Monday, August 30, 2010

My Interview on Pianomania

The Mad Scene will turn 3 years old come 1 September, And its heartening for me to report the blitz of media interest in this event. I'm quite honoured to have done an interview with Dr Chang Tou Liang, Singapore's doyen of critics, on his blog Pianomania. I've had a lot of fun doing this interview with him. Do check it out here:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Joyce DiDonato Debuts as Adalgisa

Mezzo Joyce DiDonato made her debut as Adalgisa at the Salzburg Festival on our National Day, 9 August 2010. So how did she fare? Check out these recordings to judge for yourself! Here's Adalgisa's Act 1 arioso followed by the duet between Adalgisa and Pollione (Marcello Giordani):

Her Act 1 confession with Norma. Grubie's (Edita Gruberova) voice sounds a little worn and "pitchy". DiDonato's brilliant high notes suggest that the title role may be a possibility in the distant future:

Part 1 of the Act 2 duet, Deh con te:

Click here for part 2 (link opens on new window)

Click here for part 3 (link opens on new window)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Looking Back at Melvin Tan's "Night Songs" and Victoria Chorale's In Song 10

I have to say that I came away really impressed by the high standard of music-making achieved in this recital. Melvin Tan and his accompanist Shane Thio weaved through a difficult program of complicated late romantic works by Berg, Strauss and Korngold with polished expertise, weaving their own difficult parts into a complete ensemble through a common musical thread. The voice was at once, clear, ringing, full and vibrant, passionately hurled through many obstacles in dynamics, high and low notes and chromatic musical lines, but never once sounding strained or off-pitch. Confidence and poise were the order of the day, as both performers kept a cool composure even as they meander through the most chromatic and technically challenging passages. Not even a sudden blackout mid-song could bring them down!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Caring For your Voice Workshop This Coming Tuesday

SIngers, here's a one-day workshop you may wish to check-out. Its held this coming Tuesday by Iris Koh of the Athenarts Singing Club. Here is a quick and easy way to learn more about how to take better care of your voice:


Caring For your Voice Workshop: A holistic approach to Vocal Wellness

Many people use their voices all day long. Singing, teaching, speaking, the list goes on. But due to excessive use, it is also prone to abuse and problems. Wouldn’t it be great if you learnt some simple effective ways of taking care of your voices so it can help you to communicate effectively with others?

Learn a simple 3 step process that can help you to practise good vocal health and to maintain it.

1. Prevent

Many of our vocal problems can be prevented through proper warm up exercises. You can also prevent injury when you know how to project effectively. Learn some of these great exercises at this workshop!

2. Protect.

Feeling nervous? Learn simple relaxation techniques leading up to your performance so you will not lose your cool. Protect your voice from excessive and improper use. Learn to tell the warning signs and take action before it’s too late.

3. Soothe

So too bad. You’ve lost your voice. And it’s the day before your performance. Learn some SOS remedies that can help you to recover and regain your voice. Packed with simple and useful health tips, what to take, what not to take and more!

This workshop is suitable for singers, speakers, teachers and trainers and those who use their voices on a regular basis.

This workshop will be conducted by Ms Iris Koh, a choral conductor for more than 10 years. Iris is also passionate about developing singers into confident, articulate and expressive individuals who have a message to share with the world.

For workshop registration please contact us at:
Tel: 6497 1456
HP: 9829 1678

$30 if paid before the event. $40 if paid at the door.
inclusive of Singers Wellness Pack, worth more than $10.
This event is strictly by RSVP alone.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

SLO's Opera Cafe

Guys, here's your chance to sing with the SLO! In collaboration with The Arts House, OperaCafe offers enthusiasts the opportunity to meet like-minded friends, and for those with a talent, to show it off to fellow music lovers and SLO management. So here's your opportunity to get talent spotted! You have till 23 Aug (Monday) to register. Details are below:


Inaugural Night : Thursday, 9th September 2010 at 7.30 pm
The Hall, The Arts House, The Old Parliament House

Aspiring and wishing to sing your favourite opera tunes? Wishing to sing with an audience and test out your performance skills? Singapore Lyric Opera and the Arts House embark on a collaboration allowing talents to nurture and sharpen their performance skills at Opera Café. Join us to have a go at your favourite tunes, or just have a listen and encourage your friend to enhance their singing skill, whilst relaxing at the Opera Café. For the inauguration night, we’ll be joined by the renowned baritone William Lim. See you soon and happy singing!

