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Purgatory: A Review

What: Purgatory by Gordon Crosse

When: October 27-November 5

Where: Theatre Practice Black Box Theatre (54 Waterloo Street)

Tickets: purgatory.peatix.com

Director: Eleanor Tan

Music Director: Aloysius Foong

Portrait Artist: Namiko Chan

Set Design: Grace Lin

Set Consultant: Chia Eucien

Boy: Peter Ong

Old man: Reuben Lai

Female Spirits: Ava Madon, Melissa Gan, Venytha Yoshiantini, Ethel Yap, Patricia Ginting, and Inch Chua

If you are looking for classy Halloween entertainment and you haven’t bought tickets, you really need to buy them RIGHT NOW.

“Purgatory” is a production that further proves Singapore’s opera scene has come of age and local creatives are capable of creating an engaging, sophisticated concert experience without “dumbing it down”.

Purgatory is the tale of an Old Man and his Boy, who have arrived at the abandoned ruins of a grand house for unknown reasons (…) The story is at first glance, a fairly inscrutable one. The Old Man’s grief and resentment are palpable from the start, yet his purpose for bringing the Boy to the site of his neglected childhood and tormented youth is uncertain until its horrific culmination suddenly arrives.” – Eleanor Tan (Director)

There are many good things going for this performance – from the pre-performance ritual with painter Namiko Chan, to the use of “immersive theatre”, adding of well-performed pre-show scenes (ghosts playing out their former lives?) and moving the audience from one location to another etc. certainly isn’t anything new to theatre/arts aficionados. Applying it on this opera at site-specific 54 Waterloo Street’s colourful shophouse-turned-Arts centre, adds a great deal of artistry and local flavour! Set, staging, lighting, choice of costumes etc. were excellent and the use of the wordless female chorus onstage provided an excellent balance and several goosebump moments to what could’ve been primarily, a bare duet between the Old Man and the Boy.

Not to say the drama was lacking between the two lead characters. Musically speaking, this is tenor Reuben Lai’s most meaty role to date. He performs with aplomb and brings to the stage a really special energy with his dramatic, dark presence. Peter Ong shone as well with his solid singing and excellent theatrical presence. The two had a fab onstage chemistry.

There was no orchestral pit in the acoustically dry 120-seater black box. The use of synthesisers in the instrumental chamber ensemble felt odd though it did provide a less-than-discrete padding to the overall sound texture. Balance wise, the percussion instruments, by virtue of its inherent character, were at some points, a little too loud and direct in the small hall despite the wonderful musicians’ efforts, sometimes overwhelming the other instruments.

The lugubrious slow start in the dramaturgy and music could afford to be better paced though to build and sustain intensity from the get-go. The instrumental ensemble played a key role in creating the dark, atonal atmosphere… kudos to the musicians and music director Aloysius Foong for holding together, what is evidently a very difficult piece of music.

Singaporeans’ colonized mindsets sees many paying top dollar to hear foreign music ensembles at high prices… what’s stopping us from paying a fraction of that to support local talents that are just as solid and in increasingly numerous cases, better than our foreign counterparts? L’Arietta’s “Purgatory” is innovative, edgy and sophisticated. Thank you L’Arietta for continuing to have faith in the local audience.

Albert Tay is a Singaporean composerconductor who enjoys attending and reviewingarts eventswhen he’s not caveman-ing composing orbabysitting two young children.

Tok Gong Movers Review

I usually write reviews of arts performances that move me… but today, I really feel compelled to give a review on a company that moves… houses. Buying-selling, renovations (OMG… just kill me) and moving things from the old place to the new is truly one of the most stressful things I’ve had to do in recent years. This moving company however, has TOTALLY made my day and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND them to anyone who needs a reliable, meticulous and organised team to help you.

Glad for the word-of-mouth recommendation  from my music colleague, if not, I wouldn’t even know about your company (not everyone uses Facebook as a directory ya know!).

Shared on Tok Gong Movers Facebook Page today, 18 June 2017:

Dear David and your (3+1)-man team,

From the pre-move recce, to the actual moving, to today’s (ultra last minute emergency request) post-move help, you have been totally THE BEST! I would like to thank you for the top notch service and willingness to go above and beyond your job.

I was particularly impressed with how you and your team went to great lengths to take care of my upright grand piano, the grit and problem solving you’ve shown in navigating an extremely small space to bring it out (as you say, “if it can come in, it can go out!”), truly, matches professional piano movers.

I am also really, really grateful for you and your guy, popping by today (2 weeks after our move) with literally a few hours notice to save my flooring and move the piano onto the holders! We offered you a small ang pow as recompense for your Sunday family time (what we think you truly deserve) but instead, you felt paiseh and took only a small amount. The integrity and honesty you’ve shown is truly… TOK KONG! THANK YOU!!!

With gratitude,
Albert

 

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Guest Conducting the Taiwan Youth Festival Choir

English text below.

有幸被福爾摩沙合唱團的藝術總監蘇慶俊教授邀請當台灣節慶青年合唱團的客席指揮,與他和來自美國的 Matthew Oltman 同台演出。

  • 指揮台灣最傑出的青年歌者。有多傑出?請看上面在國家音樂廳彩排的摘要! 🙂
  • 與心思細膩的音樂家,教育家和藝術工作人員一起工作,奮鬥。
  • 七天內學會了二十多首不同作曲家,編曲家運用不同的語言和方言的合唱曲。
  • 四個城市,四個美麗的音樂廳。
  • 到了不同地方授課。
  • 當歌唱比賽評審。
  • 遇到馬來西亞的老朋友。
  • 吃到超級無敵讚的美食(岡山羊肉,台中燒烤)。
  • 《八陣圖》終於獲得發表,受表演者和觀眾熱烈的反應。

感謝大師蘇慶俊和所有福爾摩沙和台青的工作人員。這位客席指揮從你們身上學習到好多東西,也因你們得到許多的啟發和感動。請繼續這個培養下一代的神聖音樂教育工作。台灣加油!

“只求音韵撩心弦,合唱群艺得知音!”

– 鄭維誠

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岡山舊市羊肉, 高雄 has some of the BEST mutton dishes and soups I’ve ever tasted!

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Taichung’s Kawahara Crazy Barbecue is one of the best BBQ restaurants I’ve had!

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Rehearsals and performances at various places.

I had the good fortune of being invited by Professor Julian Su, Artistic Director of the renowned Formosa Singers to guest conduct the Taiwan Youth Festival Choir and share the podium with him and Matthew Oltman (Music Director Emeritus of Chanticleer) and oh my was this a fantastic experience!
A summary:

  • Conducted some of the finest young singers of Taiwan; Don’t believe me? Listen to their rehearsal at the National Concert Hall above!
  • Got to work with and observe the work of really meticulous musicians, educators and arts administrators;
  • Learnt over 20 beautiful choral compositions written by various composers and arrangers (some Singaporean) in various languages and dialects in 7 days;
  • Performed in 4 cities in fab concert halls;
  • Attended (and gave) music workshops;
  • Adjudicated a singing competition;
  • Met an old friend from Malaysia;
  • Tasted some REALLY HEAVENLY FOOD;
  • “Eight Trigrams” is premiered to appreciative audiences and performers who responded enthusiastically to it (really can’t imagine the same with Singaporean audiences).

Thank you Maestro Julian Su and your fantastic team from Formosa Singers and the Taiwan Youth Festival Choir. This is really one of the most inspiring and touching experiences I’ve had in a long while and I know your work will have a great impact on the next generation. Taiwan gambatte!

Addendum – here are some of the recordings of our performance below! One of my favourites, 阿爸的心肝寶貝 also below: