Light bites of opera

(From left) Jameson Soh, Akiko Otao, Wayne Teo, Angela Hodgins, Reuben Lai and Brent Allcock in L'arietta's first production. Teo provides the musical accompaniment.
(From left) Jameson Soh, Akiko Otao, Wayne Teo, Angela Hodgins, Reuben Lai and Brent Allcock in L'arietta's first production. Teo provides the musical accompaniment.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Can opera be about window- shopping, playing cards and comic relief? Yes, honestly - and performed in less than one hour.

Honestly! presented this Saturday at 10 Square in Orchard Central, is an hour-long staging of three chamber operas and the maiden effort of L'arietta Productions.

Headed by Japanese soprano Akiko Otao and Singaporean tenor Reuben Lai, this group of singers wants to promote lesser-known repertoire in the genre of opera. Chamber operas require smaller groups of musicians - chamber ensembles - rather than an orchestra of 70 or more.

The format often lends itself to shorter musical bites than grand opera. L'arietta will present contemporary work Window Shopping by Singaporean composer Chen Zhangyi, which contrasts the attitudes of a girl and a woman shopping for shoes.

The other two works are from the 1950s. American composer Samuel Barber's Hand Of Bridge is a nine-minute piece about two unhappily married couples playing cards. Gentleman's Island by Joseph Horovitz is a half-hour-long piece about two very proper Victorian gentleman castaways on an island. How can they speak to each other when they have not been properly introduced?

"With L'arietta, we want to do something small and show that opera is not chi-chi," says Otao, 33, who sang in the 2014 premiere of Window Shopping here by contemporary ensemble Chamber. Sounds.

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  • WHERE: 181 Orchard Road, 10 Square @ Orchard Central Orchard Central, 10-01

    WHEN: Saturday, 3 and 7pm

    ADMISSION: $30 from lariettasg.peatix.com

"Opera is just a good story with music. It's the love child of theatre and classical music," she says.

Joining her in Honestly! are singers with a similar urge to promote their love of opera, such as Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO) stalwart Lai.

The 41-year-old tenor says: "Go to Wikipedia and there are 120 chamber operas and more and more coming out every year. There are three companies here doing grand opera, but what about these smaller works?"

L'arietta Productions occupies a niche not fully exploited by the Singapore Lyric Opera, though New Opera Singapore and Opera Viva have done longer, dramatic chamber operas such as Benjamin Britten's 1954 opera The Turn Of The Screw and Kannagi by composer John Sharpley and librettist Robert Yeo.

Also taking the stage this Saturday are New Zealand-born Australian singer Brent Allcock, heard in SLO productions such as La Traviata (2013) and Salome (2011), and American mezzo- soprano Angela Hodgins, who teaches at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and the School of the Arts.

Musical accompaniment is provided by Paris-trained Wayne Teo, a prize-winning Singaporean pianist.

Then there is Singaporean actor- turned-marketing manager Jameson Soh, who is treading the boards again with Honestly! nearly 20 years after he played a detainee in the 1997 staging of Robert Yeo's Changi.

Why?

"There's an opportunity to bring a new perspective of opera that has not been seen," he says. "It started as a small bunch of people with a passion for music. It's a start."

Correction note: An earlier version of this article omitted Singaporean tenor Reuben Lai as the production's co-artistic director.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Light bites of opera'. Print Edition | Subscribe