Saturday, February 28, 2015

SCo Savage Land - Interview with Maestro Yeh Tsung

In addition to soprano Li Jing-Jing, I got to speak to SCO music director Yeh Tsung for the Savage Land production as well. The show runs for only one day on 28 February 2015. Here is what we discussed:

The Mad Scene: This production sounds so exciting to a fan of musical drama like me. Why was this opera selected to be performed at Huayi 2015?

Yeh Tsung: As modern chinese orchestra we don't want to just play instrumental pieces. Like symphony orchestras worldwide we also want to play operatic and oratorio repertoire as well as experiment with multimedia. Since I took over we have experimented with productions either with Huayi Festival or with the Singapore Arts Festival or on our own.

But this is not the first time we are doing a Western-style opera. A few years ago we did Thunderstorm (雷雨), also based on a book by Cao Yu, but by composer Mo Fan. But this opera, Savage Land, calls for a significantly bigger production. I see it as an important step for SCO to forge, to go through a more diversified function. This is the very first opera in Chinese language in Western operatic form, with arias, recitatives, duets and Italian-style bel canto singing. It is also the very first Western-style opera from China to be performed abroad in the United States.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Dream Academy and RWS's 'Great World Cabaret' in Review

Jeremy Lee gives us his account of Great World Cabaret by Dream Academy and Resorts World Sentosa, now running till 17 March 2015.

As Singapore’s 50th birthday approaches, icons of old that have made way for the nation’s inexhaustible march towards “progress” still live on in the minds of those of a certain age. (These people could be younger than we think, for example in their 30s.)

And as these people are also old enough to have accumulated some cash to spare for a night out, we are starting to see myriad efforts to recapture those lost good old days in the form of xinyao/oldies concerts, retro-themed movies, and even food courts with décor inspired by that halcyon era.

Great World Cabaret is seemingly one of them. Set in the eponymous entertainment club that was part of the Great World Amusement Park (the original site has now predictably been turned into a shopping mall), this show unashamedly targets those who remember the place— and those who would like to have.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

FREE: Vox Camerata's 'In Memoriam'

Click to Enlarge
Vox Camerata presents an a capella choral programme on 18 April 2015 (Saturday) at the Armenian Church of Saint Gregory. Admission is free but donations are welcome. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

SCO's 'Savage Land' - Interview with Li Jing-Jing

The Singapore Chinese Orchestra's semi-staged presentation of Jin Xiang's opera Savage Land looks set to be a musical and theatrical extravaganza that packs an emotional wallop. I called up 29 year-old leading lady Li Jing-Jing, one of China's fastest rising stars who has won many prizes in Germany and count Mirella Freni and Francisco Araiza as mentors, in Beijing to talk about her upcoming Singapore and role debuts. Here is what we discussed:

The Mad Scene: Tell us about the role you will be singing, what is her personality like and what happens to her in the opera?

Li Jing-Jing: Jing Zi is a farmer's daughter. She is made to marry the son of a family whose father is a governor. This is an arranged marriage – the man that she intended to marry is framed and thrown into jail by the governor. She was forced to marry the son of the governor and does so unwillingly.

However, her lover escapes from jail after 8 years. When her lover reappears, she is refilled with hope again. I feel that she is a very determined, very daring and hot-headed person. Nonetheless she is still a woman who just wants to be loved by her man, who still yearns to be accepted for who she is.

She has a very strong character, strong inner fire, full of life. Very unconventional for her age, wanting to enjoy life to the fullest. Unwilling to submit to authority and wishing to regain her freedom. In Cao Yu's original script, the author described her looks and comportment in such a way that we can see that she is born a very charismatic woman, very original and very forthcoming. She is born of a higher social status in her village, not a poor villager, and so carries herself as such.

Even in her repressed state, she is made to become very wild, very stubborn, but we can still see a sympathetic side to her character as this is her basic character. She is not a venomous person unlike her mother-in-law. She is only made to behave that way as defiance to her circumstances. She doesn't really have bad intentions in her. She really wants to pursue the life that she dreams of. She is not a religious person who is waiting for freedom in death or her next life to be free: she needs to make the best opportunities of her life, to pursue her own love and her own life. Somehow she is thought of as the Carmen of the east, someone who values her freedom above life itself. Even though she's married into a wealthy family and is thus supposed to be happy, she's makes it clear that she's very unhappy as she is unable to marry the person that she loves. Her husband is very weak and gullible, unable to satisfy her as a partner.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Coming up at MBS: ABBA Tribute Concert 'Bjorn Again', St. Petersburg Ballet's Swan Lake

Whether you are into high or low culture, here are two world-class shows that will surely help you get your groove on:

 Get ready folks as Björn Again hit the road for their very special run of shows to celebrate their 25th Anniversary at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands on 17 and 18 April 2015. Tickets are now on sale.

