Category Archives: Beary Artist

Yayoi Kusama Museum

Polka dots. Mirrors. Pumpkins. Balloons. And long lines to see all of the above.

Yayoi Kusama’s repetitive patterned imagery has made her one of Japan’s most celebrated artists.

Yayoi Kusama, whose obsessively patterned and repetitive imagery has made her one of Japan’s most celebrated artists, is opening her own museum in the Shinjuku neighbourhood of Tokyo on October 1 this year.

The museum, a five-story building designed by Kume Sekkei, was completed in 2014, but Ms. Kusama, 87, remained quiet about its purpose. (She perhaps alluded to the project in an interview in February with The Washington Post when she was asked what had been the highlight of her career. “It’s still coming,” Ms. Kusama said. “I’m going to create it in the future.”)

Yayoi Kusama Museum, Shinjuku, Tokyo

The museum will be directed by Tensei Tatebata, the president of Tama Art University and director of the Saitama Museum of Modern Art. The space will be dedicated to Ms. Kusama’s own work, with two changing exhibitions each year, as well as one floor housing her popular “infinity rooms” and other installations. The top floor will house a reading room and archival materials.

The first exhibition, Creation Is a Solitary Pursuit, Love Is What Brings You Closer to Art, running October 1, 2017 through February 25, 2018, will show a recent series of paintings, My Eternal Soul. Tickets go on sale on August 28 and will be offered in time slots, suggesting that large crowds are anticipated.

Polka dots. Mirrors. Pumpkins. Balloons. Little bears like all of these 🙂

Yayoi Kusama, Soul under the moon, 2002 @ GOMA, Brisbane in 2015
Yayoi Kusama, Flowers that bloom at midnight, 2011 @ GOMA, Brisbane in 2015
Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession, 2016 @ MONA, Hobart in 2017
Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2015 @ Glass House, Connecticut in 2016
Yayoi Kusama, Gleaming Lights of the Souls, 2008 @ National Gallery Singapore in 2017
Yayoi Kusama, With All My Love For The Tulips I Pray Forever (2013-2017) @ National Gallery Singapore in 2017
Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession Balloons @ National Gallery Singapore in 2017

A Magical Time at the ArtScience Museum

Little bears have entered a magical world!

Crystal Universe

Crystal Universe
2015
Interactive Installation of Light Sculpture, Endless
Artwork & Sound by teamLab

This monumental, immersive and interactive work by teamLab, puts the viewer at the heart of the universe, enabling them to experience astrophysical phenomena such as planets, stars, galaxies and even the recently detected gravitational waves predicted by Einstein a century ago. The viewer experiences the universe from within, it surrounds them and responds to their presence, helping them understand their part of the vastness of celestial space.

Crystal Universe

The ArtScience Museum in Singapore is devoted to the exploration of art and science and the connection between them. In the permanent exhibition, Future World – Where Art Meets Science, the creative threads by which art, science, technology and culture are inextricably bound are expressed in immersive, interactive works by teamLab, a globally renowned Japanese group of ultra-technologists and multi-award winning art collective.

ArtScience Museum
ArtScience Museum

The exhibition was launched in 2016 to mark the museum’s fifth anniversary.

Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Transcending Space
Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Transcending Space

Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well,
Transcending Space
2017
Digital Installation, 4 min 20 sec

This immersive audio-visual installation depicts the creation of life and takes visitors (and little bears!) inside the heart of nature. The artwork features crows, rendered in light, that fly around the space leaving trails of light in their path. Swooping through the space and chasing one another, the crows collide, creating colourful flowers in their wake. They represent the Yatagarasu, a three-legged crow described in Japanese mythology, which is believed to be the embodiment of the Sun. The formation of flowers resulting from the crows’ collisions alludes to the genesis of life from the Sun’s energy.

An incredible experience!

Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Transcending Space
Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Transcending Space
Black Waves
Black Waves

Black Waves
2016
Digital Installation, Continuous Loop
Artwork by teamLab, Sound by Hideaki Takahashi

Black Waves is an expression of nature, rendered entirely by digital technology. It depicts the sea in the style of traditional Japanese painting. In the Japanese tradition, oceans, rivers and bodies of water are often represented as a series of curvilinear lines. The movement of those lines gives the impression that water itself is alive.

