A little romance for baritone baddie

Kishani Jayasinghe. -- PHOTO: KISHANI JAYASINGHE
Baritone William Lim on his two different roles at the Singapore Lyric Opera Gala Concert on Aug 22. -- PHOTO: WILLIAM LIM
Baritone William Lim on his two different roles at the Singapore Lyric Opera Gala Concert on Aug 22. -- PHOTO: WILLIAM LIMPHOTOS: WILLIAM LIM, KISHANI JAYASINGHE

Unlike other occasions, baritone William Lim gets to sing a tender and romantic aria for his upcoming performance

Baritone William Lim is looking forward to not being the bad guy anymore.

"Baritone roles are usually villainous characters, such as murderers, tyrants or schemers," he says.

However, in an upcoming performance with the Singapore Lyric Opera, Lim will be singing a tender aria from Wagner's Tannhauser as Wolfram von Eschenbach, to his love, Elisabeth.

He says of the role: "This is one of those really rare characters. He expresses his very selfless love in this aria and the music itself is so serene and quiet. It's just a very beautiful situation."

Lim will try to win the hearts of the audience at the opera's annual Gala Concert, which opens at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Aug 22.

He will be one of four singers performing. The other three are local mezzo soprano Anna Koor, British Sri Lankan soprano Kishani Jayasinghe who is based in the United Kingdom, and Filipino- American tenor Arthur Espiritu. The concert marks the Singapore debut of Jayasinghe and Espiritu.

The opera company's general manager Ng Siew Eng says the concert is "part of the group's long-term plan to let audiences experience a variety in singers and popular pieces. It also introduces the opera repertoire to the emerging audience base, especially the young fans, and our regular supporters".

The performance will be led by local conductor Joshua Tan Kangming. He says of the annual gala concerts: "They usually feature very popular excerpts from the opera repertoire. These pieces are usually very well received and easy to listen to. They're melodious and easily accessible to audiences who are unfamiliar with opera."

Aside from Wagner's Tannhauser, Lim will also be singing an excerpt from Verdi's Rigoletto, as the title character.

He says of Rigoletto: "He's not a villain, but he's been mocked all his life. He's a court jester and he's always been under the thumb of someone."

In the opera, Rigoletto's daughter Gilda falls in love with the Duke and sacrifices her life to save him from assassins hired by her father.

Lim says: "As a performance, there's a very negative feeling about it, although his love for his daughter was great and genuine."

Having to prepare for two contrasting characters is no easy task.

He says "one is really a saint and the other is like an animal fiercely protecting his child", and that in order to juggle the characters, he has to "bear in mind who they are at all times".

Also performing in the concert is Jayasinghe, a soprano who was trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London. This is her first time performing with the Singapore Lyric Opera and she says "to do so at the stunning Esplanade Concert Hall is a real treat. The sublime and gorgeous repertoire on the night is another bonus".

She describes herself as a full lyric operatic soprano, who loves the "passion of Puccini; elegance of Mozart; luscious long lines of Strauss; glamour of Verdi and sensuality of Gounod".

She will be performing one of her favourite roles, Mimi from Puccini's La Boheme.

She says: "She also gets the best characteristics of traditional grand opera. Mimi is beautiful, sensitive, kind, is a wonderful and complicated character, feels deeply, has great friendships, finds true love, explores the full range of human emotions during the course of two hours, has incredible and stunning music and even dies tragically at the end of the opera.

"What more could you possibly want in a role?"