Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lee Jae Wook on YouTube

Because... why not?

Manon Lescaut opens TOMORROW NIGHT! This is your chance to hear this powerful voice and personality live. Get tickets at SISTIC if you haven't already!

Monday, August 27, 2012

OMM and the Audi Youth Choir Academy perform Brahms' Requiem (6 Sep 2012)

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This looks like a very exciting concert to attend: The Orchestra of the Music Makers pairs up with the European-based Audi Youth Choir Academy (Audi Jugendchorakademie) to perform the Brahms Requiem. They are joined by two of Germany’s young talents; soprano Theresa Krügl who won the Jugend Musiziert for the district of Passau in 2010, and baritone Virgil Mischok who recently performed at the Cape Classic Festival in South Africa.

Although the orchestra has won lots of rave reviews for their concert and live recording of Mahler's 2nd Symphony, this is the first time the OMM is performing a full choral work. The Audi Youth Choir Academy consists of youths gathered by the austere automobile company for private singing lessons and group choral training. Important collaborators include Kent Negano and his Bavarian State Orchestra. Here's more information about them:

This looks set to be an exciting collaboration by young musicians from here and abroad. Find out how to get tickets from the Events Page.

Interview with SLO "Manon Lescaut" Director E. Loren Meeker

I had previously interviewed E. Loren Meeker for my August feature in Time Out Singapore. Due to space constraints I couldn't include all the quotes she had taken the time to write. Since opening night is this weekend (!!!), I thought why not just publish them here? But first, here's an introduction to her past work via her bio on the SLO's press release:

American stage director E. Loren Meeker has worked with some of the most prestigious opera companies in the world. Recent engagements include Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (Manon), San Diego Opera (La bohème), and San Francisco Opera (Die Fledermaus). Meeker has directed four productions for Lyric Opera of Chicago’s young artist program: Don Pasquale, Così fan tutte, La Cenerentola and Don Giovanni. Other recent work includes Albert Herring for DePaul University, Lucrezia for the Boston University Opera Institute, Cloclo for Chicago Folks Operetta, Die Fledermaus for Penn State University, and the world premiere of A Way Home at Houston Grand Opera.

She has served on the directing staff at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Portland Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Central City Opera, where she received the John Moriarty Award in 2006. Also known as a choreographer, her work includes Vanessa at Central City Opera, Orpheus in the Underworld at Glimmerglass Opera, and Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni with HGO. Upcoming productions include directing two world premieres with Houston Grand Opera and Candide for Amarillo Opera.


The Mad Scene: What is your take on the story of Manon Lescaut as told through Puccini’s opera? Any special insight that will influence your directorial approach?

Loren: As a director, I feel it is important to create a production that is relevant to today’s audience. To achieve this, the design team and I have developed a modern production that focuses on large themes and emotions that permeate Puccini’s opera – love, lust, and passion; the feeling of being trapped in your environment; the struggle to chose between material desires and the desires of your heart. Exploring these subjects through a character as intriguing and complicated as Manon is a wonderful challenge.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Introducing Sg-Music.Net

This seems to be a new set-up that I have only been recently aquainted with. Contrary to its tagline of introducing Singapore's music scene, the articles presented are almost exclusively about classical music, including not a few interviews with SLO's Manon Lescaut cast Ee-Ping, Lee Jae-Wook, conductor Joshua Kangming Tan, director E. Loren Meeker and other cast members. Other articles include tips on how to apply for NAC grants.

Its about time that there's a forward-looking magazine about the broader classical music scene in Singapore (Lord knows I'm only one person and can't possibly touch on everything). You can check out the website here (but only after you have finished reading our posts here of course :-p ):

Verdi Tuning - A=432

This fascinating documentary highlights argues for orchestras to return to the tuning frequency of Verdi's time. The instrumentalists increasingly higher tuning in pursuit of brighter string sound is ruining many of today's voices and do not reflect the musical colours that composers of the time wanted. Renata Tebaldi and Piero Cappuccilli are among the top musicians who speak up on the issue, Cappuccilli even sings a few lines to demonstate the differences in colour and tessitura.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

SCO's "The Glorious Lion City" in Review (18 Aug 2012)

Andrew Xiao attended the Singapore Chinese Orchestra's concert last week. Entitled Law Wai Lun's Concert - The Glorious Lion City,it is a multimedia event that inaugurates the new 2012/13 season and Mr. Law's new appointment as the orchestra's composer-in-residence. His review is presented in Chinese and English translation.

