Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Blue Planet in Review - 29 June 2012

Joshua Kangming Tan conductor
Remesh Panicker narrator
Singapore Symphony Chorus
Hallelujah Chorus
Wong Lai Foon choral director

It was an entirely fascinating evening with live music from the SSO played in tandem with award-winning underwater footage from The Blue Planet.

The ‘piece’, if you will, consists of 12 sequences. Narrator Remesh Paniker explains the filming techniques involved in between numbers and introduces the sequence coming up. Paniker, a veteran broadcaster whose experience includes numerous commercials, commenting over the NDP and YOG parades, and took part in programmes shown on the Discovery, National Geographic and History channels. Tan conducts with the usual score and communicates with the video projection team via his own personal screen that flashes cues on top of what’s showing on the big screen.

We are then treated to quite a series of breathtaking sights: translucent jellyfish-like creatures with multi-coloured neon lights for veins, such as those seen along the Las Vegas strip, soot-like volcanic eruptions 3,000 feet under the surface, the heartbreak of a mother orca whale who failed to protect her calf from predator killer whales, thousands of crabs heading for the sea, plus a sequence of white emperor penguins prancing along to a medley of Christmas songs.

The music, composed largely by George Fenton and incorporating a few songs (including the aforementioned Christmas song medley), is at turns grand, majestic, lush and satirical. Members of the SSC and Hallelujah Chorus contribute a section of ‘aah’s that contribute to fuller orchestral textures.

Most impressive of all, screen and live players came together in an almost perfect, seamless blend, with no sense of either faction competing for the audience’s attention, just as how the perfect opera should be. Occasionally one gets the feeling of the orchestra underplaying to keep things together: dynamic and tempi changes that could have been milked to better effect, virtuoso flourishes of solo turns that end somewhat abruptly and so on, but it’s a small price to pay for such a stunning visual and aural combination (plus one can always check-out how well they play in any of their regular season programmes).

The evening ended with another timely statistical reminder of the harm our human ways are inflicting on Mother Nature; it was a great example of how art can be used for the betterment of people. Enthusiastic applause was given by the full house of audience members, well-deserved reward for pulling off this unusual but artistically gratifying experiment.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Blue Planet Live 29 June 2012

Time Out Singapore carries a short interview that I did with George Fenton, composer of the BBC's award winning The Blue Planet documentary, and Joshua Kangming Tan, who will be conducting tonight's big-screen presentation at the Esplanade Concert Hall with the SSO and combined choruses. Check out the interview here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jennifer Larmore sings Lady Macbeth

Woah this is hot off the presses, famed Rossini coloratura mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore takes on the crazy role of Lady Macbeth. Check out the results here:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yannick Nézet-Séguin's Don Giovanni

These days new recordings of Don Giovanni are better represented on video, often with some strong-arm directorial concept that to some degree interfere's with the musical interpretation. Though I still maintain that opera is better seen than heard, this new audio recording is a welcome addition for assembling the top singers of today in a starry ensemble: Idabrando d'Arcangelo, Luca Pisaroni, Diana Damrau, Joyce Di Donato and Rolando Villazon (whom you wouldn't necessarily associate with Mozart). The overture sounds a little manic for my taste, but everything else sounds promising no?

Living with George F. Handel - 6 August 2012

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The Basso Canaries (Andrew Xiao and Steven Ang, myself) return to the Arts House Living Room for a sophomore recital, this time with an all-Handel programme and with special guest Elaine Su Yiwen. Beatrice Lin helps out with our accompaniment.

Tickets are on sale at the Arts House box office at $10 plus an additional $2 service charge. Its not on sale at, but please email me at if you are interested to purchase tickets but can't take the time out to make the trip. Hope to see you there!

More details available at our Facebook Event Page.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

SLO Children's Choir - Don't Stop Believing (13 July 2012)

Consider it a triumph for local composers: come 13 July, the SLO Children's Choir will present their annual showcase at the Esplanade Concert Hall, featuring new commissions by Kelly Tang and Goh Toh Chai, as well as a medley of xinyao tunes byLiang Wen-Fu. Here's more details from their press release:


The Singapore Lyric Opera Children’s Choir invites music lovers to an evening of music making. Let them remind us of the songs and stories from our youth, and share with us the melodies of youthful hopes and dreams.

Since its inception in August 2006, the popular Singapore Lyric Opera Children’s Choir has performed at a large number of concerts and musicals. Aside from its own series of concerts at the Esplanade Concert Hall, the Choir has also performed in several of Singapore Lyric Opera’s showcases such as Puccini’s La Boheme, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Bizet’s Carmen. The Choir has also performed with the Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra at events such as Opera in the Park and at 20 Years of Grand Opera, and at many other outreach concert activities.

