More trained singers, larger works

More trained singers, larger works

The 49-year-old built her professional career in the decade between doing her master's and a doctorate of musical arts in voice performance at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"At the start, you may be engaged for a very small supporting role, three hours of rehearsal for 10 minutes on stage. You have to learn from more experienced singers," she says.

An infrastructure of ensembles, trainers, musicians and conductors is required to support young singers, which makes it difficult to train vocal talent in Singapore beyond a certain level.

The gap has been slightly lessened by troupes such as New Opera Singapore or L'arietta Productions. These hold open auditions and perform smaller operas, often on a shoestring budget.

New Opera Singapore is behind the careers of younger singers such as tenor Jonathan Charles Tay. The 31-year-old is the troupe's artist- in-residence and will sing the role of Orpheus this week. His identical twin David is the troupe's executive manager.

The twins were taught by the troupe's founder Jeong, netted places at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music and returned to make their careers in Singapore.

Jonathan says: "Growing up here, I never watched a single opera, but now I love it. It's singing and performing at the highest level. The music can be tough, but it's acting, it's drama, it's everything."

There appears to be little competition among opera troupes for now, with Singapore Lyric Opera's Yuen taking on the lead role in one show of OperaViva's The Flying Dutchman, and L'arietta Productions' Otao singing for New Opera Singapore.

In April, Singapore Lyric Opera launched a Young Artists Programme in memory of its founder, who died last year.

Singers Jeremy Koh and Teo Kai Xin are being trained by Yuen, Dr Bennett and Dr Chen and receiving exposure at the company's events, such as Opera In The Park in June.

Yuen says training younger singers is key to the growth of opera here. More trained singers will make it easier to stage larger works.

"You need a chorus of 60 for Turandot. While there are many good voices here, there are not many good performers. You need that experience of being on stage," she says.

"There are all these companies starting to do opera, which is great. It will generate interest in opera."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline 'More trained singers, larger works'. Print Edition | Subscribe