Black Waves
Sliding through the Fruit Field
Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – A Whole Year Per Year
Sketch Town
Sketch Aquarium
Light Ball Orchestra
Light Ball Orchestra
Media Block Chairs

Consisting of fiberglass light cube chairs, these cubes can be seen as the building blocks. Adults and children alike are invited to construct high-tech furniture, like chairs and benches, or architectural structures such as walls and partitions. Each block communicates information to each other when they are connected, changing colour in the process. The installation encourages visitors to be both innovative and practical in the process of creation.

Little bears thought the cubes had the right idea, some time out to recharge 🙂

Media Block Chairs
Please leave me alone – I’m recharging.

Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

On 12 October 2002, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay opened as Singapore’s national arts centre. It was the first purpose-built arts centre in Singapore in almost 40 years.

The theatre and concert halls are located directly on the bank of the Singapore River, next to a bridge linking the historical part of the city, the river and the modern commercial parts of the city.

Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore

The architectural design of the ensemble has a contemporary style, avoiding any reference to superficial ethnic symbolism. The centre combines the standard size and form of concert halls and theatres with expressive architectural features, which are specific to the local climate and the cultural environment.

The entire centre comprises of five performance venues – primarily a 2000-seat theatre and an 1800-seat concert hall; including three smaller studios and a 450-seat outdoor theatre on the waterfront.

The principal idea is based on a three-sided creation, opening out from the central entrance hall and comprising the concert hall, the classical theatre as well as the smaller studios. All parts of the design have their distinct position in the structural hierarchy, with the entrance and a small round courtyard, which opens up to the waterfront, forming the centre of the object. The open design concept gives space for the most different approaches and trends. Archways, balconies and roof terraces form the links between the larger individual elements. They reduce the overall impression to a more perceivable scale, while at the same time smoothly bridging the gap between the internal and external spaces.

Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore

The complex comprises a shopping and restaurant arcade, with a multimedia library for theatre, cinematography, music and ballet. The most prominent elements of the new arts centre are the twin glass domes of the two large auditoriums (the Theatre and the Concert Hall) and the aluminium sunshades designed to shield the glass domes, allowing light in while keeping the heat out at the same time.

Cladding detail, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

With superb acoustics, the Esplanade Concert Hall was designed by world-renowned acoustician, the late Russell Johnson of ARTEC Consultants Inc, US. Noteworthy acoustics features of the Concert Hall include the acoustic canopy, reverberation chambers and acoustic curtains which enable the hall to adapt to different musical styles and to provide optimum sound quality.

The acoustic canopy above the stage, comprising three separate sections each weighing 17 tonnes, acts as an acoustic reflector that enables onstage musicians to hear themselves. Each section is adjustable and hangs above, roughly, the three sections of an orchestra and chorus – the strings; the woodwinds, brass and percussion; and the chorus. By manipulating the height of the three sections as well as the gaps between them, it is possible to affect the way the musicians hear themselves onstage, as well as the way the audience hears them.

The reverberations chambers, with a volume of 9,500m3, amount to separate rooms, isolated from the main concert hall by a series of airtight wall panels, or chamber doors. But the idea isn’t to keep the doors closed. All of the chamber doors can be opened in increments, anywhere from 0 to 90 degrees. Depending on how many doors are open, where those doors are (at the top, middle or bottom of the hall), and how wide they are open, the sound in the hall can be changed in a variety of ways. For instance, Open doors means there are fewer reflective surfaces in the hall for the sound to bounce off of. The reverberation chambers also provide sound isolation against extraneous noises and an environment which can be temperature, pressure and humidity controlled. The temperature in the Concert Hall is maintained at a constant 21C.

The luxurious curtains that can wrap around the hall are no ordinary decorative draperies, but magical sound soaker-uppers of voluminous velour. The acoustic curtains consist of around 15,000m2 of acoustic velour that can be deployed to wrap the entire hall to reduce unwanted reverberations during amplified performances. When not in use, the curtains are stored in pockets behind the walls.

While the Concert hall is designed especially for symphonic music it is also flexible enough to be used for other types of events.

In addition, the design and choice of materials of the hall’s interior surfaces maximise clarity and quality of music within the hall. The wood used in the hall is Tasmanian Oak.

