Friday, June 15, 2018

Interview Feature - Soprano Christina Thè



Our correspondent Alvin Koh interviewed Singaporean-Australian soprano Christina Thè, currently serving as artist-in-residence at New Opera Singapore and will be featured in their upcoming production of Dialogues of the Carmelites, 3 and 5 August 2018. Check out their exchange below!






The Mad Scene: Hi Christina! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Christina Thè: Hey readers of The Mad Scene!

I am a lyric coloratura soprano, I recently relocated back to Singapore from Australia. Currently I am the Artist-in-Residence of the New Opera Singapore (NOS), an opportunity I am most grateful for. I've had my training overseas, mainly in the UK, Italy, and Australia. Absolutely love spending time with family and friends here!

The Mad Scene: I am glad! Christina, you are lyric coloratura. What is this fach and could u tell us more about it briefly and the training you had?

Christina Thè: To put it simply, it's the kind of soprano voice that's agile, light, and fast, and can go very high (has a very high upper extension). With typical roles such as (but not limited to) the tragic young lover Juliette (Romeo et Juliette), the human doll Olympia (Tales of Hofffmann) and the sorceress Alcina (Alcina). These fachs are guidelines only and many singers are able to do neighbouring fachs (for example I can do Mimi which is lyric) so long it's within the comfort zone of the texture of their voice.

I've had training in the UK and Italy, but as for recent years I've been training in Australia where I was (prior to relocating back to Singapore) with a retired principal opera singer of Opera Australia where she performed major roles only for over 20 years. My teacher and mentor is Polish-Australian mezzo-soprano Jolanta Nagajek, to whom I singularly credit my current coloratura extension and repertoire. She trained me in the Italian method of bel canto technique (very similar to the approach of those I learned in Italy especially in the school of Mirella Freni's). Jolanta Nagajek's specialty is to create students capable of singing Mozart's Queen of the Night (which I have sung in concert in Singapore quite a few times this year - see Fort Canning Park concert- as it seems to be a popular well-known tune).

Classical singers are vocal athletes so it's a neverending life-long journey of study, coaching, and perfecting one's skill. The quest for vocal self-improvement does not finish even when we've obtain our masters degrees. I feel it is a privilege to have the opportunity to keep learning.


The Mad Scene: New Opera Singapore (NOS) is a relatively new addition in the thriving opera scene in Singapore. Can you enlighten us about it and your past engagements with NOS? How is it like working with NOS and the previous opera companies you worked with?

Christina Thè: Yes, New Opera Singapore has been around for 7 to 8 years. It is a recipient of the National Arts Council's Major Grant, and I am most honoured to be part of this vibrant Singaporean opera company that under our director Jeong Ae-Ree has produced many new initiatives and new takes on this classical art form of singing. Their contribution are an important part of the artistic scene in Singapore and in Asia.

They introduce gems of operas that can be seen overseas but the audience here perhaps have not seen it performed locally in Singapore, such as our production of the Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea last year and this coming August's Dialogue of the Carmelites, that we are deep in rehearsals in.

NOS stages their operas out of Victoria Theatre, a most beautiful setting in Singapore, an iconic venue being Singapore's first and it's original 'opera house' in a way.

My first engagement with NOS was for this art songs concert at the Aliwal Arts Centre, CabaRed. A concert in red... with a performance area that emulates the french night cafes where singers perform in close proximity to the audience and the audience sat in cafes tables the performance area, just like in France in those days I'd imagine. They sat drinking wine as we sang. It was velvelty, smoldering, and sexy. A most original idea reaching out to broader audience, some songs with a bit of a risque theme as befitting the era. not a very typically stiff setting that most would expect.

This is why I suppose the word 'New' is incorporated into the company name. Something fresh in the arts scene in Singapore, a new take of opera, always something different.


The Mad Scene: At the present, what are the engagements you will be involved in with NOS in the very near future? Can you tell us a little of the challenges and rewards in preparing for them?

Christina Thè: I'm looking forward to the New World concert at the Lee Foundation Theatre on 7 July 2018, 7.30pm. We will be performing with the NOS Chamber Orchestra conducted by Mr Chan Wei Shing.

And next on the 3rd and 5th of August 2018, I will be performing in the most anticipated NOS production this year, Dialogues of the Carmelites, a french opera by Francis Poulenc which we will present in English. It is an epic story of the life and martyrdom of a group of nuns during the French Revolution (note: Christina will sing the role of Sr Constance on 5th of August, the 3rd is an alternate guest cast from France).

In preparing all of these performances, I've been so fortunate to be working with such a great bunch of colleagues and team members that every experience is a pleasure!

The Mad Scene: What do u like about Singapore? Does the climate here affect or enhance your professional practice?

Christina Thè: Good food, friends, family, nightlife and safety for women... people should be more grateful for what Singapore has to offer. Climate is great, not dry. I've got no complaints!

The Mad Scene: Besides performing, what else would you like to do in Singapore when you have other opportunities?

I would like to contribute more to the arts scene in Singapore, especially through my artist residency with NOS, and to hopefully increase awareness and audience reach for this art form locally.

Through the residency with NOS, I've participated in school educational outreach programs around Singapore, titled Who's Afraid of Opera?? (Such as one in Dunman High). It was very well received and both the students and us had so much fun. Would love to do more of these.

NOS also contributes to the community by working with a voluntary charitable program for underprivileged teenagers where we taught them proper singing. It's very rewarding to see them progress and that for that one hour a week, they are able to just enjoy themselves singing, away from all the problems of their world.

The Mad Scene: We have come to the end of this lovely interview! Can you give us two good reasons why we MUST watch Dialogues of the Carmelites?

Christina Thè: This performance of Dialogues of the Carmelites is a fully-staged national premiere of the opera in Singapore, with a stellar handpicked cast, names you'd recognize in Singapore. Finally, the ending is super drama..don't miss out!

We very much hope to 'transport' you to another time for a couple of hours. Bring your mom, bring a date, or friends... or just come by yourself. If you do, please come and say hi to us after the performance at the stage door! We'd love to get to know our audience and thank them!



More information about Christina Thé can be found on https://sopranochristinathe.com and on Facebook at Soprano Christina Thé.

Tickets for Dialogues of the Carmelites are available at https://www.sistic.com.sg/events/cdoc0818.



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