Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wicked - Media Invite and Review

WICKED - the musical

A Review by
Hawk Liu

I had an amazingly 'wicked' day at the media session in the Grand Theater. Armed with a goodies bag of 'Wicked' media material and a wicked 'Wicked' green water bottle (!) I went into the theatre into the company of some TV crew and many photographers and reporters of sorts, some from other countries including Indonesia and even Australia. A pleasant surprise was seeing my friend, Emilie-Ann Oehlers with her friend Joanne, attending the event too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

SLO 'Don Giovanni' and SSO 'Fidelio' Cast Announced

February looks set to be an epic showdown between our only professional Western orchestra and opera company, as both the SLO and SSO are presenting their own opera presentations only a week apart. Both works are masterpieces of the classical genre, one uses a familiar, largely local ensemble cast while the other presents a roster of ang mohs who have undoubtedly sung their parts elsewhere with acclaim. The tragedy is that I won't be in town to witness the fight in person, but for all of you who cares, here's a glimpse of what we can expect:

SLO Don Giovanni
24, 25, 27, 28 Feb

Don Giovanni - Song Kee Chang
Il Commendatore - William Lim
Donna Elvira - Ee-Ping
Don Ottavio - Melvin Tan
Donna Anna - Nancy Yuen
Leperello - Huang Rong Hai
Masetto - Martin Ng
Zerlina - Cherylene Liew

Really, what better way to cast an ensemble opera than with an ensemble of made-in-Singapore stars (by this I'm referring to artists who have become familiar here through many performances over many years)? Do check out our favourite live opera singers as they take on their respective landmark operatic roles in this most dramatically engaging yet equally comedic of musical masterpieces.

SSO Fidelio
18 Dec

Sinéad Mulhern (Leonore/Fidelio)
Stuart Skelton (Florestan)
Diogenes Randes (Rocco)
Camille Butcher (Marzelline)
Michael Heim (Jaquino)
Carsten Wittmoser (Don Pizarro)
Johannes Schmidt (Don Fernando)

Singapore Symphony Chorus
Singapore Bible College Chorale
Hallelujah Chorus
The Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Lan Shui conductor

I have personally heard Stuart Skelton's Florestan in Taiwan, also with Lan Shui at the helm, and its a really solid voice (and figure) to behold. Those of you are hungry for a true dramatic tenor with the right colours and ease on the top have something to look forward to. If that performance is any indication of Maestro Shui's intentions, we can expect a small, lean, orchestra  delivering the music at neck-breaking tempi.

Details on the Events Page

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Belle Epoque Shanghaied" in Review

Belle Epoque Shanghaied
Esplanade Recital Studio

8 to 10 December (Thurs/Fri 8pm; Sat 3pm & 8pm)
written by Hawk Liu

Belle Epoque Shanghaied was loosely about an European couple who had an adventure in a cabaret in Shanghai with little twists and turns. The story is richly decorated with operetta songs in English, German, French and Mandarin, and the dialogue uses just as many languages.

The multi-cultural cast was certainly watchable, each with their own distinct identities that made them believeable. There was a song at every turn which was a pleasure. The two most attractive and technically able voices in my esteem were Brendan-Keefe Au and Tan Ting Lim though diction was a little lacking in the latter. Both do not come across as the strongest actors. In contrast, Sabrina Zuber was full of fun in the acting department and took every opportunity to show how comfortable she was in her character. She displayed a good range in her acting abilities. Though her voice projected easily, I did wish it stayed longer in each pitch she sang.  

Allison Lester as the proprietress of the Cabaret was fun to watch, a diligent actor who never let down her character as long as she was on stage. Sustaining her laughing 'marathon' during Sabrina's laughing song from Die Fledermaus was admirable. A very pitch-accurate, though a somewhat less-strong voice, Allison gave us a very haunting 'Mack the Knife' in the original German and also in Mandarin! Allison's spoken Mandarin was also amazing! By the way, I love her high-collared shiny Mandarin costume which befitted her character. Robert Jenkin's beautiful voice was loud and clear and I believed his querky character totally. I did wish he took his patter song a lot faster! Dayal Singh, playing a seemingly minor character, had a lot to do a stage and was physically the most engaged on stage. I swear he could do a cartwheel while singing at the same time. Although not a technical singer, he nevertheless sang his boots off in every song.

The dialogue was interesting enough if you put it in the context of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, and a multi-lingual one. The actors were convincing, switching languages at every turn. A key element that lacking for me was the speed of delivery; I felt as if I was watching a Gilbert and Sullivan in slow motion.

