Tuesday, 16 February 2010

BIRDS OF PARADISE / Jeong Ae Ree Vocal Recital / Review

Jeong Ae Ree, Soprano
Shane Thio, Piano
Esplanade Recital Studio
Friday (12 February 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 16 February 2010.

If there were an award for the most glamourous music teacher in Singapore, it would surely go to the Korean-born soprano Jeong Ae Ree. An alumnus of musical universities in South Korean and Austria, Jeong was the vocal teacher of rising talents like Janani Shridhar and Rebecca Chellapah. In her 75-minute art song recital, this dynamo packed within a tiny frame charmed, teased and communicated with great flair.

The titular birds came from Ravel’s melodie Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis (Three Beautiful Birds Of Paradise), part of a set which also included Mozart’s Oiseaux, si tous les ans (You Birds, So Every Year) and the Xinjiang melody Little Swallow. This thematic approach to programming was inventive, showcasing many facets of her artistry.
Although she does not have the most powerful of voices, Jeong makes up with an intimacy and flexibility of tone, coupled with loads of personality. Beginning with a suite on flowers, her approach to Barber’s The Daisies, Poulenc’s Fleurs, Richard Strauss’ Das Rosenband and Korean Kim Sung Tae’s SanYu Hwa (Mountain Flowers) was colourful and varied as the subjects themselves.

Following a trio of Aaron Copland songs, the birds and bees came to roost in the second half when Jeong emerged with a revealing bright red gown. Thankfully this did not distract too much attention from her romantic selection of Reynaldo Hahn’s A Chloris, Liszt’s Oh, Quand je dor and Debussy’s Mandoline. These were delectably sung, even if a hint of strain crept into her high registers. Veteran collaborative pianist Shane Thio (left) provided both responsive and sensitive partnership.

The waltz songs by Erik Satie, Tendrement and La Diva de l’Empire, brought out the cabaret and vaudevillian, culminating with a waltz with a male member in the audience. In case one got funny ideas, the lucky man was her husband Chan Wei Shing, who happens to be a far better cellist than dancer.

Prolonged cheers drew three encores, by Franz Lehar (Meine Lippen sie k├╝ssen so heiss from Giuditta), Kurt Weill (Surabaya Johnny) and Richard Strauss (Morgen!). A next recital could not arrive any sooner.

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