Sunday, December 25, 2016

FREE: Madison Academy of Music Concert at National Gallery - 31 Dec, 4.30pm

The teachers and students of Madison Academy of Music will be performing in a free, hour-long recital at the National Gallery. Performers (in order of photo collage) are Wayne Teo, Polina Chmil, Matthew Mak, Khew Yun-Zhen, Gevorg Sargsyan, Steven Ang, Leslie Tay and Alvin Tan. Show is from 4.30 to 6pm. Check out the link below for more information!

And oh, here's the link if you wish to take lessons from the teachers at Madison. Free trial included!

Monday, December 19, 2016

'Cirque Adrenaline' at MBS - till 25 Dec 2016

In the past few years, we have had loads of action-packed acrobatic extravaganzas come to town. Cirque Elozie, the stylish Le Noir (which came twice), and the granddaddy of all circus shows Cirque du Soleil have graced Singapore with their awe-inspiring antics. Are we ever going to have enough of them?

The answer is no, for as a friend told me, such shows just never get old.

Thus, enter Cirque Adrenaline, one that promises more death-defying stunts, but ramped up a notch!

Now playing at the MasterCard theatres at Marina Bay Sands, which has become the go-to destination for such acts, the latest "cirque" in town promises “a whole new level” of thrills as it blends traditional and new acts for a “new genre” of circus performance.

It includes a Ukrainian couple suspended by ropes in mid-air, twirling around while hanging on top of each other. There is also an act where up to three motorcyclists manage to avoid crashing into each other and a stuntwoman while roaring around inside a structure called the Sphere Of Fear.

And feast your eyes on the star attraction: a spinning contraption called the Wheel of Death, fastened just in front of the front row of the Grand Theatre, where two men run, jump and even skip rope in mid-air with no safety harness or net. Seeing them occasionally lose their balances and land slightly askew just to grab on to a railing in time to avoid a fall made us aware of the thin line between life and certain disaster. The athleticism and sheer daring of the duo brought the house down many times.

However, I personally was most impressed with an underrated act where a game stuntman balances on a wobbly column of metal cylinders stacked on top of each other that gets higher and more unstable with each height increase. The performance is truly a breathtaking feat, and one wishes it had received more fanfare.

While the abovementioned daredevil acts always leave the audience wanting more, the tension is always unfortunately dissipated with more than one clownish sequences where hapless members of the audience are brought up on stage to take part in trivialities that belong in variety shows. One such act involving four audience members “acting” on a film set drags on for too long and tries the patience. We just want to get back to the professionals and the amazing stunts, please?

Perhaps we will never get tired of witnessing these stunts because they show us the triumph of the human spirit; that with practice, man can do extraordinary things.

Or perhaps we want to worship at the altar of these super humans, who can do what we mere mortals can't.

So if you're inclined, do mosey on down to the Marina Bay Sands for that little bit of inspiration after a day feeling like a mere mortal - or perhaps just a few hours of thrills and hopefully no spills.

Tickets for Cirque Adrenaline are available at SISTIC (

BHSO's 'O Fortuna' in Review - 18 Dec 2016

Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra (BHSO)
O Fortuna
Carl Orff - Carmina Burana

Xi Wang - soprano
Melvin Tan - tenor
Alvin Tan - baritone
Adrian Tan - conductor
Joy Chorale with chorusmaster Khor Ai Ming

Esplanade Concert Hall
18 Dec 2016

Review by Hawk Liu

The BHSO has really come of age in this performance. What I hear is a notable ensemble becoming professional in terms of sound and precision. From the word 'Go', it is clockwork. There isn't any of the uncertainty of playing that I used to hear. There were many tricky bits and the orchestra handled them with confidence.

Adrian Tan has chosen to take the piece on a quicker pace and that is generally good for a piece that has many 'sleepy' movements. However, it does sometimes give the feeling of the piece being hurried along in some places that requires some room for rubato in transitions between sections within each movement. That is apparent already from the first movement. The last (repeat) movement of the work flowed better.

Soprano Xi Wang
The chorus comes up tops in terms of diction, albeit underpowered in loud orchestral sections. The children do add a bit of 'raw' sound when combined with the adults, but not in a bad way for this particular work. Soprano Xi Wang has the perfect instrument for the work - rich of tone, bright, sounding wonderful and joyous in her numbers. I do wish she has given a bit more time to linger on her phrases in the last Dulcissime in typical romantic fashion - can't help remembering how Kathleen Battle, in performance, sings with such joy and expression in the same piece. Alvin Tan has the near perfect sound for the work - pure yet having much capacity in expression. His second solo number did stretch the voice to its limit, being challenged by the crazy high notes and loud orchestral accompaniment. But that is understandable, given that it is Orff's intention to stretch the limits of the soloists.

Joy Chorale
Alvin Tan

As a visual performance, it is ravishing. From the soprano's radiant red dress, to the swan costume of the tenor, to the solo dancer and then the immaculate curtain call - it is lovely to watch. (Sloppy curtain calls can be irksome.)

The performance ends with a sing-along of Christmas songs - very appropriate! Unfortunately, I notice that the wonderful diction of the chorus in the Carl Orff, does not carry over into the English of the Christmas songs! :(

The same review can be found in Hawk Liu's website

Friday, December 16, 2016

More Press Coverage and Videos of Martin Ng, Boris Kraljevic and Li Jie - Concert Tomorrow!

The press coverage of Martin Ng's opera gala concert The Italian Baritone with features in Zaobao, Business Times and The Flying Inkpot. Check out our interview with him and Li Jie as well if you haven't already do so!

