Soulful and exquisite singing

For all the major roles soprano Yee Ee-Ping has sung with the Singapore Lyric Opera, including Manon Lescaut, Donna Elvira, Despina, Pamina and Micaela, the 2001 Young Artist Award recipient has never performed a solo recital here. That is until this evening. Her exquisite selection of art songs was long overdue, and showed why she remains one of Singapore’s finest ever sopranos.

Yee, who goes by her stage name Ee-Ping, is now a fully mature artist, for whom all the excuses and excesses of youth no longer apply. Over the years, she has kept her vocal apparatus well oiled, commanding an astonishing range of nuances and possessing a voluminous heft fully capable of singing a house down. Her acting and communicative skills remain strong points, and she connects immediately with her audience

The moment she strode in with an Amazing Grace one will not hear in any local church, it was a breathtaking foretaste of things to come. Her diction and phrasing was close to perfection in three songs by Roger Quilter, the dreamy and wistful emotions enclosed within coming to the fore.

Even more demanding were four Lieder by Richard Strauss, which expressed the full gamut of love in all its guises. The Wiegenlied (Cradle Song) was caressed with a mother and lover’s tenderness, and O Süsser Mai! (Oh Sweet May!) burst forth with unbridled joy.

Nostalgia and longing were the colours of the first two French songs, Duparc’s Chanson triste (Sad Song) and Chausson’s Les temps des lilacs (The Time of Lilacs), while Delibes’s Les filles des Cadix (The Girls of Cadiz) was infused with an infectious theatricality that would not have looked out of place in Bizet’s Carmen.

Ee-Ping emerged in a glittering gown for the second half, beginning with Gershwin’s Summertime (from Porgy and Bess) and the old American hymn Shenandoah, the purity of her delivery was simply touching. Three Chinese songs, My HomelandMerry Lady and Mountain Song (Yan Kou Di Shui) reacquainted her with her Mandarin-speaking roots, and these were much enjoyed by the older members in the audience.

Pianist Sim Yi Kai was more than mere accompanist, meticulously partnering singer through ever breath and step. Other than a hatful of missed notes in the Chinese songs, he was alert and sensitive throughout the 90-minute programme.

The recital closed with two contrasting operatic arias. There are few moments as spine-tingling as Dvorak’s Song To The Moon (Rusalka), which Ee-Ping commanded with disarming ease. And then she brought out the coloratura fireworks in Rossini’s Una voce poco fa (The Barber of Seville), an imperious show that was greeted with loud cheers. Her encore, O Mio Babbino Caro (Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi), was no less ecstatically received. It is hoped that her second vocal recital here will not be a long time in coming.