Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Coming up at MBS: ABBA Tribute Concert 'Bjorn Again', St. Petersburg Ballet's Swan Lake

Whether you are into high or low culture, here are two world-class shows that will surely help you get your groove on:

 Get ready folks as Björn Again hit the road for their very special run of shows to celebrate their 25th Anniversary at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands on 17 and 18 April 2015. Tickets are now on sale.

The only ABBA show officially endorsed by the members of ABBA, Björn Again has been delighting audiences worldwide for 25 years - with their action packed world-class show that has people leaping out of their seats singing and dancing right from the start. A night where you can leave your troubles, enjoy and just let go.

“One of the most entertaining live shows in the world today” - Time Out Magazine New York

Following their sold out Paris season, the internationally acclaimed St Petersburg Ballet comes to Singapore for the first time, to present their full-length classic production of the world’s most famous ballet – Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands opening 28 May 2015. Tickets are now on sale.

The 55 member company of St Petersburg Ballet continues to collect rave reviews around the world and thrill audiences with breathtaking scenery and magnificent costumes. Now St Petersburg Ballet will perform the immortal and enchanting Swan Lake for a limited season.

“A triumph” - The Times of London

“A vision to behold, exquisite sets and costumes” - Sunday Times (South Africa)

Tickets can be purchased at SISTIC

Monday, January 26, 2015

BHSO's 'Joy' in Review - 25 Jan 2015

Beethoven - 9th Symphony
Jeremy Monteiro - Overture in C – The Story of Singapore

Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra (BHSO)
The Joy Chorale

Soloists - Wendy Evangela Woon Mei-Yu - soprano,
            Cheryl Bains - alto
            Raymond Lee Pei-Khoon - tenor
            Kong Ling-Yi - bass

chorus mistress - Khor Ai-Ming
director - Adrian Tan
The Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore

A review by Hawk Liu

The sold-out concert began with Overture in C – "The Story of Singapore, composed by Cultural Medallion recipient and local jazz legend Jeremy Monteiro. The overture tells the story of Singapore’s transformation from a sleepy fishing village to the modern city that it is today." - that was the program note. Monteiro's one and only orchestral composition, albeit a short one, was concise and featured the brass prominently, including 2 off stage ones. The overture got busy from the first notes and the orchestra dd it justice, notwithstanding a couple of false notes here and there.  Monteiro made a stage appearance after the overture. The applause was warm and well deserved.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Christine Seng's 'Poetry and Love' in Review

Poetry and Love
Songs by Schumann, R. Strauss, Rodrigo and others
Esplanade Recital Studio, Singapore
Christine Seng - soprano
Kee Loi-Seng - tenor
Vincent Chen - piano
Christina Zhou - violin
17th January 2015

A review by Hawk Liu

The concert was a good programme of lieder music which was kept interesting by having different voices for each song cycle of Schumann's in the first half and an unusual addition of Spanish songs in the second half along with Richard Strauss numbers.

Christine Seng started with Frauenliebe und Leben. Starting off nervous, she sounded a little detached at first but eventually became more connected to the music. It was a bright and light voice which unfortunately was also not in pitch at many places, but one can see that the songs, with its themes of love, marriage and childbirth, found a lot of resonance with the singer.

Kee Loi-Seng gave a lot of commitment to the sentiments of the text in the first seven songs of Dichterliebe. It was a mostly Italianate approach to the phrasing while still sounding appropriately Teutonic. Kee Loi-Seng finished off well with the last movement Ich grolle nicht. The voice remained rich and attractive throughout.

The Richard Strauss were all gems with the very capable Vincent Chen (pianist) giving the most exquisite accompaniment in Stänchen. Christina Zhou played an effective violin solo though I would have preferred a stronger and more focused tone in Morgen to Christine Seng's soprano. Kee Loi-Seng gave a full hearted, Italianate Allerseelen. It was vocally satisfying. The voice did remind me of the Spaniard Francisco Araiza.

After the exciting familiar Strauss, it was time for the unusual inclusion of Rodrigo. Christine Seng showed off her high coloratura skills in De donde venis,amore?, which to me was the best singing that evening. Seng connected much better with the sprightly pieces where her bright timbre was suited. Unfortunately, the pitching was in question again for the Spanish section.

The final duet from West Side Story was vocally well sung but a bit of a misadventure for the tenor in terms of the text and pronunciation, and the soprano in terms of pitching. Even the pianist stumbled in a few places. Nonetheless, it gave the two singers the opportunity to sing out in full voice, giving us rousing end to evening. A final encore of O mio babbino caro ended the evening officially.

