Sunday, December 30, 2012

In My Life - A Concert by Iris Koh - 11 Jan 2013

click to enlarge
Helping my friend Iris Koh spread the word: she is a multi-talented musician who has been working in the arts scene onstage and behind-the-scenes for many many years, receiving awards and recognition from industry insiders along the way. This is a celebration of her long career, featuring many guests including a songwriter, cellist, yoga teacher and a women's choir. Check out her FB Event here:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Opera Singapore's "Die schöne Müllerin"

New Opera Singapore presents a multi-singer-cum-dance presentation of Die schöne Müllerin this this Thursday (today) and Friday, featuring tenors Shaun Lee, David and Jonathan Charles Tay and baritones Jeremy Koh and Lim Jing-Jie, with Albert Lin at the piano.

Find out more information and get tickets at 

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Belle Epoque - Orient Express" in Review

This review was sent in some time back but slipped my notice after waiting for a few weeks for relevant production pictures from the team, but better late than never I guess. Check out Hawk's take on the show here:

Belle Epoque - Another murder on the Orient Express
30 November 2012
The Arts House, Living Room

Nicole Stinton, concept, direction
Dr Robert Casteels, Music direction
Sean Huan Yuh, violinist
Kristy Griffin, soprano, Australia
Sabrina Zuber, soprano, Italy
Tim Garner, actor, New Zealand
Jonathan Lum , tenor, Singapore
Tom Ragen, tenor, Australia
Melvin Tan, tenor, Singapore

A Review by Hawk Liu

Photo credit: Silvia Hagge de Crespin
Morriss Weissman (Tim), a film writer, finds himself on the Orient Express with a murder mystery that he inevitably tries to solve. He meets other crazy passengers who makes his task more than interesting. The host of characters appearing on the train are the most unusual bunch you'll ever meet and what seems to be just a crazy boy (Tom) chase girl (Kristy) situation, turns into a thickening of the plot. What are two Chinese suave brothers (Melvin, Jonathan  doing on the train? And most of all who is this omnipresent Lady Beatrice (Sabrina) who is connected to everybody?

I like the old-fashioned feel of the production as the story brings us back to the early 20th century music of Offenbach, Messager, Gilbert and Sullivan and some other older French composers. I love the mutli-lingual script with Chinese, French, Australian, American, and the accents are hilarious  The national references in light of the actual actors playing their characters are genius  Having lived in Perth for 4 years myself, it was such a good welcome to hear Tom do Australian-speak, not to mention his very funny attempt at French. Tom's Gilbert and Sullivan number is aptly chosen for him. Kristy appears quite French with her convincing accent and costume and was a delight to watch. Love her squeals throughout the show too. The Chinese brothers are quite a handful, imposing their presence very strongly. Melvin certainly sings his socks off - and he shows off the amazing range of his strong falsetto in the Bizet dance number. A big favourite is an Offenbach duet the brothers sing, which the audience cheered. What about Lady Beatrice? She slithers up everyone's sleeve in the show and everyone plays around her as she drinks and sings (a very decent doll song from Tales of Hoffmann, I must say). She drinks and faints, and then she drinks and sings. Love the acting Sabrina! Tim plays an admirable sleuth and the very tough job of being on stage almost the entire show, and reacting to everybody on stage. I know what a tough job that is! The musicians get to say lines too and Kristy flirts with the pianist more than once.

Photo credit: Silvia Hagge de Crespin
If you like old-fashioned things, it's a good show to let your hair down, not take the plot or the characters too seriously, and just sit back and have a few laughs and enjoy the music and the craziness. The twists and turns in the second half are just awesome!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

More Clips from Les Misérables The Movie

Opening this Christmas! Can there be a more ironic yet appropriate gift for the festive season than this tear-jerking tale of the tragic lives of these pre-revolutionary folks?

The following YouTube video is a series of five clips of those songs we have come to know and love. It's a series that loads up right after the one before is over:

'Making of clips'. The original creative team have even reunited to write a new song for Valjean!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jason Robert Brown - Composer Spotlight Tonight

This came into my mailbox only yesterday so sorry for the late notice. Meet up with Jason Robert Brown, hailed as "the next Stephen Sondheim", at the cozy platform of the Esplanade Library. Here's more information:


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BHSO Feature on Time Out Singapore

This month's classical music feature in Time Out Singapore features the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra, featuring their new musical director Adrian Tan and Conductor Emeritus Yan Yin-Wing. I had a great conversation with Adrian and Mr. Yan, and thought it would be a pity that there just wasn't enough space to include everything that we discussed. So here's the transcript minus the parts used in the article. You can read the completed piece on the Time Out Singapore website.

Talking Shop with Adrian Tan

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Goodbye Mr. Lim Shieh-Yih!

It is with a heavy heart that I report the passing of tenor Lim Shieh-Yih, one of Singapore's best singers and a beloved teacher of many students. In an era where the Chinese community was divided into English and Chinese speakers, Shieh-Yih crossed these social boundaries with his art, earning degrees first from China's Central Conservatory, then from the Juilliard School of Music before heading home.

I remember attending his homecoming concert in the early 2000s and was struck by how sweet and full the voice was, despite being down with a flu and had to cancel a few numbers. He has came a long way since, being highly sought after as a recitalist, concert performer and teacher. He sang the highly-prominent role of Emperor Altoum in SLO's highly acclaimed 2008 production of Turandot. As a teacher, he has taught at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts for many years, eventually being promoted as head of vocal studies.

As Emperor Altoum, with Jessica Chen as Turandot and Lee Jae-Wook as Calaf
For some strange reason The Mad Scene has never done an interview with Shieh-Yih; I usually feature interviews in conjunction with upcoming performances, and being in Taiwan I guess there are a few events that I've missed out on. However he's not entirely absent from social media: you can check out his performances on his official YouTube channel, including a complete Dichterliebe and excerpts from Songs of Travel. Its good to know that his art will live on for many voice lovers to admire. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

'Crazy Christmas' in Review

CRAZY CHRISTMAS 2012 - silver screen meets silver bells
Dream Academy Productions
Esplanade Theatre, Singapore
Main Cast:
Selena Tan, Adrian Pang, George Chan, Robin Goh, Karen Tan, Judee Tan, Michaela Therese, Hossan Leong

A Review by Hawk Liu

Sunday, December 2, 2012

SLO Madama Butterfly 2013 - Cast and Early Bird Discounts

The Singapore Lyric Opera will present a new production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly on 1,2, 4 and 5 February 2013. Long-time SLO followers might remember Ivan Heng's beautiful 2008 production (starring Nancy Yuen) that marked the company's debut at the Esplanade Theatre; this production looks set to be a fresh take on this perennial classic, with Japanese soprano Mako Nishimoto and Spanish tenor Israel Lozano making their SLO debuts. Here's the rest of the team:

Director - Andrew Sinclair
Conductor - Joshua Kangming Tan

Friday, November 30, 2012

SLO Childrens' Choir "Where Love Is"

The SLO Children's choir presents their annual concert Where Love Is at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 8 December 2012. Here's more info about the show:

This Christmas season, the Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO) presents an evening of festivity and music by the SLO Children’s Choir with the theme, Where Love Is. The concert will take place on 8 December 2012 at the Esplanade Concert Hall at 7:30 pm.

