Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bellepoque's 'Letters to Juliet' in Review

Directed by Dr Hemang Yadav
Music Direction by Vincent Chen
Singers – Reuben Lai, Satsuki Nagatome, Melvin Tan, Angela Cortez, Sabrina Zuber
Actors – Sherilyn Tan, Darren Guo

The Chamber, the Arts House, Singapore
1st Oct 2014

I had a great time at Beelepoque's Letters to Juliet. The programme is such a treat; where else can you hear arias and duets from Gounod's ravishing Romeo and Juliet, Lady Macbeth's virtuosic entrance aria and songs from The Fairy Queen sung live so competently and with such dramatic flair?

Where production values are concerned this is one that has been well thought out and tightly rehearsed, well put together and relatable despite its cut-and-paste origins: an English literature teacher contrasts her current marriage problems to the women of Shakespeare (the problem being that her husband has become an egomaniacal, disrespectful, insensitive, callous, douchey and jealous MAN). It made the stories of Shakespeare relevant and gave the musical numbers dramatic context that made a difference to the usual stand-and-sing concert format.

Most of the musical numbers went very well, taking into context of a piano-chamber performance with locally-based cast, Melvin Tan and Angela Cortez sang an extended scene from Romeo; his voice deep, passionate and full despite some shakiness with the top note of his aria, her voice just audible in the lower-middle registers but shifts gears into ear-splitting volumes as it goes up. As far as I'm concerned, Satsuki Nagatome absolutely nailed her Lady Macbeth first-act aria, living out the character's nastiness with relish right from the initial spoken part, her coloratura and high notes firmly in place. She does have a way of discreetly adding consonants to some wide-ranging coloratura passages and some words got mixed up in the proceedings, but it shouldn't matter given how well it all came off.

Reuben Lai's singing of Purcell Hark the Echoing Air was another unexpected treat, milking every musical detail and its many coloratura passages for all its worth. Sabrina Zuber sang the exquisite If Love's a Sweet Passion with beautiful sensitivity. The last act duet from Rossini's Otello was the only excerpt that needs some settling in, sung with a lot of tentativeness that did no favours to the dramatic and florid music.

The concert ends with the Witches's Chorus from Macbeth, whose magical powers empowers our female protagonist into taking a stand against her @$$h0le of a husband. Loved the Addams Family-inspired elegant all black dresses. Here, my friend Hawk weighs in on his opinion:

Bellepoque’s Letters to Juliet - A Review by Hawk Liu

It was an evening dedicated to music written for Shakespeare’s stories. The presentation was a very interesting juxtaposition of the marriage woes of a modern day couple with the operatic arias and duets. The link was provided by the fact that the modern day wife was a literature teacher expounding on some Shakespearean literature. Under the fine direction and excellent acting from the couple, the emotions were real. Darren Guo carried off the husband’s insensitive arrogance so well that I would give him a kick for being such an asshole. Interspersed between the action were the opera numbers, expertly sung by all the singers. It was a treat to listen to lesser sung Rossini (enough Il Barbiere, please). The coloratura in Verdi, Rossini and Purcell were fearlessly sung, not to mention also the silvery tones in the Gounod duet. This is the first time Bellepoque has taken on a more serious story telling rather than the comic ones in previous productions. It’s an appropriate move given the choice of music.

It was an enjoyable evening of wonderful singing. It’s on til 4th October. Catch it soon!

As a collaboration with the Breast Cancer Foundation of Singapore, guests are treated to a pin and a cupcake decorated with the movement's insignia. Anyone that loves breasts should come and show their support. More information about the show available at the Events Page.

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