Monday, 11 March 2013

OPERA COMIQUE: AT THE AIRPORT / New Opera Singapore / Review

New Opera Singapore
The Chamber @ The Arts House
Saturday (9 March 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 11 March 2013 with the title "The comedy of arias".

The Opera Comique series by New Opera Singapore is becoming a bit like those Carry On low budget comedies of the Sixties and Seventies, featuring a cast of familiar faces in variations on the theme of farcical plots, double entendres and more than a few good laughs.

Each of these opera capers features popular arias and duets strung together by some flimsy plotline. On this evening, the setting was the airport in Bali, where flirtations, misunderstandings and love matches take place between passengers, cabin crew, ground staff and Duty Free personnel. It was all very silly but the quality of singing was most encouraging.

The sopranos had a field day. Few might have expected the ease and level of projection afforded by Isyana Sarasvati (above) in Je veux vivre (Juliette’s Waltz Song) from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. She was scintillating and simply brilliant. Closely matching her were Bethea How, 3rd Prize winner in the Llangollen Eisteddfod last year, in Arditi’s swirling Parla Walzer, which brought on the loudest cheers.

Rebecca Li’s Mein Herr Marquis (Laughing Song) from Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus was infectious, as were her tittering giggles, while Moira Loh (below) had the audience in stitches in Mozart’s Batti batti, o bel Masetto (Don Giovanni), as she went on to batter her love interest. After this, there may be a new meaning to “Could you batti batti me?”

Of the male singers, baritone Jeremy Koh impressed most in Mozart’s Donne le mie fatte (Cosi Fan Tutte) with his clear ringing tone. Tenor Yap Joo How’s Questa o quella (Verdi’s Rigoletto) was convincing in his libertine aspirations, while Shaun Lee and Lim Jingjie were more than earnest in their efforts. Pianist Albert Lin, attired as an ICA immigration official, was unobtrusive while providing premium accompanying support.

It would seem that most the young singers trained by Korean soprano Jeong Ae Ree, founder of New Opera Singapore, were bleeding heart tenors or coloratura sopranos. Where were the altos or basses among the eight singers featured?

Thus this programme was skewed heavily towards soprano and tenor arias, which besides being slightly unbalanced and also on the short side. By the end of the hour, the conflicts had ceased and all on stage was kissing and making up to Lehar’s Lippen Schweigen from The Merry Widow.   

This cavil aside, it was all in good fun. With time and as the cast of New Opera Singapore matures, we might have local singing versions of Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor someday.

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