Concert Hall, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Concert Hall, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

The Concert Hall also houses a 4,740-pipe organ with 61 stops which was designed and built by Johannes Klais Orgelbau, from one of the world’s most renowned organ building families. The orchestra platform can accommodate 120 musicians. And four bears 🙂

Concert Hall, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

The theatre, with a sitting capacity of 2000, houses Singapore’s largest performing stage and is easily adaptable to a variety of performances. It is designed to present all genres of the performing arts, from classical, traditional or contemporary dance to intimate or large-scale theatre performances. The state-of-the-art stage system has more than 100 functions for hoisting, illumination and screening, and offers more than a thousand variations in stage settings.

Theatre, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Theatre, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Little bears are spying on the rehearsals for Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress 🙂

Theatre, Circle 3, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress explores the life of one of the most controversial figures in Chinese history – Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi – adored, revered, feared and hated.

The most successful Singapore musical, the story is vividly brought to life with a stirring score and sumptuous costumes designed by London-based Singapore designer Yang Derong.

Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress
Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress
Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress
Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress

Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress was staged by the Singapore Repertory Theatre originally on 17-19 October 2002 at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, as part of its opening festival. Little bears loved it!

Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress
Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress photo booth 🙂

The Grand Foyer is the showcase of Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay and is the meeting place for guests attending performances. Three types of specially manufactured sheet glass have been utilized to provide high insulation value while shielding occupants from the sun’s infrared rays.

Theatre Foyer, Level 3, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Theatre Foyer, Level 3, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay also have a Visual Arts Program, with visual arts presentations located in the unusual spaces offered by Esplanade’s unique architecture. Featuring international and regional artists, the focus on contemporary Singapore and Asian artistic expressions gives a visual dimension to the centre’s performing arts events and festivals.

Table for 2 is 4… after the Big Bang
Vertical Submarine (Singapore)
Table for 2 is 4… after the Big Bang
Vertical Submarine (Singapore)

Imagining the intimate and domestic scene of a couple conversing after their meal, Vertical Submarine’s sculptural installation expands the dining table in scale, fragmenting and flipping the pieces, with all the meaningful elements that are usually above and below the table packed into a “sandwich” that exists within the typically overlooked space of a table top. The abstracted shards seem as if they are emerging from and sinking into the Concourse steps in a moment of simultaneous creation and destruction.

Vertical Submarine often construct elaborate narratives alongside their installations, and here they draw analogies to the big bang theory, which describes how the universe was formed by the explosion of a tiny, compressed singularity into complex galaxies. At the same time, the split structures of the installation hint at how more than two persons may be involved in a relationship, as the memories or reality of previous personal affairs and familial ties inevitably intrude upon any blissful pair.

Voyager
Adeline Tan and Chris Chai (Singapore)

This site-specific installation combines the distinct illustration styles and subjects of Adeline Tan and Chris Chai of Organisation of Illustrators Council (OIC). Chris’s arresting black and white pattern sets reference the geometries of machinery, architecture and other aspects of the built environment. Meanwhile, Adeline’s work takes the natural world as a source of inspiration for its strange and beautifully mutated flora and fauna. Together, the artists have created an installation that draws upon individual elements of each other’s work to create new forms, using diverse media such as drawing, painting, printing, sound and the moving image. The artists’ collaborative exchange is further symbolised by images of portals and passageways that suggest the movement between contrasting time periods of art styles and influences, making their works look at once both figurative and geometrically abstract, as well as futuristic and primeval.

Celebration 2000, by David Larwill in collaboration with the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, Australia, commissioned by the Victorian Government and Victorian Arts Centre as a gift to Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

The panoramic view of the surrounding city from the roof garden is spectacular.

Roof Garden, Esplanade, Singapore
Roof Garden, Esplanade, Singapore

Little bears had a great tour of the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Thank you Isni!

