SOME European flair will be introduced to a Cantonese opera festival in Singapore.
The Singapore International Cantonese Opera Festival next week will bring together some 100 opera artists from France, Belgium, Britain, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland.
These performers, all first- or second-generation Chinese, Vietnamese or Laotian immigrants to their present European home countries, will perform alongside Singapore singers from the Chinese Theatre Circle (CTC), which is organising the event.
Over four nights, they will perform 18 classic opera songs such as A Futile Return, a famous Chinese poem set to song about a scholar returning to the place where he first met his lover. There will also be 14 excerpts from iconic operas such as The Magic Lantern and Lu Ann Fortress.
This is the first time that a Cantonese opera festival is being organised on such a big scale, said Mr Leslie Wong, chairman of the CTC.
'All the world's a stage. By bringing together international artists, there will be unity in the promotion of Cantonese opera,' he said.
The event is the result of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that the theatre group signed in 2000 with the Association L'Opera Cantonais En Europe (Alocee), the umbrella organisation for such groups to promote cultural relations between Europe and Singapore.
As part of the memorandum, the CTC has been sending its artists to Europe to take part in cultural activities such as the World Chinese Arts Festival in Paris in October last year.
The cultural exchange moves to Singapore this year and is organised in conjunction with Senior Citizens' Week.
Meanwhile, the foreign artists are already excited about making their way to Singapore to perform.
One of them is Parisian Chan See Yan, vice-president of Alocee, described by Mr Wong as one of the leading Cantonese opera singers in France.
The Vietnam-born singer moved to Paris with her family when she was six. She picked up opera singing after a trip with her businessman husband to China in 1996, where she was exposed to the art form.
She has since travelled to China and Singapore for training and cultural exchanges, and performs twice a year in France.
She will be performing a dramatic excerpt from Diao Chan, an eponymous historical opera based on one of the four famous beauties of China.
Chan, who is in her 30s, told Life!: 'I'm nervous but excited as I'm not as experienced a practitioner as the other performers. But I'm very flattered and very encouraged to be invited.'
The Singapore International Cantonese Opera Festival is on at the Kreta Ayer People's Theatre from next Wednesday to Nov 17 at 7pm nightly. Tickets at $11 from Gatecrash (tel: 6222-5595, http://www.gatecrash.com.sg/). For each night's programme details, call 9630-2886.