Despite some misgivings, I found the concert a most interesting one with interpretations of popular songs as well as taking us down some less trodden roads.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

MBS 'Cats' in Review - 15 Jan 2015

Jeremy Lee share's his thoughts on the touring production of Cats, now running at MBS's Mastercard Theatre till 1 February 2015.

Guess what? Cats is back in town, and I’m not talking about as a solution to our recent rat infestation in Bukit Batok and a certain restaurant in Marina Square, but that Andrew Lloyd Webber old chestnut that is taking up residence in Singapore for the third time, this time at the MasterCard Theatres at the Marina Bay Sands.

Cats opened in the West End in 1981 – yes, that long ago - and became the longest-running Broadway show in history until it was surpassed by another Lloyd Webber favourite, The Phantom of the Opera. It was first performed in Singapore in 1993, with local diva Jacintha taking a lead role, and it’s now back to caterwaul at a new generation of musical theatre-goers.

As a determined cat lover, no way was I going to miss this, but having seen the first local run with Jacintah (yes I’m betraying my age here), I was in no way under the impression that the cats in this musical are as cute and loving as my darling back home.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Video Interviews with 'Cats' Cast and Resident Choreographer

Lucky Hawk Liu gets to speak to the cast and creative team of Cats, now playing at MBS's Mastercard Theatre till 1 February 2015. This touring production was formed in May last year and uses the original sets and costumes from the landmark West End production. But its not all paint by numbers though, as their resident director informs us, they spent a lot of rehearsal time observing and improvising cat movements, so that the movements and chemistry in this cast is very different from the one we saw in the Trevor Nunn/Elaine Paige DVD.

Here, Hawk speaks to actress Erin Cornell who plays Grizzabella:

Next, we speak to actor and Andrew Lloyd Webber specialist Martin Croft who plays Old Deuteronomy:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Quick Chat with Christine Seng

Singaporean and Trinity College of Music graduate Christine Seng's upcoming recital looks promising with Schumann's song cycle Fraunenliebe und Leben (literally translated as A Woman's Love and Life) as the centrepiece of the programme. I have a quick chat with her to find out what else we can expect:

The Mad Scene: What will you be presenting at this concert?

Christine: We will be singing Fraunenliebe und Leben and selected songs from Dichterliebe by Schumann; 4 lieders by Richard Strauss and Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios by Joaqin Rodrigo. I will also sing a duet from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein with my good friend, tenor Kee Loi-Seng.

The Mad Scene: What inspired you to programme these pieces in this concert?

Christine: The love stories that touches everybody's heart. Frauneliebe und Leben, for example, though it is a story from a female point of view, about how a girl meets the love of her life and so on till the death of the loved one, but it can happen to anyone and it is very realistic yet romantic.

SCO and Huayi Arts Festival's 'Savage Land' - 28 February 2015

This is an operatic event that I'm really looking forward to. Jing Xiang's Savage Land, based on Cao Yu's play of feudal oppression and revenge, is already a classic in Mainland and even produced by the Washigton Opera. Its dramatic music, full of soaring vocal melodies and jarring, at times atonal orchestration promises a compelling music drama. I interviewed music director Yeh Tsung and leading lady Li Jing-Jing for the February issue of Time Out Singapore (which I hope will be available online in due time). Here's more information from their official press release:

Savage Land leading lady Li Jing-Jing

Savage Land -An Opera in Concert
by Singapore Chinese Orchestra (Singapore/China)

Adapted from renowned Chinese playwright Cao Yu’s classic play The Wilderness, Savage Land – An Opera in Concert takes you on a heart-wrenching journey through music and song.

Savage Land was the first Chinese-language Western-style opera that was performed in the West. With music readapted by SCO resident composer Phoon Yew Tien from the original composition by Jin Xiang and libretto by Cao Yu’s daughter Wan Fang, this operatic concert experience transports you to a countryside in Northeastern China during the early 20th century. With bold strokes, it paints a realistic picture of the social injustice, inequality and conflicts experienced then.

Under the baton of Music Director Tsung Yeh and directed by Goh Boon-Teck, opera singers Zhang Feng (as Chou Hu), Li Jing Jing (as Jin Zi), Zhang Ya-Lin (as Jiao Da Xing), Zhu Hui-Ling (as Jiao’s mother), William Lim (as Chang Wu), and Melvin Tan (as Bai Shazi) take the stage with Singapore Chinese Orchestra and a 60-member National University of Singapore Choir led by Nelson Kwei.

Leading man, baritone Zhang Feng

Savage Land plays for one night only on 28 February 2015 (my birthday!) Find out more about tickets at the Events Page!

Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Cats' at MBS - 9 Jan to 1 Feb 2015

Cats is showing at MBS starting this coming Friday till the end of the month. What else needs to be said? Interviews and reviews will come as usual in due time. Find out where you can buy tickets at the Events Page!