Birmingham graduates star in Malaysian fairy tale opera

Four Malaysian graduates from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire are set to star in an operatic version of ‘Hansel and Gretel’, which will be staged in Kuala Lumpur this summer.

Written by 19th century German composer Engelbert Humperdinck and staged by Kuala Lumpur City Opera (KLCO), the family-friendly opera will feature Royal Birmingham Conservatoire alumni Yi Ling Chaing and Ho Chi Mei in the titles roles respectively.

Both Chaing and Ho featured in KLCO’s last production ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, performing the roles of Cherubino and Susanna correspondingly.

Chi Mei is known for her fine sense of musical engagement and stylistic understanding in her singing, and continues to mature in her choices of roles. Chaing, meanwhile, is an up and coming mezzo-soprano with a rich and silky voice, and this marks her second role with KLCO. She is also a qualified Kodály music educator who has regular engagements in Australia, China, Myanmar and Taiwan. Royal Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Yi Ling Chaing from George Town, Malaysia, said:

“I performed as a 14-year-old boy, Cherubino, in Mozart's ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ with KLCO last year. When I was cast as Hansel this year, I was thrilled again. As a mezzo-soprano, it is always great to establish a career on certain types of role.

“Through opera, I am enjoying the challenge of acting as somebody completely contrasting to my real self. Lots of exploration has been done into vocal production; a purer and naïve tone colour for a juvenile character like this one, as well as specific charm and movement to make Hansel appear young and alive, yet not overdoing it.

Meanwhile, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Bui Yik Ling from Tawau plays the Sleep Fairy and alumnus Chi Hoe Mak from Penang is the production’s Chorus Master.

‘Hansel and Gretel’ will be staged by KLCO on Thursday 5, Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 July in the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac). Established in 2012, KLCO is the only active opera company in Malaysia presenting and promoting western operas.

Some of KLCO’s past productions include Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’, Bizet’s ‘Carmen’, Donizetti’s ‘L’Elisir d’Amore’, ‘La Fille du Régiment’, Menotti’s ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ and Mozart’s masterpiece, ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ (‘Le Nozze di Figaro’). 

‘Hansel and Gretel’ is in three acts and this production will be sung in English with Chinese subtitles. The opera tells the story of two mischievous children who are sent out to forage for food and, whilst picking berries in the forest, they encounter a witch who turns children into gingerbread before devouring them.


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