Monday, August 6, 2012

Interveiw with Akiko Otao and David Quah


I received an email sometime last year from one Akiko Otao, a young, friendly soprano who has just settled here and looking for any opportunities to build a singing career here. Things fell into place when she auditioned for the premiere prodution of John Sharpley's and Robert Yeo's Fences and landed the lading female role, an opportunity that she told me she learnt about while reading The Mad Scene.

So naturally I was eager to finally meet her at the press conference for Fences, showing on 18 and 19 August 2012. Set in the tulmulteous times of 1960s when Singapore and Malaysia was seeking independence, first through merger and shortly by seperation.

This production, which garnered an M16 rating from our government censors due to racial sensitivity. It tells a love story between a Malay girl and Chinese guy, an issue that producer Leow Siak Fah describes as sensitive in Malaysia even till now. Sharpley's music is described by the composer as being "complex textures to describe complex emotions", featuring gamalan and Chinese musical elements interwoven into the full-sized orchestra.

So anyway, Akiko and I sat down for a chat which I recorded down for your listening pleasure. Halfway through our interview a hungry David Quah came over to get us to speed up so that the cast can go for lunch, and in turn chied in a few soundbites himself. I should also add the usual disclaimer that this is not a professional broadcast nor is the interviewer any threat to Oprah. Here are their bios for you to get to know them better, then I hope you enjoy the interview!


Akiko Otao (Nora Ibrahim)
Native of Tokyo, Akiko has been a performer most of her life. She moved to the U.S. at the age of 10, where she found musical theater and opera. She spent the last six years in Tokyo performing and teaching before moving to Singapore last year. Her most recent engagements are Hansel in Hansel und Gretel, Musetta in La Boheme, Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Crystal in Little Shop of Horrors. On the concert stage, she has been a soloist for Mozart’s Requiem, Missa in C KV257, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Akiko enjoys working with contemporary composers, and has premiered numerous pieces in Tokyo. A Thousand Words, an Adagio for voice and string quartet by Eric Rubio was premiered as part of the play Crossroads Country, commissioned by the Afghan Embassy of Japan. Kazuhiko Hattori has written The Time of the Topaz: For Soprano and Guitar, Maila: Solo for an unaccompanied Soprano and most recently, Maila II especially for her.

Akiko holds a B.M. from the Hartt School in the U.S.. She studied voice under Lucy Hayes-Davis, Stuart Younse, Yoko Abe (Niki-kai), and Mayako Hozumi (Fujisawa). She is a 3rd Place Winner of the 2010 Tokyo Voice Competition, a finalist in the National Classical Music Concert Competition, and a winner of the Japan International League of Artists’ New Artist competition. Akiko is delighted to play Nora in the first full production of Fences.

David Quah (Steven Lee)
Born in Penang, David Quah obtained an Advanced Diploma in vocal performance at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, a Bachelor of Music degree at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music in Australia and completed the Postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. While in Queensland he won the coveted Marianne Mathy Australian Singing Competition and made his professional debut singing Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Opera Queensland.

David has premiered in many roles in both local and overseas opera productions. On the concert stage, David made his debut with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra singing in two Christmas concerts at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall. He has also appeared in concerts in various countries, from Australia to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Great Britain and the USA. He has given many recitals with repertoire ranging from Baroque music to contemporary works, from Chinese folk songs to Broadway musical numbers, and even a little bit of jazz.

Cast of Fences

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Fences will be performed on 18 to 19 August 2012. Check out the Events Page for ticketing details.

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