Included in the concert programme will be a group of 200 students from five secondary schools and one junior college, singing with the Children’s Choir as part of the newest SLO outreach initiative, the Singing For All programme. These students are members of the guest choirs from selected participating schools that have been invited. The SLO Children’s Choir and the guest choirs will sing two beautiful songs together, Shin-jiru by Ko Matsushita and Where you are by Paul Mealor. They will also join in with the audience sing-along.

Christmas is not only a season of joy, it is also a time of thanksgiving and goodwill and the programme has been specially chosen to convey this message of love and charity. The choir will be performing a diverse selection of modern repertoire and Christmas classics such as The Christmas song by Mel Torme & Robert Wells, Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow! By Sammy Cahn & Jules Styne, Angel's Carol by John Rutter and many other beautiful songs for audience members to appreciate the meaning of the season. Audience members will also be able to participate in a sing--‐ along session with the choir after the concert.

Said Ms Ng Siew Eng, General Manager for the Singapore Lyric Opera, “The holiday season is a time of merriment and happiness that is celebrated with family and friends. It is also a good time to remind ourselves that this time of year is an opportunity to embrace a giving spirit. The joy we spread and share with others is often greatly returned. Therefore, we invite everyone to share in the holiday. Cheer with a concert that will showcase the true meanings of this special season.”

SLO’s newest initiative, the Singing For All programme, was devised to expose young people to singing. The initiative provides an avenue for students who enjoy singing to experience and learn a wide range of musical repertoire, to participate in additional workshops and training to develop vocal and leadership skills. We believe these additional learned skills help these young adults develop self-confidence in their abilities in daily life.

“The Singapore Lyric Opera feels that it is highly important for young people today to understand and appreciate the role that music plays in our general well being. Aside from wanting to cultivate a love of singing among our youth, this new initiative also aims to provide an inclusive environment so that they may have a more holistic learning experience. We at the SLO want to make a small difference to the lives of these young people. Invitations will be extended to schools to join our Singing For All programme,” Ms Ng continued.

Tickets for the concert are priced from $15 to $35 and can be purchased via the SISTIC website and telephone hotline or through authorized SISTIC agents.

Interview with Hossan Leong and Kumar (Crazy Christmas)

So like Dream Academy's Crazy Christmas opens this week in two versions: a family friendly one featuring Hossan Leong, followed by a naughty version featuring Kumar. The Mad Scene speaks to both artistes about what's different in each show. But first, a blurb from their press release:


Sunday, November 25, 2012

SLO Gala - "Mother, Daughter, Wife and Lover" in Review

Singapore Lyric Opera - Opera Gala
23rd Novemeber 2012
Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore

Nancy Yuen, Cherylene Liew - sopranos
Anna Koor - mezzo-soprano
Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra
Joshua Kangming Tan - conductor

A Review by Hawk Liu

You may have heard of the all male Welsh choir group called Only Men Aloud that won a talent contest. This concert could be called the 'No Men Allowed' opera gala. A break from the SLO's tradition of having many singers, male and female for their past gala concerts, this one surprised me with only 3 singers, all female. Titled Mother, Daughter, Wife and Lover, it was a very enchanting and lovely concert for me.
Despite there just being 3 singers, they did no less in providing a classy performance of fine singing. Nancy Yuen's silvery tones served her well in her arias and duets which included Ach ich fühl's, Je ve vivre, Mira o Norma, Sull'aria and Belle nuit. The high melismas in Ach ich fühl's provided some excitement for sure. I love the coloratura in Je ve vivre too. Together with Anna Koor, we hear the quickest cabaletta of the Norma duet ever. Un bel di was truly enchanting and it was rewarded with a very warm applause.

Cherylene Liew has a lighter voice which curiously showed some solid tones in the middle range. O mio babbino caro was very lovely though somewhat reserved. Her Song to the Moon was also lovely. Sull'aria with Nancy was also lovely!

Anna Koor sounded somewhat 'Russian' - that's the best I could describe the solid, dark mezzo that night. Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix was delicious, and the high Bb at the end was firm as rock and exciting. I did wish she took a longer ritardando both times before she sings the chorus section but I suspect that was tricky when the orchestra didn't allow enough space for it there. Stride la vampa was well sung but somewhat restrained. Hmm... maybe it was just me that a few numbers in the concert sounded restrained even though they were well sung. Anna's duets included Belle nuit and Mira o Norma. The interesting piece of the night is the rarely sung What a movie from Trouble in Tahiti by Bernstein. The complete work was rendered a very, very long time ago in Singapore and I remembered sitting in the audience perhaps more that 20 or 25 years ago. The orchestra here was up to the challenges of the piece. Anna was totally competent in her assumption of the operatic-musical style that the piece required. Unfortunately, the piece was less successful just because it was one where the singer would definitely need a microphone to ride above the prominent brass and percussion. The concert hall is not always kind to the solo voice. The final trio from Rosenkavalier is always a crowd pleaser and it sure did please. One can do no wrong with this lovely piece of soaring lines from singers and instruments.

Just a word about the hall's acoustics. When the solo voices are alone, they sounded great, though the echo factor could be a tad too much, causing the voices to disperse in the hall, especially when the orchestra accompanies them. My conclusion is that orchestral sounds work well but voices (especially solo voices) disperse too much.