Zechariah Goh Toh Chai
Kelly Tang

The programme for the concert will feature not only folksongs from Asia, Europe and North America but also newly composed and newly arranged music from our Singapore composers as well as songs from the highly favourite Glee.

The highlight of the Singapore Lyric Opera Children’s Choir Concert is a medley of songs from the Xinyao (新谣) Collection. Xinyao songs are largely composed and sung by Singaporeans and are a genre of music that is unique to Singapore. Primarily focused on the subject of life on the island of Singapore, the genre helped enrich the local arts scene in post-war Singapore. The selection of Xinyao songs that will be performed at the concert have been handpicked by Dr Liang Wen Fu and personally arranged by Ms Liong Kit Yeng. Titled as The Reminiscence of Childhood - a medley of Singapore songs from the Xinyao Collection* (童年的回忆:新谣组曲), the medley will include songs such as:

- 遥遥民谣 (Yao Yao Min Yao)
- 细水长流 (Xi Shui Chang Liu)
- 新衣哪有旧衣好 (Xin Yi Na You Jiu Yi Hao)
- 排排坐 (Pai Pai Zuo)

Ms Ng Siew Eng, the General Manager of the Singapore Lyric Opera, “The Singapore Lyric Opera firmly believes that our local composers are talented musicians and it is our privilege to include their works in our concert. We hope also to build a repertoire of songs that is truly reflective of our current cultures as well as our lifestyle. Singapore Lyric Opera is pleased to be able to provide this avenue for the public to experience local compositions – old and the new songs.”


Where Go The Boats?
Kelly Tang

New Commissioned Piece*
Goh Toh Chai

Evening Song
Z. Kodaly

Danny Boy
arr. L S Spevacek

arr. J Herrington/S Glick

Sing a Song of Sixpence
ed. J M Diack

Humpty Dumpty
Dave and Jean Perry

The Last Rose of Summer
M L Lightfoot

Scarborough Fair
arr. M Goetze

From Les Choristes:
1) Carresse sur l'ocean
2) Vois sur ton chemin
Bruno Coulais

I love a Piano
arr. Mark Heyes

Hallelujah (from Shrek)
arr. Leonard Cohen

Ikan Kekek
arr. Goh Toh Chai

Reminiscence of Childhood - a medley of Singapore songs from the Xinyao Collection*
Liang Wen Fu / arr. Liong Kit Yeng

Les Miserables (Medley) **
arr. Ed Lojeski

The Best of Glee **
arr. A. Anders / T Davis

*New songs/arrangement

** Guest choir from Anglo-Chinese School [ACS] (Barker Road)

Programme is not in order of performance and is subject to change


Monday, June 18, 2012

New Opera Singapore Flash Mob

Never thought I'd see the day when the opera flash mob craze would hit Singapore, but here it is! The folks behind New Opera Company offers a preview to unsuspecting shoppers at ION Orchard, with leads Jeremy Koh and Teng Xiang-Ting chipping in a few lines. Check it out here:

Keen to check out the entire show? Find out how you can get tickets from the Events Page!

Elena Ng in Concert (10 Aug 2012)

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Soprano Elena Ng(黃彩鸞)is a long-standing veteran of Singapore's music scene. She has trained generations of young talents and is herself trained at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Italy. As a teacher and performer, she has collaborated and built connections with established artists and organisations in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Taiwan and many more corners of the world.

She brings her full-lyrical vocals and decades of experience into this solo concert that celebrates her remarkable contributions to the arts scene. Joining the festivities is SLO leading man Huang Rong-Hai (黃榮海)and  Huang-He(黃河). Check out the programme of Italian and Chinese numbers below, and call 9455 5952 to get tickets.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Conversations with Jeong Ae-Ree and David Charles Tay

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Publicity for the spanking new New Opera Singapore's first full opera production of L'elisir d'amore is gathering steam, including a special feature story in July's issue of Time Out Singapore. Meanwhile here are excerpts from our short chit-chat with artistic director Jeong Ae-Ree and leading man David Charles Tay, minus the bits that are used in the story. Do look out for the published magazine when it hits newsstands on 1 July 2012. Meanwhile here's what else we've discussed:


The Mad Scene: In addition to your regular recitals, what would you say are the highlights of your performance and teaching career?

Jeong Ae-Ree: A few years back, I was very sick and I had quite heavy medication and due to that heavy medication, I lost half of my hair (I have it all back now), to cover that I was wearing bandanas or scarves. Meanwhile I had a concert organized by Esplanade called Cruel Amour which was with a viola da gamba and a cembalo. The pieces we were performing were old French music which was never edited before, so I had to work very hard to put the words and transcribe the notation to the modern way. It was such a tedious job and coupled with the hair loss I had a huge problem with appearing onstage to perform. For the concert, I wore a wig and my mood was really down but after the concert when I raised my head, I saw wild standing ovations. The moment stayed in my heart for a long time; I still remember the feeling I had that very night. Even though I had many beautiful nights to remember that night was still very special as I was really having a very hard time with myself.