I love the use of spotlights on the sets and the lantern theme was very attractive. While some parts tend to move slowly, it was altogether an enjoyable evening. A celebration of operetta songs that fans of operettas would love!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Mad Scene in Concert

Poster, click to enlarge 

Somehow it never occurred to me to blog about this concert on The Mad Scene: my compulsory year 3 recital (yeah its been that long!), especially when the source of inspiration for design is obvious. If you happen to be in Taipei this coming Thursday 8 December 2011, do drop by and check out The Mad Scene - in Concert. I'm a nervous wreck right now trying to squeeze in last minute practices, tying up logistical loose ends and coping with the erratic weather here. More details can be found on the Facebook Invite.

Postcard front 

Postcard back


Friday, December 2, 2011

SLO Annual Concert in Pictures

The Singapore Lyric Opera's recent 2011 Annual Concert has concluded with star-studded performances by Nancy Yuen, Song Kee-Chang and Lee Jae-Wook. Here are some pictures of the night's proceedings:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Katherine Jenkins on Time Out Singapore

There are some jobs that you do for the pleasure that it brings for a job well done, and there are jobs that you take on in order to pay the bills, hence this month's Time Out Classical feature on Katherine Jenkins. I see it as a way of stratching my capabilities by stepping out of my comfort zone. Check it out here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vodka Kimchi

One can always count on Sumi Jo for a fun interview and she delivers even in this one minute plus clip, conducted in English, Korean and Italian, where she gushes about how Dimitri Hvorostovsky would be the perfect colleague except for one tiny thing:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Berlin Philharmonic Live Broadcast in Taipei

This is something that I attended recently and am posting about it here in hopes that it'll inspire the powers-that-be back home to do something similar.

Because I had such a thrill on 18 November watching a free live relay of the Berlin Philharmonic's performance of Mahler's 9th at the National Concert Hall at the Taipei Arena (an indoor stadium for sports and rock concert extravaganzas). The concert was also relayed to stadiums in Xinzhu, Taichung and Hualian, as well as on the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall.

Free tickets were given out at the National Concert Hall's MRT station at 9am on 11 November, a week before. Queues started building up from 8am. Here are pics of the crowd queuing up for Berlin Phil simulcast tickets:

The Taipei Arena was so crowded on that day that traffic police had to be called in to usher passersby from the surrounding roads (it was the same location where I had triumphed in Aida only a few weeks ago). Two hosts entertained the live crowd of almost 10,000 audiences as well as viewers watching online. This concert is the first time an overseas Berlin Phil concert was broadcasted on their website. Needless to say, government officials didn't waste this opportunity to showcase their wares and web listeners were shown trailers about Taiwanese tourism and business opportunities.

Watching the concert on a giant LCD screen with so many people, it feels as though I'm watching a movie in a cinema except that its actually a live classical event that only a supposedly niche audience cares about. Also watching Sir Rattle and a bunch of Ang Mohs walk onstage, It seemed eerily familiar to viewing concert DVDs at home, where the film typically starts by showing footage of the concert hall or opera house, except that the concert hall being shown at the moment isn't in some exotic locale like Berlin, Lucerne or New York, but in the very heart of Taipei just a few MRT stations away from where we are (I even saw a classmate sitting on the front row with his mom!)

After the concert, the roads from the National Concert Hall to Taipei Arena were cleared to drive Sir Rattle and company to the Arena ASAP. They were met with cheers and an ovation worthy of rock stars. Crowds from the other three cities also joined in the cheering through web relays. The orchestra and Sir Rattle were so touched that they promised to come back again in the near future.

Afterwards, vendors set up makeshift, pasar malam-like stalls outside the stadium selling Taiwanese editions of Berlin Phil DVDs.

So yeah, it was a triumph all round;  the Berlin Phil had yet another successful night performing a single concert to almost 20,000 live audiences, we audiences got to watch the whole thing for free (except for those who actually attended the live event), DVD sellers got a good bonus and advertisers got their money's worth. The free programmes given out even had a log-in password for us to try out the digital concert hall ourselves! Imagine all this fuss about classical music! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Melvin Tan's Winter Words

Click to enlarge

Tenor Melvin Tan puts his BMus Hons (RAM) MA Hons (Edin.) LRAM to good use once again in his upcoming recital Winter Words on 18 December 2011. Here's a description of what the show is about:


WINTER SONGS: An Art Song Tribute to 3 Great English Tenors

Local Operatic and classical Tenor, Melvin Tan returns to the Esplanade Recital studio on 18th December 2011 at 5:30pm with a sublime and rarely heard program of winter-themed song with a sprinkling of popular Chistmas songs and carols. Fresh from his success in 2011, in all 3 major productions of the Singapore Lyric Opera, ‘Winter Songs’ is a more intimate portrait of Melvin as an artist. With 2 Singapore-premiere song cycles, one performed with a 10–piece professional string ensemble, ‘Winter Songs’ promises to be a reflective yet invigorating paean to Winter and Christmas.

Come celebrate a Classical Christmas.

“Seldom has a more intelligent and coherent art song programme been drawn, and delivered with zest and panache… his expansive yet supple voice filled the hall, ringing with a bright bell-like lustre” –Chang Tou Liang, Straits Times, August 2010

“Tan was the star of the evening…a naturally gifted tenor with a gloriously rich and musical voice that instantly captivated and enthralled” – Nicole Lisle, Oxford Times, UK, July 2008.

Britten Winter Words Op.52
Finzi Dies Natalis (for Tenor and String Ensemble)
Songs by Hoiby, Lauridsen, Howells, and other popular seasonal encores.

Melvin Tan Tenor
Shane Thio Piano
Beatrice Lin Piano
With String Ensemble

Winter Songs is a heartfelt tribute to 3 renowned English tenors: Philip Langridge, Robert Tear and Antony Rolfe Johnson who have sadly passed away in the last year, all of whom had contributed significantly (whether directly through teaching and mentoring or by inspiration) to Melvin’s singing and career.

Britten’s nostalgic song-cycle about experience, Winter Words, set to poems by Thomas Hardy was a hallmark song cycle for all 3 tenors. A handpicked selection of seasonal songs and carols, some from Britten’s Folksong arrangements along with other winter-themed art songs conjure up the magic of a white Christmas.

Finzi’s cantata Dies Natalis, on the wonder of the birth of the Christ child, completes the programme along with some seasonal popular encores to encompass the spirit of winter and the season.


Click to enlarge

Check out the Events Page for more information. Also do look out for a feature of Melvin in December's issue of Time Out Singapore magazine.

P.S. guess who's slated to sing Don Ottavio in SLO's February Don Giovanni?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Drumming to the Classics

Only the Japanese could think of something like this: a Taiku drumming game set to music of a heavily-accented Beethoven's 9th. I think this is the right way to get my teenage cousin who spends all his time on such music games to take an interest in classical music. Let's hope it'll arrive at a Singaporean arcade soon!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Cabaret Nights" in Review

Click to enlarge

10 November - 9 December
30 min shows at 7.30pm and 9.30pm
TFS Bistrot, 544 Serangoon Road, SG 218166
Cast: Xavier le Henaff, Nathalie Ribette, Tini
presented by SING'THEATRE Ltd
Directed by George Chan

A Review by Hawk Liu

Not knowing what to expect, I walked down Serangoon Road to look for TFS Bistrot and found a delightful looking place right at a corner of a side street. Probably a former local coffee shop converted into a French looking joint, it was painted sunny yellow and blue with dining tables draped with 'French' looking table cloth, and not to mention the matted chairs too. Sitting down, I felt at home immediately in my surroundings. The staff was friendly and the owner (originally from Bretagne, France), Monsieur Xavier le Henaff (hmm... a charming man...), greeted us and we had a nice little chat before we proceeded to make our orders for dinner.

Looking around me, I was sure some of the diners didn't know what was going to descend upon them. Promptly at 7.30pm, a gleeful Xavier and the lovely Natalie and Tini welcomed the diners and very soon broke into song - the Cabaret had started. Choosing to don simple blacks for the ladies and the typical chef attire for Xavier, the cast treated us to a mini musical of songs in French and English, loosely wound around a story of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Bistrot, and it was indeed the 10th year of the Bistrot. Alright, I won't tell more - you just have to come to the joint yourself and find out what they are up to! I enjoyed the myself with the singers coming right next to the diners' tables during their act - the stage was the entire Bistrot with some of the serving staff gamely dancing along at times.

The singers weren't the only stars. The food was delicious. I had French (what else!) onion soup, garlic bread (oh garlic bread can be so yummy) and marinated chicken which I took the longest time at to savour every bit. Hungry yet? Catch some yummy French food and musical fun at 544 Serangoon. To quote my friend sitting with me that night, "It was a little French culture in little India."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jeong Ae-Ree's "On Wings of Song"

Click to enlarge

the ever lovely Jeong Ae-Ree stages another recital under the banner of her new company New Opera Singapore, entitled On Wings of Song. She will be presenting the art songs of F. Mendelssohn, F. Schubert, R. Strauss, S. Rachmaninov, A. Previn, Tsao Chieh, Zechariah Goh, F. Poulenc, W. Walton. Check out the poster above or their Facebook Event for more information, or just email for tickets.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rumbling Canaries

This stupendous performance of Don Giovanni's finale by Bryn Terfel, Rene Pape and Thomas Quasthoff showcases the baritone voice in its fullest glory:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cabaret Nights by Sing'theatre

Sounds like a really good deal this is... For the price of $29.90 you get a full course meal plus a professional cabaret performance. Check out the details from Sing Theatre's press release below:


10 November - 9 December

Chef of French Bistro uses musical theatre ingredients to cook a crispy show for its 10th anniversary.

The famous French Stall, all revamped and renamed TFS Bistrot, has lent its whips to the creative juice of local theatre company Sing’theatre ( A Singaporean in Paris) to mastermind the ultimate recipe of food and entertainment in the most authentic, relaxed and popular French bouquet. Seduced by the genuine atmosphere of TFS Bistrot, international star, Europe connoisseur, George Chan rolled up a crunchy direction for A SHOW served right to the diners’ tables, on the terrace, of course! As anniversary goodies go, this unparalleled performance is offered to the clientele, free of charge but full of generosity, wits and fun.

“TFS Bistrot and Sing’theatre share the same values, we want to make the popular French culture accessible to all Singaporeans. We want to showcase the honest and creative Ratatouille rather than the sophisticated Moulin Rouge” chips in Nathalie Ribette, Sing'theatre's artistic director.

“A bistro, unlike a restaurant, is not a place about making a lot of money; it’s a place about enjoying people” modestly states chef owner Xavier Le Henaff. At TFS Bistrot, you savour the joyous experience that is true bistro dining: tasty, generously served fares inspired by La Cuisine des Mères (The Mothers’ cooking), whipping favourite staples served at a fair and reasonable price. TFS Bistrot, boldly standing on its Serangoon Road corner with its new coat of blue and sunny colours, offers the appropriate old fashioned, inviting atmosphere where “les habitués” (the regulars) can brawl an intimate relationship with the patrons and employees, a reminder of the origins of bistro: a family business that served the working class.

Artists are the salt and pepper of the French heart and that French muscle sings mainly to the aroma of cuisine. TSF Bistrot and Sing’theatre knead for us the legendary alliance of artists and bistros. Hemingway, Joyce, and Rimbaud were regulars. Jeremy Irons, Travolta, Robert de Niro are habitués.

From 10th of November to 7th of December, Serangoon antiquated tiled floor perfectly stages a witty performance among diners comfortably seated on straw-bottomed chairs, enjoying heart-warming fares on fancy tablecloths.

In France, all finishes with a song, but all starts with a song as well when it comes to Cabaret. Sing’theatre boils down the ingredients of the quintessential French quid pro quos in a clever acting and singing show. The wife of the Boss (Nathalie Ribette) eavesdrops and mistakenly interprets the conversation her husband (Xavier Le Henaff) is having with the sexy and dynamic new manager (Tini). Nothing to worry about, True Love will triumph and to share this happy ending, all diners will be treated with a piece of delicious birthday cake.

For a memorable month, twice a night, you experience the spicy taste of a true French “Patron” (the Boss): a generous, larger than life personality, who shares his passion for food and good time. Xavier Le Henaff enthusiastically swaps his toque every night for his leading role in the comedy brought to you by Sing’ theatre, serving a big-hearted performance with an undeniably French air.

Director George Chan
Script Jasmine Teo
Musical Director Peter Stead
Executive Producer Nathalie Ribette
Producer Sing’theatre Ltd

Cast Xavier le Henaff, Nathalie Ribette, Tini

Venue TFS Bistrot, 544 Serangoon Road, SG 218166

Dates 10 November - 9 December 2011
Two Shows a night 7:30 PM & 9:30 PM
Every evening except Mondays & 15 & 17 November

Reservation 6299 3544 / 9712 5563

Menu Formule TFS Bistrot @ $29,80 or à la carte. Check the Dish of the day. No extra charge for the performance.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Albert Tiu Feature on Fanfare Magazine

Albert Tiu, professor at our very own YST Conservatory, has scored yet another exclusive magazine feature for his recordings following the one on Time Out Singapore by (ahem...) your's truly. Check it out here:

Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)

Hand it to the folks at Monty Python to bring us something to cheer up another mundane Monday morning, these British fellas really know their oratorios well enough to offer a good send-up!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Belle Epoque Shanghaied - 8 to 10 December 2011

The famous operetta group Belle Epoque just announced their third and most ambitious project yet: Belle Epoque Shanghaied 

Belle Epoque Shanghaied

Esplanade Recital Studio from 8 to 10 December (Thurs/Fri 8pm; Sat 3pm and 8pm)

Belle Epoque Shanghaied is a nice example of artistic integration: the cast is from Italy, Australia, USA, New Zealand and Singapore; the story line brings us from Paris to Shanghai in the late 1910s; the music offers a beautiful repertoire selected from the best operetta tradition (sung in English, German, French and Mandarin).

Follow our French “Coquette”, and her Marquis,on their journey to the mystical Orient.

An operetta of intrigue, passion and frivolity at the turn of 20th century, where the notes from the great masters such as Jacques Offenbach,Franz Lehar, Johann Strauss II and many others will lead the audience through a musical experience!

More information of the Events Page.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TSO Aida - 23 and 25 October 2011

This is probably the craziest thing I've ever done: agreeing to join the chorus of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra and Teatro dell'Opera di Roma's co-production of Aida with only 18 days to curtain up, which among other things entailed memorising the entire score within this time (and you know how much Verdi loved his choruses). I literally had to put everything in my life on the shelf as I attended nightly rehearsals on the weekdays and whole-day rehearsals on the weekend. By then the production has moved on to staging so its up to me to work on the music on my own in between practices. Sounds like a huge rush, but then if Maria Callas can learn I Puritani in 2 weeks while singing La Valkyria, then so can I do the same with Aida.

The production was riddled with problems from day one: the Italian production team and local administrators were beset with differences from cultural, artistic and administrative standpoints, which made the already daunting task seem even more difficult.

Unbelievably, this is only my first time taking part in a full opera production. It really is quite a jump forward from the recitals (solo or choral) that I usually do, with staging and some really bulky costumes to consider. But then these things give the music so much more meaning that you can't help but sing better because of it.

Chorus Boys

This production stars Isabella Kabatu as Aida, Rossana Rinaldi as Amneris, Mario Malagnini as Radames (replacing Salvatore Licitra), Giacomo Prestia as Ramfis and most impressive of all in terms of star power, Juan Pons as Amonasro. While the other personalities are not quite big-name draws, they are top-drawer singers at top houses like La Scala, working with folks like Baranboim, Abaddo and Muti.

Rossana Rinaldi

Isabella Kabatu in plainclothes, which already makes her look like Aida.

Mario Malagnini

If there's one thing I learnt about top-flight international singers, its that they don't like to rehearse much. These singers only arrived a few days before showtime, and hardly sang a high note during rehearsals. So to accompany us during the rehearsal process, management has engaged the services of Emilio Marcucci, Elena and Daniella, three professional singers in less starry houses, to be understudies (a classmate was engaged at the last-minute to understudy Radames). Having inside connections to the understudy cast was great, and the small bunch of us would go for late-night dinners after rehearsals, where we got to discuss how the opera industry worked in Europe among other things. Emilio was especially kind and offered to give us free coaching lessons, simply because he had nothing to do in the day (I of course skipped every class and told him that I'm free whenever he is).  The two of us even organised a masterclass for him and became a kind of entourage around him.

Second from left: Emilio Marcucci, fourth from left: Juan Pons, third from right: Giacomo Prestia, bent over lady: Rossana Rinaldi

With Elena (right) and Daniella (left)

And then came the production itself, three nights of rehearsals and two performances at the Taipei Arena, performing to an audience of 16,000 in total. I was quite astonished that I managed to learn all of the words and music (even though I admit to the occasional memory slip, but I was at least competent enough to recover quickly, got my entrances correct, sung with the required dynamics most of the time and the had confident to go full-throttle when required). So it was quite a surreal experience, with much hard work put in and rewards gained. Right now I'm just thankful to resume my regular life, and will probably look back at this experience with great satisfaction.

