Sunday, 29 December 2013

Local Chinese Opera groups put up good showing in December


Er Woo Amateur Musical & Dramatic Association 馀娱儒乐社 celebrated its 101st Anniversary with the performance Xi Pei Yuan Yang 喜配鸳鸯 at the Kreta Ayer People's Theatre.  It was a light-hearted comedy where the tight script is suitable for the modern audience.

The cast put up a good performance:  Lim Siew Hong 林秀凤 played the role of widow Tian Gui Xiang 田桂香 with conviction.   Shen Jun Xiang 沈俊祥 played the money-seeking Cai Lao Mi 蔡老咪 and he had good comic- timing on stage. He was aptly supported by Yang Yu Ying 杨玉莹 and Chen Wei Zhen 陈美珍, who played his daughters. 

The first half of the performance was a bit slow moving, but the pace picked up in the second half, especially when the character Ma Yuan Wai 马员外 , whom Cai Lao Mi tried to marry his daughter to, was introduced. Yang Rui Xiang 杨瑞祥 portrayed this character with hilarious results.

This is a commendable effort by Er Woo Amateur Musical & Dramatic Association.


Tian Yun Youth Kaleidoscope was a platform by Tian Yun Beijing Opera Society

Friday, 20 December 2013

Notre Dame de Paris: Strong vocals and beautiful choreography



The last musical to be staged this year in Singapore, Notre Dame de Paris was a good curtain closer for this genre.  Based on the story of Hunchback of Notre Dame, this musical is more a Cirque-du-Soleil type of performance - good choreography, nice melodies, good singing and of course good acrobatic performances. The storyline takes a backseat as the creative must have assumed that the audience know the story well.



What I enjoyed about this production was the quality of singing. The producers have selected performers who were in the rock genre and these singers delivered a song that were different from a typical musical performance.   Matt Laurent (right), a recording artist with 3 solo albums, played and sang the role of Quasimodo

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Esplanade Concert Hall

Estonia is known as a country of singers.   Although I have visited this country before, I never had the opportunity to attend a choir performance.  Thus it was a good occasion to attend the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir held at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 13 Dec.

The choir, conducted by founder Tonu Kaljuste, presented sacred music by Bach, Brahms, Part for the first part of the concert.  The second half consisted of secular music,  with works by Claude Debussy and Estonian composer Veljo Tormis.  I found the last piece by Tormis, Raua needmine (Curse upon Iron), interesting as it was a contemporary piece with a folk element.  The shamanic drum was used by Kaljuste to provide rhythm to the singers and also added some mystic element into the piece.

A well balanced programme that pleased the general audience and serious music lovers.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Hunchback of Notre Dame comes to Marina Bay Sands


Fans of the Hunchback of Notre Dame story would be in for a treat this coming December as the musical Notre Dame de Paris would be opening at Mastercard Theatres from 17 December.  Performed for the first time in Singapore in English this musical tells the story of Quasimodo the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Esmeralda the Gypsy girl, in one of the most great love stories in history. 





Faithful to Victor Hugo’s classic novel Notre Dame de Paris, the musical tells the story of the unfortunate Cathedral Bell Ringer Quasimodo's hopeless devotion for the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda.Quasimodo had to compete with the untruthful soldier Phoebus and the priest Frollo, torn between his faith to God, for Esmeralda’s love. 






The musical is created by lyricist Luc Plamondon and composer Richard Cocciante, whom have both won numerous awards for their work and is directed by Gilles Maheu.  The English lyrics were written by Will Jennings, Oscar-winner for “My heart Will Go On” from the smash-hit film Titanic.







It seems that Mastercard Theatres are favourite hunting grounds for phantoms and invisible people.


