Korean dramas meet Johann Strauss in local opera production

Updated: Actors in a rehearsal of Die Fledermaus. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
Updated: Actors in a rehearsal of Die Fledermaus. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Korean dramas meet Johann Strauss' most famous work in local troupe New Opera Singapore's modern adaptation of the operetta Die Fledermaus in a Singapore setting.

Helmed by artistic director Jeong Ae Ree and stage director Kim Sook Young, the production stays true to the original 18th-century storyline of Strauss' work, with its comedic and lively nature - except instead of old-fashioned jokes and European balls, the wisecracks reference Korean dramas and the characters go to nightclubs to party.

Says Jeong, founder of New Opera Singapore: "We try to make it as familiar as possible for Singaporeans to understand it easily."

The sets and costumes are similarly updated - gone are the traditional European ballgowns and suits, replaced by everyday 21st-century clothes.

In this production, Rosalinde (played by Rebecca Li and Teng Xiang Ting), the wife of Eisenstein (David Charles Tay), is a Korean drama fan with dreams about becoming like the stars she fawns over at home. She frequently clashes with her Filipino domestic helper, Adele (Moira Loh).

From squabbles between madam and maid to references to Korean hit drama My Love From The Star, the light- hearted show is packed with jokes that Singaporeans will understand and appreciate, delivered in Singlish, Korean and Filipino accents.

"This whole production mocks what happens in our society, but we put it in a comedic way," says Jeong.

Li, Teng, Tay and Loh are regular performers with New Opera Singapore, having appeared in previous productions such as L'Elisir D'amore and the Opera Comique series.

As New Opera Singapore's productions have been staged in Singapore settings so far, the localisation of Die Fledermaus is familiar to them.

Says Tay, 29: "We grew up in Singapore and can draw inspiration from our lives when we portray the local versions of the characters."

Tay, who played Eisenstein in a Die Fledermaus production in Boston earlier this year, takes on the same character again in New Opera Singapore's version.

The two experiences of the same role cannot be more different.

He explains: "There are certain things you can communicate only in Singapore, as well as the local flavour we introduce in this version of the story."

While the story has been transposed to a modern setting, the music remains the same. Strauss, who is widely regarded as The Waltz King, composed music that is catchy, light-hearted and easy to dance to.

Die Fledermaus' music director Chan Wei Shing will recreate that entertaining atmosphere with the original songs.

Loh, 19, will perform the aria My Dear Dono (Mein Herr Marquis in the German original). Teng, 25, and Li, 32, who are sharing the role of Rosalinde because the troupe wants to showcase both its sopranos, will perform Sounds Of My Homeland. Tay will be singing the Watch Duet with Teng and Li.

Says Chan: "Although Strauss' music is not changed or rearranged, it is still fun and easy for anyone in the audience to accept."