Cruise along with opera

Fantasy Island Cruise stars (from far left) Reuben Lai, Lilith Verhelst, Lesile Tay and Brent Allcock.
Fantasy Island Cruise stars (from far left) Reuben Lai, Lilith Verhelst, Lesile Tay and Brent Allcock.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Music company L'arietta Productions presents two tragically comic chamber operas from tomorrow to Sunday at The Arts House.

Fantasy Island Cruise features two works from the 1940s, both directed by Richard Tan. In Joseph Horovitz's Gentleman's Island, featuring singers Brent Allcock and Leslie Tay, two men stranded on a desert island refuse to speak to one another without being properly introduced.

Gian Carlo Menotti's The Telephone sees a marriage proposal aboard a ship constantly interrupted by technology. It is sung by tenor Reuben Lai and soprano Lilith Verhelst.

Lai, 44, says: "What both have in common is an utter failure to communicate. In Gentleman's Island, it's a slavish adherence to tradition and The Telephone, written in 1948, is still relevant. Today, people are not talking to each other and if anybody's talking, they're not saying anything. It's only likes on Facebook and Instagram."

L'arietta Productions was started in 2015 by Lai and soprano Akiko Otao to show that opera can be fun and not dauntingly high-brow. Otao, 36, says: "It's bite-sized, it's in English, it's fun."

Last year, the group presented the family-friendly opera Alice In Wonderland by Robert Chauls and had a bouncy castle and mini-carnival to entertain children.

Later in the year, it staged A Singapore Trilogy of home-grown chamber operas based on window shopping and kopi tiam culture, and also offered the audience kopi and kueh to snack on. It was named one of The Straits Times best classical concerts last year.

At Fantasy Island Cruise, ticketholders who wear cruise-themed clothing, such as flowered shirts or sundresses, get a prize. However, beneath the fun is a poignant message.

Otao says: "It made me think about what we humans all want and it's very clear - to be loved, to connect and to be heard. That's the most universal part of being human, the desire to connect."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline 'Cruise along with opera'. Print Edition | Subscribe