See the rest of my photos on my Facebook Page:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stylus Phantasticus Und Liedvariationen Bis Bach - a Review

Bach, J S: Chorale Partita BWV767 'O Gott, du frommer Gott'
Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C major, BWV564

Böhm, G: Partita 'Jesu, du bist allzu schöne'
Präludium und Fuge in G major

Bruhns: Prelude and Fugue in G major

Buxtehude: Toccata in D minor, BuxWV155

Sweelinck: Mein junges Leben hat ein End - variations, Almande Gratie, SwWV318/N7 'More Palatino'

Gerhard Gnann - Organ

When I received this CD for reviewing, I thought "wouldn't it be a good idea to pass it on to a piano and organ classmate who would know this music much better than a dumb singer?" Caveat of course is that the article would have to be written in Chinese and then I would have to translate it, but then its a good opportunity for this blog to expand to a different language market. So here's my translation of Thilo Liu's (劉仁翔) virgin reviewing attempt, followed by the original:


The organ is often termed the King of Instruments, possessing earth-shattering power and the most direct musical connection. Numerous composers in the Baroque era have written for this instrument, often in praise of religion. The most well-known of these composers is of course Johann Sabestian Bach. This release from record label Audite, entitled Stylus phantasticus und Liedvariationen bis Bach, contains not only pieces by the master but also those of many lesser-known contemporaries.

These pieces are performed by organist Gerhard Gnann. Compared to the piano, another popular keyboard instrument, the organ requires much more complicated playing, including fast legwork and a different touch for the fingers. Gnann maneuvers the instrument with amazing ease, bringing out nuances and subtleties that bring out the beauty of baroque music, his treatment of contrapunctual lines and harmonies feel just right and never overdone nor sacrificed for showmanship, but with more than sufficient technique to meet this music's strict requirements. This CD is a compilation of baroque music worth having in your collection.

管風琴,人稱樂器之王,有著震撼的力量,是最直接的音樂感受,在巴洛克時期有許多的作曲家為他寫了許多作品,也藉此來對宗教的讚美。其中最有名的就屬塞巴斯金˙巴哈的作品最為人知。在這張由Audite所出版的管風琴作品,Stylus phantasticus und Liedvariationen bis Bach,除了收錄音樂之父巴哈的管風琴作品之外,也非常罕見的收錄了同時期巴洛克時期較鮮為人知的管風琴作品。

此張專輯由管風琴演奏家Gerhard Gnann所演奏,同樣與鋼琴是一樣鍵盤樂器的管風琴,在演奏上更是多出了許困難的技巧,如對踏板的掌控,還有觸鍵上。都是。但Gerhard卻能如此輕易的駕馭這樂器之王,演奏出細緻而美妙的巴洛克音樂,對於音樂的層次分析,還有對於當時嚴謹的和聲所做得詮釋,以及音樂與空間之間的掌握,都是恰如期分,將巴洛克時期的嚴謹表達出最極致。是張值得收藏的巴洛克古典專輯。

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Auditions for SSO President’s Young Performers Concert 2012

The SSO are holding auditions for the 2012 edition of the prestigious President's Young Performers Concert. Singers need not apply, but do spread the word if you know someone who fits the criteria.

Auditions for SSO President’s Young Performers Concert 2012

Wednesday 12 October 2011, SINGAPORE – The Singapore Symphony Orchestra is holding an audition in search of young talented musicians for its 2012 President's Young Performers Concert. Singaporean string, woodwind, brass, percussion and conducting musicians are invited to apply.

Successful musicians will win an opportunity to perform as soloist in a concerto with the national orchestra in the President’s Young Performers Concert in July 2012, which will be graced by the President of the Republic of Singapore, Dr Tony Tan.

Applicants should be Singapore Citizens, and no more than 35 years of age on 1 July 2012. They are invited to send in, by 30 November 2011, a brief biography stating their name, age and musical background, contact details as well as a non-returnable DVD recording of their performance of one movement of a concerto to the following address:

President's Young Performers Concert Auditions
c/o Singapore Symphony Orchestra Programming Department
4 Battery Road #20-01
Bank of China Building, Singapore 049908

Shortlisted applicants will be notified in December for a live audition to perform a complete concerto which will take place in January/February 2012. Applicants should arrange for their own pianists to play the orchestral part during the live audition.

We regret we are unable to entertain personal inquiries pertaining to the status of individual applications.

Friday, October 7, 2011

In a shocking twist, the fabulous mezzo Yang Jie has cancelled her return to Singapore to sing with the SSO. Here's an excerpt from their press release:

Mahler’s Seventh update: Mezzo-soprano Yang Jie is indisposed and unable to sing with the SSO on Oct 21

Friday 7 October 2011, SINGAPORE – Mezzo-soprano Yang Jie, who is indisposed, will not perform with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at the Esplanade Concert Hall on October 21. She was originally supposed to join the SSO for Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer.