Tickets purchase:
For Guests : SGD 15 (excluding SGD 2 ticket handling fee ) – inclusive of x01 welcome drink (soft drinks)
Online :
Walk in : The Arts House Box Office, 1 Old Parliament Lane, S-179429
For further enquiries please contact : or +65 6332 6919

 For Performers : SGD 30 – inclusive of x01 run with accompanist on the day itself ( x02 songs, either arias or art songs ), and x01 welcome soft drink

For aspiring performers*, please contact : or +65 6336 192 to arrange for your audition and rehearsal. Application form is attached
Hurry!! Registration closes on 23 August 2010 !!
*performers are kindly requested to perform pieces that do not attract the copyright issue, i.e. pieces above 75 years rule.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Auditions for SLO's Carmen

The SLO is holding auditions for supporting cast members. Check out the information below:


Greetings from Singapore Lyric Opera.

Singapore Lyric Opera is holding an audition for roles in our upcoming production, Bizet’s Carmen. If you could kindly assist us to post this notice regarding audition on your blog that will be great! Information as follows:

Roles Available for Audition:

1) Dancairo tenor
2) Remendado tenor
3) Zuniga bass/baritone
4) Morales baritone
5) Frasquita soprano
6) Mercedes soprano

Date and time: 8 September 2010, Wednesday, from 6pm
Venue: SLO Studio, Ground Floor, Stamford Arts Centre
Please be ready to sing all the parts related to the roles for which you are interested. All arias are to be sung in French, with dialogue in English (proficient / fluent).

You will need to provide your own pianist for the audition. Please note that the company will not reimburse you for any expenses incurred.

The company reserves the right to invite interested candidates to the audition for available roles.

Should you be selected for this role, you will be expected to be available for all rehearsals and performances.

We apologise that we are unable to reschedule audition to another date/time.

If you are interested to come for this audition, please register with the SLO administrator Ms Lila Kamsin at by 26 August 2010 with your resume (please indicate referees).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Looking Back at "L’Heure Exquise"

So I bumped into my good friend ST at Brendan-Keefe Au's and Lim  Yanting's concert last night, and jokingly asked if he would like to contribute a few opinions. Lo and behold a full review arrived at my inbox the very next day!

Anyway, I personally had a very good time. Both singers are young and their voices reflect as such, and wisely stuck to repertoire that do not push their resources to the limit. But working with what they had they milked each number for every bit of expressivity, fully engaged with the text and displaying a mature sense of musicality. Brendan's light tenor had a lovely head voice used to beautiful effect, while Yanting's light soprano has a flirtatious charm that lighted up the stage. I'd love to keep up and see how these two would mature.

Anyway, here's ST's more detailed take on the recital L'Heure Exquise:

Coming up this Weekend

Just a gentle reminder of these two concerts that will be taking place on Friday and Saturday respective:

Melvin Tan's Night Songs recital takes place on Friday. If you haven't read our recent interview with him, do read it here.

Next, one of Singapore's most well-known ensembles the Victoria Chorale will present In Song 10 on Saturday. Its great that we can have two well-known and proven acts in the same weekend. Get yourself a ticket for these concerts via the Events Page.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Looking Back at Jonathan and David Charles Tay's Concert

It was a lovely night of music-making by Jonathan and David Charles Tay at the intimate venue of the Chamber at the Arts House. The absence of a 'proper' stage brought the performers that much closer to the audience, and both brothers exploited this informality to their advantage.

The opening set, Vaughan William's On Wenlock Edge, had the accompanying string quartet and soloist (David) performing in close proximity with the audience, letting us feel the music even closer than is usually the case. In addition to opening the evening, the Vaughan Williams cycle was also one of its main highlights, calling for a wider variety of instrumental forces than the rest of the program required. I confess to be hearing this piece for the first time; I found it a lovely piece with warm intsrumental colours, interesting harmonics, and a wide scope of emotions. David clearly relished the chance to present his interpretation of this cycle, taking on its difficult challenges head-on without first singing lighter numbers to warm-up. His voice is a velvety dark sound with a shiny head voice, a very polished instrument that is equally balanced in depth and brightness. The scale and evenness of his crescendos are breathtaking, and he intelligently uses these effects to reflect the pathos suggested by the poetry and music. More work however should be made to proper pronunciation as his consonants tend to be swallowed, perhaps a side-effect of his dark timbre. The louder moments also had a pushed quality that he should take care to resolve.

