KLCO NEWS: Something For the Young Ones

A bit of musing by chorus member Aldwin Lee

Fresh off the high of our collaborative concert with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the recent Malaysian Men’s Choral Festival, the 1st of its kind, we were immediately thrust back to work at KLCO, this time in preparation for the rest of the 2018 season, which includes the kiddie-friendly opera Hansel and Gretel, some Rossini festival, and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Today, however, I’m just going to rant a bit about Hansel and Gretel, which will bring us back to KLPAC once again on the 5th, 7th and 8th July.

Hansel and Gretel will prove to be an interesting production for us, as for once, it is a mainly-female cast, which includes the chorus. Guess they’re finally giving the men a sort-of-a-break. Populating the cast is a lot of familiar faces. In fact, they are all familiar faces. While I will enjoy working once more with the likes of Chaing Yi Ling and Ho Chi Mei as the titular siblings, Bui Yik Ling (the Sleep Fairy), Cynthia Tan (the Mother), Sandy Cheng (the Dew Fairy) and Samuel Lim (the Father), the most interesting of the lot to look forward to is jazz songbird Janet Lee, whom I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and photographing many of her shows. When her role as the gingerbread witch was revealed, it came as no surprise for I knew she had the perfect character (and cackling laughter) to pull it off.

Leading us musically is our favourite Colombian conductor. Yet again, he has come to grace us with his Juan-derful sense of timing and laid-back spirit. No doubt he would be reminding us again to keep eyes on him as we frolic on the stage.  Speaking of the stage, Chris Ling, our director is yet another old face (don’t tell him I said that) whose gentle-yet-stern, purposeful and clear guidance will serve us useful in portraying our on-stage personae.

There is a thought that often disturbed me a bit. How is the opera meant to be kid-friendly when the main premise is of an evil witch plotting to fatten up children before eating them, as well as her penultimate death being shoved into an oven and roasted alive, while the heroes dance in celebration as this happens? Guess its part and parcel of a fairy-tale. But then again, considering what Engelbert Humperdinck (not to be confused with the pop singer who take up the same name a century later) had to work with regarding the source material which is oftentimes violent, depressing and Grimm (forgive me), I’ll give him a pass. The fact that the opera is normally performed in English even though Humperdinck was German is also greatly welcomed.

Tickets to the production will range from RM108 to RM148 on the 5th July, while the 7th and 8th shows are RM128 to RM168. Interestingly though, for the first time in KLCO, we’re apparently introducing a Family Fun Day show on the afternoon of the 7th July, where the opera will be condensed into a shorter, concise and more easily digested format, sort of like a sampler or a fast-food version. This goes for RM88 and is aimed at families as a way to tease the main show and maybe get them to watch the full production, or maybe audiences who aren’t able to stomach sitting down the duration of a full-fledged opera. This shouldn’t be a problem with Hansel and Gretel as this work is considerably lighter-hearted than most other operas and is generally more accessible to the non-enthusiast of opera.

Fun for the whole family indeed. I’ll be looking forward to the production and watching adults and kids laugh and smile at our on-stage antics. For ticketing information, check out www.ticketpro.com.my or call 03-4047 9000.

KLCO News Jan/Feb 2018

KL City Opera is excited to announce its 2018 season! 

Starting with a challenging engagement of Rachmaninov Russian Bells and scenes from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra featuring international soloists, Tatiana Pavlovskaya, soprano; Irina Shishkova, contralto; Pavel Cernoch, tenor; Alexey Markov, baritone and our very own Kuala Lumpur City Opera Chorus under the baton of conductor, Stanislav Kochanovsky. Besides managing vocal parts that splits into three, the most challenging part is mastering the Russian diction. Thank you to our language coach, Alsu Kachapova and chorus master, Chi Hoe Mak for preparing the chorus. Concert is on March 3 & 4 and with the Chinese New Year in February, we do not have much time left. Please come and support us.

While we are busy with our rehearsals, the Musica Viva Hong Kong International Vocal Competition opens for application in December and closing date is 10 February 2018. Grand prize money is US$15,000 and the panel of juror consist of legendary opera stars such as Dame Kiri Tekanawa and Sumi Jo. Calling all budding young singers! This is your chance to shine.

Besides that the Accademia Rossiniana Alberto Zedda summer program in conjunction with the annual Rossini Festival in Pesaro is also open for application. Closing date is February 7, 2018. Successful applicants will have a opportunity to attend master classes with renown singers such as Maestro Ernesto Palacio and opera mega superstar, Juan Diego Florez. There are some discussions going on between KLCO and the Rossini Festival committee. We hope that a collaboration is in sight.

We are also looking forward to commence rehearsal in April for our first opera production of the year, Hansel & Gretel. More updates in the next edition of our newsletter. For more information, please check our Facebook page and respective webpage.

KLCO News Mar/Apr 2017 - OperaKUL 2017

OperaKUL started in 2016 with the aim of promoting the awareness of opera in the country. With a bazaar packed with stalls selling food, drinks, services, knick-knacks and even a costume booth for taking photos, the festival’s mainstay was comprised of talks, workshops and performances by established names in the choral and classical music scenes such as Ang Mei Foong, Chi Hoe Mak, Susanna Saw and performances by the Yin Qi Choir, KL City Opera Principal singers and chorus. Returning for a second year, even bigger and better, OperaKUL brings you a very special guest all the way from Italy.

Nicoletta Conti

Born in Bologna, Nicoletta Conti studied pianoforte, composition and conducting at the ConservatorioGieseppe Verdi in Milan a nd the Conservatorio di Musica G.B. Martini in Bologna. She also graduated from the University of Bologna in Musical Aesthe tics at DAMS (disciplines of art, music and drama), Faculty of Literature and Philosophy at the University of Bologna, Musicology (with the equivalent  of a Master’s Degree). She went on to continue her studies in conducting with Franco Ferrara (Siena), Le opold Hager (Salzburg), Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa and Kurt Masur (Tanglewood). Winner of numerous prizes, including, inter alia, the First Prize Musica da Camera ͞Citta di Stresa͟, the Third Prize at Nicolai Malko for Orchestra Conductors (Copenhagen) , she began her career as a conductor in Italy and abroad, dedicating herself both to the operatic and symphonic repertoire. Following the conductor’s course held by Leonard Bernstein at I’Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, she was chosen by Maestro Bernstein to be his assistant conductor and make her debut with the ͞Orchestra dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia͟. At the Capitol she received the prestigious Minerva Prize for the arts, the first Italian musician to be awarded it. In 2006,  she received the honor of ͞CavalieredellaRepubblicaItaliana͟ by the President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. She has since collaborated with important festivals and theatres, including Covent Garden, TeatroComunale in Florence and Bologna, Rossini Opera Festival and the Festival of the Itria Valley.

She combines her operatic work with a concert career, and has appeared alongside Luciano Pavarotti, Renato Bruson, Leo Nucci  and Daniela Dessi. Orchestras she has conducted include, Orchestra Arturo Toscanini, Orchestra of th e Arena di Verona, the Tanglewood Music Festival Orchestra, Orchestra Regionale Toscana, the Kiushu Symphony Orchestra, the Hungarian Symphonic Orchestra, Orchestra Sinfonica Citta di Ferrara, Orchestra da Camera di Bologna, Orhestra ͞I Filarmonici di Bologna͟, Orchestra Filarmonica di Torino, Rishon Le Tzion Orchestra, Orchestra ͞I PomeriggiMusicali di Milano͟, StuttgarterFilarmoniker. Most recently, she has conducted Don Giovanni by Gazzaniga at the TeatroRegio di Torino, two contemporary operas in their p remiere performances at the Festival Mozart di Rovereto and at TeatroComunale di Bologna, Nabucco and Madama Butterfly in the Beppe d e Tomasi production at Teatro di Ascoli Piceno and Teatro di Fano.In August 2000, she assisted Maestro Antonio Pappano in London for the recording of the CD and film of Tosca with the Orchestra of Covent Garden. Maestro Conti received great acclaim when she conducted Madama Butterfly at the International Festival at Montepulciano. In August 2001, Maestro Conti assisted Maestr o Pappano with the London Symphony Orchestra for the recording of Il Trovatore and most recently conducted a concert in Lisbon with Angela Gheorgiu. She conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the double bill of I Pagliacci and SuorAngelicaa for Oper a Holland Park, and in a production of La Belle Helene and some Gala Concerts in Tokyo with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.  Most recently, she has conducted the Orchestra of TeatroLirico di Cagliari, the Israel Symphony Orchestra of RishonLeZion, th e Haydn Orchestra in Bolzano, the Verdi Orchestra in Milan, a production of ͞La Tragedie de Carmen͟ with the direction of Franco Ripa di Meana.  In 2009, Nicoletta Conti conducted the annual concert for the European Parliament, when not regularly. In Mar 2010,  Nicoletta was selected as one of the three candidates for the position of Director of Orchestral Activities at Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. While conducting regularly in Japan, this season, Nicoletta will conduct Lucia di Lammermoor for Opera Sai Company in Tokyo and give a talk about the work at the Italian Institute of Culture in Tokyo.

KLCO News Mar/Apr 2017 - Bring on the Festivities!

What a blast the KL City Opera Chorus had in January’s performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute with the Malaysia Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) at DewanFilharmonik Petronas. With world class talent from distant lands like Russia,  Australia and the United States, audiences were just blown away at the show-stopping performances. Up next in April is the 2nd installment of Malaysia’s first Opera themed festival: OperaKUL. Bringing in new and also familiar names to conduct talks, workshops and performances, the festival shall prove its worth once more in promoting opera awareness to the Malaysian scene. To th is effect, the KLCO Chorus is already underway in its rehearsal for the programme, alongside other choirs and performers.  A special guest at this year’s OperaKUL is Italian–born conductor Nicoletta Conti who racked up an astounding track record of conducting numerous orchestras and operas around the world. A rare treat! For her presence here marks an affordable opportunity to learn from experts of the operatic and classical scene.  Tickets can be booked through our website on http://klcityopera.com/.

Magic Flute: Behind the Curtains

A chorus member shares his experience on what it’s like to perform with the most prestigious orchestra and esteemed international singers.

I still remember the day the news was broken to us. It was during our mid-2016 collaborative performance with the Selangor Philharmonic Orchestra that we were told we were going to be performing the Magic Flute in the prestigious DewanFilharmonik P etronas in KLCC, alongside the esteemed Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. I couldn’t believe it. Was it for real? Are we ready for the seemingly high standards of that venue?

Upon completing our main opera of 2016, La Boheme, we immediately set ourselves t owards rehearsing for the Magic Flute. This would be the first time we sing in German. As our chorus master Mak Chi Hoe works his way through the pieces, it becomes clear that the language itself would prove to be more challenging than the notes, what with the manipulation of the tongue to create sounds that you wouldn’t use in English, or even Italian or French. At the end of each rehearsal, you could swear that your tongues ended up in knots.

Eventually as it draws closer to showtime, we bump into the famed Dewan Filharmonik Petronas. There was a combined feeling of humbling awe and pride, as we have always been entering this hall as audience members. But now, it is our turn on the majestic stage, where many famed international performers had graced previously. And there up on the stage is our director Steve Davis-Lim. A colorful character, filled with enthusiasm and passion. With no time to waste, he brings up us to speed and setting upon us his vision for the staging of the opera. Astonishingly, we also learn that he is not only directing, but also starring as the main character Tamino. Following that, we are introduced to Giullaume Tournaire, our maestro of a conductor. Versed in choral conducting, he was more than ready to maximize our vocal potential and dynamics in addition to further polishing our German.

One by one, we meet our principal performers. There is American Lauren Snouffer, playing the part of the lead female and love  interest Pamina. With the discipline and air of a professional, her voice and onstage presence grips the audience under a thrall. Then we meet Australian Daniel Carison, portraying Papageno, the bumbling comic relief and best buddy of Tamino. His personally perfectly matches hisonstage character: goofy, flamboyant, energetic and endearing. This naturally makes him an audience darling as they laugh and cheer at his antics.                    

Taking the mantle of the regal, yet spiteful Queen of the Night is Anna Siminska from Poland. This role is known to be one of  the most challenging soprano roles in the classical scene, for it calls for the performer to not only hit a hideously high F note several times, but to vocally dance up and down on her register. Being a veteran, Anne naturally pulls it off seamlessly, even with the fact that she was pregnant during the duration of the production. Everyone who was watching from backstage had their gobs utterly smacked with awe every  time she takes to the stage.                    

Last but certainly not least comes the deep, rumbling yet warm bass of Dimitri Ivaschenko, as the head priest Sarastro. He may look huge and intimidating, but boy, you were so wrong. He is in fact very jovial, mischievous and always with a smile on his face . Akin to how Anna’s powerful voice stuns the audience, Dimitri’s soothes the audience with his deep tones. Working with these people was a blast, for they were not only professional, but also friendly and encouraging, even agreeing to pose with us for pictures. Needless to say, the chorus members were most delighted, with the silliest grins on their faces.                    

When the time came to step onto the stage, it was an experience quite like nothing I’ve ever had before. The bright lights hiding the audience, obscuring any reaction they might have had at our every note and movement. But we need not worry,  for their thundering applause assures us that they are very entertained.                    

As the proverbial curtain falls for the last time (since DPF doesn’t have a curtain), we were left with a feeling of pride. To have performed with such a great cast of people and the most prestigious orchestra in Malaysia, it was a great honor. Man, it sure feels good to be in KLCO.