Saturday, September 29, 2012

Les Miserable Featurette

I was completely swept away by this fascinating trailer for the upcoming Les Miz movie, starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe among other stars. The music is sung completely live during filming, rather than having the actors mime to their own prerecorded music. Its a completely new way of filming movie musicals and I can't wait to see how it will all turn out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Auditions now open for SSO President’s Young Performers Concert 2013

Something the SSO sent to my mailbox:


In search of musical talents for the SSO President's Young Performers Concert next year, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra is holding auditions for Singaporean string, woodwind, brass, percussion and conducting musicians.

Successful candidates will perform as soloist in a concerto with the national orchestra in July 2013. Held at the Esplanade Concert Hall, the concert will be graced by the President of the Republic of Singapore, His Excellency Tony Tan Keng Yam, who is also the Patron of the SSO.

Applicants should be Singapore Citizens. Instrumentalists should be no more than 25 years of age, and conductors, no more than 35 years of age, as of 1 July 2013. They are invited to send in, by 30 November 2012, a brief biography stating their name, age, musical background and contact details as well as a non-returnable DVD recording of their performance of one movement of a concerto to the following address:

c/o Singapore Symphony Orchestra Programming Department
4 Battery Road #20-01
Bank of China Building
Singapore 049908

Shortlisted applicants will be notified in December 2012 to perform a complete concerto in a live audition taking place between January and February 2013. Applicants should arrange for their own pianists to play the orchestral part during the live audition.

Past performers have included conductors Darrell Ang and Joshua Tan, violinists Chan Yoong-Han, Grace Lee and Yang Shuxiang, as well as pianists Abigail Sin, Lim Yan, Jonathan Chua and Gavin Jared Bala.

We regret we are unable to entertain personal inquiries pertaining to the status of individual applications.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Singers Wanted for Free Videotaped Lesson

If are a singer who is constantly experiencing the same problem in your singing, singing teacher Grace Ng promises to help you fix the problem in only 30 minutes flat. She will even use an hourglass to make sure you get the solution within the required timeframe. No cost is required, all that is asked for is that the lesson be videotaped and used as a demo of her services. Here's more information:


Dear Singers,

I need singers with chronic vocal issues for a promotional video for my private singing studio. I am going to conduct and document a 'vocal makeover'. Singers will be interviewed about their chronic vocal issues e.g. constant flatness of pitch, sharpness etc on camera and I will work on them while a camera documents the changes.

This will be a service-for-service deal. I'll clean up the chronic vocal issue while the singer agrees to appear in my 'vocal makeover' video. No payment will be made by me.

Please email me at if you're interested. In particular, I'm looking for singers who sing
a. musical theatre
b. classical music
c. pop music, in particular, Mandopop and K-pop.

Singers will only be required for 1 session. I should be able to clear up the vocal issue in about 30 minutes.

Best Regards,
Grace Ng

Sunday, September 23, 2012

PsalmiDeo Presents "Dekada" - 21 October 2012

Click to enlarge
PsalmiDeo Chorale, the ensemble made up of Filipino expats, will be celebrating their 10th anniversary with a concert on 21 October 2012 entitled Dekada (which means 'decade' in English) at the SOTA Concert Hall. Check out the Events Page for details and other concert updates.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Metropolitan Opera's "Il Trovatore (2012)" DVD in Review

Marcelo Álvarez (Manrico)
Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora)
Dolora Zajick (Azucena)
Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Il Conte di Luna)
Stefan Kocán (Ferrando)
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Marco Armiliato
Production by David McVicar

Enrico Caruso once commented that all it takes for a successful production of il Trovatore are four great voices, perhaps insinuating that there’s no point trying to make sense of its convoluted plot. This makes light of the dramatic impact of the story where extreme emotions are the motivation for the great music that accompanies the host of characters through their ill-fated experiences.

Filmed at the Metropolitan Opera in 2011 and released earlier this year, it is a very dramatically cohesive production coupled with an equally great musical performance. It is rich in detail that enhances rather than distract from the script, adding a great layer of depth to what is being sung. It’s a production that takes its source material seriously and works hard to make every character a believable human being.