These brothers may be twins, but they look very different and certainly don't sound alike. Jonathan's light tenor colours, while not as polished as his brother’s, had an easy approachability that complimented his straightforward, heart-on-sleeve delivery, perfect for the whimsical, carefree style of Quilter’s song settings. Elsewhere, his boy-next-door affability can be seen as he walked among the audience, strumming his guitar and accompanying himself in Count Almaviva's act 1 canzonetta from Rossini's Barber of Seville.

The Artsylum Quartet played admirably in the Vaughan William's cycle, handling the unusual musical challenges with finesse and matching every ounce of David’s intensity with their own. First violinist Edward Tan gave a dazzling performance of Vitaustas Barkauskas's Partita for Solo VIolin, Op 12, bringing forth beautiful harmonics playing and overcoming its many technical challenges. The warm accoustics of the Chamber complemented the performers well, lending an echoey, surround-sound quality to the music especially to the voices. In total, a lovely evening spent.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Interview with Brendan-Keefe Au

Brendan-Keefe Au, with colleagues Lim Yanting and Shane Thio

Tenor Brendan-Keefe Au will be teaming up with soprano Lim Yanting and pianist Shane Thio this coming Tuesday 17 August for a recital L'Heure Exquise. The Mad Scene discusses with him on what we can look forward to at this free event:


The Mad Scene: Thank you for doing this interview with The Mad Scene. Firstly, tell us what can we look forward to at your recital L'Heure Exquise?

Brendan: Likewise Steven, thank you for hosting us on this interview. In this recital, Yanting and I will be focusing on the beauty of the European art song. Our audience will be able to look forward to a diverse repertoire spanning from the classical period through to the contemporary era. There will be sets in Italian, German, French and English. Also, if members of the audience listen carefully enough, they might be able to pick out some clandestine naughtiness in two or three pieces (over which texts Yanting and I have shared many a good wink and laugh!).

The Mad Scene: What was your approach when coming up with this recital program?

Brendan: Our teacher (Jeong Ae Ree) is fond of saying that “whole worlds” can be found in art songs, if one only opens up him/herself to the music; and I find this very true, especially in the lieder of Hugo Wolf - some of which we will be performing. We did not centre our program round a particular theme or song-cycle. Instead, we created a list of pieces which we felt reflected our youthfulness and personalities well, and refined this into a collection of vignettes, if you will, that show something of our off-stage, off-voice personalities. At least, this is what I hope, as perhaps I am not as interesting a person as I think I am after all.

The wonderful thing about performing a “rojak” repertoire is that there will be something for everyone to enjoy, even if one inclines toward only one particular language or style. I hope that this is something that the audience will find exciting.

The Mad Scene: Describe your voices for those of us who have not heard you.

Brendan: The instrument is still young and continually changing, but for now it is fundamentally a light, comparatively high tenor. But who knows what vocal changes the future may bring. Yanting is similarly, a light and high soprano, with a tone that charms, teases and bubbles like a good champagne.

The Mad Scene: Besides your own concert, what other upcoming performances are you looking forward to attending?

Brendan: I am very excited about the flurry of activity going on in recital halls in this half of the year. I attended some of my friends’ recitals recently - Baritone Daniel Fong, Tenors David Charles Tay and Jonathan Charles Tay- and was greatly moved and inspired by their performances. I am looking forward to upcoming performances by Melvin Tan, my teacher Jeong Ae Ree with the Take 5 Quintet and many others. My mother studied ballet at the Royal Academy of Dance and we have tickets booked for Giselle, which I watched many times as a child but have since completely forgotten, and I am looking forward to that too.

The Mad Scene: What is your favourite mad scene, and why?

Brendan: The end of Act 2 in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia in which Count Almaviva sings his big aria Cessa di piu resistere. I think this scene is absolutely mad, not because the character goes crazy, but because of the sheer virtuosity of the music. I think tenors have to be mad to attempt it on stage. Well, I’ll get there one day.

The Mad Scene: Lastly, tell us why should we all come attend L’Heure Exquise on 17 August 2010?

Brendan: Gorgeous music, gorgeous soprano, and most gorgeous of all, absolutely free entry! Thanks to our sponsor Exxonmobil and support from the Arts Fund.


Find out more about L’Heure Exquise here.