Back to the performers. The orchestra was a star in it own right, giving wonderful renditions of 4 orchestral pieces from operas. I was particularly ecstatic with the Madama Butterfly Act 2 intermezzo. We all have heard so many complete Butterflys and I must say the orchestra's playing of this piece was way up there for me. The Triumphant March (it was abridged, I noticed) from Aida was a joy. The prelude to Tristan und Isolde had a shaky start and it was just alright for me after that. Manon Lescaut's Intermezzo was warm and the solo bits in the beginning was brilliant. Besides  Butterfly's Intermezzo, which I consider the star piece of the orchestra, I must single out the excellent playing of the accompaniment to Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix. The elements of the piece came together so well and the seduction and romance was palpable. However, I did wish for a great ritardando before each chorus section, as mentioned above.

I am sure everyone went home happy that they witnessed a lovely concert and I look forward to the next one. But before that, I believe Madama Butterfly is on the way in February!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

SLO's "Mother, Daughter, Wife and Lover - A Celebration of Women in Opera"

SLO regulars Nancy Yuen, Anna Koor and Cherylene Liew return on 23 November (this coming Friday) for an all-girl gala entitled Mother, Daughter, Wife and Lover - A Celebration of Women in Opera. We have already ran interviews with Nancy and Anna, but for some reason we have yet to have a chat with Cherylene, so here it is:


The Mad Scene: Hi Cherylene, thanks for doing this interview with The Mad Scene. Firstly, what will you be singing at Mother, Daughter, Wife and Lover?

Cherylene Liew: It is a pleasure. I will be singing O Mio Babbino Caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém (Song to the Moon) from Dvořák’s Rusalka, Sull’aria from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and the final trio from Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier.

The Mad Scene: I’ve read rave reviews about your portrayal of Zerlina in the SLO’s Don Giovanni in February this year (although I was unable to attend it personally). Looking back how did you feel about that engagement?

Cherylene Liew: I really enjoyed singing the role of Zerlina in SLO’s Don Giovanni. I felt that the whole experience was enriching, especially because it is a bigger role than I have ever attempted on a professional level. I am quite pleased that the audience enjoyed my portrayal of Zerlina – that is something that I always set out to achieve the best I can.

The Mad Scene: Is the role of Zerlina a good fit for your voice and personality? How so?

Cherylene Liew: Well, when I was first offered the role, I was not too sure. However, as I did my background research and studied the role, I thought that the role started to sit right in my voice. With regards to personality, I do not think so, but that made learning the role a lot more fun. I had to learn to be Zerlina – she is quite a handful, I can tell you that!

The Mad Scene: I feel that the female characters in opera are often portrayed as frail women with tremendous inner strength facing down impossibly trying circumstances. It’s a bit of an over generalization but seems to apply for many pieces. Do you agree with this statement? Otherwise what’s your take on the art form’s portrayal of the fairer sex?

Cherylene Liew: On a general level, I do somewhat agree with you. However, I do not think that I would use the word “frail”. I think that the female characters in opera had to live within the social conventions of when the opera was written. Perhaps in our day and age, that might come across as frailty, but I reckon that the concept of frailty may be a result of the way in which they were presented. Just as contemporary art is the reflection of contemporary times, I suppose the portrayal of female characters in opera is very much the same. I think that female characters in opera are often portrayed as women who are unsuspectingly intelligent, more so than they let on, as well as resourceful human beings that have the tenacity to overcome impossibly trying circumstances.

The Mad Scene: I have quite a few friends who much prefer female voices to male ones, for their wider range, bigger repertoire and broader varieties (lyric, dramatic, coloratura, soubrette etc). What do you think is it about female operatic voices that is so fascinating to the non-singing public?

Cherylene Liew: I think it is the varied colour of the repertoire that is so fascinating to most. Women tend to express themselves more readily and freely. They almost need a sense of release when it comes to their emotions, sometimes it could be in the form of a flamboyant rave, or lighthearted banter. As such, I think the music composed for the female voice attempts to capture that quality, whether the emotion is one of sadness, happiness or hope.

The Mad Scene: What other upcoming engagements are on your schedule besides Mother, Daughter, Wife and Lover?

Cherylene Liew: This upcoming concert will be the last big engagement for 2012, after which I would be taking my Christmas break. As for what happens in 2013, you will have to wait and see! ;)

The Mad Scene: Now that you have ‘conquered’ Zerlina as well as quite a few others with the SLO, what other roles are on your wishlist?

Cherylene Liew: Well, my wishlist may take a lifetime to fulfill! Some of the roles that I hope to sing would be Lauretta in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Liu in Puccini’s Turandot, Wally in Catalani’s La Wally and perhaps Louise in Charpentier’s Louise, just to name a few. Some of these roles are big, but wishing big helps me to continually challenge myself.

The Mad Scene: What CDs or DVDs have you heard or seen recently? Care to recommend any?

Cherylene Liew: I have been listening to Renata Tebaldi – Arias and Duets. It is a 5-CD set that contains various recordings and performances that she did. Absolutely enchanting! Listen with a glass of Shiraz in hand.

The Mad Scene: Since we are discussing female voices here, let’s talk about that eternal conundrum that is: who do you prefer, Callas or Tebaldi?

Cherylene Liew: Well, you must have already guessed my answer – I prefer Tebaldi.

The Mad Scene: Lastly, tell us why we should all come and hear Mother, Daughter, Wife and Lover?

Cherylene Liew: I think that it would be an enchanting musical experience. There are such a variety of arias and orchestral pieces in the concert programme, from the elegant music of Mozart to the passionate and intense music of Strauss. There is of course one other thing, in that the concert celebrates women in opera – something we rarely get the opportunity to appreciate in the one concert.


The SLO Gala Mother, Daughter, Wife and Lover - A Celebration of Women in Opera takes place this coming Friday 23 November 2012. Visit our Events Page for ticketing details.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Promising Ang Moh Singers Kiss Communist A$$

Young singers are always on the lookout for exciting new opportunities, so when Mainland China jumps on the arts education bandwagon and stages a luxurious 5 week training camp to learn Chinese art songs, off they hop to the Motherland!

This highlights video captures the excitement of the sessions as  the finest young singers from the USA, Europe and South America twist their tongues over hanyu pinyin lessons, 'yo'! and 'hey!' over coaching sessions and master the finer points of Chinese folk singing in order to perform their selection of 'patriotic' concert arias. Metropolitan Opera star Tian Hao-Jiang is obviously the best choice to oversee such an endeavor that also includes trainers from both the Met and the Mainland. Facebook updates be damned, the Little Red Book is in once again!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

SLO Art Exhibition in Support of Voice Scholarship - 15 - 18 Nov 2012

Here's more info:


Dear Friends

The Old Parliament House , Intercultural Theatre Institute and Singapore Lyric Opera has a joint project, Artworks, to raise funds so that needy students are able to have the opportunity to learn singing as in the case of SLO where we offer 10 singing scholarships to young children to join our Children’s Choir and have one of the best times of their lives ; OPH for their BT Budding Arts Fund and ITI for their acting students.

