Monday, 23 November 2009

SINGAPORE LYRIC OPERA: An Evening of Romantic and Tragic Love / Review

Singapore Lyric Opera
Esplanade Concert Hall
Saturday (21 November 2009)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 23 November 2009.

The Singapore Lyric Opera’s Evening of Romantic & Tragic Love seemed like a redundant title for a concert. After all, what repertory opera has not featured romantic and tragic love of any kind? At any rate, it was an entertaining two hours fare of arias, duets and bleeding chunks.

Dominating the stage was Korean tenor Simon Kyung Lee (left), one who delights in and probably worships his heroic glory notes. Those peaks in Verdi’s Celeste Aida and Puccini’s Che gelida manina (La Boheme) were well within his booming mechanism, often breathtaking, but the downside was a shortage of subtlety. He all but drowned out his partners in duets and ensemble pieces, as in the Quartet of Rigoletto, so intent in displaying his can belto abilities.

The only exception was in the presence of Chinese baritone Zhang Feng, a more sensitive soul, who matched with decibels of his own. Thus, the Pearl Fisher’s Duet by Bizet came off with semblance of balance and some aplomb. Zhang’s arias in Verdi’s Il Trovatore and the Toreador Song (Carmen) were similarly distinguished.

The evening’s finer moments however went to the UK-based Singaporean soprano Yee Ee-Ping (left), who had the greatest range of expressions, both vocal and facial. Her Si, mi chiamano Mimi (Boheme) radiated with the warm flush of first love, and Micaela’s Air (Bizet’s Carmen) filled with the same innocence that greeted her SLO debut in the same role some 11 years ago. Her totally sympathetic contribution as the ill-fated Nedda in excerpts from Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci completed a multi-faceted display.

The only Singapore-based singer, mezzo-soprano Anna Koor, was by no means overawed in this company, registering sensitive readings in Gluck, Saint-Saens, and the plum role of Carmen. The Habenera could have oozed more sex appeal, but she and tenor Lee had a good thing going in the final duet before being murdered by a hyper-charged Don Jose.

With due respect to Lim Yan’s superb piano accompaniment, these singers and this music, in particular, cried out for an orchestra’s partnership. Budgetary issues probably put paid to that notion anyway, but the variety and quality offered was enough to send the opera-lover more than half-way satisfied.

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