Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Aleksandra Kurzak: Opera Diva, Reality Star (?)

This video is either a trailer of some reality TV show that Decca is producing, or a misleading promo for Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak's new album of Rossini arias. Kurzak is also known to opera gossipers as the new squeeze of Roberto Alagna, who probably knows a thing or two about milking an operatic relationship for publicity.

The opera star flaunts her ample butt and cleavage in the act 1 aria of La Traviata:

Daniel Barenboim and La Scala Take On Verdi's Requiem

Daniel Barenboim leads his La Scala chorus and orchestra in their own recording of the Verdi Requiem, hot after the heels of Pappano's groundbreaking recording in recent times, and using two of the same soloists. Maybe the saying that there are no more Verdi singers anymore these days is becoming true. But then we have Jonas Kaufmann's as the tenor soloist this time, so that should be reason for many to check it out. You can preview quite a number of clips via the YouTube Playlist below:

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nancy Yuen on "La Traviata"

The Singapore Lyric Opera will be staging a brand new production of La Traviata this September, with Nancy Yuen reprising her role of Violetta, partnering Kota Murakami's Alfredo and Song Kee-Chang's  Germont. I got to speak to Nancy last week just a day after her performances of Mahler 8 in Bangkok, where she sang the demanding part of soprano I. We talked about Mahler, the opera scene in Hong Kong (where she is currently based), how she prepares for her upcoming Traviatas in Singapore, and the contemporary relevance of the opera's storyline.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Landfill-Harmonic Orchestra

This is such an inspiring video of how slum kids from Paraguay used garbage to create their own instruments, not simply the puccussion types that you see on Stomp, but violins, cellos and assorted brass and woodwind instruments, enough to form a small chamber orchestra! The metallic sounds of violins made from metal cans may take some getting used to, but there's no denying the tenacity and creativity of these kids. Its wonderful to see how music has enriched the lives of these children, and makes us thankful to have it in our lives as well.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cat Mario

This is again not really opera-related, but then good humour doesn't need any apologies:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dancer Auditions with Madonna

Everyone knows that Madonna places extreme demands on her dancers: not only must they execute an entire evening's worth of choreography, they must also have other talents plus personalities large enough to match the presence of the tireless diva herself. This short but fascinating documentary shows us the final auditions-cum-workshop for Madonna's recently concluded MDNA Tour (available soon on DVD so YAY!!!!), where 40 dancers from around the world work together and compete for 6 days to be hired as one of the 18 dancers to go on tour on what will become the second highest-earning concert tour of all time (second only to her previous Sticky and Sweet Tour).

The dancers go through a variety of styles including something that I've never heard of called Slacklining, where dancers bounce off huge elastic ropes while performing some kind of mid-air breakdancing move. While its nothing about opera it does show the deep passion and discipline that all performing artists must have in order to be good at what we do.

And then there's Her Madgesty herself, who at 51 is hardly taking it easy, poring over every detail of her record breaking shows from backstage to front. She continues to be an inspiration for anyone who desires to be onstage. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Quick Chat with Jeong Ae-Ree

In conjunction with New Opera Singapore's upcoming production of My Nights with Dido and My Days with Aeneas, the company's re-interpretation of Purcell's opera interspersed with songs by Britten and Ives, I have had a short Q&A with artistic director Jeong Ae-Ree as research for my monthly feature on Time Out Singapore. Alas there wasn't even room to include her comments, but thankfully they can be reproduced here:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Scholarships for Masterclasses with Mirella Freni

Mirella Freni is conducting a series of masterclasses and are tapping into social media to hand out schoarlships. All you have to do is record an audio and video of yourself singing a Verdi aria, upload it on YouTube, and get viewers to 'like' your page. Videos with the most 'likes' wins!

Note though that there are two contests though interconnected: one is to win a 600 Euro scholarship to fly to audition for the masterclasses, and the other, a confirmed place in the masterclasses worth 4,500 Euros. Frankly I'm a little confused trying to sieve out information from the Italian-translated English of their official website(s), so why don't you go figure it out yourself here?

Official eDM:

Official promo video:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Laksa Cantata Online Feature on Time Out Singapore

Notable local composer Chen Zhangyi's Laksa Cantata makes its world premiere this coming Friday and Saturday, 12 and 13 July, as part of the Project Laksa concert at The Arts House. We speak to its two singers Kiat Goh and Rebecca Li on Time Out Singapore's website to get an understanding of what the piece is about:

About Kiat Goh:

Upon graduating from multimedia school, Kiat decided to pursue his musical passions abroad. This lead him to a year's stint at the prestigious Moscow Conservatory of Music where he honed his vocal abilities in classical opera singing. He then continued his vocal training in Berlin for another four years with Reiner Goldberg, a grammy-award winning classical singer. Kiat is equally passionate about music making and is readying the release of his debut album which features pop songs with leanings of classical and jazz, all written by himself.

