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'

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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.