Friday, November 24, 2017

SLO's 'Unrequited Love' in Review

Singapore Lyric Opera
Opera Gala – Unrequited Love
23rd Novemeber 2017

Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore

Jessica Chen - Soprano
Kee Loi-Seng - Tenor
Samantha Chong - Mezzo-Soprano
Pham Kanh-Ngoc - Soprano
Alvin Tan - Baritone

SLO-Leow Siak Fah Artists Training Programme Trainees:

Zhang Jie - Soprano
Zerlina Tan - Mezzo-Soprano
Chieko Sato - Mezzo-Soprano
Cherie Tse - Soprano
Leslie Tay - Tenor

Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra
Singapore Lyric Opera Chorus
Singapore Lyric Opera Children's Choir
Jason Lai - Conductor

A Review by Hawk Liu

I went home really happy from tonight's Gala Concert for a few simple reasons - I didn't hear Libiamo, Habanera, Flower Duet from Lakme and any other sung-to-death grand opera arias. It was truly refreshing to hear a bunch of coloratura stuff in a single local concert for once. I smiled when I heard the announcement for the first two arias - Handel ! (I didn't want to read the programme because the colour-contrast design was not suitable for 'old-flower-eyes' like mine). Except for the Hänsel and Gretel children's chorus, I don't believe any of the other soloists' items were presented in a major recital before in Singapore. I enjoyed the new programme very much and a few of my friends liked the varied programme too.

It was a treat to hear so many different singers in one evening - Bravi! The audience love Pham in both Alcina and Semiramide. Blessed with a generous amount of coloratura in her throat, she dazzled. Although running out of steam a little towards the end of Semiramide, she made up for it by changing tonality a couple of times in the unaccompanied cadenza and ending together with the orchestra spot on pitch.

Samantha Chong had a somewhat uneven start in Ariodante where the voice didn't seem to be happy in the tessitura in the A section, not helped by the orchestra which didn't quite note that there should have had been lots of 'joy' in this aria. Chong came to her own and showed her command of the coloratura more in the repeat section where the embellishment was sung mostly in a true soprano's tessitura - and she was listed as a mezzo. Hmm... Chong did show more steel and 'mezzo' in the Clemenza aria.

The Artists from the training programme were a delight to hear. The Carmen trio showed a lot of spright. Cherie Tse's silvery tone was pitch perfect and hard to miss. Chieko Sato's smoking mezzo was commanding and attractive. The girls do delivered. The boys (Leslie Tay and Alvin Tan) came on stage and brought a lot of fire to the quintet - not a dull moment.

Mein Sehnen was something I knew from about 30 years ago with Hermann Prey singing in Leinsdorf's recording. Alvin Tan's baritone was a tad light for it but it was nonetheless an attractive voice. However, for me, the orchestra was not moving forward enough, with Tan trailing off a few times in the long phrases. Another disappointment was having the opera chorus on stage and not having them sing the background voices in the aria! - Argh - SLO - are you serious?

Kee Loi-Seng's voice seemed to have gotten darker than I have ever heard him sing. The recitative was given in lyric style with a stunning A flat on 'vinto'. The aria was attractive though the B flats were not easy.

The Children's Choir focused on the harmony and it really paid off. The Orchestra backed down well to cradle their delicate voices. The adult Opera Chorus takes the cake - beautiful singing tones from all sections! Although I didn't think the orchestra had a good start in Dopo Notte, it was good throughout the rest of the evening. The beast really came alive from the Carmen chorus and the overture to Nozze.

Despite a few misgivings (no concert is perfect), there were too many good things to admire. Well done SLO - more baroque and keep away from Libiamo and Lakme's flower duet please.

This review can also be found at Hawk's website

1 comment:

  1. The order of the program could be changed in my opinion. It is probably more logical to start off with the Handel and Mozart, followed by the miscellaneous. Keep the Carmen and Aida to the second half of the program after the intermission.
    The title of the evening is "Unrequited love". I really do not see how Hansel & Gretel fit in. Of course it was the only number the children performed on their own, but they did that last year. Couldn't they have done something else? I am also not sure if Cosi fan Tutte is really 'Unrequited Love' as the 4 main characters all fall in love twice:)
    The booklet described Sesto's aria (La Clemenza di Tito) as a response to Sevillia's request and that was wrong. It was a response to Vitellia's request.
    It was nonetheless an enjoyable evening. The high points were Tito's aria from La Clemenza di Tito, the Carmen Trio & Quintet, plus the Ritorna Vincitor from Aida.



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