An Infinity of Lights

Yayoi Kusama, Fireflies on the Water (2002). Mirror, plexiglass, 150 lights and water.
Yayoi Kusama’s:
Fireflies on the Water
Jun 13–Oct 28, 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art

The adorable, polka-dot-obsessed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (she dreams about them, wears them, paints them and constructs them!) is having her first major survey of her work in Southeast Asia. The exhibition, Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow, at the National Gallery of Singapore, consists of paintings, sculptures, videos and installations from the 1950s to the present, including works never shown before, and the main photogenic attraction, an Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights of the Souls (2008). The installation consists of a single space, four by four meters, with the walls and ceilings covered with mirrors; the floor is a reflecting pool; and you stand in the middle of the water on a platform. Once the door closes behind you, it’s like you’re suspended in outer space. An infinity of lights surrounds you. The installation reflects Kusama’s love of unnerving darkness and fascination for infinite space.

Gleaming Lights of the Souls (2008, Infinity Mirrored Room)
Gleaming Lights of the Souls (2008, Infinity Mirrored Room)

We wondered what it takes to construct an infinity mirrored room. In 2012, photographers Marvin Orellana and Gabrielle Plucknette from The New Work Times documented the process of putting together the Fireflies on the Water at the Whitney Museum.

Yayoi Kusama’s:
Fireflies on the Water
Jun 13–Oct 28, 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art
Yayoi Kusama’s:
Fireflies on the Water
Jun 13–Oct 28, 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art
Yayoi Kusama’s:
Fireflies on the Water
Jun 13–Oct 28, 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art
Yayoi Kusama’s:
Fireflies on the Water
Jun 13–Oct 28, 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art
Yayoi Kusama’s:
Fireflies on the Water
Jun 13–Oct 28, 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art
Yayoi Kusama’s:
Fireflies on the Water
Jun 13–Oct 28, 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art
Yayoi Kusama’s:
Fireflies on the Water
Jun 13–Oct 28, 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art
Yayoi Kusama’s:
Fireflies on the Water
Jun 13–Oct 28, 2012, Whitney Museum of American Art

Life is the Heart of a Rainbow

Gleaming Lights of the Souls (2008, Infinity Mirrored Room)

Little bears are at the National Gallery in Singapore for the Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibition. This is the first major survey of Kusama’s work in Southeast Asia, and the exhibition focuses on the immersive and expansive nature of her art. The exhibition is a collaboration between National Gallery Singapore and Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia where the exhibition will be on display from 14 October 2017 to 4 February 2018.

Dots Obsession
National Gallery Foyer
Transmigration (2011)
Statue of Venus Obliterated by Infinity Nets No 2 (1998)
The Spirit of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens (2015)
Mirrored box

Invisible Life (2008)
Gleaming Lights of the Souls (2008, Infinity Mirrored Room)
Gleaming Lights of the Souls (2008, Infinity Mirrored Room)
Gleaming Lights of the Souls (2008, Infinity Mirrored Room)
Red Flower (1980)
Sex Obsession (1992)
Pollen (1986)
With All My Love For The Tulips I Pray Forever (2013-2017)
With All My Love For The Tulips I Pray Forever (2013-2017)
With All My Love For The Tulips I Pray Forever (2013-2017)
I Want To Love On The Festival Night (2017)
Mirrored box and light bulbs
I Want To Love On The Festival Night (2017)
Mirrored box and light bulbs
I Want To Love On The Festival Night (2017)
Mirrored box and light bulbs
My Eternal Soul
L to R: Flowers, Don’t Fall Apart (2012), The Sun Wants To Go On A Journey (2012), Stairway to Heaven (2012), Youth Does Not Go Away (2016), I Who Came From The Universe (2017)
My Eternal Soul series (2015-2017)
My Eternal Soul
L to R: I Who Came From The Universe (2017), Youth Does Not Go Away (2016), Flowers, Don’t Fall Apart (2012), Stairway to Heaven (2012),
The Sun Wants To Go On A Journey (2012)
Narcissus Garden

Off to lunch 🙂

Dessert first 🙂

Special exhibition dessert
(coconut mousse, mango curd and cubes, pumpkin sponge, pumpkin biscuit)
Lunch – Grilled Beef Salad

And a visit to the roof garden…

Roof Garden
Roof Garden Reflecting Pool
The Leaning Towers of Singapore 🙂
Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery
View from Aura Sky Lounge
New lens effect… Instant fogging of the lens when going outside from an air conditioning building!

Bond. James Bond.