Did anyone catch the lip-synchtastic fest that was the YOG Opening Ceremony last night? Among many thoughts I have, the one that stuck-out most (and somewhat relevant to this blog's content) is how all the singers were lip-synching through piped music instead of performing live. The strangest bit is during the "World Youth Orchestra"'s segment where conductor Darrell Ang appeared to wave the baton to(hopefully) his own recording.

Are our performers really so terrible that such precautions have to be made to ensure perfection? I'm hardly the first person to say this but live music, for all its inherent flaws, is an essential element in heightening the atmosphere of a live event; performers feed off the energy generated by the live audience and in turn magnify and give back this energy a hundred-fold. Music recorded in a studio, polished for easy-listening on home stereos, can hardly match the excitement that skilled live performers can give.

And judging by our many years of Idol competitions and their channel 8, Suria and Vasantham equivalents, as well as the many many live concert reviews on Pianomania, Singapore is hardly lacking in musical talent, only in the opportunities available in exploiting them. A global event like the YOG, first of its kind and on a viewership scale larger than anything that we have ever done, would have been a great opportunity to exploit these talents. You'd think that creative director Ivan Heng and musical director Iskandar Ismail, with their many years in live theatre, would be sympathetic to this every essential element, but as usual our government chose to play safe and take the boring way out.

And its not like we lack the experience in producing such large-scale performances; if previous NDP parades using multiple orchestras and performing in multiple genres could provide live music, why should the YOG be any different?

So that's my two-cents worth on the opening ceremony. Though I must say that the new arrangement of our national anthem is wonderful. And the torch relay segment with that fancy dragon boat, walking on water bit and the physics-defying cauldron, was nothing short of spectacular.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Antonio Pappano Records "Rossini's Stabat Mater"

Following his groundbreaking recording of Verdi's Requiem, Maestro Antonio Pappano is currently in the midst of following-up with Rossini's Stabat Mater with the Orchestra and Chorus of Santa Cecilia, with a star-studded cast of soloists including Anna Netrebko and Joyce di Donato, Lawrence Brownlee and eh... is that Ildebrando D'Arcangelo? Anyway, you can catch a short making-of video here:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

National Day Special - Singers of Singapore's Past

In celebration of our nation’s 45 year of independence, The Mad Scene brings you our National Day Special, a tribute to singers who have made significant contributions to Singapore's cultural life and paved the way for future generations to rise. The singers mentioned are no longer active onstage and some have passed away, but the influence they inflected since their heyday have made a difference to Singapore’s cultural life.

As for how materials for this article came about, well I simply rounded up my pair of old-timers, ST and Christopher (who have both submitted articles for this blog), for a cup of tea and got them to talk about the good ol’days. They were both happy to help ot, with the disclaimer that everything shared is based solely on memory and therefore are not to be taken as hard facts. If you have more reliable information or have heard any of these singers perform, whether in person or on recordings, do share your thoughts with us in the comments.

The now demolished Singapore National Theatre 

The Opera Scene of the 70s
Although the SLO only came about in the mid-80s and the SSO in the late 70s, Singapore wasn’t quite the musical desert that we thought it was. Concerts at the Singapore National Theatre (which has since been demolished), the Singapore Conference Hall and Victoria Concert Hall abound. In those days of variety shows and pre-internet era, its fairly easy to get spots performing on TV and radio programs, doing classical or ‘arty’ material no less!

Also, the NUS back then boasted of a music department, which produced the occasional opera production in the mid-70s, including a rare opera by Weber called Abu Hassan, as well as some Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. However this music department was closed in the mid-80s due to changes in public mindset for more 'pragmatic' education. As we now know, the NUS music department was only revived recently with generous contributions from a certain Mr Yong Siew Toh. In addition, one of the earlier SSO seasons in the mid-80s included a concert performance of Fidelio with a primarily local cast (more on that later).

So here is a short introduction to the famous singers of yesteryear…

Melvin Tan Discusses "Night Songs" Recital

Tenor Melvin Tan takes the stage again in his recital Night Songs, premiering no less than 3 song cycles in Singapore. He discusses with The Mad Scene on the importance of premiering new works here and advice to younger recitalists:

The Mad Scene: You tend to come up with some interesting programs including the one . What is your approach when it comes to programming a recital?

Melvin: For many singers, the often "easy way out" is to just pick pieces from what you already have sung elsewhere and throw it together, but this often leads to an incoherent, artistically jumbled recital.