Honestly speaking, I have not attended a Singapore Chinese Orchestra performance for a long time, especially a multi-sensory extravaganza such as this one: a programme of (current composer-in-residence) Law Wai-Lun’s music entitled Law Wai Lun's Concert - The Glorious Lion City.

August also happens to be the month of our nation’s anniversary, and so such a presentation is especially apt. Law is one of Singapore’s pioneer batch of ‘new immigrants’, originating from Shanghai and a graduate of the prestigious Central Conservatory during the cultural revolution. He is the newly appointed composer-in-residence o the SCO.

The pieces that I most look forward to hearing are Sang Nila Utama and Singa and The Celestial Web. The former tells the tale of how the prince of the Srivijayan empire Sang Nila Utama discovered Singapore. It combines special lighting effects and traditional Javanese dance, presented by the Padnecwara Dance Group. Their graceful choreography with bows and spears took the audience’s breath away. This presentation alone is already worth the ticket price.

Since we are in the month of NDP celebrations, a medley of NDP songs is most appropriate.Lead vocalist presented We Are Singapore, One United People and Home (originally by Kit Chan). I feel that such songs require a large singalong crowd to generate a celebratory atmosphere. Due to the lack of audience numbers and their passivity, the performers were unable to spark a certain level of excitement.

The final piece The Celestial Web is composed for narrators, choir and Chinese orchestra. It is based on the poetry by cultural medallion winner Tan Swie-Hian. The piece is arranged in five movements, lastly a total of about 20 minutes. Mediacorp celebrity hosts Guo Liang and Xu Bing provided the narration, very well characterized and articulated. The choir sang well too, one can see the hard work they have put in. Maestro Yeh Tsung harnessed the collective forces into a single, wonderfully expressive whole. Coming after Sang Nila Utama and Singa, this one was the next most popular item judging by the audience's applause.

In all, this is a concert worthy of the word “glorious” in its title.

《罗伟伦专场音乐会:壮丽狮城》观感录 - 萧淳元



在这场专场音乐会,呈现了《间奏曲》,令我很期待的作品是《王子与狮子》和《天网》。《王子与狮子》是根据我国的传说,印尼Srivijayan朝代王子Sang Nila Utama在打猎时发现新加坡的故事。作品结合了爪哇的宫廷舞蹈,华乐团,灯光特效。来自印尼的舞蹈团,邦尼瓦拉舞蹈团在这作品上演绎,令在座的观众们的惊叹。除了他们的优美的舞姿,他们还要用上弓和枪,来配合音乐的进展。加上能看到他们的华丽的舞服,确实可说是值得票价了。

在新加坡的国庆月份演出,当然少不了国庆主题曲了。由我国著名歌手Robert Fernando 演唱,头一首是 《We are Singapore》.这首爱国歌曲,是根据我国的誓约而写的。当晚,大家都因这曲,发誓了一下。第二首是《One United People》,第三是由陈洁仪原唱的《Home》。说句心理话,唱爱国歌,要逢地点,人数。因不够人,地方小,确是带动不来,虽然有这么好的歌手带唱。



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dr. Michela Bertagnolli Masterclass - November 2012

I had such a wonderful time and made so many new friends when I attended Dr. Michela Bertagnolli's series of masterclasses in KL back in July 2012. Since the last series of courses received such overwhelming response, the team is staging another series again in November 2012! You can choose to take individual lessons or group classes, and new to this series is a La Boheme course (where you get to pick a role from the opera to work on) and children's opera choir. The series of courses will end with a recital/concert where participants will get to present what they have learnt in full costume, hair and make-up, including scenes from La Boheme. Here's more information:


I am sure you have heard the news by now. Michela loves us so much that she has confirmed her interest to come back in November for another session of master classes. Tentatively the dates are Nov 3-12, of course subject to flight availability. As former participants of Dr. Michela's classes, you will be given priority and the schedule is attached in this e-mail for your consideration.

However, we are going to change the format slightly taking into account your feedback from the questionnaires, the different needs and also based on the lessons we have learned in the July master class. Kindly note that the schedule is subject to change depending on the response and participation. Venue of master class and recital to be determined later.

Individual Master Class
Duration: 1 hour per class
Fee: RM250 per hour for 3 classes or more; RM300 per hour for 1-2 classes.
Sessions: 6 November (Tuesday), 8 November (Thursday), 12 November (Monday) 10:00AM – 7:00PM; Limited to 24 classes only.