Day/Times:
Tue- Frid 8:00pm
Sat & Sun 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Tickets from $55 (excludes the booking Fee of SGD$3 per ticket)
FOR TICKET BOOKINGS:
THROUGH INTERNET:    
www.MarinaBaySands.com/Ticketing  or www.BASEentertainmentasia.com
BY PHONE:   +65 6688 8826
BOOK IN PERSON AT:  
Marina Bay Sands Box Offices (Museum, Theatres, SkyPark, Retail Mall and Hotel Tower 1 and 3 Lobby). For more information please log onto - www.MarinaBaySands.com

See Review of Notre Dame de Paris

See also upcoming show at Mastercard Theatres : Hi-5




Sunday, 8 December 2013

Passages Contemporary Season and The Nutcracker by the Singapore Dance Theatre


Passages Contemporary Season is a choreography workshop and presentation project by the Singapore Dance Theatre.   This 4th edition featured new works by new choreographers Cici Chen, Jereh Leong, Timothy Coleman and Max Chan, under the guidance of Artistic Director Janek Schergen.

Both Cici Chen's and Jereh Leong's works

CONTACT - Contemporary Dance Festival


The 4th edition of CONTACT Contemporary Dance Festival was held in November 2013.  It was organised by T.H.E Dance Company.

T.H.E Dance Company opened the festival at the Esplanade Theatre Studio with a new piece Mr. Sign by its resident choreographer Kim Jae Duk.  According to the programme, Mr Sign "examines the individual's space in a hierarchical society" and "questions if communication is indeed important to humans".  Kim Jae Duk's choreography was strong and he made full use of the competent dancers.  This piece featured spoken texts which the dancers surprisingly delivered well. A memorable piece to start the Festival.

Another event was Accents of Southeast Asia held at the Goodman Arts Centre on 3 Dec.  A short programme featuring 3 dance items. Vietnamese Ngo Thanh Phuong's Eighteen was about Vietnamese women who wants to break out of the traditional family culture.   A straight forward piece, and rather short.  Malaysian James Kan's Fragment was about broken soul.  It would be interesting to see the original 80-minute version as the version staged here was too brief.  Goh Shou Yi from Singapore presented By You in This Instance/ Mean Me.  It had the most "dance" movement and also received a lot of support from the audience.

AFX - Asian Festivals Exchange was a platform to link with various festivals.  This year's edition featured groups from Seoul Dance Collection, Guangdong Festival and Yokohama Dance Collection.  Good effort from all of them but I did not have a favourite.  It was probably watching too many dance programmes within such as short period..









Contemporary dance companies gathered for DiverCity


Divercity is a platform to showcase Singapore contemporary dance.  This year's edition, held in conjunction with the Contact Contemporary Dance Festival 2013, featured 4 dance groups.

Frontier Danceland took the stage first.  Christina Chan's Fat Room was how a "framework affects how they (individuals) interact with the space and each other".  The dancers were in constant pendulum-like motion.  An interesting concept with a good soundscape, I felt however it could be shortened by 5 minutes.

Kavitha Krishnan was the choreographer for Maya Dance Theatre's Quicksiliver V2.   The dance juxtaposed contemporary dance and bharatha natyam dance in quick succession, supported by good lighting design.  The dance is beautiful to look at, without a strong narration.

Re:Dance Theatre featured Albert Tiong's Bed.  As the name suggests, we had dancers rolling on the bed and talked about bed-related activities.  I liked the choreography, but wondered if it was necessary to have so much spoken texts.

Dimo Kirilov choreographed Collisions for T.H.E Dance Company, a piece that explored human interactions.  The more matured item of the 4 presented, it allowed the dancers to showcase their skills.  The piece was beautifully lit.

A good opportunity to catch the major Singapore contemporary dance companies at one go.  It was an enjoyable performance, a pity that attendance at the matinee show was not full house.






Saturday, 7 December 2013

That Fateful Night 那年那夜那些人


Four persons were arrested and locked up in prison supposedly under the Operations Coldstore.  While they were in custody, they encountered a spirit who was once a Singapore Overseas Chinese Anti-Japanese Volunteer Army (Dalfource).  Dialogues between the 2 parties ensued.   This is the synopsis of the production That Fateful Night by Singapore I-Lien Drama Society 新加坡艺联剧团 .

