Baroque Operatic Delights
Singapore Lyric Opera
Victoria Concert Hall, last Friday (Jan 15)
A Grand Tour for Winds
Victoria Concert Hall, last Saturday (Jan 16)
Last weekend, Victoria Concert Hall was filled with the sound of music for two consecutive evenings for the first time in months since the circuit breaker period.
What a pleasure it was to witness live vocal music again, with the Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO) in a rare foray into baroque repertoire.
Arias from five of George Frideric Handel's operas and one oratorio - with no Messiah within earshot - were thrillingly delivered by two exciting young voices, soprano Joyce Lee Tung and baritone Alvin Tan.
Familiar favourites included Lascia Ch'io Pianga (from Rinaldo) and Ombra Mai Fu (the ubiquitous Largo, Xerxes), slow numbers in which both singers exhibited fine tonal control, varied colours and emotive qualities.
There were also ample opportunities for outright virtuosity, such as Lee's coloratura flourishes and stratospheric leaps in Tornami A Vagheggiar (Alcina) and Da Tempeste Il Legno Infranto (Giulio Cesare) or Tan's vehemence and rage in Piangi Pur (Tolomeo).
In the celebratory duet Caro! Bella! Piu Amabile Belta (Giulio Cesare), the duo still managed to find sparks of chemistry despite the social distance of 5m between them.
The 13-member SLO Chamber Orchestra conducted by Joshua Kangming Tan provided keen and responsive accompaniment, besides striking out on their own in the Overture To Alcina and the bustling Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba from Solomon.
Not to be outdone, chamber collective re:Sound offered an evening of wind music from five of its woodwind and brass members.
The quintet formed by Goh Tiong Eng (flute), Tay Kai Tze (oboe), Ralph Emmanuel Lim (clarinet), Chester Kang (bassoon) and Alexander Oon (French horn) generated an outsized sonority that easily filled the upper reaches of the hall.
The programme, while not so familiar to general audiences, comprised wind ensemble staples that were both varied and eclectic. After opening cheerfully with Jacques Ibert's Three Short Pieces, Franz Danzi's Wind Quintet in D minor provided some sobriety but still drew smiles for the articulate artistry involved.
Two players became soloists themselves, joined by members of re:Sound's elite string group, the Concordia Quartet.
The first movements of Mozart's Oboe Quartet and Brahms' Clarinet Quintet contrasted chirpy light-heartedness with autumnal nostalgia.
In the latter, Lim's mellow and long-breathed clarinet part, backed by violinists Edward Tan and Kim Kyu Ri, violist Matthias Oestringer and cellist Theophilus Tan, proved the high point of the evening.
The concert concluded with a rare outing for Carl Nielsen's quirky Wind Quintet. Its three movements combined spiky themes, piquant harmonies and folk influences that both surprised and delighted.
The playing was alert to the music's unusual twists and turns, even if the finale's Theme and Variations came across as somewhat disjointed. Nonetheless, these were two evenings well spent with some of Singapore's finest young musicians.