The evening’s programme will feature Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 in E minor, a work the SSO will perform at the Beijing Music Festival later this month.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

PsalmiDeo's "Behind the Scenes" in Review

A Review by Hawk Liu

I just came back from the wonderful concert by PsalmiDeo Chorale which sang songs from the movies, both American and Tagalog ones. After a slightly harmonically-shaky first few bars in the first number, the choir went from strength to strength. Much of the harmonies were tight and the singers were certainly able, notwithstanding the occasional off-harmony bits. The women had really good voices all round. When the sopranos or the altos were singing solo sections, one can really hear the good quality of the voices. The tenors blended well together too. I wish I could hear more of the basses but i suspected that's because the majority of them were facing the opposite wing rather than the audience. A few soloists were featured in some of the songs and I must applaud them for doing so without any miking. However, their voices could certainly stand out better if they had stood further downstage, away from the main body of the choir (though I was aware that they might have had to stay within the 'shell' of the stage for the acoustics to work for them). Oh yes, I enjoyed everyone of the soloists.

The musical numbers were interspersed with succint narration and visuals were aptly displayed on the overhead projection and that the presentation interest too. On the technical side, I did wish the stage didn't go into complete darkness between numbers because the choir would look good in the light even during in-between numbers.

The Tagalog numbers were a welcome as even though they are unfamiliar to Singaporeans I am sure the majority Filipino crowd were pleased. There was an all round good feeling during the entire concert with big smiles on stage and the crowd giving encouraging cats calls now and again. The choir showed they were game to put in some 'physical' fun during some numbers, such as the 'walking cymbal' noises made by some of the singers. I wish there was a bit more choreography on stage - maybe I am spoilt by watching many choral ensembles on YouTube that came with strong choreography. The musical highlight for me was the last number - Circle of Life from The Lion King. The men were making lots of jungle noises and it did sound like being in the jungle. Very rousing indeed! Filipinos can really sing and entertain!

Time Out Singapore Classical Features

So like I requested for a short chat with Vladimir Ashkenazy for Time Out Singapore's October issue, to discuss his coming concert in Singapore as well as his participation as head of jury in the Hong Kong International Competition. unfortunately the maestro only had time to answer questions on email which only came in after my article was submitted. Rather than letting these gems go to waste, I thought I'd publish them here for those who care. You're welcome!

Dear Maestro Ashkenazy,

Thank you for your time, I have only three short questions for you:

The Mad Scene: You said that there are too many competitions these days, which devalues the significance of winning one compared to your time (in this video: What role do you see the Hong Kong competition play in such a competitive environment? Where does it stand among the many competitions that are also taking place these days?

Ashkenazy: One has to balance out the likelihood that too many competitions will in fact "devalue" the significance of winning versus the likelihood that in some of these competitions we will discover a true talent.So although, sadly, I stand by my view equally I can not deny this chance of hidden talents discovered.

The case of the Hong Kong International Piano Competition and my involvement in it is rather special. I had met the organizers of the competition, Andrew and Anabella Freris a few years back in a social occasion. They, very charmingly, asked me to be the chairman of the competition they were planning to launch and I, as I was certain that nothing would come out of this, equally charmingly, accepted so as not to be rude to these kind people. Little did I know that "unfortunately" they did get the competition off the ground and I could not go back on my word. So it was a matter of charm from both sides, from the organizers and from myself combined with luck, which led to my chairmanship.

I must state that I am only involved in two competitions, the Svetlanov International Conducting Competition and the Hong Kong International Piano Competition. So I stick to my view of limiting my involvement with competitions and also now I am extra careful what I say or promise to charming music-loving couples....!

The Mad Scene: What do you hope that this competition will do for the winners?

Ashkenazy: Help launch their careers in an incredibly competitive environment packed with very talented young ( and not-so-young ...) musicians all vying for the limited opportunities to play-let alone making a living as performing pianists and musicians.

I will repeat here what is often said, that winning the first prize in an important competition helps the career but is no guarantee of success, but it is also true that not winning a prize in a competition has not stopped several pianist from becoming famous.

The Mad Scene: You will also be conducting Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony in Singapore, what is it about this piece of music that speaks out to you?

Ashkenazy: It is the tragedy and the struggle of a brave and intelligent man against fate. The first movement, in a way, says it all. All efforts and struggle were ultimately in vain and unsuccessful.

Read the full feature on Time Out Singapore here:

Also as an experiment of sorts, my October feature touches on locally-based classical artists who have put out CDs for sale. Unfortunately I wasn't able to use all the quotes they have provided in interviews for the article due to space restraints, so my apologies to the artists involved. Check out what remains and also the links to where you can buy their respective albums.

On the Road (很久沒有敬我了你)aka My First Concert in a Typhoon

Tonight marked a new first for me: watching an outdoor performance while enduring the relentless rain and gale of a typhoon, something that I've only fantasised about while watching Caballe sing Norma.

