A Singaporean soprano to watch

REVIEW / CONCERT

LOVE AND PASSION

Singapore Lyric Opera Chorus and Orchestra

Esplanade Concert Hall Last Friday

The Singapore Lyric Opera's annual gala concert was noteworthy this year for the presence of Singaporean soprano Felicia Teo.

Her easy and effortless delivery, beautifully controlled projection, sumptuous voice and arresting characterisations mark her out as a soprano to watch.

Instantly captivating in her opening duet from The Magic Flute and attracting the biggest cheer of the night for her spectacular Je Veux Vivre from Romeo Et Juliette, Teo has the potential for true operatic greatness.

Tenor Jeremy Koh, like Teo, is a product of the Singapore Lyric Opera-Leow Siak Fah Young Artists Programme. His voice, however, seemed less naturally inclined towards opera and sounded as if he was nearing his limits in Quanto E Bella from L'Elisir D'Amore. Nevertheless, his voice was fine, clear and always pitch-perfect.

Sharing the stage with these two relative newcomers were more established soloists such as William Lim, whose usual avuncular manner, however, seemed to have deserted him. While he was an ideal partner to Teo in the Mozart duet and sung a solo from I Pagliacci with great warmth, he looked and sounded stiff.

Chinese soprano Wang Bing Bing was far from stiff. Hers was a big, booming voice and her delivery was often so extreme that it overwhelmed niceties of pitch and rhythm.

Mezzo-soprano Anna Koor, in a duet with Teo, sang Belle Nuit from The Tales Of Hoffmann with brittle edge, but brought pleasing warmth and expressiveness to the Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana.

The opera's chorus, augmented by two other choirs - Evokx and that of the Singapore University of Technology and Design - was fabulous. Their performance of the Triumphal March from Aida, aided by an electrifying trumpet performance from the orchestra, was about as exciting as music can get.

The orchestra's cracking form throughout the evening was due in no small measure to conductor Jason Lai, who was making his debut with them. As he worked his way through the collection of short operatic extracts, he gave them a tremendous feeling of coherence.

Perhaps his greatest achievement was keeping a tight rein on the exuberant Singapore Lyric Opera Children's Chorus, even when they seemed about to veer away from his direction in the enchanting Evening Hymn from Hansel And Gretel.

With total yet unobtrusive control, he inspired strong and focused performances from every performer, both child and adult, in this noteworthy gala concert.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2016, with the headline 'A Singaporean soprano to watch'. Print Edition | Subscribe