Monday, 8 August 2011

OPERA COMIQUE (IN THE OFFICE) / New Opera Singapore / Review

New Opera Singapore
The Chamber @ The Arts House
Saturday (6 August 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 9 August 2011 with the title "Pure delight in the office".

As of tonight, there are three Western opera companies in Singapore. The latest entry is New Opera Singapore, brainchild of Korean-Singaporean soprano and voice teacher Jeong Ae-Ree. Its debut concert was greeted by a full house but more importantly, it signalled a very bright future for operatic singing here.

Forget the title, merely the premise to string along 18 operatic arias, duets and art-songs into a coherent whole. The flimsy plot of an opera company, with its share of romances, politics and shenanigans, was clumsily scripted and, of course, overacted. There were several in-jokes within the industry. For example, the company’s boss is an ageing tenor who is deathly afraid of his diva wife. Sounds vaguely familiar?

Thankfully the music was far more memorable, sensitively accompanied by Hyerin Oh on piano. The ten singers, all students of Jeong, included undergraduates, amateurs and professionals, but all were beyond competent. Some would even make it to bigger stages.

Take the astonishing bel canto sequence which saw soprano Teng Xiang Ting, the evening’s best singer, emote in Ah non credea mirarti (Bellini’s La Sonnambula), followed by David Charles Tay hit the high spots of Una furtiva lagrima (Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amour), for example. Such beauty of tone, confidence and showmanship were almost unheard of here twenty years ago without involving foreign singers.

The couple would later go on and polish off Puccini’s duet O soave fanciulla (La Boheme) with much intimacy and chemistry. Add David’s twin brother Jonathan into the mix, Lehar’s Dein ist mein ganzes herz (The Land of Smiles, above) was pure delight shared by the threesome.

The scenario’s protagonist Lim Yan Ting (above left) , looking very distant from her scientist day job, was a scream with her coquettish, nudge and wink demeanor, but dealt a mean Agitata a due venti (Vivaldi’s Griselda) with its spitting repeated notes. Other femme fatales included teenager Bethea How (above middle) who proved that age was no impediment in nailing the Queen of the Night’s aria Die holle rache (Mozart’s Magic Flute), and Alexandra Ioan (above right) who flirted with the audience in Musetta’s Waltz Song (La Boheme).

Time and space does not permit elaboration of the contributions of Moira Loh, Shaun Lee, Yap How Joo and Daniel Fong, but suffice to say, New Opera Singapore’s first staged production, of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amour in July 2012, will be keenly anticipated.

A toast to New Opera Singapore and further endeavours!

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