Nonetheless, the discomfort of enduring the elements and potential of illness was totally worth it as it was truly a show worth remembering. On the Road (很久沒有敬我了你)is an original musical commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra, featuring members of the aboriginal Nanwan Tribe performing their ritual songs to the orchestra's accompaniment.

Having sold-out and received rave reviews in its initial run in 2010, On the Road is the brain-child of associate conductor Chien Wen-Pin, one of the nation's best who has clocked time at the Deutsche Oper am Rhien before taking on the country's orchestra's principal conductor position from 2001 to 2007. The term 'musical' for the show is used loosely here: its more accurately described as a multimedia concert extravaganza interspersed with clips from a movie, which tells the story of a young conductor, upon returning from a career in Vienna, sets out to discover the music of his native land in order to bring said natives to Taipei for a performance at the National Concert Hall.

Which makes this truly a case of art imitating life imitating art. After each clip a character from the screen appears onstage and greets the audience with a song, further blurring the lines between actor and character, fact and fiction. The orchestra's lush harmonies and the aboriginal performers' power-packed mountain wailing blending together amazingly well to intoxicating effect; the strobe lights, colourful costumes, jokes and pyrotechnics added further glitz to an emotion-packed evening. So delighted was the audience that at the encores we simultaneously broke out into rounds of aboriginal folk dancing. With no shortage of soul, virtuosity, presentation frills, this is definitely one of the best performances I've attended in  many years of reviewing shows. And best of all, its FREE!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

PsalmiDeo Chorale's Concert "Behind the Scenes"

I would write a lengthy post to explain what PsalmiDeo Chorale's next concert is about, but I think this cinematic-style trailer just about says it all:

Tickets and more information available on the Events Page.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Martin Ng Rocks Taiwan

I was glad to have attended this little private recital by students of Mdm Chu Tai-Li (i.e. Taiwan's prima donna and nicknamed the "Callas of the East"), just to witness the Taiwan debut of our very own Martin Ng. While the host of the evening played up his 'singing lawyer' bit to the amusement of the gathered crowd consisting of Taiwan's most respected teachers, our home-grown bass-baritone did not let us down with his rendition of the bass aria from La Sonnambula, stunning the audience with pitch-perfect coloratura sung at ear-splitting volumes. Give him a hand for doing our country proud!

Theatre Actor Sonny Lim on Maria Callas

This past Friday 16 September 2011 marked the 44th anniversary of Maria Callas's passing. Though much has been written about the influence La Divina had on the opera world, Sonny Lim's two loving essays are wonderful reads to remind us again why the world remains so fascinated by her art. Check them out here:

Maria Callas and the Grand Tradition

The Callas Butterfly and the Callas Traviata

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Opera Happenings in Taiwan for October

Its a strange coincidence of scheduling but this coming October will be a huge celebration of operatic activity in Taiwan. Vocal affectionados here can rejoice while those overseas can perhaps plan a trip to these parts. Here's a brief timeline of what's happening:

First up, the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China with two performances of Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand from the 9th to 10th. Its not an opera but with Wagnerian Irene Theorin singing Soprano 1, many of the islands best voices in other solo parts and the title's promise of a thousand performers, the vocal junkie is in for just as big a treat.

Next up, the Opera Studio will bring us Massenet's very rarely heard opera Sapho on from the 13th to 16th in Taipei and 22nd to 23rd in Kaohsiung . The Opera Studio is kind of like the island's Young Artist Program, but with more leeway on the 'young' part. This double cast production will star Tai Hsiao-Chun, last heard in Singapore as the Queen of the Night with the SLO.

But then if such a rare opera is not your cup of tea, perhaps you would prefer to make a trip down to Taichung instead for a Uniquely Singaporean experience: Maestro Lan Shui conducting Beethoven's Fidelio on the 14th. Unfortunately there's no word on who's singing or whether the performance is staged or in concert, but if you can't wait till 18 Feb 2012 for the SSO's version, this would satiate your appetite for a while.

Lastly, those who love the spectacle and star power of grand opera will be clamouring to attend the TSO's Aida, featuring a mostly Italian cast including Juan Pons as Amonasro and Salvatore Licitra as Radames; or rather, would have starred Licitra were it not for his unfortunate demise from a motorbiking accident a few days ago. Tickets are sales suspended for the moment while management is figuring out what's the next step to take.

So yeah that's quite an impromtu opera festival we've got going here. Check out the Events Page for details and tickets, and do drop me an email if you'd like to drop by so we can go CD shopping and have a cup of tea!