The only ABBA show officially endorsed by the members of ABBA, Björn Again has been delighting audiences worldwide for 25 years - with their action packed world-class show that has people leaping out of their seats singing and dancing right from the start. A night where you can leave your troubles, enjoy and just let go.

“One of the most entertaining live shows in the world today” - Time Out Magazine New York

Following their sold out Paris season, the internationally acclaimed St Petersburg Ballet comes to Singapore for the first time, to present their full-length classic production of the world’s most famous ballet – Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands opening 28 May 2015. Tickets are now on sale.

The 55 member company of St Petersburg Ballet continues to collect rave reviews around the world and thrill audiences with breathtaking scenery and magnificent costumes. Now St Petersburg Ballet will perform the immortal and enchanting Swan Lake for a limited season.

“A triumph” - The Times of London

“A vision to behold, exquisite sets and costumes” - Sunday Times (South Africa)

Tickets can be purchased at SISTIC

Monday, January 26, 2015

BHSO's 'Joy' in Review - 25 Jan 2015

Beethoven - 9th Symphony
Jeremy Monteiro - Overture in C – The Story of Singapore

Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra (BHSO)
The Joy Chorale

Soloists - Wendy Evangela Woon Mei-Yu - soprano,
            Cheryl Bains - alto
            Raymond Lee Pei-Khoon - tenor
            Kong Ling-Yi - bass

chorus mistress - Khor Ai-Ming
director - Adrian Tan
The Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore

A review by Hawk Liu

The sold-out concert began with Overture in C – "The Story of Singapore, composed by Cultural Medallion recipient and local jazz legend Jeremy Monteiro. The overture tells the story of Singapore’s transformation from a sleepy fishing village to the modern city that it is today." - that was the program note. Monteiro's one and only orchestral composition, albeit a short one, was concise and featured the brass prominently, including 2 off stage ones. The overture got busy from the first notes and the orchestra dd it justice, notwithstanding a couple of false notes here and there.  Monteiro made a stage appearance after the overture. The applause was warm and well deserved.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Christine Seng's 'Poetry and Love' in Review

Poetry and Love
Songs by Schumann, R. Strauss, Rodrigo and others
Esplanade Recital Studio, Singapore
Christine Seng - soprano
Kee Loi-Seng - tenor
Vincent Chen - piano
Christina Zhou - violin
17th January 2015

A review by Hawk Liu

The concert was a good programme of lieder music which was kept interesting by having different voices for each song cycle of Schumann's in the first half and an unusual addition of Spanish songs in the second half along with Richard Strauss numbers.

Christine Seng started with Frauenliebe und Leben. Starting off nervous, she sounded a little detached at first but eventually became more connected to the music. It was a bright and light voice which unfortunately was also not in pitch at many places, but one can see that the songs, with its themes of love, marriage and childbirth, found a lot of resonance with the singer.

Kee Loi-Seng gave a lot of commitment to the sentiments of the text in the first seven songs of Dichterliebe. It was a mostly Italianate approach to the phrasing while still sounding appropriately Teutonic. Kee Loi-Seng finished off well with the last movement Ich grolle nicht. The voice remained rich and attractive throughout.

The Richard Strauss were all gems with the very capable Vincent Chen (pianist) giving the most exquisite accompaniment in Stänchen. Christina Zhou played an effective violin solo though I would have preferred a stronger and more focused tone in Morgen to Christine Seng's soprano. Kee Loi-Seng gave a full hearted, Italianate Allerseelen. It was vocally satisfying. The voice did remind me of the Spaniard Francisco Araiza.

After the exciting familiar Strauss, it was time for the unusual inclusion of Rodrigo. Christine Seng showed off her high coloratura skills in De donde venis,amore?, which to me was the best singing that evening. Seng connected much better with the sprightly pieces where her bright timbre was suited. Unfortunately, the pitching was in question again for the Spanish section.

The final duet from West Side Story was vocally well sung but a bit of a misadventure for the tenor in terms of the text and pronunciation, and the soprano in terms of pitching. Even the pianist stumbled in a few places. Nonetheless, it gave the two singers the opportunity to sing out in full voice, giving us rousing end to evening. A final encore of O mio babbino caro ended the evening officially.

Despite some misgivings, I found the concert a most interesting one with interpretations of popular songs as well as taking us down some less trodden roads.