Format: Class can be tailored to specific needs example focus on technique, interpretation, coaching in Italian and French diction and preparation for a role or recital. Requirements should be made known upon registration or minimally one-month prior to the master class and songs and score must be submitted by e-mail to minimally one month before the master class. Priority will be given to participants who sign-up for more classes. The class is suitable for professional, advanced or intermediate singers. Participants may be requested to participate in the master class recital performance.

Group Master Class (2 Groups)
Duration: 2 sessions, 4 Hours per session.
Fee: RM600 per participant.
Sessions: Group 1: 5 November (Monday) 9:00AM – 1:00PM; 7 November (Wednesday) 2:00PM – 6:00PM
Group 2: 5 November (Monday) 2:00PM – 6:00PM; 7 November (Wednesday) 9:00AM – 1:00PM
Participants per group: Limited to 8-10.
Format: Class includes group or individual vocalisé; Individual coaching on technique and repertoire; Participants are required to prepare at least 2 songs in Italian or French. Operatic arias preferred. Score must be submitted by e-mail to minimally one month before the master class. The class is suitable for beginners to intermediate singers. Participants should be available full day on 10 & 11 November 2012 for rehearsal and the master class recital performance, if selected.

La Bohéme for Kids
Duration: 3 sessions, 5 hours per session.
Fee: RM500 per participant.
Participants limited to 40 children. Children may be required to attend an audition.
Sessions: 3 (Saturday), 4 (Sunday) & 9 November (Friday) 10:00AM – 1:00PM;
Format: The workshop will include opera appreciation, singing, music, dancing/movement lessons, handicraft work and staging of an opera production. The children will develop their social skills, leadership and ability to work as a Team with the guidance and close supervision from Professionals. The workshop will end with the opera performance with the children. Participants should be available full day on 10 & 11 November 2012 for rehearsal and the master class recital performance, if selected.

La Bohéme Master Class
Duration: 3 session, 5 hours per session.
Fee: RM1000 per participant.
Sessions: 3 (Saturday), 4 (Sunday) & 9 November (Friday) 2:00PM – 7:00PM;
Participants per group: Limited to 10-12.
Format: The master class will help participants prepare for a role in Giocomo Puccini’s opera, La Bohéme, a production which EST is planning to stage in 2013; Participants will be given the score (electronically) in advance and are required to study and prepare to sing by memory, if possible. Coaching will be provided on interpretation, musicality and acting. Participants must specify the role/s that they would like prepare for during registration and EST reserves the right to audition the participant prior to the master class. The class is suitable for professional, advanced or intermediate students. Participants should be available full day on 10 & 11 November 2012 for rehearsal and the master class recital performance, if selected.

We hope you found something that meet your needs. For registration, please e-mail or call me. A 50% deposit is required to confirm your booking.

We look forward to your continuous support and participation and feel free to share this with family, friends and even children, nieces and nephews who may be interested in the classes. Hope to hear from you soon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bed, Boys and Beyond - a Musical Theatre Revue from KL

I had the pleasure of meeting Australian singer Zoe Taylor when I attended Dr. Michela Bertagonolli's masterclasses in KL back in July. Talented, affable and blessed with a gorgeous lyric soprano with tremendous flexibility to maneuver the finer corners of Juliette's Watlz, she seems to be one who is born for the stage.

I am glad to know that she will be bringing her act from Singapore on 6 to 8 September 2012, as part of an programme by the Arts House to present acts from across the Causeway. Its a song-and-dance cabaret about an Australian girl who goes to KL and meets new friends. Here's more information:

a Cabaret Concert about relationships, dreams, desires, travels and the heart

Elvira Arul, Tria Aziz and Zoe Taylor

with Llew Marsh on piano
and Rohnie Tan on violin

Choreography by Zoe Taylor
Creative and Music Direction by Llew Marsh

A small town Australian Girl moves to Kuala Lumpur and meets two locals.

The first is a Malay Girl who seems to be the conservative head-scarf wearing type whilst the other is an Indian Girl who thinks she's a soul sista. But are they really what they seem?

Through songs from the musical theatre repertoire they exchange anecdotes and stories about relationships, dreams and desires about the opposite sex and what it really means to be home in a heartwarming and hilarious evening of song, comedy and dance.

Featuring solos, duets, trios and new arrangements of songs by Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Sir Elton John, Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb and taken from musicals such as Chicago, Cabaret, Grease, Footloose, Jekyll and Hyde, Rent and many more, this show brings you a team of award winning talents from the Australian and Kuala Lumpur arts scene right here to Singapore.

Starring Elvira Arul (Dreamgirls, VIMA Best Female Vocalist), Tria Aziz (The Wizard of Oz, Winner of NTV7's Audition), Zoe Taylor (Opera In The Alps, Anything Goes, The Sound of Music, Fame, Grease) and put together by Llew Marsh (Universal Studios Singapore, London Touring Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar), this promises to be a night of music, tears and laughter you will definitely want to be at!


Find out more information at the Events Page. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview with Ee-Ping and Lee Jae-Wook

Singaporean soprano Ee-Ping and Korean tenor Lee Jae-Wook are top opera singers in the region. Both of them have led performances across Europe and Asia to enthusiastic applause and repeated invitations. They will be taking on the lead roles of the doomed lovers in Puccini’s heart-rending opera Manon Lescaut, staged by the Singapore Lyric Opera and performing on 31 August, 1, 3 and 4 September 2012.

I caught up with them after a long day of rehearsals and get their take on taking on this mammoth task. Despite having endured a physically demanding session, both artists were in high spirits and spoke enthusiastically about their upcoming collaboration. Here’s what we discussed:

The Mad Scene: Hi Ee-Ping and Jae-Wook, how are preparations for the production coming along? I understand that you are now in staging?

Jae-Wook: Yes, we are now doing staging rehearsals. We started rehearsals for this opera from 1st August.

The Mad Scene: Tell us about the opera from your character's perspective, who are you playing and what does he or she do in this opera?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

“Fences” in Review – 19 Aug 2012

John Sharpley’s and Robert Yeo’s original opera was definitely an interesting artistic experience for me. Set in the tumultuous times of the 1960s, the pair of lovers from Singapore and Malaysia had to build their relationship around political and social turmoil, with racial tensions building up on both sides of the causeway. 

The music is an interesting mix, loosely described by this writer as jagged, seemingly atonal melodies supported by traditional tonal harmonies, augmented by Chinese and gamelan influences. These were played out in the orchestra by two yangqin’s, an erhu and bamboo flute for the former and mirambas for the latter, as well as written into the vocal lines of the singers to reflect certain traditional values. A scene set in a jazz bar had the orchestra playing appropriate musical styles too. To the composer’s and performer’s credit, these disparate influences fit organically into the whole musical scheme and rarely seemed contrived.

With vocal lines, one spots many loose references to the style of Puccini and the four bel canto composers, where soaring melodies (however fragmented) build-up lyrically to stunning climaxes. While the cast remarked many times during the media call about the difficulty of the score, the music was so worked into their collective system by the time curtains opened that apparent signs of strain or discomfort was minimal, not any more than the a Puccini or Verdi opera production.

Despite the best efforts of Handel, Britten and other composers who have composed English operas, the language and bel canto singing style was still a strange mix to these ears, especially when paired with Sharpley’s unusual musical language. But things got better after the ears have adjusted.

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Theatrically the story moved at a good pace. Two screens on both sides of the stage provided the physical and metaphorical backdrop. Two platforms placed in front of these screens represented the protagonists’ respective family homes on both sides of the causeway. Numerous colourfully painted wooden boxes were randomly laid out centrestage and improvised as props at different parts of the show, as well as providing a colourful backdrop throughout the evening. Two separate choirs played Malaysian Malays and Singaporean Chinese, nourishing their discontent at recent turns of political events in dramatically-charged choral scenes (LKY even makes an appearance in one such scene).

New CD releases - Kozena's "Carmen" and Pape's "Wagner"

Here are two trailers for new releases for your listening consideration:

Gramophone @ Cathay Closing Down Sale

Yeah another CD store bites the dust. But before it officially closes there's a fantastic closing down sale at the lobby of Cathay Cineplex (the one next to SOTA, not the Cineleisure just to be clear).

Many classical titles abound, including new releases by Juan Diego Florez and Andrea Bocelli, going at over 50% off, and many at only around $10. Not sure when the sale will last though so manybe you might want to make a trip down this Hari Raya long weekend.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"Stories from the Garden" in Review

It was a pleasure listening to Brendan-Keefe Au's concert tonight. Throughout an evening's programme of familiar and more musically challenging art songs, the voice remained warm, sweet and unforced. Although not a big sound, his detailed musicality and charisma made us all want to listen intently.