We are hoping to raise more money from the remaining paintings at Affordable Art Fair, happening from 15 to 18 November 2012, which kindly gave Artworks a booth to sell these reminding paintings. Unsold paintings by the end of December 2012 will be returned back to BT Arts Fund/OPH.

Look forward to your support and if you know of friends who collects paintings or interested in their bit for charity, we appreciate your kindness.

Ms Ng Siew Eng
General Manager
Singapore Lyric Opera Limited

SingTel NewsLoop Now on iPhone

SingTel's NewsLoop app is now available on iPhone! Here's more info from their press release:

NewsLoop – Now on the iPhone!
Since its launch on the iPad in July 2012, NewsLoop has become Singapore’s favourite news app in the Apple App Store. With the iPhone version, the best selection of content from over 230 top local and international media sources in 26 categories of stories is in the palm of your hand. NewsLoop is available for free download on the App Store.

All the latest news now in your pocket 
NewsLoop gathers all your favourite local and international news and content, and presents it in one easy-to-use app. The design of the app cuts out all the clutter, allowing for easy navigation while on the go.

Local providers:
- The Mad Scene
- Channel NewsAsia
- The Online Citizen
- I-S Magazine
- ieatishootipost
- PropertyGuru
- sgCarMart
- Nylon Singapore
- inSing

International content providers:
- Bloomberg
- ESPN The Guardian
- Mashable
- TechCrunch
- MTV Asia
- Reuters

Please refer to for a full list of content sources.

New Features
•NewsLoop is optimised for the iPhone 5 to offer a superb news reading experience on the go.

•Current users of NewsLoop can access their personalised NewsLoop profile on both their iPhone and their iPad. This means that the smart app, which has learnt your news preferences over time, can continue to recommend articles that appeal to you!

•Apart from continuing to provide articles in a fresh and easy-to-read magazine-style format, the app has also been updated to allow readers to preview the latest headlines in Hot Topics before deciding if they want to read the detailed story.

•Readers no longer have to scan through long lists of posts and click on link after link. Instead, they can enjoy quick access to all stories and images with a few swipes, making it simpler and more entertaining than ever to discover, view and share content.

•The app now enables users to add news feeds and timelines from LinkedIn and Tumblr in addition to Facebook and Twitter. This gives readers more options to share articles either via email, social networks or SMSes.

For more information, please visit
Like us on
Follow us on

Private Lessons with Cynthia Haymon

World-renowned soprano Cynthia Haymon  (Bess in Sir Simon Rattle's recording of Porgy and Bess) is currently in Singapore till 24 November and would like to give a few private lessons to locally-based singers. Check out details below:


Dear Singers,

The world renowned Soprano and voice teacher Prof. Cynthia Haymon who is currently based in the US will be in Singapore from 8 - 24 November.

Cynthia has recently been appointed the artistic director of the newly set-up Singapore based Metropolitan Productions. Amongst other things, Metropolitan aims to provide the training and platform for local performing artists to hone their skills on stage. It also aims to stage original commercial productions of international standards.

In light of an upcoming musical production scheduled to be staged in 2014, Cynthia is conducting a series of voice lessons to allow her a better understanding of the level of talent in Singapore. Her fees are SGD100. This is the first trip to Singapore for Cynthia and will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for aspiring and established singers to receive personalized training from Cynthia.

Please email to schedule a lesson.

Artistic Director and Master Voice Teacher

American Soprano Cynthia Haymon,
Professor of Voice at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Bess in Grammy Award Winner Porgy and Bess

“Cynthia Haymon, a powerful, expressive soprano, made an eloquent case for his almost Straussian "Worthwhile," the sentimental, slightly folksy "Prayer" and two other sweetly melodic settings.” – The New York Times

Perhaps best known around the world as Bess in Porgy and Bess, Ms. Haymon made her debut in 1985 in the title role of Thea Musgrave's Harriet, A Woman called Moses, in the world-premiere performance for the Virginia Opera. Since then, her career has taken her around the United States with engagements that include Micaela in Carmen with the San Francisco Opera and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro and Liu in Turandot with the Seattle Opera. In 1986 she made her European debut as Bess in Trevor Nunn's production of Porgy and Bess at Glyndebourne, with Sir Simon Rattle. She also created the role of Coretta King in the musical King, opposite Simon Estes in London's West End. In concert, Ms. Haymon appeared with the Israel Philharmonic under Kurt Masur, the London Symphony Orchestra under both Myung-Whun Chung and Michael Tilson Thomas, the Cleveland Orchestra under Isaiah Jackson, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the world premiere of Ned Rorem's Swords and Plowshares.

Ms. Haymon performed in the world premieres of Portriats by Richard Danielpour, with Yo-Yo Ma and Emmanuel Ax, and John Williams' first song cycle, Seven for Luck. Ms. Haymon's first solo recording, Where the Music Comes From: American Songs, on Decca's Argo Label, features art songs by American composers. She also portrays Bess on the EMI recording of Porgy and Bess with composer Sir Simon Rattle, which was recorded from the original Glynebourne production and won a 1990 Grammy Award. She has sung the role of Leila in Les Pecheurs de Perles for Portland Opera, Eileen in Bernstein's Wonderful Town, and Poppea in Pierre Audi's production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York. Other engagements have included Liu for the Portland Opera, Verdi's Te Deum, Mendelssohn's Elijah, with James Conlon and the Cincinnati Symphony, Mimi in La Boheme, Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly, and Philip Glass' Symphony No. 5, with Carl St. Clair and the Indianapolis Symphony.

Teaching Philosophy
As a vocal instructor, I discover what each student brings to the student/teacher relationship while guiding and inspiring the innate artistic instinct of each student. Since I fundamentally believe singing is the murmuring of the soul, I firmly believe in simple un-manipulated tonal production. For me, that means singing on the breath with a low abdominal connection, forward placement and a relaxed body without neck, jaw and tongue tension. I believe whole-heartedly in the total singing actress/actor; which means movement, languages, good body alignment and musical versatility. I believe that today's artist cannot afford to be limited to opera, but has to be willing to explore many musical genres. I also firmly believe that young singers should sound like young singers. While not forsaking the natural vocal timbre, young singers should be encouraged to preserve their youthful sound while allowing their voices to develop naturally on a solid technique! Finally, I believe in communication and the power of the universal language of music.

