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5 things you don’t know about… KL City Opera

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In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Duke Orsino says, “If music be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it.” He wants to listen to so much music that he will grow tired of it.

Soon Yoon and Danny Chen have yet to come close to hearing enough music, and neither can imagine ever tiring of it. These two singers describe a winding and eventful journey that led to finally establishing Malaysia’s first opera company: the KL City Opera. In a recent conversation, Soon Yoon revealed that:

1. Like the best Malaysian creations, it all began with food

Danny Chen wrote a book called Train2e@t, for his company, EST Enterprise (Eat, Sing, & Travel People). Train2e@t is a guidebook for great cafes, food stalls and restaurants within reach of the LRT stations. The intent had been to promote things they believed many people wish they could do more of, i.e. eat, sing and travel. With the book, they had achieved ‘Eat’ and ‘Travel’, but they still needed a way to cover ‘Sing’. 

Then, a chat with Soon Yoon and Danny’s previous vocal teacher gave them the idea to have an opera masterclass in KL. Dr Michela came to KL from Lyon, France to teach the masterclass. The class resulted in a recital, which grew into an abridged version of La Bohème.

From here they moved onto a staging of Carmen which led to a staging of L’elisir d’amore (Elixir of Love) which inspired a full scale production of La Bohème

It started with a passion for food, travel and song. Image courtesy of KLCO.

As the group’s musical reputation continued to grow and more people asked to join, the company was renamed and so the KL City Opera was born.

2. They welcome everyone to share their love of opera

KL City Opera’s 35-member strong chorus has to jostle for space on most stages. Yet, they continue to audition people and hold workshops because they want everyone to realise how wonderful opera music can be. 

For example, during Publika’s MAP Fest 2017 KLCO conducted workshops, held talks and even performances, many of which were free to the public. All the activities are related to opera and classical music, intended to attract singers as well to thrill people hearing opera music for the first time. 

3. It’s not just for adults

Malaysians are often surprised to hear there is a homegrown western opera company in their country, but the fact that they have a children’s opera troupe is the real jaw-dropper. 

Opera transcends borders and generations. Image courtesy of KLCO.

Yes, kids can sing opera too and KLCO has regular auditions for interested kids to learn, sing, and hopefully fall in love with the music. The childrens choir has performed with the adult chorus as well. In fact if you’d like to expose your own child to the operatic experience, why not sign them up for the upcoming ‘Opera for Kids’ workshop. For information, check out the link at the bottom of this article.

4. The KLCO chorus is unique among regional companies

The KLCO chorus is made up of Malaysians and permanent residents in Malaysia. This makes it very unique as some Asian opera companies hires travelling chorus singers from other countries .

At the same time, KLCO is inclusive and welcomes collaborations to further their love of music. In fact, they had the opportunity to collaborate with the renown Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra staging The Magic Flute early this year. 

It’s about sharing the love for opera with an ever widening community. Image courtesy of KLCO.

5. They are out to prove that opera is exciting

While the tendency is to think of opera as for retirees and therefore that it must be boring, the KLCO founders say this is not true. Soon Yoon calls The Magic Flute “an example of a sci-fi opera with elements of magic and mystery” while Carmen “is as exciting and sexy a drama as any soap opera on television.”

Danny Chen says that if opera really was boring, then it wouldn’t have endured for hundred of years. In fact, while TV is about passive watching, there is nothing passive about watching an opera. “You will get swept  up by the music and carried into the story.”

Find out more about KLCO’s activities, workshops, performances and screenings. Follow them on https://www.facebook.com/klcityopera/.

Fancy a bit of singing yourself? Watch Soon Yoon Ho teach you how opera singers warm up their voices on Arteri TV.


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Fathimath Nuha
Fathimath Nuha

A bibliophile, Fathimath Nuha is a writer on a quest to craft the perfect sentence.