Playwrights Koh Teng Liang 许声亮 and Wu Zhi Wei 巫志威 tried to highlight these 2 events and also the struggles of these people.   However, a lot of the sensitive issues of Operation Coldstore were not mentioned, thus making this play a water-down story.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Hi-5 returns to Singapore with new friends Mary and Ainsley


Children's favourite Australian musical band Hi-5 will be making a visit to Singapore from 20-22 December at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands.  This year, the group will present “Hi-5 House Party”, set in the backyard, which will have young audiences dancing in the aisles.







This new show will feature Stevie, Lauren, Dayen and the 2 latest Hi-5 friends Mary and Ainsley. Children will experience a dance party extravaganza with lots of music and party games and non-stop dancing. 





Songs which will be performed at the party:


  1. Come on In (new in Hi-5 House Series 1)
  2. Ready or Not
  3. Move Your Body
  4. Dance with the Dinosaurs (new in Hi-5 House Series 1)
  5. So Many Animals
  6. Wish Upon a Star
  7. LOVE
  8. Making Music
  9. Wonderful (Encore)






Can you name this Hi-5 friend?











FOR TICKET BOOKINGS:
THROUGH INTERNET:   www.BASEentertainmentasia.com or www.MarinaBaySands.com/Ticketing
BY PHONE:   +65 6688 8826
IN PERSON AT:   Marina Bay Sands Box Offices (Museum, Theatres, SkyPark, Retail Mall and Hotel Tower 1 and 3 Lobby). For more information please log onto - www.MarinaBaySands.com

(Photo credits: Base Entertainment)












Monday, 2 December 2013

Citizen Pig: Singaporeans or not, we were victims of rental scams


The Finger Players' latest production Citizen Pig looked at how locals and foreigners fell prey to unscrupulous landlords in the rental market.  Based on real life experiences of co-directors and playwrights Oliver Chong and Liu Xiaoyi, the play re-examined the effectiveness of our rental laws and the helplessness of ordinary people.

The script by Oliver Chong and Liuyi were tight and funny at times. However, it did not rise above the narration of the incidents faced by them.  In the story, both Singaporeans and foreigners were being exploited, but could it be due to naivety on their part?

Friday, 29 November 2013

Bean sprouts in Hougang still gets the golden egg!

Jack & the Bean-Sprout is Wild Rice's annual pantomime production.  This time round, the not so bright Jack was staying with his mother Widow Neo at the opposition ward Hougang.  So expect some political jokes.

As a pantomime,this production works as it makes fun of everything under the (Singapore) sun.  Caleb Goh is believable as the gullible Jack and Darius Tan is the over the top, gambling addict Widow Neo.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Grimm's Fairy Tales by I-Theatre


Grimm's Fairy Tales by I-Theatre was a well produced show aiming at the young audience. Featuring 9 tales by the Grimm brothers written and directed by Brian Seward, the production was supported by a good ensemble cast. Jonathan Lum stood out for his singing.  There were times however when the animal characters bickered or spoke, it was rather piercing to the ears.

The music and song by Bang Wenfu was catchy and the actors delivered well.  The forest-theme set design was effective and the stage was well lit.  Certain scenes featured puppetry which was a good break from the acting.  By having so many stories in one production, it meant that not every story could be developed well.  I remembered a young boy shouted "so short?" during one segment.  Maybe the team could reduce the tales to about five and put more meat into it.

This is a good effort by I Theatre.  The company also sponsored the less privileged children to attend the shows.   A very good deed.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Starlight Express - Steam Engines still rules, and so are the songs (musical review)


I was looking forward to seeing the musical Starlight Express again.  This musical was the first show that I saw in London West End, at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.  Since then, the production has undergone changes - songs and stagings.

