Esplanade Recital Studio
8 January 2015)
A heavily edited version of this review was published in The Straits Times on 10 January 2015 with the title "Lieder in tune with love's ups and downs".
What would the art song scene in
be without groups like
New Opera Singapore and the Sing Song Club? Much poorer. Although the listenership
for lieder here is relatively small, the quality of performances is very
encouraging, which is surely the first step towards audience-building. Singapore
This evening's programme by New Opera Singapore centred around German lovesongs performed by multiple voices and small ensembles. English translations were projected on a screen and that greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the songs.
The ten movements of Robert Schumann's Spanish Liebeslieder Op.138, based on Spanish poems translated by Emmanuel Giebel, opened the short but intimate recital with duo pianists Kseniia Vokhmianina and Shane Thio playing the brief Vorspiel (Prelude). The sheer lyricism and sensitivity displayed immediately set the right tone for the evening.
This set comprised solos, duets and one song which involved all four singers. Soprano Jeong Ae Ree portrayed sorrow in Tief im herzen (Deep In My Heart), while tenor Shaun Lee was all ardency in O wie lieblich (O How Lovely), the subject being love at first sight of some maiden. The emotions and pangs of falling in and out of love are the stuff of Romantics, so innocently but passionately captured in these songs.
A Schubertian lightness inhabited Flutenreicher Ebro (
), which baritone Yun
Seong Woo delivered with crispness and fluency. Mezzo-soprano Son Jung A's
lovely Hoch, hoch sind die Berg (High, High Is The Mountain) made
a departure from G minor to E flat major, altering the colour and complexion of
the cycle. Surging Ebro River
The duet for tenor and baritone Blaue augen hat das Mädchen (The Girl Has Blue Eyes) provided some light-hearted moments if only because “she does not fall for the men”. The gentle tease became a declaration in the closing Dunkler lichtglanz (Dark Light), sung by all four, that Love is the only state where “happiness is paid for with pain”.
Johannes Brahms's Liebeslieder Waltzes Op.52 are far better known, the four vocal parts being often sung by mixed choirs. The four singers, with tenor Jonathan Charles Tay taking the place of Shaun Lee, also appeared more relaxed after the interval, as if spirits had been partaken. The music, taking on the Viennese waltz as the predominant impetus, was lighter and frothier.
The course of true love has its ups and downs, encapsulated in 18 poems from Georg Friedrich Daumer's Polydora, but how the waltz rhythm could be made to express tenderness, longing, angst and rage is down to Brahms's genius. Amid the busy but satisfying ensemble singing, there were only two solos: Jung in the melancholic Wohl schön bewandt (All Was Well) and
Tay wistfully in Nicht
wandle (Do Not Wander). The last song Das bebet das gestrauche
(The Bushes Tremble) provided a subdued and unsettling end to the set.
Infuriating that may be, isn't that what love is all about?
Photographs by the kind permission of New Opera Singapore.