He is the host of ALL THAT JAZZ and Weekend Mornings with Kiat on Symphony 92.4.

About Rebecca Li:

Rebecca started singing in 2008 with soprano Jeong Ae Ree. Previously, she was trained as an engineer and completed her Master of Science in Industrial Engineering in the US in 2004 and had been working for the Economic Development Board of Singapore for nearly six years.

In 2010, she decided to take a break from her career to pursue her passion in singing. She has just completed her Graduate Diploma of Music (Singing) at the Royal College of Music in London, where she studied under soprano Amanda Roocroft. Rebecca has performed in numerous chamber recitals, both in Singapore and London. She performed excerpts from The Marriage of Figaro with the Millennium Orchestra at Victoria Concert Hall in July 2009 in the concert "Talents and Composers from Home". In operatic roles, Rebecca has performed the role of Giannetta in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore and will be singing the role of Belinda in New Opera Singapore's upcoming performance of Dido & Aeneas on 26, 27 July at SOTA. Besides opera, Rebecca is equally passionate about lieder and performs regularly with The Sing Song Club at The Arts House.

Rebecca is now based in Singapore and continues to work as a civil servant, while sharing her love for music, in particular lieder and opera, with others.

Friday, July 5, 2013

New Opera Singapore on Time Out

Time Out Singapore's classical music feature this month spotlights New Opera Singapore's sophomore production of Dido and Aeneas. Check it out here:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

SLO's New Production of La Traviata - 6, 7, 9 and 10 September 2013

The Singapore Lyric Opera presents a brand-new production of La Traviata, featuring a cast of favourites and new faces. The cast includes:

Nancy Yuen (Soprano) as Violetta Valery
Kota Murakami (Tenor) as Alfredo Germont
Song Kee-Chang (Baritone) as Giorgio Germont
Anna Koor (Mezzo Soprano) as Flora Bervoix
Lemuel dela Cruz (Tenor) as Gastone, Vicomte de Letorieres
Tan Sin-Sim (Soprano) as Annina
Brent Allcock (Baritone) as Barone Douphol
Nicholas Tham (Baritone) as Marchese D’Obigny
Mak Chi-Hoe (Bass Baritone) as Dottore Grenvil

Stephen Barlow, Director
Joshua Kangming Tan, Conductor
Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra and Singapore Lyric Opera Chorus

Australian-born Stephen Barlow, who's work has taken him to the Sante Fe Opera and  Lyric Opera of Chicago among others, was also the director of the company's 2008 production of the same opera (also with Nancy Yuen), but he promises an exciting new take on the much-loved piece. “This story has been adapted many times in many different formats, most notably in the 1936 Greta Garbo movie Camille. The music, much like Violetta herself, remains as passionate and as exquisite as ever and continues to seduce us 160 years upon its conception. It is a widely known fact that Verdi always wanted his most beloved opera to be set in modern times, but was unable to do so due to the authorities’ restrictions of his time. This brand new production of La Traviata by the SLO seeks to honour that wish and will be performed in contemporary settings, exploring the universal tragedy of doomed love in the world’s most romantic city – Paris.”

Here's more information:


One of Verdi’s most beloved operatic masterpieces, La Traviata is based on La dame aux Camélias (1852), a novel by Alexandre Dumas. The story begins at a party thrown at the home of the famed and beautiful Parisian courtesan named Violetta, where she is introduced to Alfredo Germont, a man who has long loved Violetta from afar. Although she first rejects him, he eventually wins her over and she gives up her pursuit of money and pleasure for a simple life in the peaceful countryside. However, societal reputations and requirements pressure Violetta to make the ultimate sacrifice for the family of the man she desperately loves. Will the lovers survive this challenge and reunite?

Italian opera is often identified by its grandiose themes and soaring melodies, but upon its first staging in 1853, La Traviata set new musical standards with its breathtaking score that favoured intimacy and colour. The substantial musical development within the opera allows the audience to relate completely with each character. This resonant tale of society and morality, along with its lush and exquisite music, is what makes La Traviata one of the most emotionally engaging and popular operas of all time. A staple in operatic repertoire, La Traviata is one of the most widely performed operas around the globe.


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