Arts Picks: The Opera People's Kopi & Song series, Ayer Hitam and Mariinsky Ballet's The Bronze Horseman


Meet some of Singapore’s best young professional singers in The Opera People’s new digital mini-recital series, which kicks off on Saturday (June 13) at 5pm.

For the next 10 Saturdays, singers will present songs livestreamed from pianist Pauline Lee’s studio. The 10-minute sessions will be followed by short chats with the singers who will talk about their work.

The first episode features Felicia Teo Kaixin, who will sing songs from composer Kurt Weill’s repertoire. Next week, Joyce Lee Tung will sing excerpts from operettas by Franz Lehar, Robert Stolz and Johann Strauss.

Upcoming programmes range from Italian songs to lieder by Wagner and Strauss as well as Beethoven’s An die Ferne Geliebte (To The Distant Beloved) and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs Of Travel.


WHEN: From June 13, 5pm



Actress Sharon Frese performing in the theatre production Ayer Hitam: A Black History of Singapore, during the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival in 2019. PHOTO: IRFAN KASBAN

This excellent lecture performance by Sharon Frese was first staged at Centre 42 as part of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival in 2019. You can watch it on Vimeo, where it will be available for free till Sunday (June 14).

Written by Ng Yi-sheng and deftly directed by Irfan Kasban, Ayer Hitam is especially relevant today as structural racism has been making the headlines.

Frese is a charismatic performer. The intimacy of Centre 42’s black box gives this the feel of a fireside chat among friends.

The lecture is anecdotal and wide-ranging as the topics ramble from African origin myths to traces of African history and ancestry in Singapore, almost totally erased from official narratives through benign neglect.

Ng’s meticulously researched script unearths forgotten connections between this little red dot and the African continent. Sir Stamford Raffles’ father captained a slave ship and the Suez Canal, which brought European colonial trade to this region, was built by African slaves.

Frese, a self-confessed global nomad, says in the play that the makers’ original intention was to stage this at the National Gallery Singapore or National Museum of Singapore but they were turned down.

She asks: “If our voices cannot be heard in the houses of memory, then will we be remembered at all?”

It behooves Singaporeans to think about why black history has been erased so thoroughly, what this oversight says about our assumptions as a multi-racial society, and how we can address and respect minority viewpoints.


WHEN: Till June 14



The Bronze Horseman is classic Russian ballet at its most grandiose and accessible. 

The Bronze Horseman is not a well-known ballet, which is reason enough to tune into this lavish 2016 revival by the Mariinsky Ballet.

There is a startlingly politically incorrect appearance of a black character danced in blackface, which would be a total no-no in Western ballet companies in this day and age.

Beyond this one misstep, The Bronze Horseman is classic Russian ballet at its most grandiose and accessible.

Only the Mariinsky Ballet has the resources to pull off multiple crowd scenes, with folk dances and courtly spectacles outfitted in eye-popping costumes; dramatic stage sets where a city is built, a storm hits and fireworks erupt on projection screens; and a full-sized orchestra providing a lush, swoonsome soundtrack.

The story is equally epic in its sweep, setting the tragic love story of Yvegeny (Vladimir Shklyarov) and Parasha (Viktoria Tereshkina) against the broader tale of Peter the Great and his ambitions for St Petersburg.

While the role of Parasha does not boast any flashy solos for Tereshkinato show off her killer fouettes, the quieter choreography does highlight her incredible lines and elegant control.

Watching this as a recording also allows fans some nice close-ups of the handsome Shklyarov beyond admiring his high leaps from afar.

The real star of this show is the entire edifice of the Mariinsky Ballet, which can marshall tween dancers for a charming octet dance number and stage such a massive production with seemingly effortless ease.




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