The Opera People debuts with update of Mozart's Il Re Pastore

For their new opera company, The Opera People, brothers David Charles Tay (left) and Jonathan Charles Tay are staging an updated re-creation of Mozart's Il Re Pastore (The Shepherd King).
For their new opera company, The Opera People, brothers David Charles Tay (left) and Jonathan Charles Tay are staging an updated re-creation of Mozart's Il Re Pastore (The Shepherd King).ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

Twin tenors Jonathan Charles Tay and David Charles Tay debut their new opera company, The Opera People, with a recreation of Mozart's Il Re Pastore (The Shepherd King) at the Esplanade Annexe Studio this Friday and Sunday.

David has rewritten the 18th-century opera, setting it in a nightclub and giving the story a contemporary feel.

The Opera People was started to make opera more relevant to viewers here, say the brothers.

David adds: "I respect the traditional place in musical culture that opera has, but Netflix and TV have to constantly evolve for viewers. Opera doesn't and we wonder why people don't watch it."

Mozart's Il Re Pastore is the tangled tale of a king who wants his son to marry the daughter of another ruler. Of course, both young people are in love with others.

Love And Duty - Mozart's Il Re Pastore features David as Alex Ting, the new owner of a nightclub who wants his son Ami to stop pining for his girlfriend Elisa (sung by soprano Jassy Husk) and marry Tamiri (Phoebe Chee), daughter of the previous owner.

  • BOOK IT / LOVE AND DUTY - MOZART'S IL RE PASTORE

  • WHERE: Esplanade Annexe Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Friday, 7.30pm; Sunday, 5pm

    ADMISSION: $40 from ilrepastore.peatix.com

Soprano Felicia Teo Kai Xin sings the part of Ami, which was originally written for a soprano castrato, or male singer who never attained puberty.

Jonathan sings the part of Alex's right-hand man, Algernon, who is Tamiri's true love. The work is directed by theatre-maker Tan Liting, writer-director of well-received works of theatre such as last year's Pretty Butch.

David says: "It's something I really enjoy doing, taking something that belongs to a different century, a different context, keeping the beautiful music and making it relevant to us."

The 33-year-old twins have never seen each other as rivals, so they looked for a work that would have strong roles for both.

Jonathan says, however, that they will not always star in their company's productions, since it is also meant to be a platform for other local singers.

Both also want their company to present work outside traditional theatres.

The Annexe Studio is an old haunt - it was the DXO club when they were teenagers - and they are looking for other unusual venues.

Jonathan and David have often collaborated in the same opera here, including in New Opera Singapore's 2016 production of Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus In The Underworld.

Their musical careers followed the same trajectory: Both were in the music elective programme in Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and hold a bachelor of music degree from the Manhattan School of Music.

David, who is single, is now based in New York, while Jonathan teaches music in Singapore. The latter is married and has a five-month-old son who enjoys sitting in on rehearsals.

Even when the brothers were in the same city, they never saw each other as competition.

Jonathan says: "When we were in school, we'd come back and talk about singing, get all nerdy together."

David says: "It's going to sound corny but when he succeeds, it's like I succeed."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2018, with the headline 'Mozart's opera but set in a nightclub'. Print Edition | Subscribe