Little bears are very excited, Daniel Craig is coming back as James Bond in 2019.

Eon Productions, the London-based company that oversees all things 007, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which holds rights to the franchise, said on Monday that the next installment would arrive in theaters in North America in November 2019. Eon and MGM also said that the script would be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have teamed up on the screenplays for the last six Bond installments, starting with The World Is Not Enough in 1999. The next Bond movie — the 25th in the series, if you include Never Say Never Again from 1983, which was made by an outside production company — will be produced by Eon’s Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale (2006)

When he was cast as Bond, filling the position most recently vacated by Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig did not seem like an obvious choice. He was an actor’s actor known for his intensity of focus and his wide range of challenging, counterintuitive roles. He has played, among other things, a sharp-lapeled pornography baron from Manchester in the BBC mini-series Our Friends in the North; a college professor pursued by a male stalker in Enduring Love; a builder sleeping with his girlfriend’s sexagenarian mother in The Mother; a drug-dealing businessman in Layer Cake; a killer full of murderous rage and heartbreaking tenderness in Infamous; the poet Ted Hughes in Sylvia and the physicist Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen.

Traditionalists were appalled. The British tabloids sniped that he was too short, too blond, too actory, too potentially Lazenbyesque; they spread the rumor that he didn’t know how to drive a stick shift, let alone one attached to an Aston Martin.

But from the first scene in Casino Royale (2006), in which Bond brutally kills a man with his bare hands and then coolly shoots and kills his own corrupt boss, Daniel Craig proved to be a rare combination of plausibility, physicality and charisma. He got rave reviews, and not just from little bears 🙂

Even the meanest-spirited, most Sean Connery-nostalgic critics in Britain seem to have been charmed out of their bad attitudes by Daniel Craig’s performance as a gritty, steely James Bond. Contrary to their predictions, they say, Daniel Craig is not too blond, too wimpy, too dough-faced or too lightweight for the part.

Skyfall (2012) – Filming at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar was only allowed on Sundays when it was closed to prevent any harm to the 400,000 daily visitors.

The release of the dazzling Skyfall coincided with the 50th anniversary of the series, which began with Dr. No in 1962. It earned over $1.1 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing Bond film ever. The film won two BAFTA awards (Outstanding British Film and Best Original Music), two Academy Awards (Best Original Song for Adele’s Skyfall and Best Sound Editing), two Grammys (Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media and Best Song Written for Visual Media for Adele’s Skyfall), a Golden Globe (Best Original Song for Adele’s Skyfall) and a SAG (Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture). The last Bond film to pick up an Academy Award was Thunderball, winning in the sound effects category in 1965.

Skyfall (2012) – Production worked during the National Portrait Gallery’s closing hours at night to film the meeting between Bond and Q, aka Paddington Bear 🙂

Even the Vatican’s daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, offered no fewer than five glowing articles about Skyfall! It declared Skyfall one of the best instalments in the Bond film franchise. The paper raved that the film makes its protagonist more human, real and emotional. While still surrounded by beautiful Bond girls 🙂 and drinking the essential vodka martini.

There are a few James Bond anniversaries this year: You Only Live Twice (Sean Connery, 1967); The Spy Who Loved Me (Roger Moore, 1977); The Living Daylights (Timothy Dalton, 1987); Tomorrow Never Dies (Pierce Brosnan, 1997).

Little bears will watch none of them, their preferred Bond is now Daniel Craig. They think he looks quite good! For a human 🙂

Fun at the Opera

Beautiful Hanna’s late husband has left her a very rich woman. In fact, she’s so rich that the economy of her homeland depends on her marrying a local — so the ambassador springs into action with the help of his wife (a former cancan girl) to find Hanna the right husband. But it’s a tricky affair because the wily widow already has someone in mind: Count Danilo, an old flame, who has no intention of giving up bachelorhood. He’s got a bevy of beauties delighted to keep him happy with no strings attached.

Alexander Lewis as Count Danilo and Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow is one of the greatest operettas ever written. It’s a masterpiece, brimming over with wonderful melodies and a delightfully sentimental story. Oohhh…. And Hanna Glawari is operetta’s most irresistible heroine.

