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.

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