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Review: OperaMIXER – The Italian Edition by OperaViva

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Think opera is a little too high class for you? Never fear, OperaViva is here to change that perception with the second edition of OperaMIXER, after a sold out debut in July 2016.

Held in the Blue Room at the Arts House, OperaMIXER felt like an intimate alternative to the standard theatre style opera. One felt almost like having stepped into a cosy living room, and Opera Viva even provided snacks such as cheese and crackers, as well as wine available for purchase to enhance the casual setting of the entire piece.

But make no mistake – as comfortable as it was, the performers were completely professional. Starring Wendy Woon (soprano), Melissa Chan (mezzo-soprano), Leslie Tay (tenor) and Alvin Tan (baritone), accompanied by Ben Lim on piano, audience members were treated to a series of opera songs. Melissa Chan opened the performance, welcoming audiences with a visualization exercise to imagine themselves in a lovely Italian mansion, before opening with ‘Un Bel di’ from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

As the performance went on, performers frequently broke the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly to deliver information about each song before performing it, helping educate and contextualize each number. This worked brilliantly for these songs, all of which were of course, sung in the original Italian. The casual setting also meant audiences could enter and exit at will, changing positions to find a better vantage point elsewhere in the room if they so wished. All seats were good seats though, and the Blue Room provided great acoustics (one wonders why opera isn’t more frequently performed here these days.)

Each performer is incredibly skilled, demonstrating masterful control over their voices and charm that made each number all the more endearing. One could feel the core emotions of each song enunciated beautifully, as their voices soared and captured the hearts of the audience. Towards the end of the performance, audience members were even allowed to pose questions to each of the performers, asking things like how long they’d been training for, or their favourite operas to perform.

Finally, the performance ended off with a dazzling rendition of ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’ from Verdi’s Quarter from Rigoletto, where we finally got a chance to see all four singers in action simultaneously. Their chemistry was undeniable as we watched Wendy and Alvin’s soprano and baritone voices provide an aural contrast while Leslie and Melissa’s voices battled against each other fiercely as one attempted to dismiss the flirting of the other. Even as their voices rose to a climax at the end, they still remained in perfect harmony with each other, and was a perfect way to end off the entire show.

Opera may seem daunting to the layperson, but with new innovative means to perform it in more accessible, comfortable settings, there is no need to fear the art form as completely elitist anymore, a form of performing arts that anyone and everyone is allowed to appreciate and enjoy. The work OperaViva is doing here is certainly a bold step forward to bridging that gap, and with a strong, talented group of singers at the forefront and proper marketing behind the scenes, perhaps one day, opera really can become an art form for all.

Performance attended 26/11/17

You can catch Leslie Tay and Alvin Tan at Sure on this Shining Night plays at the Esplanade Recital Studio on 16th December 2017 (2pm and 8pm). Tickets available from Peatix.

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