Video clips: PL046281723FA35CC3

Please contact Alvin Tan at for further information or call +65 8533 4652.

A Latin American Christmas

Christmas season is coming once again and the International Festival Chorus Singapore presents their annual festive offering, a Latin-American programme that also features the Oratorio de Noël by Saint-Saëns. Tickets include drinks and finger-food too! Check out their write-up here:


A Latin American Christmas
A Choral Concert by the International Festival Chorus Singapore

The International Festival Chorus Singapore invites you to kick-start December with an evening of Christmas music with A Latin American Christmas on Saturday, 1 December 2012.

A Latin American Christmas features Oratorio de Noël by Camille Saint-Saëns, and an enchanting selection of carols, spirituals and hymns from the Americas - performed both a capella as well as with exciting instrumental accompaniments from talented musicians in the Chorus.

 The evening ends with an audience singalong of well-loved classics. All members of the audience are invited to drinks and canapés at the foyer of the Lee Foundation Theatre after the concert.

The International Festival Chorus is an all-volunteer nonprofit group with the simple aim of sharing the pleasure of choral music. Since its beginnings in 1974, the Chorus has had the pleasure of meeting and working with music lovers from all over the world. IFC members represent a diverse set of nationalities and occupations, coming together simply because they love to sing. The IFC’s website is at

Concert Details
Saturday 1 December 2012
Lee Foundation Theatre, NAFA Campus 3
151 Bencoolen Street
Singapore 189656
Tickets | Adults S$25, Concession S$10

Ticket prices are inclusive of post-concert drinks and canapés. Please email to reserve your seats.

Advent Concert: A Blessed Reunion

Check out this free Christmas-themed concert by Matthew Chua and Teng Xiang-Ting, accompanied by Dorothy Chia:

Advent Concert: A Blessed Reunion
14th December 2012

Join us for our third installment of an evening of sacred arias and warm Christmas tunes this 14th (Friday) December 2012 at St Mary of the Angels. Come and bask in the voices of tenor Matthew Chua and soprano Teng Xiang Ting, as they are accompanied by the skillful hands of Dorothy Chia. This is certainly an evening not to be missed for everyone. Entrance is free.

Find out how to get to the church on their website:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Interview with Sabrina Zuber

The popular Bellepoque series return for a fifth installment from 28 November to 1 December 2012. It is a murder mystery set on the famous Orient Express train route which runs from Paris to Istanbul (Wikipedia page here). We speak to producer-cum-performer Sabrina Zuber to find out more about what to expect in this new production:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Introducing Cheng Hai-Yun (鄭海芸)

Cheng Hai-Yun is a lyric-mezzo and a fast rising star in Taiwan's classical music scene. Having already earned a doctorate in vocal classical music at the Boston University while still in her mid-thirties, she teaches at a few universities and schools in Taiwan (including my own Soochow University) and performs in many high-profile performances on the island. While in the US she had received lessons from Simon Estes and sung with the Boston Baroque.

But despite a growing teaching career, she is still very much a contender in the competitive field of live opera performance. Roles she has performed include Carmen, Meg Page (in Falstaff), Prince Orlovsky (in Die Fledermaus) and Kate Pinkerton (in Madama Butterfly) plus supporting roles in Sour Angelica and Elektra. Her signature role is definitely Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, a part that she has inhabited for many years and performed in numerous productions around the island.

Here are some clips of her singing. You may contact her at for any information or opportunities for collaboration.

Voi che sapete (from 'Le Nozze di Figaro') - Cheng Hai-Yun 鄭海芸

Parto, parto (from 'La Clemenza di Tito') - Hai-Yun Cheng 鄭海芸

Una voce poco fa (from 'Il Barbiere di Silviglia') - Hai-Yun Cheng 鄭海芸

Saturday, November 3, 2012

'Company' in Review

Stephen Sondheim - Company
Produced by Dream Academy Productions
The Drama Centre, Singapore
2nd Nov 2012

Peter Ong (Bobby), Tan Kheng Hua (Joanne), Karen Tan (Jenny), Brendon Fernandez (David), Petrina Kow (Amy), Matt Grey (Larry), Ivan Choong (Peter), Rebecca Spykerman (Susan), Tim Garner (Paul), Juwanda Hassim (Harry), Candice De Rozario (Sarah), Seong Hui-Xuan (April), Glory Ngim (Kathy) and Mina Kaye (Martha).

Directed by Hossan Leong
Choreographed by George Chan

A review by Hawk Liu

It was the greatest pleasure to be watching Sondheim's Company last night. This show joined the 'company' of other hit shows, including Into the Woods, La Cage, Spring Awakening and Victor Victoria, all of which were produced in recent years in Singapore by Singaporean 'companies' - I couldn't resist the word play.

When I walked into the auditorium and saw the set, I thought - what a beautiful set! It was a very classy living room with a high ceiling and elegant, modern lights. There was a long straight stairway running down across the upstage. The expensive-looking living room had 3 levels where the difference in heights served as shelf space for props and things. One side of the living room extended upwards into an upper level which became a spacious open-air balcony. The downstage end of that balcony led to a fireman's pole where one could slid down into the living room space! A grand piano sat at the right upstage level against very tall glass windows, beyond which was the backdrop of other tall buildings, and that was also where the band musicians sat. Later in the musical, we saw the shelves on the upstage left open into a pull-down bed for a delicious love scene! The lowest living room level was much extended into the audience space that it felt as if we were right in the living room itself. I was really impressed with the set! What a great start to a wonderful experience.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

An Interview with Peter Ong

Publicity materials for Dream World's production of Company, opening this coming Thursday 1 November to the 11th, list a cast of well-known theatre personalities including Tan Kheng Hua, Karen Tan, Brendon Fernandez, Petrina Kow, Seong Hui Xuan 'and introducing Peter Ong'.

