Project Laksa was a mouth-watering concert

Project Laksa was a mouth-watering concert
(From left) Wu Bingling, Song Ziliang, Colin Tan, Rebecca Li and Kiat Goh are featured in The Laksa Cantata, a mini opera.

SINGAPORE - When it comes to food, Singaporeans need not be persuaded twice.

This would explain how two evenings of the chamber concert Project Laksa at The Arts House were sold out and a matinee had to be added.

Audiences had been promised a sumptuous musical programme, topped with a sampling of Prima Taste's trademark laksa, Singapore style.

The main dish was the world premiere of Singaporean composer Chen Zhangyi's Laksa Cantata, a local spin-off from J.S. Bach's Coffee Cantata, with a witty and rather endearing libretto by Jack Lin.

It is a 20-minute-long mini-opera with two arias, two duets and spoken recitatives, accompanied by violin, clarinet and piano. The premise was two soon-to-be-weds squabbling over whether laksa should be served at their wedding dinner.

Soprano Rebecca Li was the feisty and sharp-tongued Leah, antagonist of dreamy and self-indulgent Stephen, sung by Symphony 92.4 deejay Kiat Goh, whose craving is a steaming bowl of laksa.

Chen chose a completely Western idiom for this setting, such that Leah's Scorned Woman Aria sounded like a Bernsteinesque showpiece, full of syncopations and twists which Li negotiated with much ease. For Stephen's Laksa Aria, the inspiration was Benjamin Britten in his more melodious moments, and Goh nailed the words with gusto.

There were titters when he sang, "The flawless complexion of the white beehoon, wavering in a sea of coconut cream, the tau pok and hae only makes me swoon."

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