Conductor Darrell Ang is Musical Director of the Singapore production of “The Flying Dutchman”. Last week, he spoke to John Gee about the forthcoming performances of the opera in Singapore.
Darrell thought that the production of a major Wagner work was overdue “for the arts scene in Singapore, for the operatic scene in Singapore.”
He went on:
“Wagner is a major operatic composer. For Singapore, which strives to be a very important hub for everything, including culture, for Singapore that hasn’t yet staged an opera by Wagner…I think that this is long overdue in happening, but better late than never. So I think that it’s a good thing for Singapore.”
Darrell worked with Juliana and Ronald, of RWA(S), from the time when the project of a Singapore production was only an idea: “I’ve seen it develop from an embryo or even less into what it is now.”
It is a project that faced formidable obstacles, which go a long way to explaining why there has not been a previous staging of an entire Wagner opera before now in Singapore.
As Darrell pointed out, there were no Wagnerian singers in the country, nor any chorus experienced in singing in operatic works as demanding on performers as those of Wagner.
“There isn’t a full time opera orchestra in Singapore, so it’s not possible to have a group that’s been playing for a long time. What we do have here is a very talented group of young professionals who are freelancers, who play from gig to gig – they play from concert to concert. They’re not part of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, so they’re a little more flexible in terms of commitment. The orchestra that is going to be playing the pit is mostly made up of these people. These are young Singaporean professionals who have gone overseas to study and some of them have graduated from conservatories here. They’re freelancers, so they do a lot of concerts, for example, with the Singapore Lyric Opera, some freelance with the Singapore Symphony, of course, and most of them are teachers and performers in their own right. So they are seasoned players, they’re of a very good level, they’re at an international level and that’s important in this production.
The rest of the players are from the region, so we have the best young players from countries around Singapore – Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam – and I’m glad for this to happen because the idea of the Festival Orchestra, which is the one that’s playing the pit, was to encourage a musical dialogue between our players from Singapore and others from outside Singapore, especially in the region and to share ideas, to perform together, to inspire each other.”
Darrell recognised that this first time experience for most of the participants is an “added challenge”, but was not deterred:
“The orchestra, every single player, have to be very flexible, they have to play together, and that’s the biggest challenge, but it’s my challenge.”
Darrell thinks that the work that the orchestra and singers are taking on will help:
“The music itself will, of course, no doubt inspire them. There’s a quality to Wagner, so everyone who performs Wagner, has this special energy when they’re playing Wagner. So that aspect of the performance, I’m not worried about, but getting them to really gel as an ensemble, to really play with the same spirit, that’s going to be a challenge, but it’s a process.”
Directing an opera will be a new experience for co-directors Chong Tze Chien and Glen Goei, who both have a strong record in theatre, but Darrell expresses confidence about working with them:
“I know these guys, I’ve seen their work. I’m a big fan of their work…They’re the highest level professionals that we have in Singapore. They have great energy, good taste and I know that I can rely on everything that they do, everything that their imagination can produce. I think it’s going to be perfect.”
Seeing “the Flying Dutchman” in development, Darrell says:
I must say that I’m very proud of how it is progressing. We have a really excellent cast: some of the best young singers of Wagner in Germany are coming here to sing. We also have a top-flight local cast to sing one performance of the opera and I think we have a great creative team. I feel it’s going to be a very interesting and very unique artistic creation. For this to happen in Singapore, it’s definitely a milestone.
So, all in all, it’s something that I’ve been really looking forward to.”
(Article written by John Gee based on interview with Darrell Ang on 6 September 2016. Photo by Juliana Lim. Location : The Finger Players Rehearsal Studio)