Zombies on the loose do opera

Presenting a new twist on opera are the cast of Operacalypse Now!!, comprising (from far left left) Reuben Lai, Leslie Tay, Angela Hodgins and Kristin Marie Symes.
Presenting a new twist on opera are the cast of Operacalypse Now!!, comprising (from far left left) Reuben Lai, Leslie Tay, Angela Hodgins and Kristin Marie Symes.PHOTO: L'ARIETTA PRODUCTIONS

Come dressed in your spooky best and interact with the living dead in Operacalypse Now!!

The end of the world is coming: An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and zombies are on the loose.

This entertaining and apocalyptic mix of ingredients - which sounds like a premise straight out of a Hollywood movie - lumbers unexpectedly onto stage for an upcoming opera.

In L'arietta Productions' Operacalypse Now!!, the hapless Figaro Montague stumbles into a bar, searching for a special someone to spend his last hour with - and the audience members, who will be patrons there, are whisked along with him on his quest to win the affections of the sassy Carmen Capulet.

Tenor Reuben Lai, who co-founded L'arietta with soprano Akiko Otao, says: "We wanted to produce a fun show in which people can let their hair down and enjoy an entertaining afternoon or night, while consuming good art.

"Instead of the traditional idea of the audience seated quietly to watch opera, we thought it'd be cool to stage a show where the audience becomes part of the show."

  • BOOK IT / OPERACALYPSE NOW!!

  • WHERE: Aliwal Arts Centre, 28 Aliwal Street

    WHEN: Nov 5, 8pm and Nov 6, 3 and 8pm

    ADMISSION: $45 for regular free seating, inclusive of a drink. VIP tables, which seat two and come with a bottle of wine, cost $200 (from lariettasg.peatix.com)

The three operas in the show at the Aliwal Arts Centre - Figaro's Last Hangover, Figaro And The Zombie Apocalypse and The Widow Of Ephesus - build on the message that "life is short, so love well and live hard".

Lai, 42, says: "The show taps into the zeitgeist, the sense of doom and gloom globally. We want the audiences to explore their feelings as the world starts to go to pieces and discover what makes them human in bad times."

When L'arietta stumbled on the comic Figaro operettas by American composer Patrick Soluri while looking for ideas for a show, it found them a perfect fit for Halloween. True to that spirit, audience members are encouraged to dress in their spooky best.

"We hope to present shows that meet the audience halfway, especially when reaching out to those who may be interested, but have never taken the plunge," says Lai.

"Dressing up is part of the fun of that season and also of going to the theatre, so why not make use of both excuses? The theatrical experience should be a memorable one."

L'arietta is bent on presenting opera in fresh and exciting ways to ease the mislaid fears some people might have about the art form: that they will not understand the performance because of the language, that opera is too high-brow.

American mezzo-soprano Angela Hodgins, who plays the Widow in The Widow Of Ephesus, says while opera may at times have to deal with being labelled as "stuffy, overly serious or, worse, irrelevant", she says she has been part of many shows that are anything but.

"I'm so excited about how this production eliminates the separation between the drama and the audience in not one but several ways," says the 37-year-old, who teaches at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and the School of the Arts.

"There's the cabaret-like option for table-seating tickets, a Best Costume contest at each show and, of course, (director) Mary Ann Tear's brilliant staging where the audiences feel more like participants in the madness than mere witnesses to it."

The cast members are raring to go. The show's Figaro, 38-year-old Leslie Tay - who played a singing zombie in an opera in New York a few years ago - is looking forward to being part of another zombie opera, while for Kristin Marie Symes, who takes on the role of Carmen, Operacalypse Now!! is a dream come true.

"Every time I sat down to watch The Walking Dead with my husband, I'd lean over and tell him, 'Man, I wish I could play a zombie some day,'" says the 32-year-old. "What better way to marry an opera with zombies?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'Zombies on the loose do opera'. Print Edition | Subscribe