Opera restaged for modern times

Opera restaged for modern times
Director Stephen Barlow (right) during rehearsals with the cast (from left) Kee Chang Song, Kota Murakami and Nancy Yuen.

Five years on, the Singapore Lyric Opera is restaging Verdi's La Traviata, now setting the 19th-century tragedy in present-day Paris. The star-crossed love between a courtesan and young nobleman plays out at the Esplanade Theatre from Friday to next Tuesday.

Australian director Stephen Barlow, 42, who helmed the 2008 production, says this year's staging is significantly different, even if many of the main cast members are the same.

Hong Kong-born soprano Nancy Yuen reprises the lead female role of Violetta and Korean singer Kee Chang Song again takes the part of her lover's stern father Giorgio Germont.Changes include having Japanese singer Kota Murakami as the young male lead Alfredo, whose family forces the lovers to separate, while Joshua Kangming Tan conducts the Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

In the 2008 production, Korean tenor Lee Jae Wook played Alfredo while Chinese conductor Eric Zhu led the Philharmonic Orchestra and Lyric Opera Chorus. Barlow says in an interview that Verdi's 1853 opera was based on a novel by Alexander Dumas written during the same period, La Dame Aux Camelias (The Lady Of The Camelias).

He says: "When Verdi wrote the opera, he was attracted to the fact that it was a modern story and he wanted the opera to be staged in 1853, in modern dress. But that would have been too controversial for the audience."

Given the chance to restage the opera, he decided to set the story in contemporary Paris instead of the end-19th century period he chose five years ago.

"It's a modern story, it could be set in any decade. I've seen it in the news all the time, families break down because of the son's or daughter's relationship."

The opera will open at a modern-day party in Paris with sets and costumes by Christopher Chua reflecting the contemporary setting. Cast and director decline to give away more but insist that the Parisian setting is crucial to the story.

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