Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Interviews with New Opera Singapore's 'Die Fledermaus' Cast

So I got to chat to Teng Xiang-Ting, Rebecca Li and David Charles Tay, the two Prima Donne and Primo Uomo of New Opera Singapore's production of Die Fledermaus. It is opening this coming Friday as the first opera production at the newly reopened Victoria Theatre. The plot has been updated to the jet-setting world of Singapore and Korean entertainment industry. Here's what we talked about:

Rebecca Li

The Mad Scene: Tell us about your role in Die Fledermaus, who is she/he and what does she/he do in this production?

Rebecca: I play Rosalinde, Eisenstein’s wife (on 27 July). She’s a rich tai tai on her second marriage, with a string of past lovers, one of whom is Alfred .She’s an older lady, (who still knows how to shake it), but because she is older, she is also a little jealous of pretty young things…like Adele! In the opera, Rosalinde discovers her husband is planning to go to a party when he should be in jail, and she disguises herself as a lady “from the star” (which is actually a Korean soap opera) to entrap her wandering hubby.

Xiang-Ting: am also playing Rosalinde (on 25 July), in this production she is a young taitai wife who is bored with her marriage because her husband Eisenstein is often too busy with his work to give her the time and attention that she needs. That’s why when her “old flames”, Alfred and Falke, appear in her life again, the old playfulness in her awakens. When she finds out that her husband lied to her and was actually planning to go to a party instead of going to jail like he told her, she then decides that it is entirely okay for her to engage in some harmless flirting with Alfred, her tenor ex-boyfriend. That said, she isn’t willing to just let her husband go scot free like that, so she too attended the party and disguised herself as the “lady from the stars” to entrap him! No serious harm was done, of course, so when everything comes to light at the end, she forgives him and puts all the unhappiness behind her in the name of champagne and rejoicing!

David: My character’s name is Gabriel Eisenstein, and in this production he’s an arrogant Singaporean theatre producer who has a wandering eye. He’s sentenced to 8 days in Changi Prison but decides to party one last time with his old friend Falke before showing up in jail. Through his frat boy shenanigans and flirtatious ways, he really is just trying to search for something more in life, just like many of us. When everything unravels he realizes that perhaps all he needed was always right in front of him.

The Mad Scene: What is your favourite scene that you are most looking forward to in this opera?

David: Some of my favourite music is from the Watch Duet in Act 2. The music is so schmaltzy and hopeful, and yet the situation could not be more different. There is something terribly awkward about a husband seducing an unknown woman at a party, not knowing she’s his wife; and yet in some twisted way, it’s also very sweet. It is very hard to choose a favourite scene because they are all so good! I also love Adele’s aria in Act 3 and all the big ensemble numbers!

Xiang-Ting: It’s very hard to choose just one favourite scene because they are all so entertaining and the music is just fantastic! I love singing and being in the finale of Act 2, where everyone waltzes and sings to love. The music there is really gorgeous and just puts everyone in this positive, dreamy state. I also enjoy the duet between Falke and Eisenstein in Act 1 and Adele’s aria in Act 3… And everything else, really!
Rebecca: I really really love the finale of Act II, where everyone waltzes. It is some of the most beautiful music that puts everyone in the mood!

David Charles Tay

The Mad Scene: This production will be the first opera to be performed at the newly reopened Victoria Theatre. Looking forward to it?

Xiang-Ting: Definitely! I used to watch performances with my grandmother at the Victoria Theatre and grew up singing in the Victoria Concert Hall where my primary and secondary school choir SYF was held. It is such an honour to be able to perform at somewhere so historic and iconic for Singaporean audiences! Hopefully this production will feel like an intimate welcome home for our audience as well.

David: Definitely looking forward to it! Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall are where many of the Singaporeans in the cast grew up watching performances and some of us even performed there together. This renovation will hopefully bring more exciting performances (opera or otherwise) to Singaporean audiences.

Rebecca: Of course! What an honour it is to break in a new venue and especially one that is so historic. The theatre has been completely redone, and it feels so much more intimate.

The Mad Scene: What are your favourite roles that you have performed so far (when and where was it)?

Xiang-Ting: Rosalinde is a very enjoyable role to play! It’s quite refreshing because she’s always having to make decisions on her feet about her next step (eg. to flirt or not, to console my husband or not), and always caught up singing in a duet or trio with almost every other person. It’s like real life sometimes when we have so much going on that every moment unfolds its new drama.

My favourite role so far might be Parasha in Igor Stravinsky’s Mavra, a short one-act comic opera that I did with New Opera Singapore in 2013. The music grows on you and the more you listen to it, the more gems you uncover! The drama and text (we did the translated English version) are also hilarious and makes for wonderful comedy!

Rebecca: I really enjoy playing Rosalinde, I think she's my favourite so far!

David: Eisenstein is very fun! Sometimes he’s a little thankless; always running around misbehaving, more or less holding the story together, but never stops to sing an aria of his own. This is my second time performing this role and both productions have me portraying him in very different ways! I’m excited.
My favourite role so far might be Peter Quint in Benjamin Britten’s Turn of the Screw in a beautifully haunting production I did in Boston back in 2013. The music, text and drama are just perfectly sewn together by Benjamin Britten, the opera almost acts itself!

The Mad Scene: What opera roles would you like to pick up in the future?

Rebecca: Perhaps Susanna from Marriage of Figaro some day? But I really enjoy playing Rosalinde. I think she’s also my favourite role so far!

Xiang-Ting: There are so many! Off the top of my head, I would love to pick up Mimi from La Boheme one day, if and when my voice grows into it.

David: There are so many it’s hard to choose! Alfredo from Verdi’s Traviata is something I’ve got my eye on to do soon. I would like to perform all of Britten’s operatic tenor roles before I die, simply because I find his music and writing seems to suit me very well.

The Mad Scene: Who are your operatic heroes growing up (singers, conductors, directors etc)?

Rebecca: Too many! I love Joan Sutherland, Mirella Freni, Kiri te Kanawa…

David: Too many to list completely as well! Pavarotti, Domingo, Corelli, Wunderlich, Mario Lanza, Gedda, Sutherland, Nillson, Troyanos, Freni, Fischer-Dieskau, etc the list goes on forever!

Xiang-Ting: Too many too! Sutherland, Kiri Te Kanawa, Joyce Didonato, Fischer-Dieskau etc.

The Mad Scene: What other engagements are on your schedule after this concert?

Rebecca: I’ll be singing some English songs at the Sing Song Club’s Singapore Lieder Festival in end September.

Xiang-Ting: At the moment I’ve not taken up any other engagements because I’ll be preparing to go to study my Masters at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK, this September. Am very excited, and hope to see everyone at Die Fledermaus before I embark on this new journey!

David: Right after this Fledermaus I fly to Weimar, Germany to start rehearsals for Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) where I will play Tamino. I think the show opens late August. Then I will fly back to Singapore to do another show with New Opera Singapore! Hope to see everyone at Die Fledermaus!

New Opera Singapore's production of Die Fledermaus runs on this Friday (25 July with Teng Xiang-Ting) and Sunday (27 July with Rebecca Li). Tickets can be bought at the Events Page.

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