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Offenbach’s Le 66: An Interview with Director Andy Pang and Performer Charmaine Tan

Local Western chamber opera company Spot Pocket Opera Theatre is back this week with a brand new production, as the present a localised version of Jacques Offenbach’s Le 66. 

Adapted by Tan Jia Yee, the one act operetta follows best friends Franz and Grittly, as they go on a journey to Starsbourg, only to encounter both setbacks and fortunes along the way, amongst which is a miraculous winning lottery ticket that will threaten to tear them apart.

While not Offenbach’s most popular play, director Andy Pang thinks this one will be a hit with local Singaporeans. Says Andy: “Operettas are a little more accessible than full operas, and this one is a little more comedic too, plus the fact that Jia Yee localised it – not so much in terms of adding Singlish, but that the language is easier to understand without having to interpret it. It’s a lot more approachable now, especially with how the arias are usually in French, but are now adapted into English.”

He continues: “Le 66 was considered not good enough for most audiences in his time. But it’s an intimate piece, and you can expect something different in the way that we’ll be incorporating modern technology into the production, and perhaps, teach people how technology invades, and help them appreciate the arts and live performance a little better.”

The cast of Le 66 is a small one, with just three characters played by Spot Opera members Charmaine Tan, Jeremy Koh, David Tao, supported by the SPOT Music Ensemble. Says Andy: “The key to getting Offenbach right is getting not just the technicalities and pitching right, but also the textures of the songs. But our cast is pretty well-rehearsed and seasoned singers, so it’s really no problem.”

For Charmaine Tan, who plays Grittly, Le 66 marks an exciting new step in her operatic career. Says the soprano: “We do it slowly: part by part, scene by scene, and it’s helped a lot because this is the first full show I’m doing, as opposed to just scenes before. It’s been challenging, but I’m happy I get to push my limits and see just how far I can go!”

On the greatest challenge of her role, Charmaine explains: “The challenge in my role is that I have to hold a number of high notes in some numbers. The music is easy to listen to though, and getting into character is easy as our emotions are constantly building up over the play to reach that climax near the end. Plus, there’s only three cast members, so it’s quite easy to find chemistry with each other.”

On why Le 66 will be an interesting watch, Charmaine concludes: “People should come see this opera because it’s very atypical – they’ll enjoy the Singapore flavours in it, and how fun it’s going to be!”

Le 66 plays at The Arts House Play Den from 22nd to 24th November 2018. Tickets available from Peatix 

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