Those of us who follow the classical vocal music scene in Singapore need no such introduction, since he has frequently appeared in SLO concerts and lieder concerts with the Sing-Song Club. Audiences will get to see a different side of Peter as he gets ready to take on the leading role of Bobby in Stephen Sondheim's classic musical Company, . He has a chat with The Mad Scene to discuss the finer points of the musical and about 'crossing-over'.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Transformers Dance to Gangnam Style

I've been absolutely swamped with work and studies lately, which explains the recent dearth of posts on this blog. More substantial updates will come soon I promise. Meanwhile here's a hilarious video of the Transformers characters doing the latest viral dance sensation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Company" by Dream Academy

Dream Academy presents Stephen Sondheim's musical Company, directed by Hossan Leong and starring Peter Ong, Mina Kaye, Glory Ngim and Seong Hui-Xuan. Check out their hilarious trailer here:

Company runs from 1 to 11 November at Drama Centre. More ticketing info available at the Events Page.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dekada: Celebrating 10 Years of PsalmiDeo

The Fillippino expat choir PsalmiDeo will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this coming 21 October 2012, 7pm at the SOTA Concert Hall. Check out their trailer for this upcoming event:

It looks set to be a colourful, multi-cultural and multi-genre event. Check out the Events Page for ticketing details.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Scholarship for Theatre Course in Russia

This mailer for a theatre/dance course in Russia arrived in my mailbox, promising at least a partially subsidised scholarship for those who are interested. Check it out here if its something that you might consider:


Scholarship for actors, dancers, directors, choreographers - 2012

Dear Colleagues,
IUGTE and ArtUniverse have announced five scholarships for the December programme 2012:

International Physical Theatre Lab and International Conference "Theatre Between Tradition and Contemporaneity"

The scholarship amount is 300 EUR and it partially covers the participation fee. To apply for the scholarship, candidates should send CV/resume with photo and a brief cover letter to

Performers of different genres and techniques, actors, dancers, directors and instructors from different countries are welcome to apply for participation. The programme includes intensive practical training with the Russian theatre director and teacher Sergei Ostrenko, and workshops, presentations, lectures, performances, works-in-progress and discussions with performing arts experts and teachers from different countries. Participants can receive the Certificate of Participation. The working language is English.
Accommodation and meals are organized for the group. The Lab will take place at the 15th century castle, the international educational centre in Styria, Austria. Nearest international airports - Graz and Vienna.

Programme details:
Gallery of past events:

We appreciate if you could spread the word among your colleagues. Thank you very much, and have a great creative work in your field!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Singapore Lyric Opera Presents "Mother, Daughter, Wife and Lover – A Celebration of Women in Opera"

The Singapore Lyric Opera returns to the Esplanade on 23 November 2012 for an all-female evening, featuring Nancy Yuen, Cherylene Liew and Anna Koor in operatic excerpts from Norma, Butterfly and many others. The SLO Orchestra led by Joshua Kangming Tan will accompany the ladies. Here's more info:


Celebrating The Women In Opera
This November, Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO) celebrates women and their roles in opera with highlights from some of opera’s most popular tunes, which have been specially chosen to celebrate the importance of women and their many roles and responsibilities.

The roles played by these women in opera are not simply performances on a stage; they are a compelling portrayal of the choices faced by every woman in daily life. It is through these complex characterisations that the audience is called to reflect on humanity.

So often in the world of opera, it is women who have the stellar roles, and for good reason. It is their strength of character that allows composers to create some of their most beautiful and moving works; it is these women’s resolve that propels the action forward and keeps the audience captivated, and not the men’s heroic posturings.

A Special Selection Of Classic Pieces
We celebrate these women in an evening of unforgettable arias, duets and ensembles, such as ‘O Mio babbino caro’ from Gianni Schicchi, ‘Un bel di vedremo’ from Madama Butterfly by Puccini, ‘Song to the moon’ from Rusalka by Dvorak, ‘Je ve vivre’ from Romeo et Juliette by Gounod, ‘Sull’aria’ from The Marriage of Figaro and ‘Ach ich fühl’ from The Magic Flute by Mozart, ‘Belle nuit, o nuit d’amour’ from The Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach and many more beautiful vocal works, with interludes and intermezzos.

Sopranos Nancy Yuen, Cherylene Liew and mezzo-soprano Anna Koor are the featured singers at the concert, accompanied by the Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra and conducted by Joshua Tan Kangming.

Notes From The Singers
“Women‘s roles in society has always been recognised as an important part of humanity, an all inclusive one – wife, lover, mother, daughter – that need careful balancing. Our valued position has been instrumental in building up society, and hence, we cannot take it for granted,” said Cherylene Liew.

Mezzo-soprano, Anna Koor, agreed, saying, “Women have so much to give to society. As a wife and mother, we have been given great responsibilities, which cannot be taken for granted.”

Concert Programme
** Programme subject to change

Triumphant March from Verdi’s Aida

O mio babbino caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi

Ach ich fühl from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte

Je ve vivre from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette

Song to the moon from Dvorák’s Rusalka

Intermezzo from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut

Stride la vampa from Verdi’s Il Trovatore

The sun has fallen from Menotti’s The Medium

Mira, o Norma from Bellini’s Norma


Prelude to Tristan und Isolde from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde

Sull’ aria from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro

Mon Coeur s’ouvre à ta voix from Camille Saint-saens’ Samson et Delilah

Intermezzo Act 2 from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly

Un bel di vedremo from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly

Belle nuit, o nuit d’amour from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann

What a movie from Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti

Final trio from Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier


Early Bird discounts are availble from 24 September 2012 to 24 October 2012. 20% discounts are offered to SLO Friends, all OCBC credit cards, NTUC Union card, AlumNUS card, NUSS card. 15% discount to the general public via SISTIC. Check out the Events Page for ticketing information

Sunday, October 7, 2012

CP on Air

If you love watching or listening to celebrity interviews as much as I do, then this YouTube channel is one that you should check out: Dennis and Bing are two New York-based interviewers who bring in top-shelf artists into their studios for hour-long chats. Guests have included Dimitri Hvorostovsky, young artists Angela Meade (bel canto soprano) and Shenyang (bass-baritone), and one of my favourite singers, Bryn Terfel. Here the bass-baritone talks about his roots growing-up in a Welsh farm, his break into operatic stardom and singing Wagner.

Conductors and administrators are on the list too. You can check out their YouTube channel here:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Belle Epoque presents "Another murder on the Orient Express"

The popular comedic operetta series Belle Epoque presents its 4th installment, Another Murder on the Orient Express. The cast this round round seems more glitzy with SLO tenor and Symphony 92.4 presenter Melvin Tan participating.


Belle Epoque will present Another murder on the Orient Express, a night of French music on board of the most famous train in the world, from 28 November to 1 December 2012 at The Art House. This is the 4th show in the history of Belle Epoque and it aims at obtaining the same success of the past years’ editions.

A famous film producer finds himself stranded on board the Orient Express. One of the passengers has been mysteriously murdered in the night. Now the train’s stalled and no one is permitted to leave until the proper authorities arrive...

Our prestigious producer, together with some damsels in distress and handsome heroes, will take the audience on the musical ride of a life-time. As they sing their way through the notes of Offenbach, Messager and the French operetta at the turn of last century, the passengers will attempt to solve the crime.

Who is really the dangerous criminal?
Will the film producer uncover the truth?
How will the innocent manage to escape?

The audience will get on board the most famous train in the world and will experience a tale of intrigue, mystery and mistaken identity.

The Cast
For this production of Belle Epoque, six singers are the different characters who live and act on board of the Orient Express. Conceptualized and directed by Nicole Stinton, with  music direction by Dr Robert Casteels, the cast features:

• Kristy Griffin, soprano, Australia
• Sabrina Zuber, soprano, Italy
• Tim Garner, actor, New Zealand
• Jonathan Lum , tenor, Singapore
• Tom Ragen, tenor, Australia
• Melvin Tan, tenor, Singapore
• Sean Huan Yuh, violinist, Singapore.


Gustavo Gustavo Dudamel's "Mahler's 8 Symphony of a Thousand" on DVD

Conducting wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel combines the two orchestras under his watch, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra (Venezuela), for this DVD of Mahler's 8th Symphony Symphony of a Thousand. The soloists are:

Manuela Uhl, soprano
Juliana Di Giacomo, soprano
Kiera Duffy, soprano
Anna Larsson, alto
Charlotte Hellekant, alto
Burkhard Fritz, tenor
Brian Mulligan, baritone
Alexander Vinogradov, bass

Check out the trailer, featuring clips of an interview with young Maestro Dudamel:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Les Miserable Featurette

I was completely swept away by this fascinating trailer for the upcoming Les Miz movie, starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe among other stars. The music is sung completely live during filming, rather than having the actors mime to their own prerecorded music. Its a completely new way of filming movie musicals and I can't wait to see how it will all turn out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Auditions now open for SSO President’s Young Performers Concert 2013

Something the SSO sent to my mailbox:


In search of musical talents for the SSO President's Young Performers Concert next year, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra is holding auditions for Singaporean string, woodwind, brass, percussion and conducting musicians.

Successful candidates will perform as soloist in a concerto with the national orchestra in July 2013. Held at the Esplanade Concert Hall, the concert will be graced by the President of the Republic of Singapore, His Excellency Tony Tan Keng Yam, who is also the Patron of the SSO.

Applicants should be Singapore Citizens. Instrumentalists should be no more than 25 years of age, and conductors, no more than 35 years of age, as of 1 July 2013. They are invited to send in, by 30 November 2012, a brief biography stating their name, age, musical background and contact details as well as a non-returnable DVD recording of their performance of one movement of a concerto to the following address:

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 2012 to perform a complete concerto in a live audition taking place between January and February 2013. Applicants should arrange for their own pianists to play the orchestral part during the live audition.

Past performers have included conductors Darrell Ang and Joshua Tan, violinists Chan Yoong-Han, Grace Lee and Yang Shuxiang, as well as pianists Abigail Sin, Lim Yan, Jonathan Chua and Gavin Jared Bala.

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Singers Wanted for Free Videotaped Lesson

If are a singer who is constantly experiencing the same problem in your singing, singing teacher Grace Ng promises to help you fix the problem in only 30 minutes flat. She will even use an hourglass to make sure you get the solution within the required timeframe. No cost is required, all that is asked for is that the lesson be videotaped and used as a demo of her services. Here's more information:


Dear Singers,

I need singers with chronic vocal issues for a promotional video for my private singing studio. I am going to conduct and document a 'vocal makeover'. Singers will be interviewed about their chronic vocal issues e.g. constant flatness of pitch, sharpness etc on camera and I will work on them while a camera documents the changes.

This will be a service-for-service deal. I'll clean up the chronic vocal issue while the singer agrees to appear in my 'vocal makeover' video. No payment will be made by me.

Please email me at if you're interested. In particular, I'm looking for singers who sing
a. musical theatre
b. classical music
c. pop music, in particular, Mandopop and K-pop.

Singers will only be required for 1 session. I should be able to clear up the vocal issue in about 30 minutes.

Best Regards,
Grace Ng

Sunday, September 23, 2012

PsalmiDeo Presents "Dekada" - 21 October 2012

Click to enlarge
PsalmiDeo Chorale, the ensemble made up of Filipino expats, will be celebrating their 10th anniversary with a concert on 21 October 2012 entitled Dekada (which means 'decade' in English) at the SOTA Concert Hall. Check out the Events Page for details and other concert updates.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Metropolitan Opera's "Il Trovatore (2012)" DVD in Review

Marcelo Álvarez (Manrico)
Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora)
Dolora Zajick (Azucena)
Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Il Conte di Luna)
Stefan Kocán (Ferrando)
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Marco Armiliato
Production by David McVicar

Enrico Caruso once commented that all it takes for a successful production of il Trovatore are four great voices, perhaps insinuating that there’s no point trying to make sense of its convoluted plot. This makes light of the dramatic impact of the story where extreme emotions are the motivation for the great music that accompanies the host of characters through their ill-fated experiences.

Filmed at the Metropolitan Opera in 2011 and released earlier this year, it is a very dramatically cohesive production coupled with an equally great musical performance. It is rich in detail that enhances rather than distract from the script, adding a great layer of depth to what is being sung. It’s a production that takes its source material seriously and works hard to make every character a believable human being.

With the exception of Alvarez, the other leads practically built their respective international careers through this opera, thereby meeting Caruso’s prerequisite of four great voices. It is to director David MacVicar’s credit that instead of coasting by on past experience, the cast sang and interacted with incredible chemistry, incredible detail. There is not a moment when a performer snaps out of character, not a stare that’s given without intent. Duets are sung and acted in a cohesive whole, mining every repeat for different moods and expressions.

I have read numerous posts on Parterre Box about the talents of Sondra Radvanovsky, but this is the first time I’ve seen her in a full role, and one of her calling card roles at that. I found most of the criticism of her flaws to be true: her way of phrasing the odd note just slightly below pitch, a few of them in every phrase, and an unusually fast vibrato in her timbre, so much so that I wondered why she would even attempt to do trills when her regular voice would do the trick. It’s a sound that takes a while to get used to. Strangely most of the big high notes and coloratura passages are beautifully on pitch, just when you would be expecting the worst.

