Opera in the Park 2017: Interview with Conductor Joshua Tan

With this year being the tenth iteration of Opera in the Park, Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO) has curated a programme which celebrates the talent and energy of our youth. Featuring winners from the Open and Junior categories of the SLO-ASEAN Vocal Competition 2016, together with the SLO Chorus and Children’s Choir, Opera in the Park promises a selection of classical favourites that will entertain and delight the whole family. 

I contacted conductor Joshua Tan to find out more about this year’s programme. 

Joshua Tan

Could you explain the process of coming up with the programme for Opera in the Park?

Ms Nancy Yuen (Hon. Artistic Director) spoke to the singers, and discussed what will be suitable for their voices. Then we came together and agreed on the overall suitability of the program.  

With this being your seventh Opera in the Park, how has the show evolved over time? Any fond memories that stand out?

The SLO has always tried to showcase young talents for Opera in the Park, and my fondest memories or experiences have always been marvelling at how far all the previous singers have come.  

If you could only pick one favourite piece from this year’s programme, which one would it be and why? 

That’s an extremely difficult question! I like all of them. It’s almost impossible to choose a favourite. I love Puccini so you can put O Mio Babbino Caro on the list. At the same time, I love listening to other genres, so the selection from Phantom of the Opera also features. The Verdi selections showcase wonderful chorus writing, so that has to be in too!

You were one of the judges for the SLO-Asean Vocal Competition 2016. What are your impressions of the winners? Is there anything interesting that you’ve learnt about music from rehearsing with them? 

They were all very deserving winners, but it’s a long arduous road ahead for all of them. I did not rehearse with them for the competition, but listening to such fresh interpretations of familiar works certainly gives me some other ideas!

With this iteration being geared towards a celebration of youth, what do you think are some of the promises and challenges that the future will hold for upcoming opera singers and orchestra players? 

I don’t think that the challenges have changed so much throughout the years. There has always been immense competition for orchestral jobs, and professional engagements for opera singers are hard to come by for anyone who’s just starting out. For those on the cusp of a professional career, there are many sacrifices to be made since the very nature of the job demands one to be constantly on the move. 

Opera in the Park 

Conductor   Joshua Kangming Tan

Featuring winners from the Open and Junior categories of the SLO-ASEAN Vocal
Competition 2016

Open Category Winner    Izen Kong
Open Category Winner     Zhang Jie
Junior Category Winner    Lauren Yeo
Junior Category Winner    Melissa Hecker

With the Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Children’s Choir

Chorus Master    Terrence Toh

Children’s Choir Mistress    Rose Loh

Programme

Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore
Overture
Bel conforto al mietitore

Rossini’s La Gazzetta, O lusinghiero amor

Bellini’s La Sonnambul , Ah! Non credea mirarti

Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Voi che sapete

Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Com’è gentil

Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, O mio babbino caro

Verdi’s Aida
Gloria all’Egitto
Egyptian March (Overture)
Vieni, o guerriero vindice

This concert is subject to weather conditions. Programme may not be in order of performance. Artistes and Programme are subject to change.

Opera in the Park is on Saturday, 17 July 2017, 6 p.m., at Singapore Botanical Gardens. Free admission. For more details, please visit Singapore Lyric Opera

[Listing] Singapore Lyric Opera’s 2016 Opera Ball

SLO Opera Ball
Singapore Lyric Opera is dedicating it’s annual Opera Ball this year to its late founding chairman, Mr. Leow Siak Fah. The event will be held at the St. Regis Hotel, John Jacob Ballroom on Friday, 11th March 2016.
 
This special evening will feature excerpts from operas fondly associated with Mr. Leow – including well-known operas like “O Sole Mio,”  “Granada,” and concert favourite “Mattinata“. This year’s exciting line-up includes SLO’s first Honorary Artistic Director, Nancy Yuen, as well as tenor extraordinaires Peter Ong,Melvin Tan and Reuben Lai, accompanied by distinguished local pianist, Rena Phua. The late chairman’s wife herself, Dr Ling Ai Ee, will be the guest pianist while their grand daughter, Caitlyn Tan, will be making a special appearance singing “Never Never Land” from Peter Pan.
 
Gracing the event will be Guest-of-Honour, SLO’s Patron-In-Chief, Mr. S R Nathan who has been very supportive of SLO’s work and whose presence has been a great source of encouragement for the institution. 
 
