of the MGOH entrance.18 Personal Photographs of Vinson P. Serrano, taken August 12, 2009 13
  14. 14. BibliographyT.G. Santos. “Remembering Avenida Rizal”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 2009C.P. Morallos. Once upon a theater: Remembering the great Manila GrandOpera House. Manila: Boulevardier: Nightlife, Travel and Tours. 2009V.R. de la Torre. Landmarks of Manila 1571- 1930. Manila: Paragon PrintingCorporation. 1981T.G. Santos. “Old Manila’s great theaters”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 10/09/05M.C. Guerrero. Kasaysayan, The Story of the Filipino People: Under Stars andStripes. Hong Kong: Asia Publishing Company Limited. 1998 14

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