And of course I was super proud when Janani won first price in LLangollen competition.

The Mad Scene: The press release for L’elisir d’amore describes the production as set in a factory at an unspecified time period. Why the need to be different from the opera’s original plot?

Jeong Ae-Ree: To speak more to the audience, and connect better with them. I don’t think agriculture speaks a lot to Singaporean audiences, as Singapore is not an Agriculture society. Well that was our stage director Mr. Goh Ming Siu's idea anyway.

The Mad Scene: Is this factory located in Singapore by any chance?

Jeong Ae-Ree: That you will see when you come to watch our opera!


The Mad Scene: Hi David, thanks for chatting with us. Is this your first opera role?

David Charles Tay: Nope this isn't the first.

The Mad Scene: What other roles have you played?

David Charles Tay: My first full role was Lindoro in the US premiere of Nina o sia la pazza per amore by Paisiello at the Manhattan School of Music. Since then I've also played Piquillo in La Perichole in Boston with the New England Conservatory, and most recently Sam Sharkey in Benjamin Britten's Paul Bunyan, also with NEC.

The Mad Scene: How does it feel to be the leading man in the new company’s inaugural opera production?

David Charles Tay: It's an honor of course, and exciting to be a part of such beautiful music and a heart-warming story.

The Mad Scene: Any birthing pains? I gather that things might not be as polished as more established organizations.

David Charles Tay: well the difficulty lies mostly in finding financial support and manpower to have things run smoothly in the production process, but the director and singers have been passionately working on the music.

The Mad Scene: You have travelled the world and seen quite a lot, is it a stretch to play a country bumpkin role like Nemorino?

David Charles Tay: haha… well in our production he's not the country bumpkin from traditional productions.

The Mad Scene: ah yes, I was going to talk about that...

David Charles Tay: He's a factory worker in our modern take. But I get your meaning. It was a stretch at first, when I was trying to wrap my mind around how simple he is. Having said that... he's not stupid, he's just simple and pure. But then I realised, when it comes to love and wanting love, we're all pretty simple in that way aren't we? Then that much isn't a stretch.

The Mad Scene: no he's not stupid, just innocent I suppose.

David Charles Tay: exactly. I think by focusing on the purity of his intentions, you find the essence of what makes Nemorino so lovable.

The Mad Scene: so can I say that for you it’s kind of a regression to a less cynical part of your personality?

David Charles Tay: Haha perhaps? I think there's a bit of Nemorino in all of us, whether we'd like to admit it or not.

The Mad Scene: How about music wise? Which parts appeal to you most?

David Charles Tay: musically I think the duets with Adina are wonderful, and his lament after finding out Adina plans to marry Belcore is most ravishing.

The Mad Scene: what's the title of the lament? Its not una furtiva right?

David Charles Tay: Adiina, credimi, and of course Una furtiva lagrima is another very special moment.

The Mad Scene: Nemorino is quite a popular role among top tenors, afraid of comparisons?

David Charles Tay: haha tenors have been singing Nemorino since 1832... if fear of comparison stopped anyone, we wouldn't have all the beautiful recordings of L'elisir d'amore we have today. I just worry about giving my best, in a way that I would feel accountable to myself as an artist.

The Mad Scene: have you researched any cds or dvds while preparing for the role?

David Charles Tay: I've certainly heard recordings of L'elisir d'amore before, but I tend to stay away from listening too much to any one recording when I'm preparing a work, so I find my own interpretation and avoid blind mimicry.

The Mad Scene: Thanks David, it has been a pleasure.

David Charles Tay: Thank you very much Steven, was fun!


New Opera Singapore's production of L'elisir d'amore runs from 20 to 22 July 20120. It stars David Charles Tay and Kee Loi-Seng as Nemorino, and Teng Xiang-Ting and Tan Sin-Sim as Adina. Check out the Events Page for ticketing details.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Les Misérables" the Movie

Now THIS really makes one wish that the Christmas season would come earlier. With a cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried, what can possibly go wrong? Although I hope that Hathaway's understated singing of I Dreamed a Dream is really just part of her characterisation. Let's hope too that the movie producers won't come up with some sort of lame happy ending to fall in with the festive season. Check out the official movie website:

Saturday, June 9, 2012


OMG tickets for the SLO's Manon Lescaut is now on sale! You can enjoy early bird discounts from now till 24 June at the SISTIC, before they are released for sale at SISTIC counters on the 25th. Personally I'm really looking forward to seeing Ee-Ping play this role, a born-and-bred Singaporean playing the prima donna for once, and I'm sure she has the chops to deliver a great night. Read more from press release excerpts below including a short interview with director E. Loren Meeker. And don't forget to get your early bird tickets from the SISTIC website!


Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut
Sung in Italian with English and Chinese surtitles

Esplanade Theatre, 8pm
31st August,1st, 3rd and 4th September 2012

Manon - Ee-Ping, soprano
Lescaut - Andrew Fernando, baritone
Renato Des Grieux - Lee Jae Wook, tenor
Geronte - William Lim, baritone
Edmondo - Melvin Tan, tenor
Dancing Master and Lamplighter - Lemuel dela Cruz, tenor
Innkeeper and Captain - Martin Ng, bass-baritone

This August, the Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO) will present the Singapore premiere of Manon Lescaut, the first successful opera by famed Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini on 31 August, 1, 3, and 4 September 2012 at the Esplanade Theatre.

Adapted from a 1731 book by French author, the Abbé Prévost, the opera tells of Manon, who is travelling with her brother Lescaut, when she crosses paths with and falls for Des Grieux, a poor student. They elope to Paris to escape Geronte, the wealthy Treasurer General, who wants Manon for himself. The love affair between Manon and Des Grieux is shortlived, as he cannot satisfy Manon’s material desires.

Although she eventually leaves Des Grieux to become Geronte’s mistress, she yearns for the sincere love that Des Grieux had for her. When Lescaut reunites the desperate lovers, Manon’s materialism and greed results in her being branded a thief and exiled to America. Will the lovers overcome the odds?

Ee-Ping as the Woodbird in The Ring


The true magic of Manon Lescaut lies within its wealth of detail in Puccini’s distinct style of character portrayal. While the original novel portrayed Manon as fickle-­‐minded, Puccini chooses to paint Manon in a more sympathetic and favourable light, highlighting the woes of a fallen woman who simply made the wrong choices. The pièce de résistance of the opera is its luscious intermezzos, formed by some of Puccini’s most remarkable and enchanting music.

The progressive style of the score challenges the performer to depict the many facets of Manon’s character, exhibiting some of Puccini’s mature work with rich orchestration, recurring musical motifs, soaring duets and the gentle pathos of a dying girl. The inventive, fresh and lyrical melody that envelops the music is what makes Manon Lescaut a widely acclaimed, resounding success.

Dubbed by the New York Times as “musically rich and dramatically effective”, the opera proved to be the catalyst that reignited Puccini’s floundering career and paved the way for a string of successes such as La Boheme, Tosca and Madama Butterfly. It was Manon Lescaut that first marked Puccini’s breakthrough as an opera composer, making him an overnight star worthy of comparison to great Italian composers like Verdi.


E. Loren Meeker, the first female director for an SLO opera production, is a critically acclaimed director and the 2006 recipient of the John Moriarty Award, will helm this enthralling piece. Meeker, a stage director and choreographer whose work has been presented at leading companies across the United States, is constantly breaking boundaries with her unique vision and original approach to work.

Meeker said, “Manon Lescaut is the story of a woman torn between true love and a life of luxury. Puccini’s first operatic success begs the audience to decide if Manon is a woman of loose morals who deserves her wretched fate, or if she is a forward thinking feminist who unabashedly embraces all that she yearns for. Puccini once said, “Massenet feels the subject as a Frenchman, with the powder and minuets. I shall feel it as an Italian, with desperate passion.”

This staging of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut focuses on the larger themes and emotions permeating the score and libretto – love lust, and passion; the feeling of being trapped in your environment; material desires versus the desires of your heart. We are developing a contemporary world filled with characters that are fascinated by the image they present to society. I am honoured to be working with Singapore Lyric Opera to produce this iconic opera that built the foundation for a series of operatic success for Puccini.”


Once again, the SLO's production of Manon Lescaut is on 31st August,1st, 3rd and 4th September 2012 at the Esplanade Theatre. Get your tickets by 24 June to enjoy early-bird discounts.

Additional discounts:

Early Bird discount from 24 May to 24 June
- 20% discount to SLO Friends, all OCBC credit cards, NTUC Union card, AlumNUS card, NUSS card
- 15% discount to general public via SISTIC internet booking

After Early Bird promotion from 25 June onwards
- 20% discount to Corporate/Group/School bookings for purchase of 10 tickets (available at SLO Office only), OCBC Arts Platinum card
- 15% discount to SLO Friends, all other OCBC credit cards, NTUC Union card, AlumNUS card, NUSS card, Kinokuniya Privilege card, full-time students with student pass, full-time Nsmen, Senior Citizens (62 yrs and above, password to be opened to all 3 channels).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Music Festivals on Time Out Singapore

This month's Time Out Singapore covers an unprecedented three music festivals happening in June: Brass Explosion! 2012, Singapore International Acoustic Guitar Festival and the Singapore International Piano Festival. Read more about these events here: