Heav­enly heights of opera

The Singing Bal­cony se­ries at the Zhong­shan build­ing is about in­tro­duc­ing opera to the masses.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Culture - By DI­NESH KU­MAR MAGANATHAN [email protected]­tar.com.my

IF you’re ever at the Zhong­shan build­ing in Jalan Kam­pung At­tap, Kuala Lumpur, on a week­end, an op­er­atic aria per­formed from the bal­cony of the high­est floor there is the last thing you’d ex­pect to hear.

Since last Novem­ber, unas­sum­ing vis­i­tors to this three-storey in­de­pen­dent arts hub have been treated to pop­u­lar songs from op­eras and vi­brant folk tunes. This is the Singing Bal­cony se­ries, an ini­tia­tive by VerSeS Mu­sic En­sem­bles (VerSeS) to take clas­si­cal mu­sic to the masses. It is pri­mar­ily run out of the Zhong­shan build­ing.

VerSes, formed in 2001, is a clas­si­cal-based event com­pany that spe­cialises in clas­si­cal per­for­mances, choral shows and out­reach projects.

“I think there still ex­ists a per­cep­tion that clas­si­cal vo­cal mu­sic is up­tight, too rigid and hard to com­pre­hend,” says Scott Woo, VerSeS’ founder and mu­si­cal di­rec­tor. “We hope to change clas­si­cal mu­sic ap­pre­ci­a­tion from an in­tim­i­dat­ing ‘for­mal dress code and go-to-con­cert-then-go-home’ ex­pe­ri­ence to an ac­ces­si­ble, re­laxed per­for­mance at­mos­phere,” he points out. The Kuch­ing-born KL-based Woo, 40, and his team have pro­duced four

Singing Bal­cony ses­sions to date, tak­ing on reper­toire like Han­del’s

Tor­nami A Vagheg­giar, Verdi’s Merce, Dilette Amiche (you prob­a­bly heard the Maria Cal­las clas­sic ver­sion) and even May­ila Vari­a­tion, a Kazakh folk song.

Vis­i­tors to the Zhong­shan to­mor­row will have the chance to catch the Singing Bal­cony’s fifth ses­sion (the first for 2019). There will be three hourly slots, start­ing at 11.30am.

Tenor Tan Jong Hann and pi­ano ac­com­pa­nist Alphon­sus Sim will be per­form­ing the Ital­ian favourite

Non Ti Scor­dar Di Me, first recorded by Ital­ian opera singer Be­ni­amino Gigli in 1935, and Chi­nese-Ti­betan folk song My Home, Sigetse.

The idea to or­gan­ise the Singing Bal­cony came to Woo one fate­ful day when he was at Zhong­shan.

“I felt that the space needed some live mu­sic and the build­ing’s in­ter­est­ing ar­chi­tec­ture with the bal­cony space sparked the idea,” re­calls Woo, who was also in­spired by the street opera per­form­ers at Covent Gar­den in Lon­don.

This clas­si­cal singing per­for­mance se­ries has fea­tured a lineup of singers and ac­com­pa­nists such as Khairunissa Diyana Md Noor, Wong Ming Li, Sim and Chow Yee Mun.

As part of the Singing Bal­cony’s out­reach, in­for­ma­tive posters and hand­outs are passed to the au­di­ence dur­ing the shows.

“They con­tain the singer’s pro­file, a brief write-up on the plot of the opera or the spe­cific (opera) scene, the ori­gin of the poems and texts and the con­text in which they were com­posed in if its an art or folk song,” ex­plains Woo, who has per­formed with The Na­tional Choir of Malaysia. Woo, a pe­tro­leum en­gi­neer by trade, re­calls an el­derly au­di­ence mem­ber at the Singing Bal­cony who said be­cause of the “hand­outs and ex­pla­na­tion, he felt even though it was just one song, he was ac­tu­ally ‘lis­ten­ing’ to the per­for­mance.”

“We be­lieve that the over­all qual­ity of any art form can only im­prove if the au­di­ence is crit­i­cal of the qual­ity (from the artists),” he adds.

As such, Woo did not limit the Singing Bal­cony to just op­er­atic arias. In fact, it is made up of three seg­ments.

The Opera Edi­tion fo­cuses on arias, My Song Book is about folk songs and En­sem­ble On The Block is a choral treat.

The Singing Bal­cony Ses­sion #5 is on at the Zhong­shan build­ing, off Jalan Kam­pung At­tap in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 13. Show­times: 11.30am, 12.30pm and 1.30pm. Ad­mis­sion free. FB: VerSeS.PJ.

— VerSeS

Khairunissa per­form­ing an opera work at the re­cent Singing Bal­cony se­ries last month.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.