Day 30

30 Days Of Art With NAC: Laksa, kopi and shopping rolled into one

To inspire and uplift readers as the country emerges from the Covid-19 circuit breaker, The Straits Times, supported by the National Arts Council as part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, has commissioned 30 works by local writers and artists on the pandemic and what it will be like when all this is over

L'Arietta's A Singapore Trilogy for the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art series.

Kopi, laksa and window shopping are quintessentially Singaporean pursuits. So it is no surprise that they are celebrated in chamber opera company L'arietta's A Singapore Trilogy.

L'arietta's co-founder and artistic director Akiko Otao, 36, says: "When this is all over, we want to get out of the house to dine-in at our favourite places, mourn for the loss of our loved ones properly and do some window shopping."

The home-grown company commissioned the chamber opera series from the National Arts Council Young Artist Award winner, Dr Chen Zhangyi, over a period of five years.

For the grand finale to the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art, L'arietta has repackaged Kopi For One, Laksa Cantata and Window Shopping into a trio of short films.

This new take reunited the cast from the 2018 staging: singers Otao, Samuel Ng, 25, and Phoebe Chee, 21, who rehearsed over Zoom under the guiding hand of theatre veteran Nora Samosir.

Otao says: "Nora helped us with the character work over Zoom, which was challenging. Due to the lag, I feel like we become more reserved and hesitant when starting to speak, which breaks up the nature and the art of conversation. It's less organic, in that sense."

For the video production, the company called on artist Alvin Mark Tan, 44, who created animations to augment the storytelling.

He says: "We had to improvise a few of our shots given the tight deadline and strict drone laws in Singapore, and come up with solutions as close to the initial desired look."

The team members say the project was a learning experience.

Samosir, 62, says: "I'm appreciating the experience of working with new collaborators because adjusting and sharing my own expectations and viewpoints on creating theatrical performances have sharpened my skills and work practices."

She hopes such digital platforms will continue post-Covid-19, "such that video recording is not just for archiving theatre but be part and parcel of presenting theatre to our audiences".

Soprano Akiko Otao, also L'arietta's co-founder and artistic director, singing Kopi For One.
Soprano Akiko Otao, also L'arietta's co-founder and artistic director, singing Kopi For One. PHOTO: L’ARIETTA

She says: "As classical musicians, we have been focusing and trained on performing live. And to be switching into recordings, like for a television drama was extremely different and an experience to learn from."

While she is grateful for the chance to make art, albeit at a distance, she observes: "Human connections are not as easily replicated online. I'm sure it's the same for everyone else. We're missing the human presence."

Still, everyone is looking at the silver lining. As L'arietta's co-founder and artistic director Reuben Lai, 46, says: "We embraced the pain of having our lives upended, our dreams and hopes put on hold to meet this crisis head on. The price we paid was the pain of an uncertain future, of schedules wrecked and jobs lost and loved ones separated.

"To know that we do not face it alone can be a great comfort."

• Watch L'arietta's The Singapore Trilogy at str.sg/30Days.

• For more local digital arts offerings, go to a-list.sg to appreciate #SGCultureAnywhere 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2020, with the headline '30 Days Of Art With NAC: Laksa, kopi and shopping rolled into one'. Print Edition | Subscribe