You might have chanced upon Western and Classical Opera being sung at the Esplanade Concourse and wondered how that's even possible. After all, shouldn't Opera only be performed in an aristocratic-looking theatre?
Well, that is a misconception and this particular group based in Singapore is here to address this misconception about the traditional art form.
Spot Pocket Opera Theatre makes it a point to perform in unconventional spaces, such as hospitals, places of worship, heartlands and even shopping districts. SPOT not only has its own musicians, but also performers, playwright, creative and media team. With a mission to break barriers and reinforce the relevance of Opera today, B-Side seeks out SPOT to ask about their up-coming production Le 66.
How did the Spot Pocket Opera Theatre come about and share with us the beginnings of the name?
The Spot Pocket Opera Theatre was originally launched as the Singapore Pocket Opera Theatre (a.k.a SPOT) back in 2016 over the 'supper table' one fateful night before recent rebranding. A bunch of us, singers and musicians, were 'lamenting' about our concerns and desires for the Western Opera/Classical scene in Singapore and realised that we were of one heart.
SPOT started because 4 Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts alumni shared a vision of advancing Western Opera/Classical music in Singapore in a way that makes it more fun, enjoyable and accessible to the general audience in a more theatrical way. We were tired of always hearing the same 'stereotype' over and over again - 'eee, Opera/Classical music is too 'chim' (difficult) for me, I don't understand it' etc....
With the desire to break barriers, we figured it would be to our advantage to bring Opera/Classical music out of the theatres and concert halls, and to the people instead since there is already an inherent inertia for them to enter such places.
Bearing that in mind, the notion of mobility (being pocket-sized) and something that is easily accessed, entertaining and personal, the name, Spot Pocket Opera Theatre was coined.
What is a general misconception of opera in Singapore? How are you trying to bridge that gap?
A lot of people in Singapore have a misguided impression of Opera. They think it's something that is abstract, hard to understand and to the point of being boring and also meant for an 'exclusive' community. We beg to differ. Opera originated as a form of fun entertainment for the general masses back in the old days. It was based off society, people and their cultures. It's pretty much akin to our modern day 'big-screens'.
SPOT endeavours, through our productions and outreach to show the general public how enjoyable and easily understood Opera can be! We engage the use of theatrical story telling, inclusion of modern day social cultures and contexts to help our audience better comprehend what's going on in the performances. In short, we aim to make every performance 'audience-centric'. It is our gift to them. After all, without them, there won't be us?
Your opera group consists of your own creative team as well as performers. How do they all work together?
SPOT is very blessed to have an extensive group of individuals working together. It's been an amazing journey working alongside the many different talents we have in the company. I believe we work well together because we all share the same vision for what we do. Open communication, trust and aiming for the 'big-picture' is something very important to us and it sort of governs the way we work with one another. A lot of times you see members putting the production/work before self because we all want to put on a good show for our audience.
How do you start working on a new production?
We will usually start by 'workshopping' the new show to be produced or new repertoire to be performed and see if the idea is feasible.
SPOT will usually come together as a team to brainstorm and discuss ideas for a new project. Our artistic director Jeremy Koh will usually take lead and work hand in hand with our music director, Vincent Chen to see what's the best way forwards. Once a rough idea is firmed up, it will then be opened to the team for more fine-tuning till the best possible outcome is achieved.
Share with us Le 66 and what we can look forward to for this production.
Presented fully in English and targeted at first-time Opera goers, Le 66, a comedy about how a misunderstanding over a lottery ticket results in a lesson learnt in the dangers of extravagance, will be SPOT's first official Opera Production and our way of advancing Opera towards the front lines of keeping the traditional art form fun, engaging and still relevant for the modern day audience!
Our creative team has worked hard in overhauling the story and language of the libretto (originally in French) into something more accessible and current for our local audience while maintaining certain important traditional aspects such as the art of 'bel canto' singing and the use of unamplified live music. This is our way of striking a balance between modernising Opera and staying true to the traditional art form.
Le 66 will be an socially relevant and engaging show filled with great music, beautiful singing, many laughs and thought-provoking moments. The audience might also have the opportunity to experience a particular segment of the show personally.