A love for Opera Singapore Lyric Opera’s Nancy Yuen explains why she still likes what she does


(Wednesday 11 November 2015) This year has been a significant year for milestone anniversaries. And we’re not just talking about celebrating Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. The world of the arts has seen some important birthdays, too. The National Arts Council’s Noise Singapore mentorship programme turned 10 this year; as did The Esplanade’s da:ns Festival. The Substation celebrated its 25th birthday recently; and this week, so does the Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO).

Notable SLO productions have included Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage Of Figaro, 2006), Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber Of Seville, 2007), La Boheme (2010), Salome (2011), and Cosi Fan Tutte (2014).

And the SLO has also since branched out with performing groups under its wing, such as the Singapore Lyric Opera Children’s Choir, the Opera Chorus and the SLO Orchestra. Not bad for a format that isn’t always on the top of people’s minds when you mention the phrase “Singapore’s music scene”.

Which is why members of the SLO aren’t taking their 25th birthday lightly. Take Nancy Yuen, the Hong Kong-born soprano who is perhaps best known for her role in Madama Butterfly. But she’s more than a performer: Earlier this year, she was appointed the first honorary artistic director of the SLO.

Yuen said that it was fortuitous that the SLO celebrates turning 25 this year. “With SG50, Singapore is in a celebratory mode … This makes us feel extra excited and proud to move forward, through strengthening the company in the hopes of continuing to achieve new heights,” she said.

“Being a Singaporean, I have always wanted to contribute in whatever way I can, to give back to the society. It is appropriate, though daunting, to take up this task. In collaboration with the Artistic Committee, we are working out future performance plans for the company. I am hoping to have the first SLO Young Artist Programme and the ASEAN Voice Competition in 2016,” said Yuen, who was previously nurturing Singapore’s young voices as the head of vocal studies at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts from 2003 to 2010.

Yuen said one of the initiatives is to bring operas to schools, community centres, libraries and even shopping malls. “This is to introduce this niche art form to more people,” she explained.

Media: TODAY, Culture & Lifestyle, page 40 and TODAY online

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