Thursday 11 July 2024



Esplanade Concert Hall 
Tuesday (9 July 2024)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 11 July 2024 with the title "Ying Huang in top form for Singapore solo recital".

After a slew of piano recitals, it was refreshing to enjoy a vocal recital for a change. That does not come bigger than Chinese coloratura soprano Ying Huang, renowned for her portrayal of the ill-fated geisha Cio-Cio-San in the 1995 Frederic Mitterand-directed film Madame Butterfly based on Puccini’s opera. 

Her previous appearances in Singapore included singing in Gustav Mahler’s Fourth and Eighth Symphonies with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. In her first solo recital here was presented by Altenburg Arts. Partnered by Chinese conductor-pianist Zhang Liang, Huang revealed a gloriously intact vocal apparatus for a singer in her mid-fifties, with all the qualities that made her famous. The recital’s first half was mostly operatic. 

In George Frideric Handel’s Endless Pleasure, Endless Love from Semele, nimbleness of articulation was key. Her excellent English pronunciation ensured that the opening aria’s words also summed up the evening’s delights to come. 

Moving to Italian, Huang’s expressive abilities shone in Antonio Cesti’s Intorno All’Idol Mio (Around My Idol) from L’Orontea, with the yearning typical in the love songs of aria antiche (ancient songs). From the era of bel canto, Vincenzo Bellini’s Malinconia, Ninfa Gentile (Melancholy, Gentle Nymph) and Vaga Luna, Che Inargenti (Vague Moon, Which Silvers) had her revelling in seamless lyricism. 

Italian being the language of love continued in two arias from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage Of Figaro, sung by two different characters. Porgi Amor was the aria of a love-forsaking Countess Almaviva while Voi Che Sapete, the confessions from the love-sick youth Cherubino. Huang was comfortable in both roles, and convincingly so. 

From coy to spectacular, Giacomo Puccini’s Quando Me’n Vo (Musetta’s Waltz-Song) from La Boheme brought out the coquettish and glamourous, while the Spanish rhythms in Leo Delibes’ Les Filles De Cadix (The Girls of Cadiz) were the stuff of flirtation and enticement. By now, the irrepressible Huang had the audience lapping from her hands. 

Art songs occupied the recital’s second half. The exquisite vocal control in Gabriel Faure’s ethereal Apres Un Reve was remarkable, contrasted by the faster lilting rhythm in his Mandoline. A similar tandem was repeated in Richard Strauss’ feathery light Standchen (Serenade) and an outpouring of emotion in Zueignung (Dedication). 

Huang then put aside her scores, the home stretch being a suite of eight varied Chinese art songs by modern composers including Huang Zi, Qing Zhu, Liu Qing and Huang Yongxi. She polished these off with heartfelt sympathy and no little pride for her motherland. The recital closed with an ethnic spin, with Yanzhi (Swallow) and Ding Shande’s Mayila being Kazakh folksongs. 

Her encores were lovely, including Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro (Oh My Beloved Father) from Gianni Schicchi) and the popular Teresa Teng hit Zai Shui Yifang (Across The Water). The last had her listeners singing along, the volume of which was disproportionate to the small size of the audience. The long and loud cheers Huang and Zhang received were thoroughly well deserved.

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