If you have nothing good to say...


Placido Domingo: What is it like to perform in this new production by Robert Lepage?

Jonas Kaufmann: the acoustic is fantastic!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

OMM Brahms "Ein Deutsches Requiem" in Review (8 Sep 2012)

Arvo Pärt – Cantus in Memorium Benjamin Britten
Brahms – Ein Deutsches Requiem

Audi Young Persons' Choral Academy
Orchestra of the Music Makers
Soloists: Virgil Mischok (bar), Theresa Krügl (sop)
Chorus master: Martin Steidler
Conductor: Chan Tze Law

(My apologies to the management team for taking this long to publish the review, as I was busy moving countries to be timely)

Audi has certainly forked-out a great deal of moolah by sponsoring the choir and taking these over 70 members on tour (they performed in Taipei only a few days ago on 3 September), but for those used to performances of the Deutches Requiem where choral forces number in the hundreds, this interpretation is a decidedly slimmed-down chamber music version, very much in line with the low-fat recording by John Elliot Gardiner, only sans period instruments.

But this concert does carry a certain amount of authenticity, as one gets to hear a mostly German cast of singers perform this most Teutonic work; this is evident in the way they pronounced the text and the instinctive colour the tone takes on based on the meaning of the words.

From the opening chords of first movement Selig sind, die da Lied tragen, one can tell that this is a well-trained choir from the clear harmonic ring of the soft opening chords. However, what is missing in the first three movements is a solid core sound at the other end of the dynamic spectrum. Perhaps due to nerves or not being used to the SOTA concert hall’s acoustics, there wasn’t much variation in tone or volume as the music builds-up to louder, more forceful passages. The well-tuned piano tone was unable to swell up into a reasonably strong forte, hence what were supposed to be exciting moments were unable to catch fire, including the dramatic fugal passage that ends third movement Herr, lehre doch mich.

But just when one is ready to write-off the choir of young singers as lacking the full voices of mature adults, the members thankfully got their act together and showed off the quality of their elite training. Fully warmed-up from the fourth movement onwards, they managed to produce full fortes while maintaining a unified choral tone, no pushing or individual voices sticking out. It’s certainly a well-trained choir that can hold a show on their own, despite the early hick-ups.

Baritone Virgil Mischok has an even, full-bodied sound and enunciates clearly with meaning and intent. It’s a well-produced if small young voice, used musically and attracts your attention. Theresa Krügl has a similarly small but resonant sound, a sweet tone with a slightly dark colour and a legato that floats. Both singers sing with clarity and polished techniques, without attempting to imitate the mature voices of older singers who have sung this music.

After reading so many great things about the Orchestra of the Music Makers, it’s great that I can finally hear one of their live concerts. I’ll describe them as an outstanding young people’s orchestra, where one has to overlook some technical difficulties, such as the occasional moments of spotty intonation, in return for enthusiastic, energetic music-making (though it must be said that professional ensembles have a penchant for getting ‘pitchy’ too). The first few movements as described above dragged on, slightly messy and not much in the way of taking on a musical personality, but as the entire cast of performers warmed-up there was a very tidy, nicely balanced sound between orchestra, chorus and soloists, and the lean, clear flavour of their musical interpretation eventually surfaced.

As an opener to the concert, Arvo Pärt’s 6 minute orchestral piece Cantus in Memorium Benjamin Britten is a short but affecting piece that sets the somber mood of the evening well. Persistent beats on the chimes ring out over a repeated string motif that builds up tension through varying dynamics, tempi and harmonies, it is at once meditative, spiritual, haunting and full of grief. These feelings stay with you even as the overtones from the last chime ring fade off.

The intimate space and acoustics of the SOTA Concert Hall was also an important partner to the evening’s success, as it gave the young voices a warm glow and resonance. One wonders if the comparably small forces are able to fill-up the larger space of the Esplanade Concert Hall if it was available that night. Overall it was an evening well spent, as we got to witness this rare collaboration between such a large group of young musicians from so different parts of the world.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Anna Netrebko live at the Met" in Review

Track listing available on Deutsch Grammophon's Website

To coincide with Anna Netrebko's performanes of Anna Bolena that is their 2011/12 season opener, the Metropolitan Opera and DG released this series of live complete opera performances compiled from live radio broadcasts.

Shying away from the usual "greatest opera arias" selections, this collection focuses on lesser known ensembles, mostly in trios or quartets, creating an opportunity for a variety of 'guest' stars. The cavantinas of Qui la voce from I Puritani and the Lucia mad scene are the few solos presented here, but without their virtuosic counterparts. The Poison Aria of Romeo and Juliette is a highlight: virtuosic, powerful and full of pathos and determination. The War and Peace excerpt, taken from one of her first appearances at the Met, is a great rarity to hear.

Sound-wise the quality is as clear as any studio recording (most of them are done live these days anyway). However we are constantly reminded of the album's live nature from applause, stage noises and, in the Don Pasquale excerpt, laughter at the sight-gags which we listeners are left out of.

Of the singing, one is again reminded that these excerpts are taken completely live, and performed as part of a larger whole: the occasional late entries, sloppy intonation and the lines sung with a hint of caution. But in exchange we also get the visceral thrill of live performances, as the singers get swept away in the rush of it all. This is most apparent in Juliette's Poison Aria and the equally dramatic act 3 trio of Rigoletto, where Netrebko as Gilda considers herself a prime candidate to be murdered by assassins in place of the libertine Duke. The storm and stress that conductor Asher Fisch drew from the Met orchestra is quite stunning.

As for the voice, it's very much the one we have become familiar with, only stripped of the benefits of studio wizardry. Rich and full in colour especially in her middle range but having a somewhat cavalier approach to pronunciation, adept at dramatic outbursts and playing to the audience but not enough depth or subtlety at required moments, Anna Netrebko shows that she's as much a live performer as she is a recording artist. Another highlight for me is the chance to hear other top stars like Juan Diego Florez, Roberto Alagna, Joseph Calleja, Mariusz Kwiecien and Piotr Beeczala in collaboration with Netrebko, outside of their usual repertoire of arias.

There are better versions of the Boheme scenes (Donde Lieta and O Soave Fanciulla) to be found elsewhere including those of her own recordings, but for everything else, what's on offer here is really quite a pleasant listen.