Being a touring production, it was not possible to have the whole auditorium converted into a race track like in Apollo Victoria Theatre. The creative team this time has decided to present the races in another way - a film segment in 3D format. The film style reminded me of Japan TV show Ultraman.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Pangdemonium: Becoming Next to Normal, then suffering Gruesome Playground Injuries (Review)


Pangdemonium recently staged 2 production here, both dealing with medical conditions.  Next to Normal, with music composed by Tom Kitt and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, led us into a family dealing with the mother's mental illness.  While the topic of mental illness would be off putting for sombre, the creative team has written a play filled with humour and at the same time, bittersweet.  While it touched on a sombre topic, it was not preachy and it offered a twist in the plot.

With a strong script, the cast was able to deliver a strong performance.  Sally Ann Triplett played the role of mother well, in particular scenes where she was undergoing treatment.  Adrian Pang supported her well as her suffering and frustrated husband Dan, and Nathan Hartono was competent playing the son Gabe.  To me, Julia Abueva was a surprise as Natalie.  Her performance captivated the audience with her intense emotions and we could feel her angst dealing with her family situation.  The cast also included Juan Jackson playing one role as Dr Fine and another as the eccentric Dr Madden.  Linden Furnell completed the cast as Henry, Natalie's friend.   Overall this ensemble gave the audience their money's worth.

While this production may not be the most perfect (eg. singing), it succeeded in conveying the emotions to the audience.  And for about 2 hours, we were involved in the ordeal of this family.  Good script, good casting, good performance.  One of the best productions in Singapore this year.


The company next staged Gruesome Playground Injuries at the Esplanade Theatre Studio.   It was not common to see 2 theatre companies in Singapore staging an identical play in the same year -  World in Theatre's staging was done half a year earlier.

Pangdemonium's version, directed by Tracie Pang, was more impactful and the cast of Alan Wong and Seong Hui Xuan gave a more intense performance.  The set design by Philip Engelheart was beautiful and well thought of, with various objects such as saws forming the backdrop of the stage.  The production value was high, but I still find the script itself slightly draggy.

Pangdemonium has put up 2 good performances this year and it is one theatre company which is likely to make waves in the years to come.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Bjorn Again in Singapore: As good as it gets to the original ABBA (concert review)


The crowd on Friday evening was rather lively and waiting for the concert to begin.  I have not attended a tribute band concert before and I had my reservations.  Would they just be good imitators of the original band and not much more?  

Bjorn Again had its origin in Melbourne, Australia, created by Rod Stephen in 1988 (see http://www.bjornagain.com/about.htm) as a parody of ABBA.  It was the first trip to Singapore. 

From the time they hit the first note, it was pure fun and at times silliness from these performers, who adopted stage names similar to the 4 original members. We were treated to the favourite hits such as S.O,S, Voulez-Vous, Ring Ring, Mamma Mia and many more.  The enthusiastic crowd responded with every instruction from the band, singing along on certain verses or dancing along.  While the performers sounded close to the original members, they still managed to have their own personalities, while speaking with a fake Swedish accent.

The concert did not feature all ABBA songs.  We had a Madonna song Hung Up, which of course sampled Gimme Gimme Gimme! The 2 gentlemen also did a guitar riff of Smoke on the Water and sang Bon Jovi;s Living on a Prayer.  While these occasions were to give the ladies a break from singing duties, it did not gel with the tribute concept.  Having said that, this is just a small comment.

All in all, it was a fun concert and performed with zest from the cast.  And for certain moments, I felt that I was attending an original ABBA concert.  Well, this is as good as we can get for the real thing.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

WORLD’S NUMBER 1 ABBA TRIBUTE BAND BJORN AGAIN PERFORMS IN SINGAPORE 8 & 9 NOV

After a sellout season around Australia, The World’s Number 1 ABBA show and most successful tribute band of all time, Bjorn Again will perform at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands, Sands Theatre, for 2 nights only on 8 & 9 November. Tickets are now on sale.

The only ABBA show endorsed by the members of ABBA, Bjorn Again has been delighting audiences around the world for over 20 years, and has performed over 6000 shows in 100 countries, including shows at Wembley Stadium and Arena, and sell out appearances at The Royal Albert Hall and The Sydney Opera House.

“What started out as a bit of fun snowballed into a household name worldwide - but what really blew us away was the support we got from ABBA themselves!"- explains Bjorn Again founder John Tyrrell

             “One of the most entertaining live shows in the world today”
             Time Out Magazine New York

------------------------------
SHOW INFORMATION:
Friday 8pm
Saturday 2:30pm & 8pm

TICKETS from $45 (excludes the booking fee of SGD$3 per ticket)

FOR TICKET BOOKINGS:

THROUGH INTERNET:   
www.BASEentertainmentasia.com or www.MarinaBaySands.com/Ticketing

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Merchants of Bollywood in Singapore Review: Dance takes centre stage


While it is billed as a musical, Merchants of Bollywood is more a dance show.   Inspired from the real life story of Vaibhavi Merchant, the show’s choreographer, it tells of a journey of a young girl who ventured into the Bollywood movie industry, and her relationship with her grandfather, once an established choreographer in the movie industry.

This should make an interesting storyline.  The creators however seemed to be placing the focus on the dance routines than developing the plots.  A pity really.

The dance numbers are what the audience came for and they were not disappointed. This production featured many good dancers and they kept the energy level  up throughout the show.   If you have always wanted to see Bollywood dancing live, this production will be for you.  The plot is simple enough and you don't need to understand the language.

If dance is for you, go for it.







Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Merchants of Bollywood: Bollywood musical returns today for limited run



No, this is not the Indian version of The Merchants of Venice.  The Merchants of Bollywood gives audience a close-up to the workings of the World’s largest film industry – Bollywood and the movie world plays in the heart and soul of Indian people.   This production is inspired from the real life story of Vaibhavi Merchant, the show’s choreographer.  It tells of a young girl, her grandfather and their love of dance, set in the desserts of Rajasthan.

This Australian production has toured many cities and would be returning to Singapore for the second time. Some updates have been made to the previous run.  It features songs and dance from smash-hit Bollywood movies like Lagaan, Devdas, Musafir, Bunty Aur Babli, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Rang de Basanti, Dhoom and Dhoom 2, music from the Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman.  For Singapore the show is being updated to include all the latest smash hit songs inclusive; Thug Le & Jigar Da Tukda from Ladies vs Ricky Behl, Haippa and the block buster Mashallah from the hit film Ek Tha Tiger.

See review of this show


Show Details:  5 -10 November 2013
Tuesday – Sunday: 7:30 pm Saturday – Sunday: 2:00 pm

MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands, Grand Theatre

SISTIC website www.sistic.com.sg. SISTIC hotline 65-63485555 & SISTIC authorized agents worldwide.



Thursday, 31 October 2013

Atomic Jaya - still radioactive after all these years


This was my third time watching Atomic Jaya - the first being over a decade ago.   For this run, Claire Wong and Karen Tan played multiple characters in the story where Malaysia was planning to build an atomic bomb.  Scientist Mary Yuen was recruited by General Zulkifli for this project and things went astray...

Huzir Sulaiman's script was tight and funny, and both actresses delivered the lines with good chemistry and timing.  In certain scenes, both actressess played the same character at the same time, which is different from past stagings.   The set was beautifully constructed by Wong Chee Wai.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Name change, and Nam Hwa Opera still delivers a good performance in Dream of Xiaozhuang


The staging of Dream of Xiaozhuang 孝庄梦 was to commemorate 3 events: the 50th anniversary of the opera troupe, a change of name from Nan Hwa Amateur Musical and Dramatic Association, and the company's move to its new premise at Aliwal Arts Centre.

After a brief awards and opening ceremony, the performance commenced. The Dream of Xiaozhuang is about Dowager Xiaozhuang who proposed marriage to her brother-in-law Duo Er Gun so as to secure her position in the palace, and for her young Emperor son.  However, she faced oppositions from the court and her son Shun Zhi.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Verdi Gala review: Singapore Lyric Opera delivers


Fresh from its recent staging of  La Traviata, the Singapore Lyric Opera staged a concert in celebration of Giuseppe Verdi's bicentenary celebration.  The concert started with Conductor Darrell Ang giving a good introduction on the life of Verdi.

The concert featured 4 soloists and the SLO chorus.  Anna Koor started the evening well with Oh, dischuiso e il Firmamento from Nabucco. However there seemed to be some

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Seniors put up a good show for Faces (Phases) of Love


A production put up by seniors that was held at the Marine Parade Theatrette.  The performance consisted of 4 short plays or skits.

The first, Ageless Idol, explored the behind the scenes of a talent competition.   It did showcase the singing talents of the actors but the pace of performance was rather draggy.   Joe Moreira has a good voice.  Mahjong had a more coherent storyline and actors did hold the performance together.  Jacky Cheah shone as the joss stick seller in Qing Ming.  Ahmad Ali Khan and Jyoti Verma were convincing as a couple in Ocean.

While this was not the most polished production, the actors did put in good effort. Artistic Director Judy Ngo managed to pull through this production with the actors and an easy script.  I hope that Ageless Theatre would continue its mission of staging works by seniors, for seniors.

Rian: Fabulous Beast makes dance a pleasure to watch (Dance Review)


It is good seeing dancers having fun on stage, as shown by dancers in the production Rian, meaning "mark" or "trace" in Irish.  Rian was by Irish dance company Fabulous Beast and presented under the Esplanade Dance Festival.

Director and choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan infused folk dance elements into this piece, and the 8 dancers, none of them from Ireland and from diverse dance backgrounds, performed to the music by Liam O Maonlai, who is aso the music director for this production.

The dancers were accompanied by 5 traditional music players  These musicians were also integrated into the piece, where they were put onto the centre stage and also involved in some dance segments.  In this way, the musicians also became part of the dance piece, which in this respect I think Keegan-Dolan did a good job

While earlier reviews found the 2-hour duration of performance long, I did not feel it that much. Possibly the creators had trimmed it to slightly over 1.5 hours for the Singapore run?

The mood of this piece was fun and the audience felt it.  At the end of the performance, the performers deserved a standing ovation from the appreciative audience.



Friday, 18 October 2013

Phantom of the Opera lead actor returns for concert at Marine Bay Sands


BASE Entertainment Asia proudly presents 2 Broadway stars performing the best of Broadway classics in an all new show called The Phantom Unmasked for 2 nights only on 1 & 2 November at the Mastercard Theatres Marina Bay Sands. Tickets are now on sale.

Spend an enchantingly up close and personal evening with the star of the sellout Singapore season of The Phantom of the Opera, Brad Little.  He will be joined on stage by Shoshana Elise Bean an American singer-songwriter and best known for playing Elphaba on Broadway in the global hit musical WICKED. Accompanied by a 15 piece symphony orchestra, this spell binding concert features Brad singing the world’s favourite songs from The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Sound of Music, CATS, Grease and The Lion King just to name a few, while Shoshana will perform well known hits such as 'Defying Gravity' and 'For Good’ from WICKED together with many other Broadway classics.


Brad Little, who has performed as the Phantom more than 2,500 times, and won international acclaim not only for his portrayal as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, but also for lead roles in productions such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Misérables, Beauty and the Beast amongst others. Brad’s glamorous partner for the evening, Shoshana Bean, was the original cast member in the Tony Award-winning production of Broadway's Hairspray. Shoshana has been applauded for her powerful and emotionally charged vocal style in her portrayal of Elphaba which she performed on Broadway and in several other productions of WICKED during its first national tour.

FOR TICKET BOOKINGS:
THROUGH INTERNET:   www.BASEentertainmentasia.com or www.MarinaBaySands.com/Ticketing
BY PHONE:   +65 6688 8826
IN PERSON AT:   Marina Bay Sands Box Offices (Museum, Theatres, SkyPark, Retail Mall and Hotel Tower 1 and 3 Lobby). For more information please log onto - www.MarinaBaySands.com

Monday, 14 October 2013

Wieliczka Salt Mine: Miner for a Day in Poland


It was half past nine when I arrived at the Wieliczka Salt Mine to experience life as a miner in the good old days. The city of Wieliczka is located 30 minutes by road from Krakow and it makes a good half day trip to visit this mine.

I have visited the conventional tourist route, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, several years back and thus I decided to opt for the miners' route which would enable visitors a first hand experience of life as a miner.


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Opera Krakowska contemporary take on Madama Butterfly


It was a packed Friday evening (11 Oct) at the Krakow Opera House where Puccini's Madama Butterfly would be performed.  This contemporary looking building was opened in December 2008 and has since played an important role in the arts and culture calendar of Krakow.

The Krakow Opera was established in 1958 and did not have a permanent home till recently. This Opera House enables the company to plan and stage more performances.  In fact, the online Operabase website ranked Krakow Opera as the top 47 opera houses in the world, up from 98th position from the previous year.

Intermission time..
 I last caught Krakow Opera in 2008 where they staged La Boheme at the Julius Slowack Theatre, and I was eager to see this company again in its new (well, not so new now) home.

The 760-seat theatre was an intimate size and the audience was seated close to the stage.



On the night of performance, Marta Abako played the role of Cio-Cio-San and Tamasz Kuk took on the role of Pinkerton.  Both sang the role competently and I specially liked the dramatic acting of Marta Abako.  They were supported well by Agnieszka Czastka's Suzuki, Stanislaw Kufluk's Sharpless and Pawel Wunder's Goro.

It was a contemporary staging and the director Tomasz Tokarczyk made full use of the elevation stage and sliding sets to good effects.  The placement of singers and the chorus were also done smoothly.  The production team did take liberty with infusing various Asian elements into this production, and being an Asian, it looked awkward at times.  But this is just a minor comment.







This was the second Madama Butterfly production that I had seen this year, the other being Singapore Lyric Opera's production.  In terms of staging, Krakow Opera has an edge over SLO.

With appreciation to Opera Krakowska.  Website: http://www.opera.krakow.pl/english.php

Please also see my write-up on Wieliczkav Salt Mine




Thursday, 26 September 2013

Stockholm: A taste of Sweden in 3 days, 22 - 24 Sep 2013




Arrived half past two in the afternoon at Stockholmm Arlande Airport.  I was feeling alright even though I had an 8-hour transit at Doha Airport, and slept on the floor of the transit lounge with my bedsheets. Qatar Airline has also stopped providing free meals at the airport for transit passengers since May.  Was it due to cost cutting measures?

Immigration clearance at the Swedish airport was slow.  The staff at the information counter however was friendly, and you could purchase the 99 Kronas bus ticket to the city centre, lasting 50 minutes. I alighted one stop earlier and thus had to drag my for a longer distance.  There is a faster train services to the city centre but it costs more.

The City Backpackers Hostel is conveniently located in the city area and is 15 minutes walking distance to the Old Town.  The rooms are comfortable and clean and there were free computer terminals at the lounge area. Free pasta was provided in the kitchen.  

The supermarket is about 10 to 15 minutes walk away and the food items are generally reasonably priced.  For example, a roasted chicken cost US$7 which was good for 4 meal portions. An egg was about US$0.40.   As meals in restaurants are expensive. self catering at hostel is a good option





After settling down quickly, I walked along the main shopping area, which was a block away from the hostel, and headed towards the Old Town, where the Royal Palace is also located.


The Old Town was well maintained and painted.  The buildings were mainly used asrestaurants and souvenir shops. Tourists wandered along the cobbled streets, and chanced upon a square or a church occasionally.   The Old Town itself was not big and could be easily covered in less than 2 hours.

End of Day 1.




I did not have an early start the following morning.  Obtained some information from the tourist information centre and headed to the Royal Palace at the Old Town.  The Palace was closed on a Monday but there were tourists gathering outside to observe the changing of the guards.

....of course I joined in the crowd.











Honestly, the changing of the guards was not spectacular for that day.  I was informed that in September, the grand changing of the guards take place only on Wednesdays and Sundays.

I never got to enter the Royal Palace in this trip as there was a state visit on the following day. Well, as someone said, one must have some regrets when visiting a place so that he or she would want to return again.




I literally dashed to the City Hall so as to make it for the noon guided tour.  The City Hall is known for the dinner reception venue for the Nobel prize ceremony.












We were brought around the City Hall, which has three beautiful banquet halls.   This is the main one where the Nobel Price dinner reception would be held:




The second function hall on the second level



And further up, my favourite function room:








There was also a display of the cutlery used for the Nobel Prize dinner reception.  Apparently, quite a number of invited guests kept them as souvenir after the dinner.









The City Hall is also the place where the Parliament meets. Currently, there are more women Member of Parliaments than men.  Parliament meets once in three weeks on a Monday, from 4 to 10 pm.  While we were told that we could attend the sitting, I could not find the entrance to the gallery seats on that night. A pity.















You could also ascend the clock tower to have the bird's eye view of the city (extra charges).  I however was not keen on climbing stairs and the weather was not great either.  Overall the City Hall is a highly recommended place to visit in Stockholm - the guide provided good commentary of the place.

Had a quick sandwich lunch and proceeded to the newly opened ABBA Museum.  ABBA Museum is meant more for fans and those who like the movie Mama Mia.  Besides the usual exhibits on Abba and the members, visitors could participate in interactive activities such as mixing a song, do a song recording, be the 5th member of ABBA.  All the activities participated could be downloaded for your own keep. There is also a Sweden Hall of Music exhibition, which will be more suited for the Swedes.  Is ABBA Museum worth a visit?  Yes, if you are a fan and if you are game enough to perform the activities. See More on ABBA Museum

It was past 4 pm when I entered the Vasa Museum, one of the top attractions in Stockholm.  Decided to do a quick visit as it was in the same vicinity as the ABBA Museum and also it was a distance away from the hostel.

It was definitely one of the memorable visits in Stockholm. The museum houses a 17th century vessel that was recovered from the ocean bed.  The vessel itself was about 7 storey high.









 


End of Day 2.



Monogram by Robert Rauschenberg
Did not have an early start on the third day.  As there was a state visit to the Royal Palace where the main rooms would not be available for viewing, I decided to spend time at the Moderna Muset.  It turned out to be a fruitful trip as the exhibits were interesting.









Works of Niki de Saint Phalle






I was excited that a special exhibition on Marcel Duchamp was on.  I learnt about him when I took up a Coursera module on visual arts.  I like the way he used everyday object and turned it into something unique.







I also had my first proper meal at a restaurant located within the Museum.  The pork was good and the side dishes were filling.  Views from the restaurant was beautiful.










In the evening, I caught a dance performance Plateau Effect by one of the top Swedish dance companies Culberg Ballet.  The venue Hus was just next door to the backpackers' hostel.  It was a good performance and the audience was appreciative. Read more on the performance.

Basically that was the end of my Stockholm trip.







A brief introduction to Sweden.  Will I be back?  Yes, Stockholm is a pleasant city which makes it great to walk around.  And of course, there is the Royal Palace.....