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What? 3 operas to be performed in 1 hour?
I was invited by Akiko to their rehearsal of their upcoming opera 'Honestly! 3 Operas, 1 Hour'. It was my pleasure to chat with Reuben Lai and Akiko Otao.
Reuben is a Singaporean professional tenor. Akiko is a Japanese professional soprano. Both are the founders of this new chamber opera company, L'Arietta.
They will present a triple billsof chamber operas titled "Honestly! 3 Operas, 1 Hour" on 2 April 2016. These contemporary operas explore the ideas that we never really say what we mean. It will feature international musicians including Reuben Lai (Singapore), Brent Alcock (New Zealand), Angela Hodgins (USA) and Akiko Otao (Japan/USA) with pianist Wayne Teo (Singapore) and director Jameson Soh (Singapore).
L'Arietta Productions' Honestly! 3 Operas, 1 Hour
Programme: Samuel Barber: Hand of Bridge Akiko Otao – Geraldine Reuben Lai - David Brent Allcock – Bill
Angela Hodgins – Sally
Joseph Horovitz: Gentlemen's Island Reuben Lai – Peter Gray
Brent Allcock – Montague Somers
Chen Zhangyi: Window Shopping
Angela Hodgins - the Woman
Akiko Otao – the Girl
Director: Jameson Soh
Accompanist: Wayne Teo
Barber's "A Hand of Bridge" is a story of two married couples who were stuck in unhappy marriages playing cards every night set in post-war America. The duration of the show is 10 minutes. It seems to be a simple story, as the story goes there's a not lot happening as the characters slowly reveal themselves.
Gentleman's Island is a comedic opera created by Joseph Horovitz. The story centres on two men from Victorian Era who were survivors of a shipwreck and ended on a deserted island. They were unable to converse as nobody introduced them! They were bound by social etiquette. It was a formality in that era. Finally they find a way to communicate and co-operate.
Window Shopping is a work by Singaporean composer Chen Zhangyi with libretto by Jack Lin. It contrasts the ways in which both a woman and a girl shop for shoes. Catch them ponder about their lives, shoes and priorities in a beautiful shoe shop. How many pairs of shoes can a woman really want? It is all about consumerism.
Here are excerpts of our interviews: Culture Creative (CC): Tell me how and when you decided to form L'Arietta?
Reuben: I met Akiko four years ago. The community for talents in the arts industry is small. In 2015 we decided to form our own group to do our own stuff.
Akiko: We intend to create a platform for Singapore artists. Through L'Arietta Productions we want to bring a new perspective of opera. It needs not to be grand or perceived as boring. L'Arietta means "little song" in Italian, and we believe that we can tell stories intimately through chamber operas, after all, opera is the love child of theatre and music!
CC: Could you share about the actors? And where you find them?
Akiko: Both I and Reuben teach in the School of the Arts (SOTA). We got to know the people often from a circle of friends.
Reuben: Brent is a singer with Singapore Lyric Orchestra. I teach in SOTA and NAFA.
Akiko: Brent has a full time job in another field. (Laugh) I see him performing more now. Angela teaches at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and SOTA. All of us are professionals with many years of experiences.
CC: Tell me more about this upcoming production.
Reuben: Typically a double bill takes about 2 hours and a triple bill 3 hours. "Honestly! 3 Opera, 1 Hour" is a triple bill featuring operas by Horovitz, Chen Zhangyi and Samuel Barber. Each of these will be performed in the duration 30 minutes, 20 minutes, and 10 minutes. And that makes up 1 hour with 3 operas!
CC: What is your role?
Akiko: I and Angela will be performing in Window Shopping. I took up the role of the older lady in the same production when it premiered in 2014. This time I will play the role of younger lady and Angela will take the woman role. It is not really about the shoes!
Reuben: I and Brent will perform in Gentleman's Island. Four of us will act in Barber's "A Hand of Bridge".
Reuben Lai (left) and Brent Allcock (right) in rehearsal for Gentleman's Island
CC: Who is the director? And how long you all have been practising?
Reuben: Jameson is our director. He has a lot of experience in our industry. We started to practice since January.
CC: How about the costumes and sets?
Akiko: Yes, we prepare it ourselves.
CC: Do you find people supporting this production?
Akin: We got to know some people through our friends. For example, the accompanist, Wayne, he just returned to Singapore after his study in France. We do not have an orchestra to play for us, only the pianist. This is all our teamwork and efforts in making this production successful.
CC: Thank you for inviting me!
Akiko: Thanks for coming
Here are the casts' brief biography:
Akiko is a Japanese-born soprano who lived most of her life in America. She picked up musical theatre and drama there and later graduated Summa Cum Laude in Music Education with Vocal Emphasis from the Hartt School at the University of Hartford. She moved to Singapore in 2011 after the tremendous tsunami struck her homeland. Currently she holds a position of adjunct lecturer at the School of the Arts (SOTA). She portrayed Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank by Russian composer Grigory Frid at the Singapore International Festival of Music.
Reuben received his further studies at the Guildhall in London and at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He was the first Singaporean recipient of Samling scholarship. He was the runner up for the prestigious Ye Cronies Opera Prize. To date, he has involved as a singer in various concerts and productions held in UK and Singapore. Currently he holds a position of adjunct lecturer at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). He teaches in SOTA and NUS Centre for the Arts. He sings with Singapore Lyric Opera.
Brent is a native New Zealander who is a Permanent Resident in Singapore. The baritone singer had received a scholarship from the New Zealand Arts Council to study in Italy. He won more than fifty awards in Australia and New Zealand. Over the years he has performed with various operas in the region including Singapore Lyric Orchestra. He has a day job in the financial industry.
Angela is an American mezzo-soprano who teaches at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and the School of the Arts.
It was a pleasant evening spent with the cast and their production team members. It is just one hour show on Saturday and it is on Orchard Road, the most famous shopping belt in Singapore. Book your ticket now and you will find yourself entertained with good stories and beautiful vocals!