And while we have seen and heard quite a few videos of Martin in concert, here is a video of Li Jie performing In der Fremde by Schumann in Germany. This song will be in the programme as well, something different from our Italian opera heavy programme.

Here's a clip of Martin rehearsing for Cortigianni, Rigoletto's dramatic aria that is a major highlight of the night's programme.

And really, how often do you see a concert with a piano accompanist who can play like this?

What an exciting concert its going to be! It would be such a pity if we don't get to share our music with you! So give your friends, family and yourself the gift of music this Christmas, and get your tickets at Peatix ( or offline at Madison Academy of Music Singapore before its too late!


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hawk Interviews cast of MBS's 'Cirque Adrenaline' - till 25 Dec 2016

MBS's currently running acrobatic stunt show Cirque Adrenaline is a heart-stopping show that includes motorbike stunts, high-flying trapeze artists, strong men, aerial acrobatic displays and a blazing fire act. Hawk Liu attends a preview and interviews cast members Alex Mischenko & Nastya Mischenko to find out what we can expect.

Tickets available at SISTIC!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Interview with Martin Ng and Li Jie - 'The Italian Baritone' on 17 Dec 2016

The Italian Baritone by Martin Ng, featuring soprano Li Jie and pianist Boris Kraljevic looks set to be an exciting, unmissable concert of aural and dramatic fireworks! We speak to Martin and Li Jie to find out their thoughts about this upcoming concert. Artist bios and tickets are available at Peatix so please go and get your tickets soon!

The Mad Scene: Hi Li Jie and Martin, thank you for speaking to us at The Mad Scene! Firstly, Martin, why choose this programme to present in Singapore?

Martin: Thanks Steven, it's always a pleasure to be interviewed on The Mad Scene. I wanted to feature the period of the Golden Age of Italian opera for the baritone voice. It is an era where Italian opera was THE artform that was performed in major opera houses all over the world. Works of the great Italian operatic master like Donizetti, Puccini and Verdi with their lush melodies and their electric theatricality. Another interesting feature is that excerpts of all three opera of the famous Verdi trilogy will be performed: La Traviata, Rigoletto and il Trovatore. As such it promises to be a very exciting evening of music making.

The Mad Scene: Li Jie, how has the years studying and performing in Germany affected your life and art?

Li Jie: I have been in Germany for 3 years already. I now have a deeper understanding of German culture, German classical music and even European classical music. My command of German has improved tremendously. I am very happy that I can study in Germany. I learnt a lot from different music teachers in my music conservatory in Germany. I have a lot of opportunities to perform in Germany as well. This is very important to me, it has given me a lot of different stage experiences and I now feel more relaxed when I perform onstage. The audience in Germany are very nice and supportive; I love performing in Germany. It is a part of my life now.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

'归(gui)' by the NAFA Dance Alumni in Review

Dance performance by the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) Dance Alumni

Venue: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Studio Theatre
Date: 26 November 2016
Time: 8.00pm

Review by Jocelyn Chng
Photography by Jeff Low

归(gui) is the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) Dance Alumni’s first production, bringing together the works of graduates from different cohorts in the same platform. Putting together such a production, in the Singapore context, is no easy feat, and for that the NAFA Dance Alumni Committee deserves recognition.

For many of the choreographers represented, this platform is probably a rare opportunity for them to showcase their work. Although there are some good moments in each of the five pieces presented, most of them feel incomplete in some way; such a platform is therefore valuable as a chance to experiment with ideas, to see what works and what perhaps needs to be re-worked.

The performance opens with What is…? by Seow Yi-Qing, a fun, tongue-in-cheek improvisational piece in which Seow interacts with the space and with crushed plastic mineral water bottles strewn on the floor. In a segment where the stage is darkened, she also plays with flashlights, shining them teasingly into the audience. This piece drew some comments from some audience members about how such a work is considered dance – a long overdue and much needed conversation in a scene where what is dance is rarely questioned.

We Leave our Mark in Space by Goh Jia-Yin and Triumph and Disaster by Wiing Liu share similar aesthetics as well as choreographic issues. Both are light-hearted yet reflective, making use of bright lighting and various pieces of music. While both works have the potential to be very entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time, in their current forms they are riddled with issues like overly sudden music changes, awkward transitions between sections, and abrupt endings. In Triumph, the audience interaction section holds especially good potential, but unfortunately fizzles out towards the end when, after gamely participating in a mass dance with hand gestures, the audience is left hanging and the performers abruptly exit. The inadequate commitment in the overall execution further hinders this work’s success – the self-reflexivity of the piece and popular culture references are all good fun, but require complete commitment from the performers in order to work. Pieces of this nature are thus especially challenging to perform, and more work is needed to make this piece truly triumph.

When I Ate the Sun by Kenneth Tan, a very personal work, is probably the most complete and well thought-out piece. The programme writeup for this work cryptically lists only a date, “06 May 2009,” leaving it to the audience to generate their own responses to this clearly emotional work.

Overall, the pieces in the programme seem to have been arranged to intersperse light-hearted or more upbeat pieces between darker or slower ones. However, the flow may have been smoother had the performance been curated thematically. Admittedly, Seow’s improvisational work, although interesting and thought-provoking, does feel out of place in the programme, and may have worked better as a pre-show performance or semi-durational piece done outside the theatre before the audience enters.

Nevertheless, this has evidently been a meaningful experience for the choreographers, performers and organising committee members involved, and such a platform for the continuing development of work by the NAFA Dance Alumni should indeed be supported.