SINGAPORE - Mozart's 18th-century opera Cosi Fan Tutte (Women Are Like That), a tale of love, deceit and betrayal, is transplanted to colonial- era South-east Asia in an upcoming Singapore Lyric Opera production.
Veteran British director Tom Hawkes, who first tackled the opera in Singapore in 1989, will be setting this production in "the 1920s or 1930s, in somewhere like Malacca or Penang".
"I'm doing it this way because of the multinational cast, it's really a melting pot. I wanted to find some way to make it more relevant to this particular society."
The six performers in the opera are all from different countries, including South Korea, the Philippines, China and Australia. The only Singaporean among the cast is soprano Yee Ee Ping, who steps into the role of worldly maid Despina.
Yee, who is based in London, says of her role: "She's a very fun character. She's supposed to be looking after these two women and she gives them her opinion on what she thinks is right.
"She's had it with men, she knows the ways of the world and what men are like. She's always offering them advice and telling them to have lots of fun, and to be with more than one man - bad advice, really."
Cosi Fan Tutte, first performed in 1790 and originally set in Italy, revolves around a wager among a trio of friends about the fidelity of two of their fiancees. To test their wives-to-be, the two men disguise themselves to woo each other's partner, with surprising consequences.
Hawkes, 75, says: "This opera is really for everyone. It has so much to say about the human condition and what happens when people fall in love. It's about playing games, that men are as guilty as women, the exploration of the forbidden fruit, and all that.
"That's why in Victorian times it was considered highly immoral and the opera came back into regular performance only during the 1940s and 1950s."
Yee, 42, also takes on smaller roles in the opera as a doctor and the notary, and says that one of the difficulties she faced was slipping smoothly between roles: "I can't change my figure or height, so I have to transform with just my voice. That's the challenge."
To get her performance pitched just right, she practises everywhere she goes. "On the Tube, I have my earphones on and I'm speaking to myself. Sometimes I get funny looks. When I'm on the train, bus or car, I'm frantically trying to run through the words."
But unlike amateur singers, there is one thing that Yee will not do: sing in the shower. "That's my moment of relaxation," she says with a laugh.
COSI FAN TUTTE (WOMEN ARE LIKE THAT)
Where: Esplanade Theatre
When: Feb 28, March 1 and 3, 8pm
Admission: $28, $48, $68, $88, $110 and $130 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
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