With the exception of Alvarez, the other leads practically built their respective international careers through this opera, thereby meeting Caruso’s prerequisite of four great voices. It is to director David MacVicar’s credit that instead of coasting by on past experience, the cast sang and interacted with incredible chemistry, incredible detail. There is not a moment when a performer snaps out of character, not a stare that’s given without intent. Duets are sung and acted in a cohesive whole, mining every repeat for different moods and expressions.

I have read numerous posts on Parterre Box about the talents of Sondra Radvanovsky, but this is the first time I’ve seen her in a full role, and one of her calling card roles at that. I found most of the criticism of her flaws to be true: her way of phrasing the odd note just slightly below pitch, a few of them in every phrase, and an unusually fast vibrato in her timbre, so much so that I wondered why she would even attempt to do trills when her regular voice would do the trick. It’s a sound that takes a while to get used to. Strangely most of the big high notes and coloratura passages are beautifully on pitch, just when you would be expecting the worst.

If you have nothing good to say...


Placido Domingo: What is it like to perform in this new production by Robert Lepage?

Jonas Kaufmann: the acoustic is fantastic!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

OMM Brahms "Ein Deutsches Requiem" in Review (8 Sep 2012)

Arvo Pärt – Cantus in Memorium Benjamin Britten
Brahms – Ein Deutsches Requiem

Audi Young Persons' Choral Academy
Orchestra of the Music Makers
Soloists: Virgil Mischok (bar), Theresa Krügl (sop)
Chorus master: Martin Steidler
Conductor: Chan Tze Law

(My apologies to the management team for taking this long to publish the review, as I was busy moving countries to be timely)

Audi has certainly forked-out a great deal of moolah by sponsoring the choir and taking these over 70 members on tour (they performed in Taipei only a few days ago on 3 September), but for those used to performances of the Deutches Requiem where choral forces number in the hundreds, this interpretation is a decidedly slimmed-down chamber music version, very much in line with the low-fat recording by John Elliot Gardiner, only sans period instruments.

But this concert does carry a certain amount of authenticity, as one gets to hear a mostly German cast of singers perform this most Teutonic work; this is evident in the way they pronounced the text and the instinctive colour the tone takes on based on the meaning of the words.

From the opening chords of first movement Selig sind, die da Lied tragen, one can tell that this is a well-trained choir from the clear harmonic ring of the soft opening chords. However, what is missing in the first three movements is a solid core sound at the other end of the dynamic spectrum. Perhaps due to nerves or not being used to the SOTA concert hall’s acoustics, there wasn’t much variation in tone or volume as the music builds-up to louder, more forceful passages. The well-tuned piano tone was unable to swell up into a reasonably strong forte, hence what were supposed to be exciting moments were unable to catch fire, including the dramatic fugal passage that ends third movement Herr, lehre doch mich.

But just when one is ready to write-off the choir of young singers as lacking the full voices of mature adults, the members thankfully got their act together and showed off the quality of their elite training. Fully warmed-up from the fourth movement onwards, they managed to produce full fortes while maintaining a unified choral tone, no pushing or individual voices sticking out. It’s certainly a well-trained choir that can hold a show on their own, despite the early hick-ups.

Baritone Virgil Mischok has an even, full-bodied sound and enunciates clearly with meaning and intent. It’s a well-produced if small young voice, used musically and attracts your attention. Theresa Krügl has a similarly small but resonant sound, a sweet tone with a slightly dark colour and a legato that floats. Both singers sing with clarity and polished techniques, without attempting to imitate the mature voices of older singers who have sung this music.

After reading so many great things about the Orchestra of the Music Makers, it’s great that I can finally hear one of their live concerts. I’ll describe them as an outstanding young people’s orchestra, where one has to overlook some technical difficulties, such as the occasional moments of spotty intonation, in return for enthusiastic, energetic music-making (though it must be said that professional ensembles have a penchant for getting ‘pitchy’ too). The first few movements as described above dragged on, slightly messy and not much in the way of taking on a musical personality, but as the entire cast of performers warmed-up there was a very tidy, nicely balanced sound between orchestra, chorus and soloists, and the lean, clear flavour of their musical interpretation eventually surfaced.

As an opener to the concert, Arvo Pärt’s 6 minute orchestral piece Cantus in Memorium Benjamin Britten is a short but affecting piece that sets the somber mood of the evening well. Persistent beats on the chimes ring out over a repeated string motif that builds up tension through varying dynamics, tempi and harmonies, it is at once meditative, spiritual, haunting and full of grief. These feelings stay with you even as the overtones from the last chime ring fade off.

