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A Review of Speed Dating Tonight!

The genre boundaries between musicals and opera have been blurring for a long while now and Speed Dating Tonight! is another example of how drama in modern opera continues to be carried forward primarily by music & singing, but now incorporates many of the dialogue, dance and acting elements traditionally found in musicals.

The music and libretto of Michael CHING while ‘contemporary’, was largely tonal, accessible and on occasion, paid tuneful, tongue-in-cheek tribute and references to classical composers like Mozart or Bizet that opera aficionados would appreciate. Musical interest was aptly sustained throughout the ca. 1 hour 15 min show by the interspersing of various solo arias, duets, trios and tutti, some of which were sung a cappella and showcasing the excellent musicianship of the entire cast.

The full-house, lively audience were thoroughly entertained throughout the show. The relatable individual characters were fleshed out via the arias and duets – finding love (successfully, or not), getting ghosted, or nailing the use of modern day texting abbreviations (LOL!) etc.

Kudos to excellent staging, lighting, dancing (choreographed by Max Ko) and slapstick surprises… that surreal tangent featuring a chorus of giant dancing, singing cockroaches was just OMG (I’ll have whatever they’re having from Hendrick’s Gin). There were plenty of spontaneity as well. A member of the audience responded to Bartender Quinn’s soliloquy with an audible “OK”, to which the quick thinking artist Samuel NG broke the 4th wall by giving a thumbs-up as he left a chuckling audience and exited downstage.

Music Director and pianist Aloysius Foong accompanies the action on the piano (and cajon!) with an excellent sensitivity to balance during songs and spoken bits.

The cast were all excellent performers and delivered a high level of performance. Music stalwarts like Reuben LAI, Akiko OTAO, Leslie TAY, Christina THÉ were reliable, delivering comedic and poignant moments with equal aplomb. What was personally noteworthy, were the equally good things happening with the younger performers like Preston LIM playing Dan (Dater) and Ted NGOO playing Marc (Busboy).

The role of Stephanie (Waitress) was shared between two persons and was admirably sung by NG Jingyun near the wings, with excellent movement acting from Chloe CHUA whose command of physical theatre brought the character to life despite being masked up throughout. This unusual arrangement, while somewhat disconcerting initially, is understandable – It was revealed during the curtain call that the first show had to be cancelled as 3 cast members were indisposed due to Covid-19 (get well soon!), and the 4 extraordinary young artists had to be brought in with 3-4 days notice to be performance ready. 

Speed Dating Tonight! Curtain Call

Special mention and commendation must be made of the two outstanding young artists Samuel NG and Natasha Michella DA COSTA playing the roles of Quinn (Bartender) and Julie (Dater) respectively. Phenomenal memorisation speed aside, their performance felt organic and an integral part of the whole. Kudos also to Director Eleanor Tan for intelligent staging and to the rest of the cast for integrating them so very quickly and well.

Speed Dating Tonight! is an entertaining music package that packs a punch. In such difficult and darkest of times, the fabulous talent and resilience of this L’Arietta cast shines very brightly indeed! Congratulations!

Albert TAY

Living with Endemic Covid-19 According to PM Lee

Did you catch PM Lee’s fab and timely speech earlier today? 

I personally liked PM Lee’s speech(writer) – it really addressed many of the prevailing concerns of the day. Read his full address here.

While I peruse foreign news outlets for a more balanced view of the world, seriously, don’t be too sold on the sensational reportage from some of these overseas players – who at times, seem more interested in testing Singaporeans’ psychological defences, influencing the opinions of locals to their advantage/agenda or simply keeping a hold on their own citizens who are currently residing in Singapore. 🧐🤔🤭

The takeaways are perhaps:

1. If fully vaccinated, we can be less kiasi (afraid to die) liao lah. Endemic Covid means everyone will catch it at some point in time, but with mild or no symptoms if fully vaccinated. Also, please go take booster shots if invited to do so.

2. Healthcare Protocol is streamlined and as simple as 1-2-3 (🤣 thanks for the much needed simplification!) and C+ people with mild/no symptoms will by default be on Home Recovery Programme (HRP) – like anyone who’s caught the flu.

3. Healthcare system wise, it’s still flattening of the curve primarily to keep severe illness and deaths consistently low i.e. no exponential explosion so as to avoid unnecessary deaths and not overtax healthcare system and frontline heroes.

If you’ve made it this far, here’s your reward – a meme worthy quote designed to get older folks vaccinated. “(…) the booster shot makes a vaccinated 80-year old look like a much younger vaccinated 50-plus year old!” Wah seeeeeh!! 💪😎🤣


Who Cares About the General Elections 2020?

As a young man during my early 20s, I was quite apathetic towards politics and current affairs. After all, I’ve never had to exercise my right to vote (walkovers were very common back then) and my life went on as per norm. No biggie right?

All that changed after I started studying with Mr. Leong Yoon Pin.

He was a principled man who cared deeply about his surroundings and the people around him. The fact that he actually got upset seeing people smoke and harming pregnant ladies with second hand smoke speaks volumes about the kind of man he is. I would often observe folded newspapers on his sea-facing desk during my morning “harmony” (composition) pilgrimages to his Bayshore home. He seems to read the news everyday and is very well versed in current affairs. 