Pianist Choi Haye-Seon was also a pleasure to hear, her playing being rich in colours and detail, all the while supporting the soloist almost seamlessly. I thought that Brendan's usage of head voice to sing the high notes are somewhat unusual, but it seems to be a style that is comfortable and natural to him, not to mention that its well-integrated with his chest voice, which made it convincing to the audience as well. I was most impressed by the Britten arrangement of folksongs at the end, where Brendan held his own despite an accompaniment that was tonally and temperamentally at opposing ends with the vocal line.

It was a quiet, laidback evening of musical appreciation. There were no musical histrionics or anything overtly dramatic to be expected or delivered, only a subtle, classy and competent presentation of the finer side of vocal music. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vienna Boys Choir in Singapore on 2 Sep 2012

The world famous Vienna Boys Choir returns to our shores once again at 2 September 2012, this time with Italian conductor Manolo Gagnin at the helm. If you haven't already heard and seen their exquisite performances live, do make a point to check them out. Here's more information about the choir's glorious history (founded in 1498!), its glorious collaborators (Mozart and Haydn) and alumni (Schubert), and how it has evolved into one of the most recognisable brand names in performance arts today.


Vienna Boys’ Choir
Conductor: Manolo Gagnin (Italy)

The world’s favourite childrens’ choir and one of today’s most celebrated ambassadors of music will perform a one-night-only concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 2 September, 2012.

Formed in 1498 by Emperor Maximilian I, the Wiener Sängerknaben’s (Vienna Boys’ Choir) distinctive sound is unmatched in purity and beauty. From as early as 1926, the Choir performed outside the Austrian Imperial Chapel, paving the way to today’s highly successful world tours.

The boys range between 10 to 14 years, and are selected to join the choir’s full time training through worldwide auditions. They have their own school at the Augartenpalais, a baroque palace and former imperial hunting lodge in Vienna.

Beginning with kindergarten, boys and girls are provided with a complete musical and general education through the elementary grades. At age ten, the most talented boys are selected to join the choir and enter the choir’s grammar school. All boys are assigned to one of the touring choirs. Academic lessons are taught in small groups. The school has a band, and offers extracurricular activities ranging from sports (baseball, basketball, fencing, judo, soccer, skating, swimming, volleyball) to attending (pop) concerts, operas, plays, musicals and movies.

There are around 100 choristers between the ages of ten and fourteen, divided into four touring choirs. The four choirs give around 300 concerts and performances each year in front of almost half a million people. The choir’s repertoire includes everything from medieval motets to Beatles and Celine Dion, from folk songs to film scores.

In recent years, they have performed with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Recent guest conductors include Pierre Boulez, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Zubin Mehta and Riccardo Muti.

Happy Birthday Madonna!!!

The incomparable MADONNA turns 54 today on 16 August 2012 and continues to amaze the world with her tremendous talent. Here's to many more years of in-your-face attitude. Long live the Queen!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Brendan-Keefe Au's Concert - This Coming Friday

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Just a reminder that the talented young tenor Brendan-Keefe Au's concert is on this coming Friday, two day's time. If you haven't read our interview about this concert please check it out here:

Ticketing information can be found on the Events Page. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

SCO iPad App

I had the pleasure of attending the Singapore Chinese Orchestra's media conference announcing their 2012/13 season last month. Among the many topics discussed, what was most interesting was the launch of their apps for smartphones, where users can download and listen to audio clips and be kept in touch with the orchestra's latest news and performances. Here's the description from the orchestra's press release describing the app's features:


Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra

I was fortunate to catch the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra with their new music director Adrian Tan. Also on the line-up were the Singers Vocal Ensemble performing the Singapore premiere of local composer Chen Zhangyi's award-winning piece Ariadne's Love, and pianist Albert Lin performing Mozart's Piano Concerto no.21.

While the orchestra played accompanists to their guests throughout the first half, they took back the spotlight in the second half in Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherazade, a tone poem describing a story set in the exotic Arabia, where the concubine Scheherazade tells the Sultan Shahriar one fairy-tale after another in order to delay and avoid execution. While intonation got a little scrappy at times, the orchestra played with rich colours and enthusiastic fervour, successfully bringing out the exotic Russian and faux-Arabian folk influences of the score.