The intimate space and acoustics of the SOTA Concert Hall was also an important partner to the evening’s success, as it gave the young voices a warm glow and resonance. One wonders if the comparably small forces are able to fill-up the larger space of the Esplanade Concert Hall if it was available that night. Overall it was an evening well spent, as we got to witness this rare collaboration between such a large group of young musicians from so different parts of the world.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Anna Netrebko live at the Met" in Review

Track listing available on Deutsch Grammophon's Website

To coincide with Anna Netrebko's performanes of Anna Bolena that is their 2011/12 season opener, the Metropolitan Opera and DG released this series of live complete opera performances compiled from live radio broadcasts.

Shying away from the usual "greatest opera arias" selections, this collection focuses on lesser known ensembles, mostly in trios or quartets, creating an opportunity for a variety of 'guest' stars. The cavantinas of Qui la voce from I Puritani and the Lucia mad scene are the few solos presented here, but without their virtuosic counterparts. The Poison Aria of Romeo and Juliette is a highlight: virtuosic, powerful and full of pathos and determination. The War and Peace excerpt, taken from one of her first appearances at the Met, is a great rarity to hear.

Sound-wise the quality is as clear as any studio recording (most of them are done live these days anyway). However we are constantly reminded of the album's live nature from applause, stage noises and, in the Don Pasquale excerpt, laughter at the sight-gags which we listeners are left out of.

Of the singing, one is again reminded that these excerpts are taken completely live, and performed as part of a larger whole: the occasional late entries, sloppy intonation and the lines sung with a hint of caution. But in exchange we also get the visceral thrill of live performances, as the singers get swept away in the rush of it all. This is most apparent in Juliette's Poison Aria and the equally dramatic act 3 trio of Rigoletto, where Netrebko as Gilda considers herself a prime candidate to be murdered by assassins in place of the libertine Duke. The storm and stress that conductor Asher Fisch drew from the Met orchestra is quite stunning.

As for the voice, it's very much the one we have become familiar with, only stripped of the benefits of studio wizardry. Rich and full in colour especially in her middle range but having a somewhat cavalier approach to pronunciation, adept at dramatic outbursts and playing to the audience but not enough depth or subtlety at required moments, Anna Netrebko shows that she's as much a live performer as she is a recording artist. Another highlight for me is the chance to hear other top stars like Juan Diego Florez, Roberto Alagna, Joseph Calleja, Mariusz Kwiecien and Piotr Beeczala in collaboration with Netrebko, outside of their usual repertoire of arias.

There are better versions of the Boheme scenes (Donde Lieta and O Soave Fanciulla) to be found elsewhere including those of her own recordings, but for everything else, what's on offer here is really quite a pleasant listen. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Interview with Theresa Krügl and Virgil Mischok

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Theresa Krügl and Virgil Mischok are promising young singers who are part of the Audi Youth Choir that will appear with the Orchestra of Music Makers to perform the solos of the Brahms's A German Requiem on 6 September 2012 (tomorrow!) We have a short chat with them.

The Mad Scene: Firstly please introduce yourself in your own words, including your nationality, age, current place of work or study, and how you landed this gig in Singapore.

Theresa: My name is Theresa Krügl, I´m from Germany. I´m 21 years old and I am studying singing in Vienna at the music university with Prof. Gabriele Lechner. I started singing at the age of 15. Since the Audi Jugendchorakademie was founded in 2008, I have been a member of the choir. This was very important for my musical education. I also learned that singing is not only hard business, but also a lot of fun. Of course it makes me very happy and proud that they asked me to sing the soprano solo part this year.

Virgil: I´m Virgil Mischok, 23 years old and I sudy singing with Prof. Andreas Schmidt in Munich, Germany. The Audi Jugendchorakademie was the choir where I starded singing in 2008, and so it was a dream coming true when they asked me to sing the solo part in the Brahms Requiem.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

SLO Manon Lescaut Review (31 Aug 2012)

Its SLO season again and opening night was a fantastic reward for all the build-up leading to it. E. Loren Meeker and Joshua Kangming Tan did a great job leading their forces. Many other websites and newspapers will be publishing their own reviews soon, so rather than bore you with another in-depth analysis, Hawk and I just sat down and had a chat about it.


Steven: So... first impression?