Being ever curious, I asked him “Why would you bother reading the news when it doesn’t really concern us at all?” He was obviously amused (and a little concerned) but patiently replied “Politics, current affairs, policies affect us in more ways than you might imagine”. That morning, he proceeded to tell me stories about how rare it was for Singaporeans to study overseas during his time, and how he thought he was  followed by “mysterious men” in Singapore after returning from his overseas studies, closing of Chinese choirs etc.. Frankly at the time, it sounded more like spy novel fiction than fact! The conversation however sparked a beyond-textbook interest in Singapore’s local history. Henceforth, my habit of daily news reading started as a means of understanding the world and to hear important messages that were being delivered to Singaporeans. When the internet came along, my reading list expanded to include news networks from overseas to get the really interesting stuff I don’t get to read about locally.

“Politics, current affairs, policies affect us in more ways than you might imagine”.

– Leong Yoon Pin

Fast forward to today, I’ve had the privilege of travelling to very interesting countries/territories because of music. I’ve made many good friends who are intellectuals, people who are often the crème de la crème of their own society and witnessed firsthand how politics and policies can shape their craft and the arts and culture in their respective cities. Good politics can uplift, unite and give hope to an entire generation, bring about greater equality between people regardless of the colour of one’s skin, the language one speaks or one’s religious, spiritual or sexual orientation beliefs. The converse holds true when arrogant, tone-death (pardon the pun), foolish people come into power. We see plenty of that in the news as well.

There is no such thing as a perfect system, only trade-offs, where we stand and what we might be willing to give up in exchange for something else. Be discerning, listen to both sides of the story, be rational, calm and assess the veracity and substance of one’s words and actions. Be careful of getting swept up by passion, charisma, group think etc. and please be kind with your comments. Being loud may get you attention, but being gentlemanly and civil is the surest way of commanding respect.

You are not too young nor too old to start paying attention to the news, politics or elections. Until a Star Trek future comes to fruition, a future where money is obsolete and humanity is united as a species, I’m afraid artificial constructs such as nationalism will have to do for now. Read, listen, watch, assess and pay attention. YOU, SHOULD care about General Elections 2020. Our future depends on it!

#albertsannotations #votewisely #payattention #currentaffairs #ge2020 #startrek 

WOW! The Arts Are Essentially Non-Essential?!

WOW! Hear hear! The Arts Are Essentially Non-Essential?!

Intellectually, I understand the survey simply brought to the fore, typical Singaporean culture and psyche. After all, we’ve come so far together (economically) because of a heady mix of ingredients – big doses of pragmatism, utilitarianism, legalism with a pinch of elitism. Nothing wrong there and I’m really not anti-establishment. I’ve travelled extensively for artistic work overseas and with each new city and culture I encounter, I’m ever more grateful to be born in Singapore. My observation is that in general, local Artists do lead a far more comfortable and stable life as compared to some of our counterparts overseas. Thank you very much.

Emotionally however, it did hurt to have my calling and my profession (one I take great pride in), be labeled as ‘non-essential’. It is an uncomfortable proposition, however seemingly logical the non-essential label may be. Artist colleagues from across disciplines, were similarly and understandably outraged and/or upset.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Source:

A pragmatist can hardly dispute Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a (rough) guide to the determination of one’s well-being and happiness. Indeed, in the face of a global pandemic, the Arts and Artists can be seen as non-essential for one’s physical survival. But it is the Arts and the Artists i.e. the thinkers, the philosophers, the poets, the dancers, the actors, the musicians etc. i.e. the creatives who define who we are, what we are as a species… Artists who are often the conscience of society and perhaps best illustrate whether we are sentient beings who are truly living and are hopefully beyond just base instincts.

I shall not dispute the veracity of the survey since that’s not the main point of this piece. But the article and infographic really does come across as being a tad offensive and certainly in poor taste. Perhaps the writers, editors and powers-that-be who are involved in this little Sunday Times article might’ve done better if they had been a little more involved in the Arts – e.g. read Shakespeare, participated in drama, and learnt to empathise, step into another person’s skin before committing to these graphics and words on a national newspaper. Was the “Top 5 Non-essential jobs” really, absolutely essential to conveying your intended message?


For those of you who agreed with the article and/or contributed to the statistics, you may perhaps want a rethink of what and who helped you get through the pandemic – the animators of cartoons that helped babysit the kids for you to provide some peace whilst working from home; the composer and musicians who made the music that brought you comfort in times of grief and/or energy whilst working out; the writers, actors, directors and other creatives that power Netflix. Send a prayer and a thought of gratitude to Artists because it is this bunch of people who provides the intangible, spiritual nourishment and comfort in times of crisis.

Perhaps the Arts are non-essential for survival, but they are certainly essential in defining who we are, what we are as a nation, hopefully teach us how to be kinder and to move forward together as a species, homo sapiens made up of the same cosmic star dust…

Albert Tay, Composer-Conductor Educator.

P.S. “The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them…Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.” – Winston Churchill, April 30, 1953 Royal Academy Banquet.