Staff quit Chinese Opera Institute

Ms Wang Hui, the COI's only full-time lecturer, was told to leave in August. Mr Tan Ooh Chye left two months ago after four years as COI principal.
Mr Tan Ooh Chye left two months ago after four years as COI principal.
Ms Wang Hui, the COI's only full-time lecturer, was told to leave in August. Mr Tan Ooh Chye left two months ago after four years as COI principal.
Ms Wang Hui, the COI's only full-time lecturer, was told to leave in August.

Two resignations among top brass follow lecturer's sudden dismissal

Two recent top management resignations at the Chinese Opera Institute (COI) and the controversial termination of its lecturer have left the promoter of the traditional Chinese performing art form in the lurch.

Mr Tan Ooh Chye, 56, who was the principal, left two months ago after four years at the helm.

And after senior manager Chew Choon Yan, 49, left two weeks ago, the institute - a recipient of a major National Arts Council (NAC) grant - is now left with only one full-time administrative staff.

COI chairman Lim Fang Hua, 67, said yesterday that he is looking for their replacements.

Mr Tan said he left his volunteer position as principal of the institute because he could not spare the time any more - he is also a full-time arts management lecturer at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. Ms Chew said she left for an overseas venture, and was needed there urgently.

The institute's problems started in August, after the sudden termination of its only full-time lecturer Wang Hui. The 23-year-old huangmei opera artiste was recruited in 2012 from Anhui province in China.

Ms Wang was into her second two-year contract when she was told in a letter to leave. The letter cited changes in the institute's future operations and business position.

But when asked what the changes are, Mr Tan, who signed the letter, said he did not know and had acted on Mr Lim's instructions.

A check with three board members also drew a blank - they said they learnt of Ms Wang's dismissal only after she left.

Yesterday, Mr Lim would say only that Ms Wang's work with the institute was over, adding: "The school holidays are coming and we can rely on our part-time teachers when school re-opens next year if no full-time staff is found by then."

Ms Wang, who is now the public relations manager at Sian Chay Medical Institution, said she is still puzzled about the sudden termination which gave her only a day's notice and two months' severance pay.

She added: "I think they still owe me an explanation because the way I was asked to go implied I had done something wrong."

NAC director for performing arts' development Elaine Ng said she is concerned about what has happened, and is setting up a meeting with Mr Lim soon. The NAC grant gives about $200,000 annually to support the institute's programmes, including talks and courses on Chinese opera especially for students.

Meanwhile, Mr Lim said the institute is going ahead with the launch of its latest book on Chinese opera in Singapore on Nov 22.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline 'Staff quit Chinese Opera Institute'. Print Edition | Subscribe