Monday, 26 November 2012

MOTHER, DAUGHTER, WIFE & LOVER / Singapore Lyric Opera Gala Concert / Review

Singapore Lyric Opera Gala Concert
Friday (23 November 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 26 November 2012 with the title "Sheer opulence in synergy of women's voices".

The Singapore Lyric Opera’s annual gala concert was a tribute to women in opera, showcasing a wide spectrum of their glorious characters and roles. Cue an established diva, a rising talent and a vampish pastor’s wife, all the ingredients for an enjoyable musical evening were there for the taking.

Young soprano Cherylene Liew, better known as the SLO Children’s Choir conductor, opened accounts with Puccini’s popular O mio babbino caro (Gianni Schicchi) with a svelte, seamless beauty. A daughter’s love for her father, earnest and true, later transformed into the seductive charm of water sprite Rusalka, in Dvorak’s Song to the Moon. She may not have the biggest of voices, but it was the heart and soul to her renderings that mattered most.

Veteran soprano Nancy Yuen commanded the stage like no other, running the full cache that included rapt pianissimos for Mozart’s Ach ich Fühl (The Magic Flute), longing in vain in Puccini’s Un bel di (Madama Butterfly), and unleashing dizzying coloratura turns that sparkled in the waltz-song Je ve vivre from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. Whether singing under the voice or hitting highest registers, La Yuen (the moniker christened by Singapore’s only opera blog The Mad Scene) has always been convincing.

The third singer was mezzo-soprano Anna Koor, whose maturing voice over the years has made her much in demand, was not overawed in this company. Although Verdi’s Stride la vampa (Il Trovatore) could have done with greater vehemence and sense of vengefulness, her creamy, dreamy tone in Saint-Saens’s Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix (Samson et Dalila) was judged to perfection. In the Caribbean rhythms of Bernstein’s What a Movie (Trouble in Tahiti), her jazzy nuances were all but drowned out by the exuberant orchestral accompaniment.

The synergy that transpired when two or more voices came together showed how well the three singers blended. The bel canto lines of Bellini’s Mira o Norma (Norma) simply delighted as both Yuen and Koor brought the first half to a heady close. The tandem of Yuen and Liew for Mozart’s Sull’Aria (The Marriage of Figaro) came across with mellowness and heart-felt sincerity. When all three joined briefly in the Final Trio of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, the result was sheer opulence and pleasure.

The Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Joshua Kangming Tan has become more than just a pit orchestra. The brass was in rampant form for the Triumphal March from Verdi’s Aida while the strings impressed throughout, with ensemble tautly knit in intermezzos from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly. Only the Prelude to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde sounded under-rehearsed.

Someday the SLO might just conceive a concert for just tenors, baritones and basses, but women’s voices – a love affair for many an opera composer - will always be missed.

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