Special kudos should go to oboist Makiko Kawamata, flautist Mohamad Rasull Bin Khelid and cellist Lim Juan for their sweet-toned solos. In his inaugural concert as the orchestra's new music director, Adrian led with authority, clear direction and showmanship. It will be interesting to see how this young conductor will take this well-established orchestra into further artistic triumphs.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Interview with Hawk Liu and Karen Seah

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So I met up with my friends Hawk Liu and Karen Seah, two singers who will be part of the concert Broadway Meets Opera at the Arts House on 29 September 2012 (two shows at 3pm and 8pm). Other singers who will also be performing are Grace Roberts, Evelyn Kauw, Ayl, Seal Lai, Shahdon and Andrea Goh. They are all students of Hawk's, many through InTune music school where Hawk teaches.

Here's the audio clip of what we discussed, wtih the usual disclamer that we are nowhere experiencesd enough to be the next Oprah or Howard Stern. The Hark embedding function is off at the moment so please hear it from their website:

Here's a preview of what's to come, featuring singing clips from all six singers:

Broadway Meets Opera is on 26 September 2012 3pm and 8pm at The Arts House Living Room. Tickets are at $25 each. Check out the Events Page for details.Interview with Hawk Liu and Karen Seah

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ee-Ping Sings "We Are Singapore"

Get into the patriotic spirit this national day weekend as Manon Lescaut star Ee-Ping serenades us with this national day favourite. Don't forget to catch Ee-Ping in the Singapore Lyric Opera production from 31 August to 4 September 2012.

Living with Mrs Ilano's Cello Family

Mrs Herminia Ilano is one of Singapore's most prominent cello teachers. Dubbed the 'First Lady of the Cello', many of her students have beaome prominent musicians in Singapore and many parts of the world. This birthday celebration recital will see performances by four professional cellists: Leslie Tan (T'ang Quartet), Chan Wei-Shing (SSO cellist, New Opera Singapore's condutor and Ae-Ree's hubby), Song Woon-Teng and Loke Hoe-Kit. Check out their listing on the Arts House website here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Living with George F. Handel" in Pictures

It was a wonderful evening, thanks largely to the sold-out audience and their enthsiastic applause. My special thanks to Hawk and Sam for their video and photography. Here are some pictures of how it all went down.!/media/set/?set=oa.416636878371645&type=1

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

OperaViva's Trailer for "Fences"

OperaViva's magnum opus Fences by John Sharpley and Robert Yeo will play soon on 18 and 19 August 2012. Here's a special promo video featuring interviews with composer and librettist interspersed with the cast rehearsing.

You may also like to visit OperaViva's Facebook page for more tidbits about this production.

Here's an excerpt from the opera, performed by the SSO with Amanda Colliver and erm... some guy earlier this year. Note that they won't be appearing in the upcoming production.

Check out the Events Page for ticketing details.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Interveiw with Akiko Otao and David Quah

I received an email sometime last year from one Akiko Otao, a young, friendly soprano who has just settled here and looking for any opportunities to build a singing career here. Things fell into place when she auditioned for the premiere prodution of John Sharpley's and Robert Yeo's Fences and landed the lading female role, an opportunity that she told me she learnt about while reading The Mad Scene.

So naturally I was eager to finally meet her at the press conference for Fences, showing on 18 and 19 August 2012. Set in the tulmulteous times of 1960s when Singapore and Malaysia was seeking independence, first through merger and shortly by seperation.

This production, which garnered an M16 rating from our government censors due to racial sensitivity. It tells a love story between a Malay girl and Chinese guy, an issue that producer Leow Siak Fah describes as sensitive in Malaysia even till now. Sharpley's music is described by the composer as being "complex textures to describe complex emotions", featuring gamalan and Chinese musical elements interwoven into the full-sized orchestra.

So anyway, Akiko and I sat down for a chat which I recorded down for your listening pleasure. Halfway through our interview a hungry David Quah came over to get us to speed up so that the cast can go for lunch, and in turn chied in a few soundbites himself. I should also add the usual disclaimer that this is not a professional broadcast nor is the interviewer any threat to Oprah. Here are their bios for you to get to know them better, then I hope you enjoy the interview!

