Tag Archives: Theater

Siti Fatimah tragic romance


Three months after From Benteng With Love at Taman Anggrek Mal, Jakarta, the Operet Babah Encim staged another love-theme work Legenda Cinta Pulau Kemaro at Galeri Indonesia Kaya, which is based on a folktale from South Sumatra about interracial tragic romance between king of Palembang’s daughter Siti Fatimah and a Chinese merchant Tan Bun An, a fortune and love seeker.

DSC_0416Established in 2007, they were initially known as a group of musicians Nanfeng Nusantara who promoted Chinese-Indonesian culture in and outside the country, as far as to Shanghai World Expo in 2010.

Furthermore, when undertaking theater performance, the members were multi-tasked with both playing music and acting.

They carried out a multitude of musical genres, albeit with a strong tendencies to pop, or the creativity to synthesize distinctive styles from many continents.

While their musical versatility is out of question, the quality of acting, besides the two leading roles, received general assessment due to loose dialogue, for which it weakens the structure in the script.

Nevertheless, the witty Operet Babah Encim accomplished their cultural presentation in ways of enjoyment in getting to know one of the fictional tales in the archipelago, and a celebration to the diversity we all live in now.

The Opera of the White Snake Legend

Taman Ismail Marzuki

Opera Ular Putih (The Opera of the White Snake Legend) is the 138th production of Teater Koma, one of the most renowned theater groups in the country, founded in 1977. It runs from 3 April 2015 to 19 April 2015, 7:30 PM every Tuesday to Friday, and 1:30 PM every Sunday in Graha Bhakti Budaya, Jakarta.

Opera Ular Putih

Producing a Chinese folklore by means of Indonesian culture and provincial idiosyncracies is the task taken by Teater Koma in Opera Ular Putih, an adaptation of the 6th century Tang dynasty fiction the Legend of the White Snake, with three months of rehearsal and preparation.

Last performed by the same theater group 20 years ago at the same vicinity, Graha Bhakti Budaya, Jakarta, this time they decided to make an exquisite opera that signifies several sets of ethnical identities that constitute the diversity of Indonesian culture.

The instruments that occupy a narrow space between the performing stage and front row consists of Javanese metal percussions piano, and violin, a lead instrument in Betawi-style music—influenced for centuries by Western musical elements, so to speak—all of which is used to accompany the moment of spectacles in the four-hour long show, such as the appearance of puppet master bringing his vernacular-style monologue, or the giant puppets commonly seen in local carnivals.

At both ends, there were traditional Asian drum that rises the intensity of the epic scenes on one side, especially when the dragon dance takes the center stage, while the Chinese string instruments of Guzheng and Erhu enhances the Asian-style romance on the other side.

Together, these musical lineups have created a harmonic arrangement in each piece. Perhaps the uniqueness in this opera can hardly be achieved in, for instance, an orchestra.

Opera Ular PutihChinese opera, in this case referring to the Qing dynasty stage performance style, has a considerable presence in Opera Ular Putih.

Leading female actors demonstrated high-pitch vocals, narrow steps and typical feminine body gesture akin to the 17th century China ruled by Qing dynasty. But the main role for male Han Bun, played by two actors Ade Firman Hakim and Dodi Gustaman, don the typical clothing of pre-Qing dynasty ruling era.

There is a confusion in the way of finding a consistency in terms of mainland Chinese culture to be inserted in Opera Ular Putih. But this is pardoned because the idea is to exhibit authentic Chinese nuance to Indonesian audience, a well-delivered purpose.

Moreover, the overriding objective, practically speaking, is to stage a Chinese-origin play in a unique version that has never been seen elsewhere but Indonesia, as admitted by the directors, led by the head producer N. Riantiarno.

Opera Ular Putih

Not only in music arrangement, the opera shows acculturation in costumes. Unlike the previous play in 1994, where the actors wore long oriental dress and moti, now the lead sisterhood protagonists, the White Snake demon Tinio, played by Tuti Hartati, and the Green Snake demon Xiao Qing, played by Andhini Puteri, wear Betawi group traditional dress known as Kebaya Encim, long known to have a resemblance to overseas Chinese female costume of the 19th century.

The Legend of White Snake, whose script was told to appear for the first time in the region in the 19th century, brought by the Chinese immigrants to Indonesia, usurps the topic of feminism at a time where such term barely existed.

Unlike the portrayals of women as a lower group of gender, thus weak and obedient in the society all around the world, the tale gives the limelight to a woman who proudly bears the consequences of her own freewill.

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Jose Rizal Manua plays Mas Joko

Galeri Indonesia Kaya

jose rizal manua

What troubles Jose Rizal Manua’s mind of late other than keeping that brain brushed up to memorize a hell of a line in theater when he is no longer physically young, despite his conviction that he still is, at least in soul?

He has come up with a good thinking to retake the lights and attention, keeping up with the local trend that apparently centers around the stand up comedy shows with sexually suggestive jests or unscrupulous foul mouths.

It is the difficulty finding sponsors for his plays. He was not as eloquent as his spoken lines as Mas Joko, playing Monolog Mas Joko when asked why is funding so hard to get. “I don’t know,” exasperated by his own perplexity.

Jose Rizal Manua talked to the media about the difficulty getting a sponsor for independent theaters in the country.
Jose Rizal Manua talked to the media about the difficulty getting a sponsor for independent theaters in the country.

Jose, whose theatre group won the the 2006 World’s Festival of Children’s Theater in Lingen, Germany, is a seasoned actor that always finds a relevance in his project to respond to people’s likeliness in performing arts, or lack thereof.

Having set up Remy Silado’s literary work circa 80s in an urban dwelling where he played the 50 year-old man who fell in love with a young, career-promising woman who lives alone up on the 19th floor apartment, Jose, in his sublime articulation, talks about coming to terms with gender equality, and of course, the equal rights for an infatuation with a woman aged far apart, oblivious to how the society ridicules him with his outfit and a suitcase filled with roses.

But in his fine act, he persists in not to let theater fades into oblivion. And it calls for us to not to ridicule our own cultural identity in respect of art, implied Jose right in the beginning part of his monologue.

Sun of the East

Panorama 1 Galeri Indonesia Kaya
Due to limited seat in the auditorium, visitors watched live streaming of Matahari dari Timur on a projected screen in Galeri Indonesia Kaya.

Teater Koma, one of the country’s most renowned and productive theatre group, staged a play set in the land of Papua. It tells about a restive land where a vicious dragon brought chaos and plight onto the helpless natives.

In their primitive state of life, the dissilusionment continues to grow as they live in fear of the dragon terror that has victimized them simply for the fun of creating more sufferings, meanwhile aware that their resource-rich land is sucked by foreigners—explicitly referred to as the whites—without being able to stop it.

Their means, limited to the use of wooden spears for aggression and relying on supernatural protection of the divine beings projected in the form of endemic animals, cannot match the rage of the machines.

The chronicle of Papua, a conflict-ridden land of paradise

The play presented two unresolved conflicts lasting for many years, which are the conspicuous exploitation of the mother land by the technology-advanced foreigners and the inferiority-afflicted society caused by neglect and poverty.

One of the performers walk through the aisle after the play

This probes our national awareness towards helping the indigenous people of Papua, the Indonesian citizen of the eastern-most island. Their ineptitude is the result of national abandonment.

Hence, upon realizing that the nation turns its back on them, they turn their hopes to self-governance. Their shout for freedom in the opening act is an alarm against the long neglect.

Their prophecy—as told in the following act—that a native hero will raise, carrying a spear and kill the dragon to free his people, is a warning about what will come true when people wish it.

Matahari dari Timur (Sun of the East) is the 138th play by the Teater Koma, taking place in Galeri Indonesia Kaya, Jakarta. 12 artists performed in the 50-minutes drama written and directed by N. Riantiarno rich in traditional costumes, animism symbols, as well as the theatrical choreography show and music scores.

The story from Papua is a chronicle of Indonesia.

Cahaya Dari Papua - 01
Actors and actresses performed Papuan dance in Matahari dari Timur. Photo courtesy of Galeri Indonesia Kaya.