I was honored to be treated to a special preview of The Flight of the Jade Bird, an operetta by the very talented Mark Chan for the Singapore Arts Festival 2012.
Held at the Esplanade Concert Hall, the special preview session was graced by none other than the President of Singapore. Along with him, I also saw Mr Yacob Ibrahim and Mr Yam Ah Mee (who if you remember, was made famous by the famous lines of “Pursuant to Section 43…” during the last General Election of 2011 – he was the Returning Officer).
The Flight of the Jade Bird is a modern fable that links cultures, crossing dimensions between the material and the spiritual. It tells the story of the last ancient Jade Bird, the last of its kind. His mystical, mythical Jade Palace is being invaded by a horde of workers and construction machines intent on turning the palace into a theme park. The story tells of a young boy looking for and becoming friends with the last remaining Jade Bird, and of how the bird is convinced that the time has come to stretch his wings or risk being trampled underfoot by the march of modernity.
This is a vey unusual production for me personally, because before I attended the rehearsals, I had all along thought that this was going to be a musical in the traditional sense. Instead, it was treated to a fusion of various different art forms – the show creates a dialogue among art forms, the spoken word, the sung text, the dance across meaning, the musical line and the harmonic universe that over aches our dissonant lives.
The story moves along with the help of a narrator, who, at the start of the show, presents the singers as equal story tellers with him – the plot moves with the ebb and flow of the spoken word, the songs sang so beautifully by the singers, and of course, the story also flows along to the hauntingly beautiful story performed by a stellar group of musicians from different countries.
Performed in English, the cast features a galaxy of stars from Singapore and Hong Kong, including the promise of a new star taking on the role of the young boy. This boy is Singapore born Matthew E H J Supramaniam, aged 14. He was previously the George Guest Memorial chorister and medallist in the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge, UK (one of the foremost choirs in the world) and is now a Music Exhibitioner at Eton College.
I was fortunate to meet him at the preview party held after the show.
But the star of the show is undoubtedly Mark Chan. Mark is a composer, singer, recording artiste; he plays the guitar, flute, cello, erhu, pipa, guanzi, piano and even percussion; he’s also a playwright, a poet, painter and photographer. There’s also Mark the multi-linguist. He was also a national swimmer who holds several records.
How can so much diverse talents fall on the shoulders of one man??! He is indeed, truly a Jade of all trades
The Flight of the Jade Bird premiers tonight, 18th of May, where there will be a post-show dialogue after performance (on the 18th only). Tickets prices ranges from $20 to $100. For more info on ticketing and timing of shows, visit the official Arts Fest page.
Visit the official Singapore Arts Festival page here.