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!

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