Gala concert to celebrate opera singer's 30-year career

At the Nov 9 gala concert at the Esplanade, renowned soprano Nancy Yuen (top) will be joined by South Korean tenor Lee Jae-wook (above).
At the Nov 9 gala concert at the Esplanade, renowned soprano Nancy Yuen (above) will be joined by South Korean tenor Lee Jae-wook.PHOTO: KEVIN LIM, SINGAPORE LYRIC OPERA
At the Nov 9 gala concert at the Esplanade, renowned soprano Nancy Yuen (top) will be joined by South Korean tenor Lee Jae-wook (above).
At the Nov 9 gala concert at the Esplanade, renowned soprano Nancy Yuen will be joined by South Korean tenor Lee Jae-wook (above).PHOTO: KEVIN LIM, SINGAPORE LYRIC OPERA

Renowned soprano Nancy Yuen will perform at a gala concert at the Esplanade on Nov 9 to celebrate her 30 years as an opera singer.

The concert by the Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO), conducted by Jason Lai, will see the 58-year-old singer serenade the audience with arias such as Butterfly's Entrance (Madama Butterfly), E Strano, Sempre Libera (La Traviata) and Dove Sono (Le Nozze Di Figaro).

She will be joined by South Korean tenor Lee Jae-wook, who was invited as a guest singer.

In 1988, Yuen made her debut with the Welsh National Opera, playing the lead role in Madama Butterfly after graduating from the Royal Academy of Music.

"My life was completely transformed," says Yuen, whose varied performance career has since taken her from London's Royal Albert Hall to regions such as Barbados, Africa and the Middle East.

The Hong Kong-born Singapore citizen shuttles between these two cities and has also been teaching for more than a decade.

  • BOOK IT / GALA CONCERT 2018: A PEARL CELEBRATION FOR NANCY YUEN

  • WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Nov 9, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $40 to $60 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: https://bit.ly/2D7RCug

Aside from her role as honorary artistic director of the SLO, she is a member of the artistic committee of Opera Hong Kong and was last month appointed a professor at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

Next Friday, Yuen and Lee will sing three duets: Parle-moi De Ma Mere! (Carmen), O Soave Fanciulla (La Boheme) and Vogliatemi Bene (Madama Butterfly).

Parle-moi De Ma Mere! ("Tell me about my mother") is a duet from the first act of Carmen.

In Lee and Yuen's rendition, the peasant girl Micaela kisses the soldier Don Jose to pass him news from his mother.

Lee says in an e-mail interview: "Her kiss carries a hidden message: 'Jose, please come to yourself and raise a family with Micaela.' But Jose is not interested in what Micaela has to say. He only misses his mother and his home town.

"Had Don Jose grasped his mother's intentions at this time and married Micaela, there would have been no tragedy to come."

He adds: "What's funny is that there are two lessons to be learnt from this duet. Firstly, a man should listen to a woman -a man is half-raised by his mother and half by his wife. Secondly, a man can't understand a woman when she indirectly speaks to him."

Yuen's concert in Singapore comes on the back of another anniversary show she performed in Hong Kong last week.

The singer, who played the titular role in Aida at the SLO's staging of the Verdi opera in June , is married to lawyer Toh Weng Cheong.

She hopes to see more opera productions here. "A city the size of Singapore should be able to sustain three to four performances a year, with the right kind of financial support and audience support."

Opera is an "acquired taste", she admits, but "the more you watch it, the more you'll like it... Sometimes people get scared, they say, 'I don't understand, you are singing Italian...'

"But I say don't worry, we have English and Chinese surtitles and music, costumes, action. Even if you go to a pop concert, you don't necessarily know what the artists are singing."

Yuen also spearheaded the SLO's Asean Vocal Competition and Leow Siak Fah Artists Training Programme.

"I want to see more students end up as professional singers," she says.

"In Asia, generally, there are not enough opportunities for them to sustain (themselves) as a performer, so lots of them end up teaching. My job in Singapore is to create more performing opportunities."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2018, with the headline 'Gala concert to celebrate opera singer's 30-year career'. Print Edition | Subscribe