I love to challenge myself and there are these significant almost-totemic or talismanic works of the Art Song genre (and also operatic roles) that I aspire to perform. So each year I have (and intend to continue) performing at least a couple of these works. Picking one of these works, I would then shape the rest of my repertoire choices along a theme that relates to it.

Last year the focal point was Vaughan William's On Wenlock Edge (which I will touch on later in this interview) and programming it with 3 of Britten's Canticles made sense as they each dealt with a form of love that transcended a particularly profound boundary: life and death, narcissism, God and Father and Child.

The themes of the pieces performed are important and they have to flow and gel coherently.

This year, I decided to challenge myself with Berg's sensuous and sublime 7 Early Songs as a starting point, and programmed Korngold's Songs of Farewell and Rachmaninov's Op 38 along with it.

Mostly set at night, these songs portray night as a time where the normal rules of day are inverted, where the sense of loss (especially of a loved one) is most acute but also the time when the potential of hopes and dreams are at their most powerful.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Interview with David and Jonathan Charles Tay

David and Jonathan Charles Tay speak to The Mad Scene about their upcoming recital and living in NYC. Its not common to have two singers in the family, much less twin brothers in the same fach. Bursting with enthusiasm, these talented siblings clearly love their art and relish the opportunity to share it together and with their audiences:

Victoria Chorale's "In Song 2010" - 21 Aug 2010

The prize-winning Victoria Chorale returns to the Esplanade Concert Hall on 21 August with their recital "In Song 2010", presenting their proven blend of contemporary works and classics. Artistic director Nelson Kwei conducts. Check out the Events Page for ticketing details.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Create Your Own Mahler Box-Set

Here's something that will drive Mahler lovers wild on the year of his 150th birthday: DG and Decca are joining hands to release a CD box-set of all his symphonies and other works later this year. The difference is that YOU get to choose which of your favourite recordings make it onto the set. Log-on to and vote for your favourite recordings; every one that these two labels have ever made are on offer including those deleted from CD issues. A chart on the right shows which recordings for each symphony is currently leading. You will also get to hear full recordings online and enjoy interactive features such as uploading of your Mahler memorabilia for other fans to ooh and aah over. I can imagine my fellow writer Derek Lim at The Flying Inkpot shivering with delight.Check out the Mahler150 website at

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Concerts This Week - Watoto Children’s Choir and Musica Fiata

Here are 2 special concerts happening this week:

The Watato Children's Choir from Uganda performs on 4 August at the Trinity Christian Centre in Paya Lebar. Admission is free. Check out the church's website for details:

The 5th of August will see the next installment of the Baroque in Singapore series feature Musica Fiata, a vocal and instrumental ensemble led by conductor and trumpeter Roland Watson. The program includes pieces by Heinrich Schütz and Samuel Scheidt. Ticketing details at the Events Page.

Sumi Jo sings Phantom Sequel Theme Song

Sumi Jo sings the official Korean version of the titular song of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera sequel Love Never Dies:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"L'Heure Exquise (The Exquisite Hour)", A Recital - 17th Aug 8pm

Here's a free concert happening on 17 August that you may like to attend. Soprano Lim Yanting, tenor Brendan-Keefe Au and pianist Shane Thio come together for L'Heure Exquise, a recital of art songs. Here's a short description of their concert:


Soprano Lim Yanting and Tenor Brendan-Keefe Au and Pianist Shane Thio cordially invite all to special Exxonmobil Campus Concert "L'Heure Exquise", the exquisite hour of enjoyment, in which the spotlight will be turned onto gems of the art song repertoire. The duo will perform songs by Schubert, Wolf, Quilter, Barber, Tosti, Bellini, Hahn, Mozart, Beethoven and others, accompanied on the pianoforte by Shane Thio.

Art songs began their evolution in the salons of the cultured and fashionable elite in Europe as simple music written for amateur singers and pianists. With the influence of pioneering composers like Schubert, the relatively unappreciated genre quickly developed into high art. Art song traditions soon developed throughout the different parts of Europe, giving rise to the lied, the melodie, the canzone and other forms, each one distinct in style and music character. We are proud to present "L'Heure Exquise" with the sponsorship of Exxonmobil and the support of the arts fund and the NUS Centre for the Arts.

17th August 2010 (Tuesday), 8pm at the NUS University Cultural Centre Theatre.


Admission is FREE. Tickets available at the door on a first-come-first-serve basis.