SLO’s Opera in the Park showcased music from film and cartoons

Wong Kah Chun, conductor of Singapore Lyric Opera's recent Opera in the Park series of concert, shares with Imagine TV Network the reason behind his choice of music and the impression German conductor Kurt Masur left on him.

Words by Imagine TV Network

He is only 29 years old but Wong Kah Chun is already one of Singapore's leading conductors. In 2012, he was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship in the field of arts and cultures and later went on to pursue postgraduate studies in Germany. Sharing his excitement on conducting the recent Opera in the Park concert, he says, "I am very excited about [it], especially as I performed with the same orchestra at the same series years ago when I was still active as a trumpet player."

Image credit: Singapore Lyric Opera

Held at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the eighth season of Opera in the Park was held on 6 June 2015 and is organized by Singapore Lyric Opera. The Company celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and says, on its corporate website, that its aim is "to promote and present Western opera." This year, with the theme of "Opera in Music and Film," the concert showcased music from films and cartoons such as Looney Tunes, Mickey Mouse, Superman and Les Miserables.

His rationale for the selection of music was to include pieces that the audience would be familiar with. Those featured included opera arias by Italian composer Gioachino Rossini -- whose music had been used in Looney Tunes and Mickey Mouse cartoons -- and "evergreen arias" by French composer Georges Bizet from his opera Carmen.

Image credit: Singapore Lyric Opera

Asked which piece of music is his favorite, he shares that he chose what he loved listening to and describes Rossini's "Overture to the Barber of Seville" as being really cool. The short orchestral introduction, he adds, displayed elements of drama and theater in a comical and accessible manner.

He remarks that the rearrangement and interpretation of the music were done in a collaborative manner. Recounting a lesson he learnt from Italian conductor Riccardo Muti, and other great opera conductors, he says, "Sometimes we should lead the singers, and sometimes they should lead us."

His last visit to Singapore in early March this year was for his conducting debut with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and he shares that after Opera in the Park, he will be involved in a series of concerts with the Asian Contemporary Ensemble, a collective of ethnic instrumentalists. He founded the six-member classical music group and Abigail Sin, a pianist, was also the recipient of the Lew Kuan Yew Scholarship.

An alumni of the Yong Siew Tog Conservatory at the National University of Singapore, Wong was handpicked by Kurt Masur to participate in his conducting seminar at the Manhattan School of Music in 2012. The Chief Conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Wong says Masur is larger than life and is a "kind and responsible man" who spoke out for human rights.

"He was a real leader of the German people during DDR days before the Berlin Wall came down... He served his people very well too... so much so that he was once asked to run for presidency of Germany from a popularity poll." In Wong's view, he saw Masur as an artist who served not only his people but also the composers and musicians he worked with.

Although the conducting seminar was only five days, Masur's influence on Wong is indelible. His lofty ambition, which he says is stuck in his mind, is to be a genuine person that lives humbly and simply; someone that works for the betterment of society through the beauty of art.



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