Akiko Otao (Nora Ibrahim)
Native of Tokyo, Akiko has been a performer most of her life. She moved to the U.S. at the age of 10, where she found musical theater and opera. She spent the last six years in Tokyo performing and teaching before moving to Singapore last year. Her most recent engagements are Hansel in Hansel und Gretel, Musetta in La Boheme, Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Crystal in Little Shop of Horrors. On the concert stage, she has been a soloist for Mozart’s Requiem, Missa in C KV257, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Akiko enjoys working with contemporary composers, and has premiered numerous pieces in Tokyo. A Thousand Words, an Adagio for voice and string quartet by Eric Rubio was premiered as part of the play Crossroads Country, commissioned by the Afghan Embassy of Japan. Kazuhiko Hattori has written The Time of the Topaz: For Soprano and Guitar, Maila: Solo for an unaccompanied Soprano and most recently, Maila II especially for her.

Akiko holds a B.M. from the Hartt School in the U.S.. She studied voice under Lucy Hayes-Davis, Stuart Younse, Yoko Abe (Niki-kai), and Mayako Hozumi (Fujisawa). She is a 3rd Place Winner of the 2010 Tokyo Voice Competition, a finalist in the National Classical Music Concert Competition, and a winner of the Japan International League of Artists’ New Artist competition. Akiko is delighted to play Nora in the first full production of Fences.

David Quah (Steven Lee)
Born in Penang, David Quah obtained an Advanced Diploma in vocal performance at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, a Bachelor of Music degree at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music in Australia and completed the Postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. While in Queensland he won the coveted Marianne Mathy Australian Singing Competition and made his professional debut singing Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Opera Queensland.

David has premiered in many roles in both local and overseas opera productions. On the concert stage, David made his debut with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra singing in two Christmas concerts at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall. He has also appeared in concerts in various countries, from Australia to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Great Britain and the USA. He has given many recitals with repertoire ranging from Baroque music to contemporary works, from Chinese folk songs to Broadway musical numbers, and even a little bit of jazz.

Cast of Fences


Fences will be performed on 18 to 19 August 2012. Check out the Events Page for ticketing details.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Time Out Singapore Feature on Ee-Ping

This month's Time Out Singapore classical feature zooms in on Ee-Ping, who will be singing the title role of Manon Lescaut this month with the Singapore Lyric Opera from 31 August to 4 September. You can read the article via the link below, and don't forget to book your tickets from SISTIC!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Some Thoughts on my 6 August Handel Concert

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I’ve always been a fan of Handel’s music, especially his lovely operas, oratorios and the overtures that came with them. He has a way of getting to a point in the simplest ways. Seldom do you find empty melodies or virtuosic writing for its own sake, but always used to underscore an urgency in the lyrics and heighten an emotional point. Generally more accessible than Bach but displaying more depth than Vivaldi, his vocal output has a place for my every musical need, whether it’s a desire for music drama, uninhibited virtuosity or simply a nice tune to sing along to.

So it’s a pity that apart from Messiah, so many of his wonderful operas and oratorios remain unperformed in these parts, with a few exceptions of course (such as an Acis and Galetea which was staged a few times including a production by students of Thomas Mannhart and Jeong Ae-Ree). This animosity is strange in my opinion, as the resources required to stage even a classic piece like Giulio Cesare is hardly a demanding work to stage: eight singers including six female parts (we all know that female singers are easier to find) singing material that is reasonably difficult but not dangerously so (and much of it customisable anyhow). Throw in an epic storyline and the usual TV drama serial-style romantic triangles, you’ve got a production that’s low-cost, highly recognisable and entertaining. His oratorios, while requiring larger choral forces, would be a great fit for church organizations looking to expand their repertoire beyond the usual masses, requiems, and Messiahs; plus they are in English and therefore easier to pick-up.

Anyway, the beauty of Handel is that with the recitative and aria format, his operatic excerpts are just as enjoyable in or out of its broader context. Voice teachers often task students with his arias as they are a great starting point for the larger vocal music literature. So while we are awaiting our first performances of Cesare, Semele, Saul, Rodelinda, Theodora or Rinaldo (just some of my favourite Handel opuses), there’s no shortage of fabulous arias and duets on display at recitals, including this coming one taking place this coming Monday 6 August 2012. Hope to see you there!

Living with George F. Handel is on 6 August 2012, starring the Basso Canaries Steven Ang and Andrew Xiao, soprano Elaine Su Yiwen and pianist Beatrice Lin. Tickets are available at The Arts House box office. Email for inquiries.