Photo credit: http://www.classicfm.com/artists/andrea-bocelli/
It’s not everyday that big opera stars like Andrea Bocelli and Sumi Jo grace the stages of Singapore. But over the last week or so I had the privilege and honour of being up close and personal to not one… but two of my favourite singers.
It was my first time watching Andrea Bocelli. I mean… I knew about him. In fact, I knew all about how he always had problems with his eyesight even as a kid and how after an accident at a soccer game, he lost his sight completely to congenital glaucoma. Here was a man who had overcome insurmountable odds to be where he is today. I was familiar with the music he sang although I never saw him live in concert. I could even recognise his distinct voice anytime but when he was first led on stage by conductor, Eugene Kohn… my heart went out to him. I thought I knew what it meant to be visually handicapped but for the first time I understood the limitations that he had to face…everyday. Even getting on and off-stage was a challenge for him and he had to rely on people to guide him. He always had to feel for the mic stand with his hand and he would feel for the microphone with his face to ascertain its position before breaking into a bashfully, sweet smile. The smile that would indicate to the conductor that he’s ready to sing.
It’s amazing too that despite not being able to interact with the conductor and orchestra through body language and eye contact, there was such connectedness and synergy between Bocelli and the orchestra that it was obvious they were following closely and complementing every nuance of his performance bringing it to its complete glory. Singing famous opera arias to crossover pop music, every note that Bocelli sang was heartfelt.
He may not be able to see the audience with his eyes; he certainly did so with his heart.
Photo credit: http://www.timeoutshanghai.com/features/Performing_Arts-Classical_Music/16844/Interview-Sumi-Jo.html
Heartfelt too was the phone interview I had with Sumi Jo during midweek. I’ve always watched and admired her from afar. She was the beautiful, glamourous and amazingly talented singer the world has ever known and here she was talking with me, over the phone, like a good ol’ friend. I relished every moment. We had a great time chatting about Korean and Singaporean food and how she would stay away from spicy food just before a performance. She also said that she loved looking glamourous on stage for all her performances but deep down, she’s just a girl-next-door who loves wearing jeans and no make-up. Well, that was quite hard to imagine especially when I think Sumi Jo, I usually think of her dressed to the nines in her splendid array of picture perfect outfits.
12 May 2010. 7.10, 7.25, 7.50… 8pm. Time was crawling… as I watched the clock… I wanted so much to catch a glimpse of Sumi Jo’s gala performance. And so immediately after my shift, I zoomed over to the Esplanade Concert Hall only to learn that I had missed the intermission, was denied access and had to watch the rest of the concert from the viewing gallery. But even that was pleasurable. I was the only one there. I was most amused and entertained by Sumi Jo’s rendition of The Doll Song from Tales of Hoffman. And so were the audience. Admittedly, hers was a much better performance than some others I’ve seen. The usher who was assigned to accompany me in the viewing gallery must have found my giggling somewhat unnerving.
Sumi Jo ended the evening with the memorable encore piece O mio babbino caro (Oh my dear papa) an aria from the opera Gianni Schicchi (1918), by Giacomo Puccini.