Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interviews with Carmen Cast Sophie Fournier and Huang Rong-Hai

OMG the Singapore Lyric Opera's production of Carmen opens THIS COMING FRIDAY! Sophie Fournier (Carmen) and Huang Rong-Hai (Escamillo) have kindly taken some time out of final rehearsals to have quick little discussions with us.

Sophie Fournier as Christina Aguilera Donna Elvira

The Mad Scene: Hi Sophie, thanks for doing this interview with The Mad Scene. Firstly, tell us about your experience working in Singapore so far?

Sophie: I feel very comfortable working here. Every person works to make it easy and when I’m rehearsing I feel like I’m in my own house. The whole team is very professional.

The Mad Scene: What is it like to be working with a largely Asian cast from different backgrounds, have you experienced any language or cultural problems?

Sophie: We all have one thing in common and that is the music and singing. I feel exactly the same as I would in a Western Opera production. We all speak English more or less…so no complexities! We all know to collaborate together.

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

Sophie: I'm a Mezzo-Soprano. It’s difficult to speak about my voice! It’s me… you’ll just have to come hear it!

The Mad Scene: The role of Carmen is one of the most popular roles in opera and one that has been played millions of times. In your opinion, what is so special about this character that makes her such a popular figure for performers to play and audiences to watch?

Sophie: I think that it is the music which is so fantastic! It’s the music of Bizet witch make Carmen famous.
And also because the story speaks about love, sex, liberty, sacrifice and death. Generally in opera, women sacrifice themselves for children or men, but in Carmen, she sacrificed herself for freedom!

The Mad Scene: The drama of Carmen is fun I guess, but what are the musical challenges of the role?

Sophie: It’s always difficult to sing or act something so famous. You have to forget everything and let the music and the words take over.

As for fun…do you think it’s easy to have fun when you know that you will die soon?

The Mad Scene: Lastly, tell us why should we all come and attend the SLO’s new production of Carmen?

Sophie: Great music, great theater and great entertainment; how can you resist the seduction of Carmen?!

Huang Rong-Hai as Queen Amidala in Chinese language opera The Wager

The Mad Scene: Hi Rong-Hai, thank you for doing this interview with The Mad Scene. Firstly, please share with us what has been your experience working in this production so far?

Rong-Hai: OK, it is my pleasure to share my feelings with The Mad Scene. So far, I feel that rehearsals are not difficult for me, because I already know my role quite well. The director and conductor they rehearsed my part very fast so we worked really effectively! So actually I feel quite good now.

The Mad Scene: You have had wonderful successes in your native China and many parts of the worlds, what inspired you to move your career to South East Asia?

Rong-Hai: Haha! I am actually a real “Don Jose”, following my “Carmen” around! I met my girlfriend at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, she is a very good soprano and she stole my heart. So when she finished studying and came back Johor Bahru this summer (she is a Malaysian), I just had to come back with her; just like Don Jose isn’t it? haha!

Ok but seriously of course I love Singapore, when I first visited Singapore two years ago I just loved it here! Beautiful country, grand trees, warm weather, blue skies, kind people, and everything is in order. And since there is also opera here, why not restart my career in Singapore? So Singapore is where I am living now.

(yeah it seems like marrying a good singer is a Singaporean's best contribution to the opera scene. Now all we need is a mezzo and tenor...)
The Mad Scene: What is your take on the role of Escamillo?

Rong-Hai: Escamillo is a succeesful man, a star like Beckham, and has a lot of fans. Most of the time when he is onstage, he must be brilliant, shining, forever confident. In fact, apart from his beautiful melodies and that famous aria, its quite easy to play this character because he is not a deep man.

The Mad Scene: What difficulties did you face when preparing and performing the role of Escamillo?

Rong-Hai: Ok, this is about technique. The music and language is not a problem for me, but I am a bass-baritone whereas Escamillo is written for a high baritone, so it is more difficult in that respect. It requires a really good technique but I believe I have what it takes to do the role well.

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

Rong-Hai: Lush richness, great musicality, keen dramatic instincts… If you hear my singing, you will remember me.

The Mad Scene: Lastly, tell us why should we all come and attend the SLO’s new production of Carmen?

Firstly,it is a really good opera, the music is so fantastic, the story is so dramatic, full of passion. It is definitely not a boring opera. Secondly, in this production we have a really good director, good conductor and a good cast of singers, so it will definitely be worth your time. Finally, if you really like opera, you should come watch us at theatre, because it will be a very different experience from listening to CDs or watching DVDs at home.


On a somewhat personal note, its a pity that I'm still overseas and so will have to give it a miss (this is like my first SLO opera production that I will miss since 1999, save for a 2003 Tosca). So you lucky fellas that are still in Singapore and have not gotten tickets, what are you waiting for? Check out the Events Page for ticketing details!

1 comment:

  1. I linked to your wonderful blog here: http://notabilia.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/carmen-at-the-esplanade-theatre.


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