Part of the proceeds from the event will contribute to the establishment of the “SLO – Leow Siak Fah Young Artists Programme“, a performance-based training programme to support the artistic development of talented young Singaporean singers, providing opportunities for them to hone their craft and gain experience on the professional stage. In addition, the SLO is initiating the inaugural “SLO – ASEAN Vocal Competition 2016” – a competition open to citizens and permanent residents in the ASEAN regions which will help talent spot singers of all ages in the region, establishing Singapore as a singing hub. The final will take place on the 2nd of October 2016, on our very own little red dot. 
For booking information, visit Singapore Lyric Opera’s website.

[Listing] Winter Wonderland by Singapore Lyric Opera’s Children’s Choir

Winter Wonderland

With a bit of sparkly tinsel and a sprinkling of snow, the beautiful merry voices of the children from SLO, proudly present- Winter Wonderland! Under the baton of choral conductor Ms Rose Loh, and accompanied by pianist Aloysius Foong, this year the SLO Children’s Choir together with Project W, a Singaporean musical ensemble of 20 musicians, are all set to entertain you with an eclectic mix of songs.

What is a Winter Wonderland concert without tunes from the famous “Frozen” phenomenon, popularised by Disney? Highlights of our programme include the enchanting Frozen theme song, Eatnemen Vuelie by Norwegian musician Frode Fjellheim and not forgetting, the global musical epidemic, “Let It Go”. The children will also be singing traditional favourites that reflect the wonders and emotions of the winter season, both sacred and secular. These include Italian carol Dormi Dormi, Mary Where Is Your Baby, composed by Dan Edwards and This Little Babe a movement from Benjamin Britten’s, A Ceremony of Carols. In support of our local talent, SLOCC will also be presenting two Singaporean compositions.

So do join us for a fantastical paradise as the children spread festive cheer and herald the good tidings of Christmas!

Programme List

A Cuckoo Flew Out of the Woods              arr. B Wayne Bisbee

Dormi Dormi                                                       arr. Mary Goetze

Rise Up, Shepherd and Follow                     arr. Mark Hahn

Mid-Winter                                                          Bob Chilcott

This Little Babe                                                   Benjamin Britten

O Great Mystery                                                 Nancy Telfer

All Things Bright and Beautiful                    Phillip Silvey

Land of Joy                                                            Zechariah Goh

Little Tree                                                               Daniel Drewbaker

Gonna Catch That Santa                                Andy Beck

For the Beauty of the Earth                           John Rutter

INTERVAL

Special Item by Project W Sin Jin How

When All the World Is Full of Snow          David V Montoya

Hanget Soi (Singing Snow)                            arr. AuvoSamanto

Let It Go                                                                  arr. MacHuff

Frozen (Choral Suite)                                        adapted by Roger Emerson

In Summer                                                             arr. Alan Billingsley

Christmas Is (Sing-along)                                arr. MacHuff

 

Catch Winter Wonderland on 5 December 2015 at SOTA Concert Hall. For more ticketing information, visit Sistic.

[Listing] Singapore Lyric Opera’s 25th Anniversary Gala Concert

SLO 25

This November, Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO) is excited to celebrate its 25th anniversary in the Esplanade Concert Hall with its greatest Gala Concert yet.

In celebration of this momentous occasion, multi-award winning local conductor, Joshua Kangming Tan, will lead the orchestra and singers in a night to remember with highlights and excerpts from over 20 operas staged by SLO in the last quarter century from the great composers – Mozart, Puccini, Lehar, Verdi, and including Singapore’s own, Leong Yoon Pin.

After 25 successful years of presenting some of the best western operas, SLO celebrates its silver jubilee with a sumptuous programme put together by Nancy Yuen, SLO’s first Honorary Artistic Director, reprising her role as the lead soprano for this year’s concert.

Joining Nancy Yuen on the stage will be some of the region’s best opera singers including, internationally acclaimed South Korean tenor, Lee Jae Wook and veteran Singaporean mezzo-soprano, Anna Koor. The line-up will also include two baritones extraordinaire, South Korean Song Kee Chang and our very own, Martin Ng.

Some of the excerpts and highlights include:

Hai già vinta la causa from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro

E lucevan le stele from Puccini’s Tosca

Votre toast from Bizet’s Carmen

Les voici from Bizet’s Carmen

Che gelida manina from Puccini’s La Bohème

O soave fanciulla from Puccini’s La Bohème

Vogliatemi bene from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly

Nessun dorma from Puccini’s Turandot

Catch SLO’s 25th Anniversary Gala Concert on 13 November 2015 at Esplanade Concert Hall. For more ticketing information, visit Sistic.

The Mad Chinaman Returns!

MAD CHINAMAN COVER 002

Having been involved with The LKY Musical and this year’s National Day Parade, Dick Lee decides to take a trip down memory lane by reviving a concert which charts his musical journey from his childhood in the 1960s to the release of his album, The Mad Chinaman, in 1989. This revival promises all of Lee’s well-known songs with an extended storyline and a bigger band.

In the midst of his preparations, Lee generously granted this email interview (his responses have been lightly edited).

For those who are unfamiliar with your earlier work, why present yourself as The Mad Chinaman?

The concert is based on my autobiography which traces my musical journey and explains how I ended up with that nickname. This also happens to be the title of my 1989 album that introduced me to the Asian market.

Will you be writing new songs for this upsized version?

I will be performing songs from my career, including a few cover versions of songs that inspired me.

Your career in Singapore really took off after your success in Japan. Do you think it’s easier for local musicians to gain recognition now without first making a name abroad?

I think being accepted abroad is a kind of validation, but it depends on the genre. For example, a Chinese pop act would not be popular amongst the non-Chinese in Singapore. It is still important to establish yourself in your home country, I think, before other countries can accept you.

What are some aspects of the local music industry that need improvement?

We always complain about lack of exposure and local media support, but to be fair, I think they give all they can give. Finally, it all boils down to the quality of the music. When that improves, the support grows naturally.

If you are given three words to describe the Singapore sound. What would they be?

Tropical. Asian. Bright.

What is one advice you would give to your younger self?

Be Fearless (I guess I was anyway). Then, be MORE fearless!

Are you working on any exciting projects that your fans can look forward to?

For the first time, I’ll be directing the fifth production of my 1988 musical, Beauty World (written with Michael Chiang), the second play in my family trilogy, and my first movie.

 

Catch Dick Lee: The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman Upsized on 3 September, 7:30pm at the Esplanade Concert Hall. For ticketing information, visit Sistic.

[Review] Lea Salonga Sings With Her Heart on Her Sleeve

lea salonga concert

Lea Salonga in Concert

22 May 2015

Esplanade Concert Hall

Run: 22-23 May 2015

“It’s ok if you don’t understand a single word,” assures Salonga before a medley of Filipino songs, “we as a people wear our hearts on our sleeves.” With a programme comprising pop songs, jazz, Disney, and show tunes, there is undoubtedly a lot of heart in her renditions.

From the opening jazz number, Feelin’ Good, she makes her approach to the songs clear. Rather than taking this opportunity to pull out all the stops and belt it out in its full jazzy glory, she decides to sing it straight—no frills, just music.

She lets the effort and ingenuity of the composers, lyricists, and the arranger (who happens to be her brother, Gerard Salonga) do the talking. And she backs them up by displaying an exquisite sense of control and technique.

She moves across various registers effortlessly—her high notes are not shrill but really powerful while every word can be heard when she sings in the lower register. She sustains her long notes very well while colouring it with a gorgeous vibrato. With such skill, who needs to engage in vocal gymnastics to prove a point?

Despite her straightforward approach, she does not lack in showmanship. While the concert hall has seen grand recitals, Salonga’s candour and personality turns the sizeable space into an intimate one. Despite her fame, she is open with anecdotes from her personal life and has no qualms about teasing her brother. No shout-out from the audience is left unanswered. In fact, she encourages it and one lucky chap, Kim, got to be Aladdin for the night in A Whole New World.

One of the highlights has got to be songs from Les Misérables. Having played Eponine and Fantine, singing One My Own or I Dreamed a Dream would be a natural choice. Being a crowd-pleaser, she sings a medley of both songs. Being familiar with the songs, I thought it would be quite difficult to merge them without an abrupt break. However, that is where the brilliance of music director Gerard Salonga comes in as the transition felt natural and well chosen.

Aside from pleasing the crowd, I realise that putting both songs together should be a natural choice. Both characters are roughly about the same age when they sing their respective songs and they are about lost loves. While Fantine is utterly dejected by the end of her song, both girls still dream about having their men by their side.

It is such a beautiful coincidence that my first introduction to Salonga is through the 10th Anniversary concert DVD and now, the Salongas—both Lea and Gerard—have given me a renewed appreciation of the musical.

Despite listening to a slew of crowd favourites, what really got to me was Mr Bojangles. Salonga prefaces the song by sharing an anecdote about young Robin Williams being a mime at Central Park, New York. Days after his death, his friend who was his fellow mime then wrote a touching tribute. While I was hoping that she gave her own personal anecdote of Williams, her soulful rendition of the song really got me in knots. All I could think of was: please Mr Bojangles, just one more dance?

Clearly, Salonga’s artistry does not just lie in her singing but also in the way she plans her programme and introduces them.

The lady sitting beside me, who unfortunately decides to sing along with Salonga for a quarter of the programme, remarks that Salonga is mesmerising. While I cannot agree with her singing, I wholeheartedly concur with her opinion.