The world of operetta introduces us to an enormous variety of female protagonists. Gilbert and Sullivan present everyone from a clever milkmaid to a regal princess and a demure Japanese maiden, while Offenbach’s most famous women range from an impoverished street-singer and a man-hungry duchess to mythology’s Eurydice and Helen of Troy. As for the Viennese operetta repertoire, it gives us commoners and noblewomen, servants and seductresses of every ilk.

Of all these ladies, it may well be die lustige Witwe – the merry widow herself, Hanna Glawari – who exudes the greatest appeal. It helps that her music is surely the most captivating that the incomparable Franz Lehár ever created for any of his sopranos. Hanna’s alluring entrance song, as well as her achingly beautiful Vilja, her rollicking military-style duet with Count Danilo, and their justly celebrated waltz – these numbers are all integral to making Hanna the charmer she is. But besides her memorable music, she offers so much else that can draw audiences to her and hold them in her thrall. She’s smart, glamorous, witty – the mistress of any situation. Most important is that although she’s worth 20 million francs, she’s a woman for whom love rather than wealth is everything. That makes her unfailingly sympathetic, from her arrival at the Pontevedrian Embassy in Act One right to that heart warming moment toward the end of The Merry Widow when Danilo finally takes her in his arms and utters those three little words Hanna has been longing to hear.

As a pair, Hanna and Danilo stand apart from just about any other love relationship in operetta. These are two people who have been around the block a few times. They’re confident in themselves, yet vulnerable, too. Consequently, their interactions are emphatically adult in their complexity, their gradations of emotion, their subtle give-and-take.

Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari and Alexander Lewis as Count Danilo in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Together with her beloved Danilo, Hanna stands at the centre of a work that is actually quite topical today. Its look into how the upper crust lives still fascinates people to a degree matching the love affair with the world of Lord and Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey. The phenomenally successful six-season TV series might have ended but it will live on — for a few years at least — in Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, presented by NBCUniversal International Studios and by Imagine Exhibitions. The multiyear, worldwide tour began at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on June 17.

Hanna started as a commoner who was compelled to marry early in life. Danilo’s family had considered Hanna not good enough for him.
So her only choice had been a materially lavish existence with an older man she didn’t love. The rich man she married died on their wedding night, leaving Hanna has so much money that if she moves her wealth to Paris, the entire economy of her native Pontevedro will crash.

He’s left her not simply a millionaire, but so wealthy that whoever she marries next must be a fellow Pontevedrian. That’s the crux of The Merry Widow’s plot. It’s what so terrifies Pontevedro’s ambassador, Baron Zeta; if Hanna marries a man who isn’t a compatriot, then Pontevedro has a catastrophe on its hands! Zeta is only worried about saving his country – he has no real concern for the feelings of Hanna herself.

Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Hanna totally understands her situation at this point in her life. In other words, she actually recognizes that for any of her various suitors, she’s basically a meal ticket. Yes, she’s respected and adored, but when men look at her, it’s 20 million francs that they see. Her awareness of this comes through in no uncertain terms at her very first appearance onstage; despite protestations to the contrary from all the bachelors kneeling at her feet, she makes clear to them that she knows exactly what accounts for their interest in her.

Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari, Sam Roberts-Smith as Count Nicolas Cascada, Jonathan Brain as Raoul de St Brioche in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Hanna is not bitter; she endures the gossip, the objectification, which she carries with grace, aplomb, humor, and with confidence in her own power. This crucial element of Hanna’s character has much to do with her appeal, and with making The Merry Widow such an irresistible piece in performance.

Hanna is an utterly independent woman, who could have anyone in Paris, but follows her heart. Count Danilo may be nobility, but he’s still a middle-tier bureaucrat. However, were she never to get together with Danilo, she’d do just fine in life, thank you very much.

The world premiere of The Merry Widow took place in 1905 in Habsburg-ruled Vienna. At the time the story of a commoner who dared to love a nobleman and, more importantly, a nobleman who was ready to defy his family to marry a commoner, was still something of an eye-opener, as was the notion that the two of them could end up happy together and acclaimed by all.

