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.

The Mad Scene: Martin, you have worked with Boris and Li Jie many times on separate occasions, what qualities in their music and performance do you admire about them?

Martin: I have worked with Boris on many occasions and I love the intensity and passion he exudes on stage that is so suitable for the music of the Romantic era. Li Jie has the sweetest lyric soprano voice that really makes characters like Violetta, Gilda and Liu come to life. I'm so happy that she will be singing these characters for our evening of Italian Romantic music. We have performed together many times in different halls in Germany and Italy, I'm so excited that our friends and family in Singapore will now get to see our partnership.

Li Jie: Martin is a very professional opera singer, I feel very comfortable work with him. I like his voice and music, it is a very typical Italian classic singing technique. Even though I learn classical singing in Germany, I use Italian classical singing techniques sometimes as well. When we perform duets together, we have a good chemistry built on good understanding and communication.

Martin and Boris together in Montenegro

The Mad Scene: Li Jie, how do you feel about performing with Boris for the first time?

Li Jie: When I was studying in NAFA, I knew of Mr Boris as an important piano lecturer in NAFA. Several of my piano classmates were studying with him. He is an excellent pianist and piano teacher. I went one of his concerts when I was studying in NAFA, the musicality and piano technique was great! I feel very honoured that I can work together with him.

The Mad Scene: Congratulations Martin on your breakthrough in the title role of The Flying Dutchman by RWAS! How do you feel after having sung such a daunting role in such a big opera?

Martin: I feel really fortunate to be given such an opportunity and I am very grateful that it all very well. The role was something out of my usual repertoire so it was not really in comfort zone for me. However having sung it has given me extra confidence to take on new roles in the future!

The Mad Scene: This programme of Italian works is such a big contrast to Wagner, what in your opinion are the stylistic differences between the romantic Italian operas and Wagner? Do you require a different technique for either?

Martin: Oh yes, very huge stylistic differences! While Wagner has its lyrical moments where one is expected to sing with legato and with sensibility, the singer is more often required to sing in a declamatory manner. In Italian works, the legato is very important and so is the phrasing too. Thus technically you need to sing sul fiato (on the breath) to sustain the long legato lines and, because of the higher tessitura, you have got to sing very vertically to keep the middle voice in a 'lean' position so that you can have the easy top in the Italian works. Whereas Wagner's music for baritone voice has of a lower tessitura which requires more stamina singing and a very open throat in the mask is required.

The Mad Scene: For opera and music lovers out there, what is the appeal of Verdi's music for the baritone voice that makes them such a joy to listen to?

Martin: So many things! Rigoletto is such a complex character that it gives the singer room for one million different vocal shades. For Conte the Luna the sheer drama of his waywardness and jealousy, and in Germont the elegant long legato phrasing so befitting of his Bourgeois status, are so beautifully expressed by Verdi in his music for baritone!

The Mad Scene: What can we look forward to in this concert?

Li Jie: My duets with Martin in this concert are all dramatic scenes by Verdi, where our characters are at odds with each other, sometimes fatally so. At the same time, my German influences can be heard in my solo numbers, including a lied by Schumann and a fun operetta piece. It's going to be an evening of beautiful music and high drama; I can't wait to perform these pieces for my friends in Singapore!

Martin Ng - The Italian Baritone featuring Li Jie and Boris Kraljevic is on 17 December 2016, 7.30pm at the SOTA Concert Hall.

What do you think, can you really afford to miss such an exciting concert? Do you really want to give up the chance to see our local kids stand up alongside international giants? Get your tickets now! Available at Peatix and offline Madison Academy of Music!

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