What makes this operetta quite contemporary is that the conflict here is essentially about romantic love. It’s love and nothing else that we find at the heart of all the Hanna-Danilo interplay. In the stratum inhabited by these two, marriages generally had everything to do with money and power; they were alliances. (Of course, Hanna and Danilo could simply have had an affair, because that’s what one did in that era!) Danilo is nobility and Hanna is not – she’s just money. You can imagine Maggie Smith as Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess deploring such a match (“It just wouldn’t do!”). It is our modern sensibility that a match should turn on romantic love, rather than money or pedigree, and it would have seemed mighty strange to folks sitting in the boxes of Vienna’s Theater an der Wien in 1905, attending the premiere of The Merry Widow.

To a certain extent, Hanna and Danilo have become, if not exactly cynical, then certainly worldly-wise, ever since that moment back in Pontevedro years before, when each thought their true love had left them. That’s why Danilo became the playboy who’s seemingly allergic to attachments – because he believed he had no chance of ever winning Hanna. He thought she loved him for himself, but now he thinks she married for money, making him doubt that she ever really loved him. For her part, after being given thumbs-down by his family, she’d begun to assume that he never loved her. So, since all men were going to be like that, why not marry a rich old coot? Why not lose faith in all men?

Yet Hanna exudes irrepressible joie de vivre, self-confidence, and an ability to laugh at the irony of her situation.

Alexander Lewis as Count Danilo in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

When Danilo is asked to pursue Hanna on behalf of Pontevedro, he doesn’t want to carry out the assignment; he’s willing to defy his country’s wishes, and is ready to let Pontevedro fall rather than marry Hanna for her money. Neither duty, wealth, nor pedigree enters his mind. What finally makes the difference in his decision to marry Hanna is the realization that, in spite of being driven away by his family, she really loved him all along. She aligned herself with an extravagantly wealthy husband out of desperation. And she still loves Danilo; even when all the young and most eligible Parisian gentlemen are begging for her hand, she really does just want him. She finally understands that back in Pontevedro, Danilo was defying his family and really did love her. After Hanna married, Danilo, in all his playboy dalliances, found women who were surely little more than passing amusements compared with Hanna and his true feelings for her. Now, at their moment of truth in Paris, he cares not one bit for her millions.

The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Michael Scott-Mitchell’s lavish set, Justin Fleming’s new streamlined English translation and Jennifer Irwin’s dazzling costumes were the backdrop for a dance-infused show where every act was a party fizzing with romance and comedy. They swapped Belle Epoque for Art Deco Paris.

Detail bronze latticework, The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Immense bronze latticework set the scene for the Embassy Ball, with sequined dresses and the gilded braiding of 1920’s Parisian high society shimmering under Damien Cooper’s creamy lights. The breathtaking Monet garden setting for Act Two’s Pontevedrian party drew spontaneous applause as the curtain lifted on a waterlilies backdrop, pastel frocks and dreamy lighting. Lehár’s Love Unspoken wafted through this setting like an evening breeze and Taryn Fiebig as Hanna and Alexander Lewis as Danilo delivered a heart-melting waltz.

Alexander Lewis as Count Danilo and Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

But it was not enough to break Danilo’s scruples about money and Hanna becomes embroiled in the fledgling affair between the Baron’s wife Valencienne and a young Frenchman Camille.

John Longmuir as Camille de Rosillon and Emma Pettemerides as Valencienne in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

It was not until the Act 3 nightclub party where Hanna joined the ‘Grisette’ girls that this high-kicking heroine revealed the details of her inheritance and stole back Danilo’s heart. Hanna’s third act Marlene Dietrich turn with the sexy Gristettes is a stand-out in more ways than one, her fine account of the famous Vilja Song in the second act notwithstanding.

Taryn Fiebig as Hanna Glawari and the Grisettes in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

The Grisettes in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Actor Michael Loney proved he could also sing and dance in a show-stealing camp rendition of Quite Parisian.

Michael Loney as Njegus in The Merry Widow, WA Opera

Baritone Andrew Foote’s comic excellence was put to good use as the foolish Baron Zeta while Sam Roberts-Smith and Jonathon Brain were quite ridiculous in their rivalry for Hanna’s fortune.

Mark Antoni Hurst, Mark Alderson, Jonathan Brain, Alexander Lewis, Sam Roberts-Smith, Thomas Friberg and Andrew Foote in The Merry Widow, WA Opera